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January 27, 2007

Readings, part 2: Ryszard Kapuscinski, 1932-2007

From Ryszard Kapuscinski, "When There Is Talk Of 1945," Granta 88, p. 255, translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska:

We who went through the war know how difficult it is to convey the truth about it to those for whom that experience is, happily, unfamiliar. We know how language fails us, how often we feel helpless, how the experience is, finally, incommunicable.

And yet, despite these difficulties and limitations, we should speak. Because speaking about all this does not divide, but rather unites us, allows us to establish threads of understanding and community. The dead admonish us. They bequeathed something important to us and now we must act responsibly. To the degree to which we are able, we should oppose everything that could again give rise to war, to crime, to catastrophe. Because we who lived through the war know how it begins, where it comes from. We know that it does not begin only with bombs and rockets, but with fanaticism and pride, stupidity and contempt, ignorance and hatred. It feeds on all that, grows on that and from that. That is why, just as some of us fight the pollution of the air, we should fight the polluting of human affairs by ignorance and hatred.

Posted by Brenden at 8:08 PM | Comments (0)
January 15, 2007

Readings, part 1: C.S. Lewis

From C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 22-23:

I turn now to the love of one's country. Here there is no need to labour M. de Rougemont's maxim; we all know now that this love becomes a demon when it becomes a god. Some begin to suspect that it is never anything but a demon. But then they have to reject half the high poetry and half the heroic action our race has achieved. We cannot keep even Christ's lament over Jerusalem. He too exhibits love for His country.

Let us limit our field. There is no need here for an essay on international ethics. When this love becomes demoniac it will of course produce wicked acts. But others, more skilled, may say what acts between nations are wicked. We are only considering the sentiment itself in the hope of being able to distinguish its innocent from its demoniac condition. Neither of these is the efficient cause of national behaviour. For strictly speaking, it is rulers, not nations, who behave internationally. Demoniac patriotism in their subjects—I write only for subjects—will make it easier for them to act wicketly; healthy patriotism my make it harder: when they are wicked they may by propaganda encourage a demoniac condition of our sentiments in order to secure our acquiescence in their wickedness. If they are good, they could do the opposite. That is one reason why we private persons should keep a wary eye on the health or disease of our own love for our country.

Posted by Brenden at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)
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