#FiveSentenceFiction: Conflict

Saint MichaelWe know how it all starts: lies, distrust, fear…

We also know how it finishes, the ruins, the lost lives, the seeds of more to come: 1871, 1918, 1945, and the tall stories the alleged victors tell.

What we don’t know is how to stop the lies, the stupidity, the fear: for those are the Devil’s weapons, and he is skilled at duping mankind, and his minions are many.

So, it comes always to that: to ignore, or to fight, to be on the side of Pilate, or that of Saint Michael.

And to ignore is to leave it to Satan and his legions to decide our fate…

#FiveSentenceFiction: Maps #Valleys #Normandy #Eu #1914

William and MatildeWe look at the map: in front of us runs the long road, above the shore, bordered by legendary harbours, and wildlife reserves.

Here Saint Laurent O’Toole came from green Ireland, and blessed the town where he now rests.

Here William took his future young bride, fair Mathilde, to the altar, and then, with his men, sailed across the sea to defeat Harold.

In the middle of the forest is the town, built by Gallo Romans traders and soldiers, for, in this country, there is no gap between the splendour of Rome and the new kingdom, between Caesar and Guillaume.

In the wide bay, flows the river Somme: the map shows on its banks the small crosses of the immense military cemeteries, where our grand fathers fell in infernos of fire and steel…

Image: memorial to William and his wife Mathilde, in Eu (Normandy)

© 2014 Honoré Dupuis

#DailyPrompt: A Tale of Two Cities ~ #Berlin and #Paris

If you could split your time…

DSC_0422 dsc_0033.jpg

Your past is both frightening and inspiring; along those avenues and in your museums lie some of the darkest secrets.

We remember, yet, often, today’s visitors are blissfully ignorant. Your beauty has survived the worse hours of Europe’s long history.

Those ghosts are our constant companions as we walk your streets, kiss in your parks, dream awake in the midst of your present…

We love the hopes and courage of your people.  And the souls of those who died to keep you free.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Zadig

Zadig He is a fictional character, without historical substance, but his author intended him to show how little control mankind has on her destiny.

The year was 1747, and Voltaire also wanted to say something about orthodoxy, the established order and the rule of logic. The Book of Fate is a work of considerable influence on writers across the western world, from the Marquis de Sade to Thomas Henry Huxley.

“As Zadig was immensely rich, and had consequently Friends without Number; and as he was a Gentleman of a robust Constitution, and remarkably handsome; as he was endowed with a plentiful Share of ready and inoffensive Wit: And, in a Word, as his Heart was perfectly sincere and open, he imagined himself, in some Measure, qualified to be perfectly happy. For which Purpose he determined to marry a gay young Lady (one Semira by name) whose Beauty, Birth and Fortune, rendered her the most desirable Person in all Babylon. He had a sincere Affection for her, grounded on Honour, and Semira conceived as tender a Passion for him.”

Abstract from Zadig, or The Book of Fate, at the Project Gutenberg

#DailyPrompt: Pride and Joy

What’s your most prize possession?

IK 1813

He could not understand those youngsters glorifying a past which was alien to them: how could they know? How could they even understand what it had been like?

He could tell them, but he doubted they would listen. So they marched in the streets of still peaceful cities, ignorant, holding flags and symbols whose meaning they could not guess at: like a herd of sheep.

But, he, the ghost, the dead warrior, the one who knew and remembered, just held the small cross, hidden tightly under his poor shirt: the small cross he had won, still a boy, confused and lost, in the ice, the snow, alone still living, far away, surrounded by his dead comrades.

Yes, he’d understood the victors then, the just ones,  the real heroes, the ones who alone deserved to win. So, as he, a mere shadow, walked the streets of Berlin, once again united, he held the cross against his meagre chest, his tears unseen.

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Xenophobia

William Holman Hunt - The Scapegoat Simplistically, xenophobia is “intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries”, that is “foreigners”.

The English Wikipedia article explains that “Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”. Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action urges all governments to take immediate measures and to develop strong policies to prevent and combat all forms and manifestations of racism, xenophobia or related intolerance, where necessary by enactment of appropriate legislation including penal measure.”

Behind the words hides a world of complexities. The incitement to hate, and even destruction, of scapegoats is as old as politics. Many of the tragedies of the last and this century, from Europe to Africa and Asia, were the result of deliberate attempts by demagogue politicians to channel popular anger towards “the other”. The most obvious example in western countries today is the call to stop the alleged flow of unwanted immigrants from various parts of the world, orchestrated by conservative and sometimes openly racist parties.

Image: William Holman Hunt – The Scapegoat

#AtoZAprilChallenge: (On) War

Vom KriegeHe wrote from a position of knowledge: that of people who have been there, who stared defeat in the face, felt the icy lips of Death, and, later, much later, realised the sweetness of victory. He’s an officer’s officer, the strategist of the European legend.

When Carl von Clausewitz started writing his book, “On War”, shortly after 1806, the proud Kingdom of Prussia, the successors of the Great Frederic, had seen the most humiliating defeat of her history, at the hands of Napoleon, the French Emperor, then at the apogee of his power.

When the book was published, in 1832, Prussia, and her ally Russia, had defeated Napoleon, and was on her way to play the leading role in the German unification, thirty years later. The monument to the extraordinary battles of the “War of Liberation” are still to be seen today all over Brandenburg and Saxony, and in the German capital, Berlin.

On War is the bible of all officers schools worldwide, and despite having been written in the age of cavalry charges and bayonets, is still a key reference of modern warfare, consulted by the great warriors of our times, from the German and Russian generals of WorldWar II, to general Vo Nguyen Giap – he of Dien-Bien-Phu‘s fame – to US General Petraeus, author of the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” of the US Army and Marine Corps.

Read also:

The Art of War, Sun Tzu

The US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, General David H. Petraeus & al.

War of the Flea, Robert Taber

#AtoZAprilChallenge: Hegemony

Yalta summit, 1945 “Hegemony was probably taken directly into English from Greek, egemonia, (derived from) egemon – leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own. Its sense of political predominance, usually of one state over another, is not common before C19, but has since persisted and is now fairly common, together with hegemonic, to describe a policy expressing or aimed at political predominance. More recently hegemonism has been used to describe specifically  ‘great power’ or ’superpower’ politics, intended to dominate others, indeed hegemonism has some currency as an alternative to Imperialism.” (Keywords)

For a balanced view of the world-historical perspective, from Chaos and Governance in the Modern World System (Giovanni Arrighi & Beverly J. Silver): “Whereas domination rests primarily on coercion, the leadership that defines hegemony rests on the capacity of the dominate group to present itself, and be perceived, as the bearer of general interest.”

See also: Hidden Persuaders

#AToZAprilChallenge: Genius

Salvatore Bruno Wikipedia: “A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of an unprecedented leap of insight. This may refer to a particular aspect of an individual, or the individual in his or her entirety; to a scholar in many subjects (e.g. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz or Leonardo da Vinci)[1] or a scholar in a single subject (e.g., Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin). There is no scientifically precise definition of genius, and the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate.”

Genius came into English from C14, in its main Latin sense  – from genius – a guardian spirit. It was extended to mean ‘a characteristic disposition or quality’ from C16, as still in ‘every man has his genius’ (Johnson, 1780), and ‘barbarous and violent genius of the age’ (Hume, 1754). The development towards the dominate modern meaning of ‘extraordinary ability’ is complex; it occurred, interactively, in both English and French, and later German. It seems to have been originally connected with the idea of ‘spirit’ through the notion of ‘inspiration’… This sense is always close to the developing sense of Creative… A good test case is ‘the English genius for compromise’. (Keywords)