The history of my stupidity

Clamped

In a week when I injured my leg jumping from a wall and went on to get my car clamped I have to celebrate my own humanity, the flaws in myself, my own stupidity.  I present a portrait of both myself and my car sporting immobility boots.

So I can have not better companion than Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish Nobel Laureate who was born on this day in 1911.  Born in what is today Lithuania in what was then the Russian Empire, but speaking Polish, Milosz has that quality common amongst writers who struggle between their national and linguistic identities.  You will see it in Irish, Indian and African writers who write in English.  The disassociation between language and race promotes a focus on the weight of words, how words can shape meaning and identity.

Milosz was happy to resolve his identity by a refusal to identify.  To the ire of various activists he refused to be either Polish or Lithuanian.

Milosz went on to become a citizen of Nazi Poland.  He refused to become a supporter of the short lived Warsaw uprising, holding to his determination of what he was not.

Then he was a comrade of Stalinist Russian Poland and eventually became the polar opposite; a citizen of the United States of America.

As to my own stupidity….volumes could not cover it.  I could fill a library.

The history of my stupidity; by Czeslaw Milosz

The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.

Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness,
like the flight of a moth which, had it known,
would have tended nevertheless toward the candle’s flame.

Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety,
the little whisper which, though it is a warning, is ignored.

I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride,
the time when I was among their adherents
who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.

But all of them would have one subject, desire,
if only my own — but no, not at all; alas,
I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.

The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it’s late. And the truth is laborious.

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Remember Rainbow Warrior

Rainbow Warrior

It is incredible to think that it is 30 years ago today that Rainbow Warrior sank with the tragic loss of the life of Fernando Pereira.

Rainbow Warrior was used by Greenpeace to spearhead their anti-nuclear protests.  In 1985 she was in the South Pacific to protest nuclear weapons testing in Moruroa Atoll in French Polynesia.  Their plan was to land people on the Atoll to delay or prevent the testing.

The French infiltrated the Greenpeace offices in Auckland and stole the plans.  French intelligence agents then planted two bombs on the ship, and blew it up, sinking the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour.

The death of Pereira sparked a murder investigation.  A number of French agents were tracked down and arrested.  When it was revealed that the French intelligence service was responsible it sparked an international crisis.  The Minister of Defense resigned.  The captured agents were turned over to French custody and it emerged that they served their “incarceration” in a tropical holiday camp in the Caribbean.  French behaviour in this situation was inexcusable.  What they did was wrong.  Getting caught doing it was a catastrophe for their intelligence service.  They then protected their agents by telling a pack of lies to the international community.  The French never revealed the identities of the agents who carried out the bombing.

Bombing the ship was an act of moral turpitude.  It was a cowardly act and an ugly one.  The acts of the French sit in stark contrast to the bravery and commitment of the Greenpeace activists who fought for good and right.  This anniversary is a day of shame for France.  For Greenpeace it should be a day of pride.

An international tribunal in Geneva found the French Government to be guilty to the tune of $8.1 million, which was paid to Greenpeace in 1987.

A Song on the End of the World; by Czeslaw Milosz (Trans: Anthony Milosz)
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.