First Mile:Recently referenced here:
Gaza violence suits both Israeli leadership and Hamas, Gwynne Dyer, 14-07-17; and,
Nobody wins the Gaza War, Gwynne Dyer, 14-07-20.
I noticed Gabor Maté's essay at the time but got distracted and forgot about it. Then a friend sent it to me in an email and I went back and read it (at least) several times (see below).
Gabor Maté is a very clever guy, smart and quick. Compassionate but manages not to pull his punches. I know this; I've seen him in action from up close (see this encounter in 2009). And too, I'm a sucker for emotional arguments, so his (powerful) "Can we not at least mourn together?" takes me back to Rod Steiger at the end of 'The Pawnbroker' and I'm all Yes-Yes-Yes and breathless.
'Cept, something catches ... it takes a while to curdle & float up to the top through the plaques ...
An 'ought' in each of the first two sentences? Uh oh. M-m-must be a Canadian eh?
And is it really naïve and childish to ask, "How was it possible?" I don't think so, and I find this answer - "I know better now: such is reality. Humanity stands by either complicitly or unconsciously or helplessly, as it always does." - to be unsatisfactory, a defence reaction (as he might say), complacent even, smug and too simple by far.
OK. I'm not jewish and I neither have Gabor Maté's first-hand familiarity with the situation on the ground nor a dearest friend who is an old Zionist buddy. I did visit Israel for a few months on business in the 70s. Terrorist bombs, grenades, whatever, were going off audibly in Tel Aviv, that's about it - I was young and invincible so it didn't scare me much, didn't go to Palestine yadda yadda, don't know sheeit!
[There was a graceful little hand-made tensegrity windmill spinning in the yard of the architecture school at the Technion - blew my mind, the head offered me a place there ... could already count to ten in Hebrew ... but didn't take it ... Oh my!]
Sure, simple is good. But it's not only Netanyahu, Harper and Obama (and the neighbouring Arab leaders) who have been misled and confused and who mislead and confuse in turn. What about whoever was leading Mariam Farhat aka Um Nidal when she sent three of her sons off as suicide bombers? What about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Shiraz Dossa notwithstanding) and his stand-up-comic plan to nuke Israel off the map?
[So. ... Let's back it up a bit ... ... long pause ... ... it's 2AM, the stragglers from the local pub are in the lane out back looking for their car keys ...]
Two clues from W.H. Auden:
1) "I and the public know what all schoolchildren learn, those to whom evil is done do evil in return." The abused abuse: many of those who escaped the Holocaust and made it to Israel included; many of those who were herded into Gaza (and farther) also included; and,
2) "We must love one another or die." As well as mourning the innocents we can perhaps get our teaspoons out (see Amos Oz 'How to cure a Fanatic').
First reading of this essay was in quick-email-scan mode, always a mistake, got it totally wrong, upside down, inside out. A little better now though still not all the way there.
Why does what Gabor Maté writes merit close attention?
This is my opinion: He is one of the few human fiddler crabs (I've seen or heard of) who comes out of his (borrowed) 'soi distant' little shell and makes and tries to make statements as a whole being. And this of mine is no more nor less than an attempt - lame as it may be - to respond in kind.
[I'll tack on the People's Climate March banner and maybe shove in a few protagonist pictures a bit later on ...]
So what've we got so far? Couple'a old guys of varying qualities wringing their hands. All very k-k-k-Canadian eh?
More than a few years ago I went out one evening to a church in St. John's with my sister to meet Desmond Parsons. He's one of the architects of the United Church of Canada's boycott on Israel - which is their way of working out that difficult bit in Matthew: "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete ... &c."
I've never understood it either. Closest I get is that it's Launcelot Andrewes' early 1600s slang for 'what goes around comes around' - but of course, that can't be it.
Anyway, Desmond Parsons is less than clear that evening and when pressed (very gently indeed) he excuses himself with jet lag - just back from Palestine and all - and that's that.
[There was a girl, a brown skinned Sephardic jew come to Israel as a refugee of the return only to find a subtle but pervasive colour bar (she told me). I wanted the Technion and, she may have wanted Canada.]
And I did find this picture of Um Nidal.
Don't make no difference. Go the second mile ... go the tenth, go the thousandth and still nothing is accomplished.
Desmond Tutu is now calling for a boycott too: My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine I'm sure he's got another plan somewhere to liberate the miners of Marikana.
This febrile mind of mine soon wanders away - to remembering a video of Tutu dancing around on some stage in Copenhagen in 2009. I am not yet such a bigot that I immediately discard everything said by anyone who indicates they think God has got anything to do with it - but I'm getting there.
And then it's a short hop to Lula's speech at the COP-15 plenary - the high point (for me) of a very low time: Part One (10 minutes) and Part Two (7 minutes) - both with good English subtitles, you can find the text in Portuguese and English here.
I like this speech because watching and listening to it I am able to weep. Of course he reaffirms his faith in God and all, but he says so much else in such a clear and believable way. It doesn't wash, no, but ... for a moment ...
And after all this long go-round it's 2AM again and I come back to Gabor Maté and his concluding sentence with a new appreciation: "Can we not at least mourn together?"
We can, yes. And yes, it's a comfort. Thanks to my friend Gord and thanks to Gabor.
Third Mile: (September 14)
There is a morality that excuses Mariam Farhat/Um Nidal. There are understandings that see some human behaviour as inevitable fugal overload. It is one thing to understand, say, Bach's organ fugue, and another to let, say, Lorena Bobbit completely off the hook (with the emphasis on 'completely').
I went back and watched 'The Pawnbroker' again; couldn't find the scene in which Sol Nazerman says to Tessie that it is time for them to go and mourn together. Maybe there are two cuts of this movie? Or maybe it is my failing memory circuits - but I have such a clear memory of it, sitting in some Montreal theatre with my friend Vince (?). So it goes.
Be well gentle reader.