neljapäev, juuni 21, 2007

Tere Tulemast Sudaanisse

The photo to your left is not of a beach near Kuressaare. No, it's one of the few 'tame' photos to emerge from the nightmare imagery of Darfur, the famine-cursed, genocide-happy region of western Sudan.

The crisis in Darfur has stirred the souls of millions of Westerners due to its similarities with a similar crisis in Rwanda in the mid-1990s. The challenge of the Rwandan genocide to the Western mindset was this:

For 60+ years, we have all used the crimes of Nazi Germany to reinforce respect for our position of power in the world and to create a sense of social identity based on common values. Therefore, we may not be able to agree whether The Beatles or the Rolling Stones were better bands (obviously the Stones, I mean they still haven't broken up yet), but we all can agree that Nazi Germany was bad, death camps were bad, Auschwitz was bad, Hitler was really bad, and anybody else in the world that is bad can be likened to those who committed crimes against humanity.

If you don't agree that Hitler was bad, you may be guilty of a "hate crime". If you write a book saying the Holocaust never happened, or wasn't as bad as they say it was, then you are a "Holocaust denier" and must promptly go to jail, preferably in Austria, where you are forced to eat Viennese sausages and think long and hard about your crime. We in the West take that stuff quite seriously.

Even in the Russian Federation, the ghost of Hitler still helps them forget the ghost of Stalin. I mean Stalin may have killed more people, but they were just Ukrainians, and besides, Stalin induced famines or sent them to death camps to starve, he wasn't as ingeniously evil as Hitler and his gas chambers. So even in logic-suspended Russia, Hitler is used to reinforce the idea of the state as good and Russians as a good people.

Rwanda challenged that because, unlike in Yugoslavia, the world sat by and did mostly nothing during what most describe as brutal genocide. Since this occurred at the same time as the situation in the states that used to comprise Yugoslavia, people began thinking, "why Europe and not Africa?" One of the answers was that (perhaps) we cared more about the lives of Europeans more than Africans, and if we did, then that was very bad.

So Darfur means more to the West than just stopping endless bloodletting. It's a test over whether or not we can redeem ourselves on that continent and redeem our values to ourselves. In that vein, it appears that the first place our Nordic Battle Group of the EU, which includes 2,000 self-absorbed Swedes, 200 taciturn Finns, 150 egalitarian Norwegians, and 50 cocky Estonians and has an awesome flag, will be Darfur.

Jyri Häkämies (cons), the Finnish defence minister, told the Finnish News Agency (STT) in an interview released Thursday that the EU might deploy its Nordic battlegroup into Africa next year.

"Darfur is a very challenging mission. I have observed in the Nordic context that these countries have forces on stand-by for which challenges are being sought. When the battlegroup becomes active under Sweden's leadership next year, there is quite a strong sense that the destination may be Africa," Mr Häkämies said.

The Scandinavian mainstream media has been clamouring for peacekeepers in Darfur, and this could be seen as another attempt for the Nordic countries to put themselves in harm's way to show that they still adhere to certain values, ie: "genocide = bad, when genocide occurs, we do something about it."

Indeed, if you read Swedish or Norwegian blogs, you'll see that rather than bitching about Carl Bildt's latest real estate scandal, they are morose over prospects of peace in the Middle East and solving the problems of Darfur. That is, they are even greater fans of uphill skiing than the Estonians.

I'd put good kroner/krooni down on this deployment taking place. You don't just train for a few years in Sweden and then sit on your hands waiting to take back Viipuri. At that point, Estonians will be in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, doing their part for Western self-respect and the world community.

23 kommentaari:

klx ütles ...

well said....

though Viipuri would be good too :)

Juan Manuel ütles ...

Everybody is hoping for a blue-helmeted peacekeeping force in Darfur to replace the utterly ineffective African Union force, but the Sudanese government have "rejected" the offer. Muslim countries don't want to see infidels in what they call Dar al Islam (Islamic land).

The similarity with Rwanda is eye-striking, but in Yugoslavia we also did very little. Take Srebrenica, the siege of Sarajevo and Serbian starvation fields. We also turned a blind eye on Croatian troops killing and deporting Serbians in Bosnia just to make it easier for us to draw the new borders at the Dayton military base.

