Friday, May 19, 2017
Back in the Political Saddle
It's been a hell of a long time since I've posted anything here, but I've decided to reduce my political commentary on Facebook, and use the blog for the extended political stuff.
Novelist Alistair MacLean is known primarily for his thrillers like Ice Station Zebra and The Guns of Navarone, but, to me, one of his best passages is near the end of The Secret Ways, in which a British Secret Service agent meets up with two Hungarian resistance heroes in an attempt to repatriate a British scientist who had defected to the Soviets.
Jansci, the Resistance leader is talking to Jennings, the scientist:
“Tell them, tell your people at home, that our lives and the lives of generations to come lie in their hands. Tell them that there is only one thing that ultimately matters on this earth, and that is peace on this earth. And tell them that this is a very small earth, and growing smaller with every year that passes, but that we all have to live on it together, that we all must live on it together.”
“Coexistence?” Dr. Jennings raised an eyebrow.
“Coexistence. A terrible word, a big bogeyman word, but what else could any sane man offer in its place – all the nameless horrors of a thermonuclear war, the requiem for the lost hopes of mankind? No, coexistence must come, it must if mankind is to survive, but this world without spheres, the dream of that great American, Cordell Hull[i], will never come if you have impetuous fools, as you do have, Dr. Jennings, shouting for big results now, here, today.
MacLean wrote this in 1959… yet here we are, 58 years later, with Trump shouting for the “biggest,” the “greatest” and claiming that “I alone” can deliver.
“Most of all, it will never come so long as our leaders and governments, our newspapers and propagandists teach us incessantly, insistently, that we must hate and fear and despise all the other peoples who share this same tiny world with us. The nationalism of those who cry ‘We are the people’ – the jingoistic brand of patriotism – these are the great evils of our world today, the barriers to peace that no man can overcome. What hope is there for the world as long as we cling to the outmoded forms of national allegiance? We owe allegiance to no one, Dr. Jennings, at least not on this earth.
He predicted the Tea Party and Fox long before they crawled out of the slime.
“And that, I think, is the real answer – not the proposing of courses of action, as Dr. Jennings suggested, but in creating the climate of good will in which those actions can flower and bear fruit. Ask the rulers of the great nations who should be leading our sick world to a better tomorrow what their greatest need of today is, and they will tell you scientists and still more scientists – those luckless brilliant creatures who have long since traded in their birthright of independence, buried their consciences, and sold out to the governments of the world – so that they can strive harder and still harder until they have in their hands the ultimate weapon of destruction.
“The governments of the world may not be mad, but they are blind, and their blindness is but one step removed from insanity. The desperate, most urgent need this world knows or will ever know is the need for an effort without parallel in history to get to know ourselves and the other people of the world even as well as we know ourselves, and then we will see that the other man is just as we are, that right and virtue and truth belong to him as much as they do to us. We must think of people not as a conglomerate mass, not conveniently, indiscriminately, as a faceless nation: we must always remember that a nation is made of millions of little human beings just like we are, and to talk about national sin and guilt and wickedness is to be willfully blind, unjust, and unchristian, and while it is true that such a nation may go off the rails, it never goes off because it wants to, but because it can’t help it, because there was something in its past or in its environment that inescapably made it what it is today, just as some forgotten incidents, some influences that we can neither recall not understand, have made each of us what we are today.
“And with that understanding and knowledge there will come compassion, and no power on earth can compete against compassion – the compassion that makes the Jewish Society issue world-wide appeals for money for their sworn but starving enemies, the Arab refugees, the compassion that made a Russian soldier thrust his gun into Sandor’s hands, the compassion – a compassion born of understanding – that made nearly all the Russians who were stationed in Budapest refuse to fight the Hungarians, whom they had come to know so well. And this compassion, this charity, will come, it must come, but men the world over must want to make it come.”
Jansci’s statements about the Communists could be repeated equally well today, by merely substituting “far-right-conservatives” for “Communists.” The world MacLean wrote about is the world that Trump and his ilk want to recreate, not in Eastern Europe, but here in the United States, a nation where criticism of the government sentences you to a labor camp, where secret police round up and execute dissidents, where the Party, rather than the government, holds ultimate power.