Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Masters of War

1. (from Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson)

…A thug. In peacetime, Fitch would be hanging around a pool table, giving cops trouble. He was perfect for war. …Moving past Haddock, January stopped to stare at the group of men in the navigation cabin. They joked, drank coffee. They were all a bit like Fitch: young toughs, capable and thoughtless. They were having a good time, an adventure. That was January’s dominant impression of his companions in the 509th; despite all the bitching and occasional moments of overmastering fear, they were having a good time. His mind spun forward and he saw what these young men would grow up to be like as clearly as if they stood before him in businessmen’s’ suits, prosperous and balding. They’d be tough and capable and thoughtless, and as the years passed and the great war receded in time they’d look back on it with ever-increasing nostalgia, for they would be the survivors and not the dead. Every year of the war would feel like ten in their memories, so that the war would always remain the central experience of their lives- a time when history lay palpable in their hands, when each of their daily acts affected it, when moral issues were simple, and others told them what to do- so that as more years passed and the survivors aged, bodies falling apart, lives in one rut or the other, they’d unconsciously push harder and harder to thrust the world into war again, thinking somewhere inside themselves that if they could only return to world war then they would magically again be as they were in the last one- young and free, and happy. And by that time, they’d hold positions of power, they would be capable of doing it.

So there would be more wars, January saw. He heard it in Matthew’s eyes, saw it in their excited eyes. … He saw more planes, more young crews like this one, flying to Moscow, no doubt, or wherever, fireballs in every capital, why not? And to what end? To what end? So the old men could hope to become magically young again. Nothing more sane than that.

2. (Masters of war by Bob Dylan)

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Protest against human rights abuses

A friend sent me a mail asking as many people as possible to sign in to a particular website ( during certain time windows, to protest human rights abuses in countries with documented records of such abuses. The website in question supposedly belonged to a worldwide coalition of journalists. Their rationale for inviting visitors to click on at their site was to collect electronic signatures in a kind of virtual petition to the regimes of the offending countries.

Now, I know this is an utterly defeatist attitude, especially coming from someone who's going to build a career in public health, which by definition means working against hopeless odds.... but I have serious doubts about the efficacy of gestures like the kind of campaign these journos suggested.

Regimes who use torture as State policy, and execute their own citizens in football stadia, are unlikely to pay attention to a bunch of bleeding heart idiots clicking on internet buttons. And they sure as hell aren't going to feel any "moral pressure".

Shashi Tharoor, in one of his books, argued that Gandhian non-violence as a pressure tactic could work only against an establishment that was vulnerable to "moral" issues, and took international opinion into consideration. Hence, while by using satyagraha as a tool of resistance, Gandhi managed to drive the British Empire out of India, the same tactics wouldn't have done much for Jews in nazi Germany.

And lastly, when the West- the so-called paragon of human rights and democracy, refuses to take its citizens' feelings into consideration while making a profoundly immoral decision (Bush and Blair ignored the largest street protests in the history of mankind to go ahead and invade Iraq), does anyone actually expect banana republics to toe the line because a group of educated liberals spread out all over the world click on internet buttons from their comfortable living rooms?

I think not.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Emily Dickenson

I measure every grief I meet

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain - to die.

I wonder if it hurts to live -
And if they have to try -
And whether - could they choose between -
It would not be - to die -

I note that Some - gone patient long-
At length - renew their smile-
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil-

I wonder if when the years have piled-
Some Thousands - on the harm-
That hurt them early - such a lapse
Could give them any Balm-

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries of Nerve-
Enlightened to a larger pain-
In contrast with the Love-

The Grieved - are many-I am told
There is the various Cause-
Death - is but one- and comes but once-
And only nails the eyes-

There's Grief of Want- and grief of Cold-
A sort they call "despair"-
There's Banishment from native Eyes-
In sight of Native Air-

And though I may not guess the kind
correctly-yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
in passing Calvary.

To note the fashions - of the Cross-
And how they're mostly worn-
Still fascinated to presume
That Some - are like my own.

- Emily Dickenson

Good Morning Midnight

Good Morning - Midnight-
I'm coming Home-
Day - got tired of Me-
How could I - of him?

Sunshine was a sweet place-
I liked to stay - But Morn
didn't want me - now -
So-Goodnight - day!

I can look - can't I-
when the East is red?
The hills - have a way - then-
That puts the heart - aboard

You are not- so fair -midnight
I chose - day
But please - take a little girl
He turned away!

- Emily Dickenson