Why Do the Nations Rage, or, David Ben-Gurion, Zip It

A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

– Walter Benjamin‎

“We will establish a Christian state in Lebanon, the southern border of which will be the Litani River. We will break Trans-Jordan, bomb Amman and destroy its [Jordan’s] army, and then Syria falls, and if Egypt will still continue to fight, we will bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. This will be in revenge for what they (the Egyptians, the Aramis and the Assyrians) did to our forefathers during Biblical times.”

– David Ben-Gurion, 24 May 1948,. Quoted in THE ETHNIC CLEANSING OF PALESTINE, Ilan Pappe, Oneworld-Oxford 2006.

Note carefully what one of Israel’s founders, David Ben-Gurion, not considered to be a gangster like Dayan or Sharon, is saying here. If he had not been Israel’s leader and an ordinary man, calling for revenge of harm done 2,500 years before, his friends would tell him get help. The men with butterfly nets would take ben-Gurion away for a nice long rest.

You don’t have to be a Christian, always turning the other cheek, to have a sort of statute of limitations regarding the mean things that people have done to you.

Lunatics hold 2500 year grudges, don’t they?

So why are the leaders of nations and candidates for high office permitted to run their mouths like this stinker Ben Gurion long ago, and Paul Ryan or Romney today? When Romney attacks the Affordable Care Act, having himself overseen a version as Massachusetts governor, and when Paul Ryan says his favorite band is Rage Against the Machine, these are acts of men without bones, men without memory, who are certifiably insane and should be locked up.

Ordinary slobs who treasure grudges cause enough problems from domestic abuse to murder. Ordinary slobs who screw up on the job and (let’s say) fight a policy they implemented the year before get fired. And ordinary fans of Rage Against the Machine usually agree with that band’s left-wing politics.

The rules aren’t different for the elite…but the elite thinks the rules do not apply to them. They are the Hollow Men as TS Eliot said of Stanley Baldwin (if memory serves).

If we could get the leaders of nations to exercise “restraint of tongue and pen” by voting for Gandhi (with all his faults), with memory and a certain consistency, and not Jinnah or Milosevic, the world would be safer for my new grandchildren. But as it is, it is as if the elite have no memory, or, perhaps, they think we don’t. And this is nothing new, as my examples of Jinnah and Ben-Gurion demonstrate.

Perhaps (and here I’m going out on a limb) World War II effected a permanent change to political psychology, although this has to be tested against the fact that Fascism predated World War II (although Fascism did not exist in Europe prior to the 1920s and may have been a WWI aftershock…which fails to account for the proto-Fascism of the Confederate States of America in the 1860s). But perhaps I am losing the thread in speculation in this italicized material.

If you are, dear reader, a very intelligent and learned person, and you feel at any time that with all the shit that’s going on in my life, I am losing it, becoming incoherent like John Nash whom I actually knew, please feel free to use the comments to say so. But do spare me the usual charge, which has often been hurled in my direction by aliterate fools, that I am full of shit. This is based on ignorance and fear. It is a Razor’s Edge but it is a real distinction.

To return, then, to my topic…

Jinnah (the founder of Pakistan a Muslim state) was not a pious Muslim, and he supported the Congress Party until Islamic fundamentalists convinced him that the path to power was fundamentalism. Jinnah may be usefully contrasted with a rather close, but pre WWII politician, Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, to reinforce my italicized thesis concerning an effect of World War II, for Ataturk was pre-WWII, no Fascist, and reasonably effective as a nation-builder (but also a genocidal maniac as far as the Amernians were concerned). Whereas Jinnah left us Pakistan as opposed to Turkey because in the immediate post-war, somehow, media and its “dialectic of enlightenment” had made information, at one and the same time, more available, but alongside disinformation.

It is unlikely that opinion makers would have ignored Jinnah’s deception as to his Islamic credentials in, say, 1880, and, post 1945, the radio and cinema could have renarrated Ataturk as a monster. But media destroy memory. It is plain that something happened as witness the contrast, in my own US history, between John Adams and George Bush.

Milosevic, the late “butcher of the Balkans” who as Serbia’s leader implemented Israeli style ethnic cleansing and worse on his fucked up watch, was truly winging it when in 1989, he was giving a speech in Kosovo, there was a disturbance on the edge of the crowd involving Muslims and Serbs, and he said “they will never beat you” (although of course “they” were as he spoke). The rest is history. You know. History. That from nightmare which Stephen Daedalus and my kids would like to awake.

As I write, American Jews are actually signing up for a war with Iran perceived as inevitable, where it would not be inevitable if we didn’t have a pussy in the Oval Office, and instead had a President who could say to Israel, no, don’t do that, or no more F-16s for you, so there.

“Why do the nations rage so furiously together? The kings of the earth rise up, and take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed.”

When my kid brother went off to war in 1990, he said, sure wish wise old Dad was in charge…he’d figure this thing out, sit down with Saddam Hussein. Fortunately my kid brother covered himself with glory, that is, it was a cake walk (we didn’t know that it would be at the time). I think a whole Iraqi unit surrendered to him and a couple of his buddies. Something like that. But his point was well taken: Facebook alone teaches us that the more ordinary of a slob you are, the more brains and goodness you have: cleaning ladies are the wisest and best of us, like the cleaning lady in Hans Guth’s dramatization of Handel’s Messiah in a dull hotel. Me, I consider myself borderline. I am a slob but not ordinary enough.


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