Some time ago I found out that the famous Pulitzer price winner photography by Kevin Carter (where a girl is stalked at by a vaulter) was shot in Darfur during a famine in... 1992.

So trouble down there has been going on for quite a long time, with little attention from our side.

antyx ütles ...

The V on the flag is for Viking, I guess?

And why no Danes? Decided not to deal with muslims any more after the Mohammed cartoon scandal?

Unknown ütles ...

help me out here...for what for was created the nordic battle group?..I mean, there is NATO, there is the EU which aims to build up a european army, so, for what for do we need another battle group?...don't get me wrong here, I do appreciate all efforts to help other people, even more if those efforts are spend to help people in a remote region and not only the "own" people...but what is the intention of nordic battle group?

Giustino ütles ...

help me out here...for what for was created the nordic battle group?..I mean, there is NATO, there is the EU which aims to build up a european army, so, for what for do we need another battle group?...

The Nordic Battle Group is an EU Battle Group, one of 15. The Latvians and Lithuanians are in the Polish-led Battle Group.

LPR ütles ...

Yep. Darfur is a bummer. But it does yield some Pulitzer-prize photographic material. If not peacekeepers, then at least they should send photographers.

Eh, I love the National Geographic magazine. Aside from good pictures, it smells good when you open a fresh copy.

Unknown ütles ...

About the Danes:

Denmark has an opt-out clause in its accession treaty and is not obliged to participate in the common defence policy. Also Malta currently does not participate in any battlegroup.

Tiamsuu ütles ...

Didn't Kevin carter commit suicide?

space_maze ütles ...

He did, yes.

LPR ütles ...

To me Carter's life story has a stern warning in it - try to stick with the wholsome topics and stay away from misery.

Giustino ütles ...

The V on the flag is for Viking, I guess?

It stands for the victories that Vanhanen demands.

No seriously, if you can find the inspirational V in this photo of Swedish Princess Madeleine.

Rachel ütles ...

What, pray tell, are wholesome topics?


Giustino ütles ...

The personal life of Sir Mick Jagger?

LPR ütles ...

By wholesomeness I think I meant any topic where you can one way or the other admire the genius and accomplishments of mankind rather than poke in its failures.

Eventually this stuff gets to you in a bad way.

Watching too many starving babies would make anyone to want to suck on the exhaust pipe in the end.

Kristopher ütles ...

I think the voice of the world's corporate-industrialist system is basically this: as long as they don't disrupt gum arabic exports (sounds like an obscure Victorian item like India ink, but a major Sudanese export and one with no great synthetic subtitute) they're more than welcome to station themselves in Darfur and assuage their consciences over not doing anything in other parts of Africa.

McMad ütles ...

Kristopher zei...

I think the voice of the world's corporate-industrialist system is basically this: as long as they don't disrupt gum arabic exports (sounds like an obscure Victorian item like India ink, but a major Sudanese export and one with no great synthetic subtitute) they're more than welcome to station themselves in Darfur and assuage their consciences over not doing anything in other parts of Africa.

And what exactly should they do in other parts of Africa?
EU and USA can never "fix" Africa, only Africans themselves can do that.

KRISTIN ütles ...

Tere tulemast Sudaani.

Kristopher ütles ...

Kristin -- Giustino said that already in the title. :)

McMad, I agree -- nothing to be done in other parts of Africa either, not by the establishment.

Giustino ütles ...

I think it was a grammatical correction. But according to the rules you can say both, so Sudaanisse is technically correct.

Languages too have loopholes ;)

keelek6rv ütles ...

jep, sudaanisse is technically correct, but try to find an estonian who would say that :)
compare also: ma lähen koju / ma lähen kodusse. the last one is again technically correct, but no one uses the long form. the short form is called short illative.
there are very many countries/towns that we use without -sse, like Soome, Rootsi, Lätti, Leetu, Taani, Poola, Portugali, Šveitsi, Stockholmi, Riiga, Berliini, Frankfurti, Rooma, Madridi, Pariisi, Amsterdami, Lissaboni, Bukaresti, Viini, Budapesti, Berni, Belgradi, New Yorki, Tallinna etc.

aga Justin, sa oled siiski hämmastavalt tubli eesti keele õppur!

keelek6rv ütles ...

some more words that we always use in short form:
ma lähen

Anonüümne ütles ...

