DAY 139: Burning flesh

August 5th, 2015 § 0 comments

It’s been a dreadful week in Palestine. If attention focused on the arson attack of July 31st in which 18-month old Ali Dawabsheh was burned alive, state violence was also prominent. In the space of less than 24 hours, four children lost their lives: Ali Dawabsheh himself,16 year old Shira Banki, from a stabbing attack at the 30th July Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, 17-year-old Mohammed Hamid al-Masri in Gaza and 17-year-old Laith al-Khalidi, while protesting near Ramallah, both shot by Israeli soldiers. Oren4Earlier, Mohammad abu Latifa was shot and killed in Qalandiya camp on July 27th. No arrests, assaults or shootings were made by the Palestinian Authority’s police (unless of internal dissidents) – but then their ground rules tend not to allow it. We’re back where we were last August, but we aren’t; instead of thousands of dead children there are tens. It’s no better.

To quote +972 magazine: ‘These deaths did not take place in a vacuum, but in the context of decades of occupation, siege, dehumanization, incitement and impunity in which not just settlers but the Israeli Army, the legal system, elected officials, and all those who remain silent play a part-—their actions supported and enabled by the U.S. government. By and large, the government’s responses sing from the same hymn sheet: all are big on condemnation, but most utterly fail to acknowledge the endemic nature of settler violence. Lacking, too, is any word on incitement by Israeli politicians. Bennett’s calls to annex the West Bank to Israel, coupled with his infamous statement about having personally killed many Arabs, sit rather awkwardly with his announcement this morning. Shaked, for her part, posted a notorious Facebook update during last summer’s Gaza war in which she called Palestinians “snakes” and suggested that Palestinian mothers and their houses “must go… Otherwise they will raise other little snakes there.”’

Here, rather than more commentary of my own or anyone else’s, I’ll give you a chance to hear Nina Simone’s powerful version of Strange Fruit with the line about the ‘sudden smell of burning flesh’.

Meanwhile, black activists such as Roxane Gay have been complaining about the noise made about lion shootings (as compared to black shootings): ‘I’m personally going to start wearing a lion costume lionwhen I leave my house so if I get shot, people will care.’ It’s hard to find guidance, or even consolation, in this world from philosophy or literature (though watching the original Hollywood-blacklisted 1954 movie of Salt of the Earth on Youtube, not the Wim Wenders film of the same title was at least invigorating in suggesting that the people sometimes win out). I suppose we have to go back to the origins of sociology with Ibn Khaldun (I quote from the ever-reliable Wikipedia):

‘Ibn Khaldun argues that each dynasty (or civilization) has within itself the seeds of its own downfall… As they establish themselves at the center of their empire, they become increasingly lax, less coordinated, disciplined and watchful, and more concerned with maintaining their new power and lifestyle at the centre of the empire—i.e, their internal cohesion and ties to the original peripheral group, the `asabiyya, dissolves into factionalism and individualism, diminishing their capacity as a political unit. Thus, conditions are created wherein a new dynasty can emerge at the periphery of their control, grow strong, and effect a change in leadership, beginning the cycle anew.’

I don’t know if that’s hopeful. Friends in Jerusalem, who have a lot to put up with, have recommended Gutiérrez on Job. I quote (from Job, not from Gutiérrez):

“The wicked snatch a widow’s child from her breast,
taking the baby as security for a loan.
The poor must go about naked, without any clothing.
They harvest food for others while they themselves are starving.
They press out olive oil without being allowed to taste it,


Settlers burn olive trees, Qalqilya

and they tread in the winepress as they suffer from thirst.
The groans of the dying rise from the city,
and the wounded cry for help,
yet God ignores their moaning.

“Wicked people rebel against the light.
They refuse to acknowledge its ways
or stay in its paths.
The murderer rises in the early dawn
to kill the poor and needy;
at night he is a thief.”

The ‘lesson’ of Job, if there is one, is that this is how the world is; don’t expect God to reward you for being good.

Employment news

Since like many others in this country, I’m more than a trifle hard up, I seized on a chance of employment when it came along: after a glitch in my dealings with WordPress (who, I believe, manage these effusions), I received a friendly explanation of how to proceed from someone who described his post as ‘Happiness Engineer’. I felt that this was just the job I’d love to do, and asked whether I could.

The good news is that they’re hiring at WordPress.

UserConf-2013.004-001Happiness Engineers

The less good news was that, aside from the inevitable ‘patience, grace, and a sense of humor’ and ‘a passion for solving tough problems and finding elegant solutions’, the job seemed to require ‘a working knowledge of WordPress, HTML, and CSS’. I sort of think I know HTML; and WordPress and CSS can’t be that different, or there must be dummies’ guides to them out there. I haven’t yet learned about the pay.

Since I think I’ve fulfilled my poetry allowance with the Book of Job (it’s usually counted as such), let’s have a bit more music. I was recently treated to Anton Webern’s early romantic Langsamer Satz, which at ten minutes weighs in as an unusually long work and would never get into the hit parade as a single. But he (Webern) was overcome with emotion during a rainy hiking trip in Lower Austria with his cousin, Wilhelmine Mörtl, who later became his wife; pulled all the stops out and managed a piece which after all is longer than Bohemian Rhapsody. What a man!

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