Sitting in our Western societies with our cafés and police and supermarkets and cars, it is hard to imagine what it is like to be really oppressed. One paragraph from Janina Sulkowska-Gladun’s Memoirs really knocked me out of my complacency.
It’s so true that a well-fed person cannot understand the starving one. I had been malnourished continuously for a long time, but the hunger which forces every cell to scream only started in Punishment Camp Number 6 in the fall of 1941. For the second time my body began to bloat as prelude to death by starvation. My hunger was so overwhelming that stones looked like loaves of bread, and I wanted to chew bark and leaves. I prepared myself for death.
While we celebrate our holiday seasons – Christmas and Hannukah – people all over the world go hungry. Our armies bear down on innocent people we wish to displace in both Gaza and Iraq. Christmas cheer and commercialism goes out – yet the tanks roll and the airplanes drop their bombs. And in the havoc, people starve.
Starvation has always been the most effective weapon against other peoples. More people starved in the Soviet Union than were murdered by the NKVD. The numbers in Nazi Germany are probably similar. Likely death from overwork and hunger played the same role in the building of pyramids.
Dark stuff. What will wake mankind up and out of this murderous stupor?
We need to make a religion and an obligation of the reading of such war accounts. First to never forget what we have. Second to prevent us acceding to the ongoing oppression of others.
What do we get instead? An ongoing diet of war films and vilification of the Muslim world from Hollywood… The United States on a permanent war footing. Support the troops? Why should we be supporting an invading army? Support the troops means taking them out of other people’s countries where they involved in an ongoing war against a civilian population.
Other than that we are told to interest ourselves in our careers and our bank accounts. Individualism and commercialism. What little we feel should be in self-gratifying and narcissistic love affairs.
Let the people who know take care of political issues. How can you know anything about this? Do you live in Israel? Are you a friend of Sadam Hussein? Or any of the other trite talking points…
No, no and no are the answers. But I do recognise murder and I do understand oppression and I do know lies when I hear them. It is all enough to make one wish for an afterlife and a hell to be certain that those responsible for the depleted uranium shelling and white phospher attacks and the torture chambers will go to their just end.
One comfort of reading so much about the Second World War over the last few days is the knowledge that the Nazis did come to a just end in short period of time. What is more distressing is that Stalin and his henchmen got away with it and managed to stay in power for over thirty years.
Happily, Stalin for his malignant qualities was a lot more talented and charming than anyone in the Bush/Cheney administration, as the initial editor of Pravda and the author of a 16 tome collected works in his second language. British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden had this to say about post-war negotiations with Stalin:
Marshal Stalin as a negotiator was the toughest proposition of all. Indeed, after something like thirty years’ experience of international conferences of one kind and another, if I had to pick a team for going into a conference room, Stalin would be my first choice. Of course the man was ruthless and of course he knew his purpose. He never wasted a word. He never stormed, he was seldom even irritated.