Monday, March 24, 2003

Sister Matthias Would Be So Proud...

When I was young and my heart got broken, I turned to poetry, literature, Shakespeare's sonnets (I highly recommend 'my ex-girlfriend is a bitch!' ones to anyone--male or female--desiring to escape the clutches of a conniving former love.)...

When I wasn't finishing my thesis, I became addicted to daytime soap operas.

When I was failing out of grad school first I turned to renting BBC dramas from the library (I became obsessed with I, Claudius), then to women's magazines then to novels and short stories.

Now history is my new comfort. Bad, popular history. Not some kinda super-intellectual stuff--but Time-Life Books-type history. I don't want to bother with complex analysis. I want maps, I want illustrations, I want travel photos of the charming ethnically-dressed peasants that now populate the places of history.

Maybe it is no comfort to read the popularized story of Alexander the Great but somehow it gives me perspective. Not a good or useful perspective to understand current events but some imagined world to occupy from which to see this one. And it is fully imagined since I do not even begin to comprehend Alexander or his era or the things people thought were good ideas back then. This is alright since I do not begin to understand current events either. And yet I can't give up the idea that these things will be intelligible from some point of view--even if it is not one I can have at the moment.

(I was often curious about war as a child and had a peculiar desire and assumption that I would someday fight in a war. They say that giving your children guns or letting them watch TV is very bad for them. I got all my sick-o ideas from books. I don't know where this idea comes from that books will not warp the mind. I got this way due to constant, voracious reading.)

He wept when there were no more worlds to conquer. He went all the way to India but his army finally got fed up and wanted to go home. He gave in (after raging for three days) saying that no army in the world could conquer him but his own (meaning they 'won him over.')

You have to wonder: What the hell was his deal? Was war fun for him? Did he
simply like naming cities after himself?
Have a complex and need to upstage his father?
Suffer from some Oedipal thing with his mother?

Or maybe he had some sort of need to show those snobby Greeks that Macedonians were not the hicks they thought?

Maybe battle distracted him from Hephaistion's death...or maybe he simply had some kind of personal death wish as well?

He maybe just read the Iliad one too many times. A very bad book to promote a peace-loving attitude. Keep it from your children.

Oh, of course I know we can't occupy the same perspective as Alexander. I'm not sure we can comprehend his world view at all. The glory of battle and so on. Battles then generally involved many fewer casualties than modern warfare. Soldiers fought for booty, glory...not patriotism and freedom. Prior to the rise of the modern state many soldiers were paid. The stradioti and other paid mercenaries fought by strict rules. As soldiering was a job rather than a patriotic duty it made little sense to engage in battle unless you could be reasonably sure you'd come back home alive.

Now it's on to Napoleon...

And there's still the Ottoman Empire, Prussia and its contribution to WWII, Attila the Hun, Kublai, Genghis, the Aztecs...Yeah, I've got plenty to read. Hope Time-Life has books on all these things. And hope someone is selling them at a yardsale near me soon.

Let's see took about 10 years from the end WWII for Germany to become a fully democratic country. Gee, in 10 years I'll have read so many books.

Oh, I forgot that there is no chance in hell that the U.S. will bother rebuilding Iraq into a democracy if it takes longer than 2 years (and that is pushing it.)

Well, there will be more to prompt escapist reading in the next 10 years. I'd say I'll be so smart by then but of course I'll probably forget it all. I have a mind like a sieve.

The twisted glory of war


another poem

The glory of war euphemisms

Posters from the German Propaganda Archives


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