In both Zora Hurston's “ Their Eye's were Watching God' and Toni Morrison's
“ The Bluest Eyes” nature is linked to feminine power. This power, particularly in “TEWWG' is set up as a contrast to conventional power structures particularly organized religion. As “ The Bluest Eyes” was written with an awareness of and in something of a dialogue with “ Their Eyes were Watching God” (cite), it continues this contrast between feminine or natural power and organized religion. The conclusions of the struggle between organized religion and nature are however very different in the two novels.
Hurston, who had studied voodoo practices in Haiti and related animistic belief systems in the south (cite), paints nature as something completely affirming and preserving of a black woman's identity and search for freedom. In contrast, Morrison uses the motif of nature, the failure of nature, to show how utterly and universally the world and all it contains (nature, society, family, desire) failed a black girl who had just formally entered into womanhood, without being prepared to be a woman, without being prepared for existence in the world at the end of the Great Depression, unprepared for existence in any world.
What makes a comparison of these themes especially interesting is the way in which they manifest themselves in the two books using a somewhat common African American heritage and vocabulary. In both novels organized religion is seen as a realm presided over by men. Given the central role of men in religion in both novels it is useful to examine the different conclusions about men that are reached in the two novels. In “ TEWWG” good marriages to good men provides a secure foothold in the world, but in the end, in the search for self and self love Janie destroys all the men in her life. The larger religious, economic, and societal structures in which men play a central role stay in place for the most part, even if it is wrong in its basic assumptions about reality in its promises about immortality in return for earthly slavery, religion remains a strong and respected force. Men play a central role in religion. Men are for the most part useful, viable, needed and used. In “The Bluest Eyes” men are largely broken, hating themselves before puberty (like the black boys who taunt Pecola, a version of themselves, in the schoolyard). Religion is a farce, a hodgepodge of Christianity and Voodoo presided over by a crazed pedophile. Far more powerful than religion is the media, the images seen in movies, on candy wrappers, in stores and advertisements.
“The Bluest Eyes”, set at the end of the great depression and the real dawning of American economic dominance is the world, turns the pastoral values of “ TEWWG” on their head: movies have replaced “blues made and consumed on the spot”, instead of talking about a town mule people talk about movie stars and the most dysfunctional and poor neighbors. Nature is no longer a giver and destroyer of life, it is barren and powerless: marigold seeds don't bloom, grapes never really ripen and reach their full sweetness, gullies that should be full of water are dry. The magic of nature (flowers blooming, sweet grapes, kittens) is gone, what remains is the brutal and killer cruelty of human nature, the animal instincts alive in every person. A father is a rapist. Cats and dogs are killed in part of a sequence that destroys the mind of a sweet and well meaning little girl. This is the dark side of nature mostly untouched by Hurston.
Without getting over swamped in the murky and often pretentious world of continental philosophy, when talking about religion in the twentieth century, the German philosopher Nietzche's famous quote from a short story about a madman with a lantern running through the town and crying God is dead comes to mind. By saying that God is dead, what is being said is that the church that had been responsible for the morality of the West in helping people live with the belief that it was in the service of God, had been become more of a receptacle of ideas than the worldly arm of an all knowing divine being, the divine being no longer existed. There could be an argument made that God died for African Americans when slavery ended, God and organized religion in this case being deeply tied to slavery. With the exception of Ethiopia and some of North Africa, Africans were during the time of slave trade was mostly either Muslim or following ancient animistic religions (which would continue to manifest themselves in voodoo practices). Christianity was for the most part introduced with slavery. In spite of this fact many African Americans were very religious both as slaves and after slavery had ended. One of the reasons for the continuing importance of religion was and is that people need some form of guidance in their behavior. One of the themes of “The Bluest Eyes” is an examination of what happens when people entirely follow their own feelings and desires, not believing in any punishment in the afterlife and without fearing the social repercussions of inappropriate behavior (jail, social ostracism). The result is not pleasant.
