Saturday, November 19, 2005

Time of madmen

“Madmen govern our affairs in the name of order and security. The chief madmen claim the titles of general, admiral, senator, scientist, administrator, Secretary of State, even President.”

American sociologist Lewis Mumford, writing soon after the dawn of the nuclear age

I came of age during the cold war, a grim period in world affairs. Like many I expected my time to end here by way of nuclear war. Not a positive way to see the future or ones place in it. Those like me who also shared my feelings of impeding doom did not stop living nor dreaming of better times, if anything the threat of death by button pushers helped shape our world view and gave us a weird sense of positivism.

As I and my generation aged disgracefully and slowly the Cold War came to a close and the threat of all out war between the Soviet Block and the West ceased to exist. The end game was off.

It was with a profound sense of joy that I witnessed the generation below me come of age without the same sense of foreboding that the bomb produced in me and my peers. They inherited a better safer world, I thought, and to varying degrees they still do.

Yet still we can’t proclaim peace in our time.

Last night I found myself surrounded by friends at the Grey Lynn RSA, sampling a few cold ones. It was my first time there and it had been many a year since I last stepped into a RSA – that last time my friends and I were thrown out for causing a disruption and rightly so, last night was a much more civil affair, perhaps I am growing up after all.

At 6:00pm the lights were turned off for a moment and silence descended on the room. The fourth stanza of Binyon’s poem ‘For the Fallen’ was read with all joining in for the last two lines.

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
I’m a sucker for this particular poem and readily admit that the thought of them that have fallen in times of war always fills me with a profound patriotic pride in being a kiwi. Hearing this poem in such a setting was, um, special. Damn my eyes I can’t think of a more appropriate term.

On getting up this morning, slowly I might add – a few beers do that to ya, I am now doing my morning rounds of catching up on my current affairs reading coupled with a quick trawl through the various, mainly music, forums and blogs I frequent. On my travels I came across a piece of music I had yet to hear which given my current thoughts is very fitting. Its recorded by a friend of mine and was commissioned for The Great Blend.

'Nuclear Weapons Are Morally Indefensible', is a derivative work incorporating audio from the recording of David Lange's speech in the 1985 Oxford Union debate, arguing in favour of the motion that "Nuclear Weapons Are Morally Indefensible."

The speech is used with the permission of David Lange, Margaret Pope and Television New Zealand. The music was composed and produced by Andrew B. White, aka Tomorrowpeople.

I have a copy of the track somewhere in the postal system at the moment; I hope very much it arrives in time for my show on Monday, for I am intending to build my show around it.

Whilst I listen to this online I am reading an article about the ongoing nuclear race and tensions between Pakistan and India which is on the whole quite depressing – you idiots, the bomb is not a weapon of peace…

I’ve also been following the renewed look at the Siege of Fallujah with regards to the use of white phosphorus as a weapon.

White phosphorus when used as a weapon as alleged contravenes the Convention on Conventional Weapons which in 1980 banned the use of incendiary devices, like white phosphorous, in heavily populated areas.

Of course America did not sign the agreement, though that alone does not condone nor make their actions right if these allegations are correct and as ever the world is watching a world that increasingly distrusts the US propaganda machine and rightfully so considering the many untruths uncovered with regards to the War in Iraq and the War on Terror and it seems just about every statement made by the current regime in the Whitehouse.

With regards to Fallujah, the question is I feel, was the area targeted heavily populated? And if so was it only by insurgents as the US claims or were civilians present as many others claim. For the use of white phosphorous by US forces is not a crime in itself, if used as an illuminating agent, which it is employed for by every military force in the world. When sued as a weapon not a illuminating agent then one can only see it for what it is, a chemical agent and a bloody horrific one at that. Considering the many reasons for the initial invasion the use of chemical weapons on a civilian population is both illegal and immoral, a way to win hearts and minds this is not.

Now there has been some debate on if the US forces allowed civilians to flee the battle zone, or did they as many allege impede civilian withdrawal from Fallujah. If civilians were denied the right to flee the battle zone that in itself is a crime under Geneva Conventions… Not too even start on the legal and moral obligations a occupying force has to the domestic population of the occupied country.

Damn I’ve gone off on a tangent and now to complicate matters further a bird has just flown inside thus I am typing and trying to tell the bird to get out, which it is trying in vein to do – windows are so not a concept birds have ever really mastered.

Why the hell I am talking to the bird I have no clue, its not like they speak English now is it? I feel a little silly explaining the interior layout of the lounge and the best way for a bird to exit, and why I’m speaking at it in baby talk bewilders me a bit too, should I yell? Best not as I really don’t want a little leaving present on the carpet..

Back on point, so to speak, where was I? Oh yeah, RSA’s, poetry, patriotism, bombs, madmen, chemical weapons, David Lange being put to music. Is there a point to all of this?

Perhaps its this, we come of age, our past shapes us and we strive to be who we are yet at any time the actions of madmen can take all of that away from us, in a flash. A mere pressing of a few buttons and our way of life and world could forever be reduced to ashes. ..

Wahooo bird gone, no deposits on the carpet and I do believe they may just have complimented me on my choice of morning listening… I didn’t know birds dug Nick Cave… or when I managed to learn how to interpret a “cheep”.

...opps, stay on target Bob….

Now no matter what the justification or the intent, the use of force should, I wish, be consigned to the history books, preferably the distant past chapters. So we the living can remember worse times and commemorate and remember those who fell during those times of strife whilst looking ahead without the knowledge that conflict is a part of our day to day existence.

Yet alas we still live in a time of madmen and like my recent bird experience they too employ a language that makes no sense to those of us who dream of peaceful times for all humanity.

I’ve just been taken delivery of a bunch of new music that had been piling up in the ol’ post office box. I am now consuming my last cup of coffee for the morning trying to finsh this rambling post and checking out a wonderful CD of old blues classics from the 1920’s, re-mastered from the original 78 rpm records. The sound is scratchy and filled with all the glorious sounds one associates with old vinyl. I adore old original songs from times gone by, something I have grown into. In my younger days I would have written the disc off as I cared little for the blues.

I’ve learnt to change and grow as a person and embrace musical forms that once I would have ridiculed. If only our resident global madmen could learn to change and embrace each other too.

As ever, give peas a chance


Anonymous said...

Remember the time we got throw out of a "wholesaler"? "either you guys buy something or F..K off"!
Who gets thrown out of a wholesaler?.

The Commander

Bob Daktari said...

Who but the Commander and his faithful sidekick Jasper

How can I forget, one of our far too many funny adventures