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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Letters from Westerbork

Sorry, Thai, I'm not debating you on your last post.
My husband and I have just come back from our theater professor's new show, a dramatization of Etty Hillesum's letters, written during the three months that she spent in a transit camp in Holland, from June to August 1943.
Etty was a remarkable person, and you can read her journal, an account of her spiritual transformation over a relatively short period.
A young, vibrant Jewish woman, Etty had a thirst for life, and uncommon spiritual aspirations (like the French Simone Weil). Etty's journal is a valuable testimony about the evolution of the persecution of the Jews in Holland before and during WW2.
Etty volunteered her presence in the transit camps set up to ship the Jews east, to Poland, and Auschwitz, by hundreds of thousands. She selflessly accompanied her people, witnessing almost incomparable atrocities and suffering, and she did this without complaining, and without succombing to the despair that would have destroyed 99,9% of us in similar circumstances. Even in the most trying moments, she was... a ray of sunlight, an.. angel, I think you might say. And she was able to see beauty in nature around here, to see dignity TOO in the small, individual acts of the men, women, and children who came into the camp, and were shipped out massively in cattle cars.
She and her parents and brother, ironically, were shipped off to Auschwitz just a short time before the whole killing machine (yeah, you got it, I said machine...) fell apart.
One of the last things she wrote to her friends was "there should be no more words like God, suffering, war. There should be no more words. We should be content to just be".
I hear Etty. Right on.

Now, Thai, if I look back to your last post, it kind of gets me thinking about Etty's letters. How she said that there were QUOTAS for those trains. And that everybody had a number. Just a number. That names went down on lists, and there had to be just the magic NUMBER of people on those lists to go on the trains.
And I say to myself : that's exactly where Thai's line of thinking ends up. In the camps.
Sorry, but I firmly believe this.
These days, the camps are not behind barbed wire. Because, while there are no more camps, per se, there is no more need for barbed wire. Because the camp is all around us. Everywhere. The gated communities will not shut the camp out.
Because we have turned our world into the camp.
I feel very very close to Etty. Because she managed to see beauty everywhere, even in the camp.
And that is what I try to do.
And I try to undo the camp. As much as possible.
But those lists, those quotas, they keep getting in the way...


Dink said...

That names went down on lists, and there had to be just the magic NUMBER of people on those lists to go on the trains.
And I say to myself : that's exactly where Thai's line of thinking ends up. In the camps.

So if humans didn't learn math there wouldn't be nazis? So absurd I honestly can't believe you see things this way. Unless...

Unless its a continuation of a theme:

*You are angry at bad guys
*You are afraid of the bad guys, but you need to do something with the anger
*You lash out people you are not afraid of

This gets rid of the anger, but does not solve the problem of stopping the bad guys.

Numbers are not good or evil. People are.

Debra said...

Nope dinky. People are NOT good or evil.
Situations bring out acts which are evil or good.
I've been saying this for a long time, dink.
Did you just NOW understand what I was saying ?
I am not angry at bad guys.
This reasoning is so American...
The Bushies against the.. who else is there ?
Al Quaida, etc etc ??
We're from a different planet. Sorry.

Thai said...

Deb, don't you see I agree with you?

Dink, good/evil is defined by some kind of reference mark/template. I suspect you and I have similar templates.

Deb, my non-Linear systems post was not at all intended to get into the holocaust.

Let me be clear: I want to avoid another holocaust at (... almost?) all cost.

And I am saying that if you are an ostrich and you put your head in the sand, a tiger will still eat you.

It is quite obvious what is happening on this planet to all but the most idiotic of people.

AND we have the power to change some of this, but behavior (whether it is irrational is besides the point) must change.

Further, it is in all our of interest to have an honest discussion on these topics where we tell each other: "I love you AND you got to modify your behavior or the consequences will be simply horrendous".

We tell our little children to not run into the street. Indeed, we even scold them to prevent them from doing so/correct their behavior- why should it be any different with our neighbors?

Thai said...