In “ The Bluest Eyes” the male figure that is explicitely seen as god like is Blue. But his godliness is ambigious. For one thing he does not correspond to the traditional view of god as a white, white bearded man. Also, in reality, despite the kindness that Blue shows to Choly he is flawed. He is an alcoholic. He doesn't love himself and he can't act in a manner that is supportive of other (young) men looking for role models. Nor is the white man, the traditional face of God supportive of the moral development of a young man. Instead, the only major white male characters in “ The Bluest Eyes”, aside from the immigrant candy store owner who terrorizes Pecola are the hunters who effectively rape Choly and through Choly Darlene.
In “ The Bluest Eyes” Soaphead Church is the representative of religion. He is a symbol of how both religion and nature have failed. Religion is not the savior of family and soul, it is a way of bullying the universe into following one's desires. God is not an all seeing and all knowing divine presence, God is a lie, a community member or more educated wealthy person to be convinced verbally of one's goodness and worthiness, as is the case for example with his letter to god.
Similarly in “ TEWWG”, religion is way of maintaining social order. Men of any office can take a role of religious authority. The speech made by the Mayor is a brilliant commentary on religion. The mule, a symbol for the black woman, is promised a glorious afterlife the reward for a lifetime of suffering. It is a farce however, an empty promise, a lie in fact. The mule is dead. Its eyes are soon to be picked out. There is no mule heaven where mules can exact revenge on people for the abuse heaped upon them by riding on humans like mules and making mules plow the fields. The mayor stands on the dead mule as he delivers his speech, metaphorically a dead woman is the platform for religious speech making.
When Janie starts seeing Teacake she stops going to church a fact that is much remarked upon by her surrounding community. In Eatonville, going to church was just what was done if you were a respectable person. Although the book states that Janie goes to church as a social convention one never gets the sense that she internalizes the rules or doctrines of Christianity as the guiding thoughts of her life.
For Janie nature and the sustenance provided by the natural world is the closest thing to a religion. She is in a sense a pagan tree worshiper, her tree of choice is the pear tree in her grandma's backyard where as a child she had many intense and meaningful experiences. When she is stuck for years in the drudgery of respectable marriages and respectable behavior she would send herself to sit under then pear tree when her body was dealing with customers of husbands. Despite her ignoring organized religion, there are many references to the soul in “ Their eyes were watching God”. Thus there is a sort of belief of a life and world beyond the immediate material world. Even after his death Teacake lives on with Janie It is significant that throughout the novel Janie never, except perhaps with Teacake give her soul to another person's keeping. She always retains control over her own soul, sending it away to sit under a pear tree in times of trouble and at the end of the novel when she is a self realized person, “ she called her soul out to see”.
In contrast to Janie who keeps the constant stewardship of “her soul” throughout the novel, Pecola loses her mind. She internalizes the other (Shirley Temple and her ilk), while remaining herself, a self who has no place in the world of the other. When she is placed in a stressfull situation, foster care, initially she deals with it by drinking a large amount of milk from a cup with Shirley Temple's picture on it. Her mother, similarly before Pecola's birth had escaped the social ostracism she experienced in Ohio by going to the movies and trying to get her hair cut like a (white) movie star. Her mother, as an adult is able to escape into the movie star world with a large house and a perfect white child. Her, daughter Pecola who is while perhaps perfect despite the imperfection around her is not white. Her parents have both rejected her, unlike her brother she has nowhere to run.
Janie, who lived in an era before movie and television is able to see her self as a natural woman in a natural world. In Pecola's time the world is increasingly the world of media and movies. Nature is being paved over by highways. Homes must be spotless, married couples sleep in separate beds. In this world in particular, black women are not seem as natural if they are seen at all. In some rural societies throughout the world technology is seen as magical. In Rwanda for example in some villages the radio was believed to be the voice of God, The radio was telling people to kill other people and so they did. In this case the media is telling people that all children should look like Shirley Temple and Mary Jane. The morality of religion which is rejected by Janie in “TEWWG”
is replaced by an even crazier morality. Heaven and Hell ( where norms are at least subjective) are replaced by Shirley Temple and June Cleaver. Whereas in “ TEWWG” self realization and realization of oneself as sexual and social being go hand in hand, in “ The Bluest Eyes” social structures are broken down as people struggle to make a living and sexuality is converted to a worthless garbage in which children drown and become themselves worthless garbage. The redemptive power of nature and religion are gone and survival of the fittest is the only issue.

Anonüümne ütles ...

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