Archive for October, 2010

War, holocaust and civilization

October 20, 2010

How was it possible?  How could a nation like Germany, a civilization that had cultivated some of the finest minds and talents, descend almost overnight into the most abysmal barbarism that produced the Holocaust?

To face the Holocaust, ultimately, is  to confront oneself.  Deep within this reflection may lie a monstrosity, dormant but easily roused by the first shrill bugle call.

That bugle call – shrill but seductive – can rouse not only mindless mobs but also the “intelligentsia” –  “civilized” men of learning and culture.  

Does  “civilization” produce not only culture, art and knowledge but, equally, deadly power and the imagination and arrogance to use it?

Chutzpah

October 17, 2010

From ancient Hebrew “huspa” by way of Yiddish, “chutzpah” appears to have entered the English language with an almost vengeance.  “Nerve”, “gall”, audacity, even “unmitigated effrontery”, does not quite reflect the possibly defiant implication of “chutzpah”.

 It may go way back to when Abraham defied convention (he had chutzpah) and would not sacrifice Isaac, his first born son. The Bible, of course, has it that an angel from God stayed his hand, ready to cut Isaac’s throat.  But, it was neither some angel nor God, but Abraham’s conscience that troubled him and saved his son.  (Of course, to question the Bible is but another sign of chutzpah).

Abraham, probably, made up that story about the angel to avoid the wrath of his fellow jews.   But it spelled the end of human sacrifice, the birth of ethics, as well as chutzpah as the driving force for progress.

Memorial (a poem)

October 6, 2010

No, it never happened

No never

No?

No, it could never have happened

But you were there

You saw what happened

You smelled the stench

You heard the sreams

 No, I saw nothing

I was not there

I smelled nothing

I heard no screams

 No, I was not there

Now leave me be.

 Santayana (the Spanish philosopher) said: “Those who cannot remember  the past are condemned to repeat it”.  But, what about “those” who remember only too well, and go on to exact retribution in violence, slaughter and wars without end?  Better perhaps – occasional, blissful amnesia.