Wednesday, 21 April 2004

We have to touch people

9/11 and Bronowski at AuschwitzFrom The Belmont Club :
The most dangerous thing about the Internet from the point of view of those who would create a totalitarian or theocratic state is that it allows people to see others as men -- who may disagree, or who on reflection decide to fight -- but men nonetheless. The average person is never wholly unaware, as some academics are, of the humanity of other people. Nor is the average person wholly indifferent to concrete evil and imminent danger. Both are real and ancient things, ignored by those who live in a bubble of artificial laughter and contrived wit, but alive to those who meet them in the everyday. The Los Angeles Times article on Marine Corps snipers drives home how these marksmen, who live closer to the enemy than the ethereal postmodernist beings who jeer them, can never seek solace in abstractions. They must glimpse the faces of those they are about to shoot, the horror and necessity of the act combining in the single pull of the trigger, doomed to live in a world of specifics: fighting identifiable evils and performing individual acts of kindness. In this strange universe an Italian rips off a hood and with a final shout proclaims himself undefeated. Todd Beamer crashes an aircraft that others might live. Chief Wiggles raises money for children whose names he knows. And somewhere in Riyadh a Saudi makes excuses to his mother.

Only the Grand Inquisitors stand apart, disdainful alike of both kindness and human weakness, full of schemes and plots. And of their false truces and cunning offers we should have no part except to answer it with silence (as in Dostoeveky's parable) and to go get a beer.
When I read this, I recalled the late Jacob Bronowski's words as he crouched in the mud at Auschwitz, and let a handful of it slip through his fingers. We have to touch people.

No comments: