“Look, how constantly capable
and how well maintained
in our century: hatred.
How lightly she regards high impediments.
How easily she leaps and overtakes.
She’s not like other feelings.
She’s both older and younger than they.
She herself gives birth to causes
which awaken her to life.
If she ever dozes, it’s not an eternal sleep.
Insomnia does not sap her strength, but adds to it.
Religion or no religion,
as long as one kneels at the starting-block.
Fatherland or no fatherland,
as long as one tears off at the start.
She begins as fairness and equity.
Then she propels herself.
She veils her face with a mien
of romantic ecstasy.
Oh, the other feelings —
decrepit and sluggish.
Since when could that brotherhood
count on crowds?
Did ever empathy
urge on toward the goal?
How many clients did doubt abduct?
Only she abducts who knows her own.
Talented, intelligent, very industrious.
Do we need to say how many songs she has written.
How many pages of history she has numbered.
How many carpets of people she has spread out
over how many squares and stadiums!
Let’s not lie to ourselves:
She’s capable of creating beauty.
Wonderful is her aura on a black night.
Magnificent cloud masses at rosy dawn.
It’s difficult to deny her pathos of ruins
and her coarse humor
mightily towering above them columns.
She’s the mistress of contrast
between clatter and silence,
between red blood and white snow.
And above all she never tires of
the motif of the tidy hangman
above the defiled victim.
She’s ready for new tasks at any moment.
If she must wait she’ll wait.
She said she was blind. Blind?
She has the keen eyes of a sniper
and boldly looks into the future
–she alone. ”
Pathetic, though it may seem to attempt to add a footnote of prose after these lines, I would nevertheless, attempt to draw attention to some oft-forgotten historical lessons brilliantly woven in these verses.
The history book of hatred is ceaselessly adding pages as well as epitaphs. Even as I type Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine province face existential threats, Syrian civilians are dying while the world “urges” restraint or “closely monitors” the situation, a mosque in Afghanistan blew up killing fifty or so innocents. Palestinians face a continually forgotten and denigrating existence under the shadow of US’s closest ally in the region – Isreal (a fact which both Romney and Obama mentioned at least half a dozen times in the last debate). Israel drums up anti-Iran hysteria. The ugly head of hatred is rearing up. But was it ever gone?
Hatred has leaped over, nay side-stepped with scorn, all impediments placed before it. A rapprochement was tried with Pakistan in 1999, and before that in 1984 and later in 2005– only to be unravelled by fanatic acts of minority elements within both nations. Pakistan’s grim tryst with the Taliban, British diplomacy of the 1930s bear testament to the fact that appeasement does not quell hatred. Hatred of the other, is itself, the cause of more hatred. She begets herself. Witness racial violence in USA of the 1960s, repeated communal conflagrations throughout India’s free history, anti-semitism and apartheid violence in South Africa. Many causes, many faces. And the lowest common denominator being the passion these feelings whip up. The Gandhis, the M.L. Kings, the Nelson Mandelas of history can only be mute witnesses to their world collapsing in front of them while Hatred’s frenzied minions tear their world apart, just before punctuating their victory with the finality of a gunshot, or worse -irrelevance. The Russells, the Chomskys, the Camuses,the Edward Saids of this world, the doubters, “the sane voices”, can only wring their hands in vain as Huntingtons, Friedmans, even the Sartres and Hitchens stoop to becoming Hatred’s apologists! (Sartre’s defence of French imperialism in Algeria and Hitchens’ credulous defence of the Iraq misadventure remain blots on otherwise exemplary lives) Clearly, Hatred is a wily seductress.
Ideologies are child’s play for her. Marx would have revulsed in horror at Stalin’s impression of Socialism, the very egalitarian and ecumenical end for all- in the gulag! Or Khmer Rouge’s radical version of Mao’s philosophy, built on three million deaths. How easy it is to spin Mill’s utilitarianism or Adam’s capitalism into the napalmed, scorching reality of Vietnam or the tortured millions in Algeria (which was supposed to be France’s “civilizing mission”)? Sometimes not having an ideology is even worse, as Hatred twists the dagger of the world’s apathy into the hapless, eviscerated innocents (when 1700 civilians are butchered at Sabra and Shatila or a million Armenians are murdered by Turks, unknown and unheard).
And she has patience! It took decades of exploitation of the Middle East before the specter of terrorism was unleashed on the West. First came the Cold War, and puppet regimes and suppression of freedoms. Then came deliberate arming of desperate militias in order to battle another obsolescent ideology. Then came 9/11.
Hypocrisy is ever her most trusted confidante.
Iran’s official history of the 1980-1988 war shows that Iraq first used chemical weapons against its combatants on 13th January, 1981 — killing seven Iranians. Between 28 December 1980 and 20 March 1984, there were 63 separate chemical weapons attacks by the Iraqis. The world did not react. Never since the First World War had chemical weapons been used on such a scale and yet so great was the fear and loathing of Iran, so total the loyalty of Arabs to Saddam Hussein, so absolute the West’s support for Saddam against the spread of Khomeini’s revolution, that they were silent. These news items were never reported in the Arab press. In Europe and America, they were regarded as Iranian propaganda. Only in 1984 did New York Times grudgingly admitted that “Iraq used chemical weapons in repelling Iranian offensive.” The criticism was mild. There was no official criticism of Iraq’s policy. In 1994, the “United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the health consequences of the Persian-Gulf war ” report acknowledged that government-approved shipments of chemical weapons were sent by American companies to Iraq from 1985 or earlier. Throughout the war, America supplied Iraq with battlefield intelligence — which was used by the Iraqis to defeat Iranian offensives using poison gas. Iraq captured Fao on 19th April, 1988 using gas. They then used hydrogen cyanide gas on the Kurdish town of Halabja , by dropping it from jets, accusing the Kurdish Iraqis of collaborating with Iran. The chemicals were German, the jet was American and the 5000 dead, Iraqi Kurds.
This was one of the charges which the West used when it invaded Iraq in 2003. “Saddam gassed his own people.” They forgot to mention how and why.
If hypocrisy doesn’t work, She just creates an “other”, very subtly at times. In time, the “other” can be objectified and dealt with.
There is a routine bestialisation of Arabs and Muslims in Western cinema. In the movie, “O Jerusalem” based on the eponymous book by Lapierre and Collins, there is an honourable, kind-hearted, moderate Arab who is friends with a Jew. Similarly, the movie Exodus, based on the Leon Uris’ novel of 1948, also has a “good Arab”. In the much-acclaimed “Ben Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia”, there are “good Arabs” who lend horses! “The English patient”, a brilliant movie, has a blatantly racist scene, where a British army officer is torturing a suspected German spy by chopping off his thumb. For this barbarous act, he calls a Muslim woman nurse forward, saying — “The Muslims, they understand this sort of a thing. What’s the punishment for adultery ? ” This abhorrently racist dialogue has no basis in the book.
Once we have thus established that there are “good Arabs”, out there, somewhere — we are, of course, free to concentrate on the rotten kind and treat them as we will!
Hatred is calling us ever more insistently, luring us with the a delicious offering of pawns — it is our move. Let us not get check-mated again.
(Kasparov is getting increasingly frustrated by our ineptitude at learning historical lessons. While he continues to hate Putin and fight.)