Deb re: antibiotics (from an earlier post).

Thai said...

Dink, I thought you might enjoy.

I loved the Kling reference on personal responsibility, I could have written it myself. ;-)

Debra said...

Well, to use your vocabulary, Thai, I don't think that we have the same template.
Every once in a while, I go back to my musings about what it means, the fact that Americans did NOT have WW2 on THEIR soil.
That the American graves are on French soil, and other soils. (You might be interested to know how respectful the French are of those American graves, and how... beautiful those graves are, in the American military cemeteries on the Normandy coast.)
Oddly enough, we just had a big fight over on my loony blog about excision.
That may seem off topic but I realized that the numbers reaction, if I may say so, seems to me a somewhat epidermic reaction along the lines of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
I guess that the real question, after all these years is... can men (and all their aptitudes, all they bring into the world, and is associated with them) and women (whose aptitudes and thinking are different) live together ?
If men and women CAN'T live together, then I have no hope for this world.

Debra said...

And since what is happening on this planet is obvious to everybody who isn't an idiot, please tell me YOUR version of it, since I am not sure that we are seeing the same thing. Maybe we are, maybe not.
Fortunately I am NOT the kind of person who gets angry easily...

Debra said...

Re, "stopping the bad guys" : my daughter tells me with a sour face that I should have been a policeman. I have to constantly put up a fight to NOT be a policeman, it comes so naturally.
Part of my American heritage ?
You too, do not get angry easily, friend Thai.
And I was not attacking YOU on this post, and am grateful that you saw that.

Thai said...

Agree we have different templates and I don't feel you are attacking me Deb and I do understand your point.

And I do not think the notion that A has similar characteristics to B means I will not look at A, but instead some kind of "third way" is likely to work, but I can respect that view.

Dink said...

defined by some kind of reference mark/template. I suspect you and I have similar templates

I like the template. I feel its a well-reasoned template. I'm building a fort and defending it from here on out ;)

my non-Linear systems post was not at all intended to get into the holocaust.

A dry wit; very Python.


Yes, purple. Social liberal, fiscal conservative. Yet the Libertarian party doesn't quite seem to get it right.

Fortunately I am NOT the kind of person who gets angry easily...


Debra said...

Dink, I keep telling you that I have never unsheathed my claws on this blog.
Maybe I should do a post on the fact that our collective tolerance of the slightest little thing perceived as aggressive has gone down in a nonlinear proportion to the number of acts of violence in our modern societies.
Instead of breathing more freely, and saying "great, there's less violence in our world, less negative than ever before, we continue on the compressor attitude of reaching zero level.
We behave as though... every advantage did not have its disadvantage.
A result of the common shared belief that people are evil.
Obviously the people who think that people are evil never think that THEY are, or could be, evil.
Why is this ?
How could this be ?
Non linear theories, please ??

Debra said...

Thai, I checked out your links, on antibiotics and differences in what we say/do and what we say we believe.
My antibiotic use is way way down, and when I take them (which is very very rarely), I take first generation, broad spectrum ones, the cheapest ones.
Re : dying rich in a room with a view vs living poorer in a shabby shared dorm hospital, I figured out while working as a shrink that you HAD to charge SOME people mucho bucks for an appointment that in YOUR opinion wasn't worth that much because THEY had to feel that THEY were worth it... Otherwise they didn't take YOU seriously.
Pretty dumb, huh ? In my book, at least.
For purple.
We all tend to think that we are little individualist atoms these days. Sometimes we pay lip service to a major ideology, but only when it's basically convenient for us...When it involves committment, and inconvenience, kiss us goodbye, most of us at least.

Debra said...

Thai, you may agree with me, but...
In Theodore Rosen's book that I occasionally bring up on this blog, Rosen mentions the fact that Goethe, confronted with failing eyesight, refused to wear glasses.
He refused to do so, because he had figured out MOST, if not all the implications involved in wearing glasses, and the tie-in to eugenics at a future point in time.
Goethe was NOT a loony. (You may think that I am a loony, that's ok.)
Goethe was one of the greatest recognized intellectuals, and poets of his time. He was a man way way in advance of that time, too. The way that William Blake was.
Both of these men saw light years before the rest of us where scientific materialism and the industrial revolution were taking us. They.. predicted the camps. They were already seeing the camp in THEIR world. God only knows what they would have thought of OUR world, you know.
You still have not spelled out your vision for me yet, Thai. I'm waiting.

Thai said...

I am unsure what you mean by "you still haven't spelled out your vision for me".

Not much free time of late

Thai said...

And I definitely don't hink you are crazy. I do think you have embraced the irrational which is part of existence but I can respect that and see that as entirely different.

It is its own form of nihilism however.

Thai said...

In a nutshell, I want the collective to get better definitions of the boundary condition between individual and collective.

Debra said...

But I'm not really sure that there IS a boundary between the individual and the collective.
I think that we have the tremendous illusion that this boundary exists.
But I am not sure it does.

Thai said...

At one level I hear what you are saying, but on another I think we do have boundary conditions defined. We seem to clearly define them in some ways, but oddly do not in others.

We are not allowed to murder each other, nor drive drunk.

The truth is there are all kinds of restrictions on our freedoms imposed on us by the collective through laws, we just do not have other restrictions on freedoms imposed.

I am not saying I want restrictions set, but I am saying that the collective does not need to always help people who cross certain boundaries.

I think these boundaries need better definitions.

Debra said...

Thai, I maintain that there is not really a boundary between the individual and the collectivity, and that most of our problems result from the fact that we have an illusion of separateness.
We are more ants than you think we are.
The law is an insoluble problem.
A good jurist would tell you that there is a world of difference between the epitome of all laws, the one against murder, and a non-universal, local law against drunk driving. Careful about your boundaries, there.
The law has the incredible disadvantage of posing a condition in order to prohibit it.
This is a BIG problem. Because in the same moment as it prohibits an act, it is declaring it, thus opening up the possibility of its existence.
That's why negation is a mind twister.
I am STILL an anarchist.
I think that the axiom of my anarchy is the ideal of love, and NOT the ideal of the law.
This is an obvious reference to the inevitable conflict between the two monotheismes that structure our society : Judaïsm, which is dangerously close to idolizing the law, and Christianity, which prefers the ideal of love.

Thai said...

Now you do have me thinking...

Give me some time to digest this one. In general I do not like anarchism and yet I think I see your point.

Debra said...

Today I received a joined document by mail from an anarchist organization in France.
It totally confirms in my eyes my conclusion in this post, unfortunately.
I have read the doc in French, and it would be no good for you in this language.
Type "Hypervisor" +"Thales" on Google and see what comes up.
Thales is a major French defense company.
Hypervisor is the tentacular computer "program" designed to coordinate all methods of surveillance of urban populations in order to know where we are, what we are doing, with whom, at all times.
Thanks to the application of powerful "algorithms".
In order to be able to anticipate... accidents, earthquakes, to be able to intervene as rapidly as possible. (Of course...)
Comment, Dink ?
Maybe you think that we are about to move forward to the best of all possible worlds ?
Comment, Thai ?
Is THIS the kind of international cooperation you are eagerly awaiting ?
Between our governments, and FOR OUR GOOD AND PROTECTION, of course ?
Yeah. You better believe it. For our protection.

Debra said...

Yesterday I was at a photo exhibit.
The photograph had taken pictures of about 40 nude people, carrying billboards strategically placed, with numbers on them.
Erik Orsenna : "Left to themselves, numbers are little pieces of death. They need to be dragged into words to break the silence."
I like that.
I think that our thought processes can get all revved up to the point where they continue on their course. (This goes against conservation of energy, Thai...)
So that... we can have oceans of numbers, and the absolute necessity to find... THINGS, OBJECTS, MATTER to correspond to them.
Data before what it measures.
I think that our minds CAN work this way.
When they work... badly.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits