DAY 236: 2017

January 1st, 2018 § 0 comments

Oh 2017! Who at can I say about you and remain coherent? I’ve recently been told off for, unintentionally I’m sure, insulting a bunch of my friends merely because they wouldn’t answer me on messenger – [which seems to be a particularly badly designed means of communication since
e in my experience you're always finding that your friends have left the virtual room and hung up in mid-conversation without so much as a phrase of excuse like 'Gosh is that the time? Must rush, it's been great catching up with you' -  but that's another story.] I suppose to be fair, though I can’t see why I should be, 2017 has basically not introduced dramatically nastier aspects to the global scene than its two disastrous predecessors called, if you remember, 2015 and 2016; the first bringing us first the so-called refugee crisis and second, the Trump-Brexit turn in politics.

Crisis? What crisis? The use of such language suggests that in 2015 we arrived

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 19.11.01

Children in Calais, with RYS

at something we’d have to solve and move beyond. Aside from the fact that ‘we’ (our governments) have made pathetically, ridiculously small attempts  to come to terms with the needs of refugees – that Lebanon, Jordan and Uganda have been shining examples of at least making an effort to act with humanity - the whole language of ‘crisis’ neglects the glaringly obvious fact that the pressure on Europe from its outsiders has settled in and is here to stay.  Given the sheer size of the change, given the depth of Europe’s involvement in exploiting its outsiders over centuries, I predict that it will be a very long time before the inevitable takes place, and it becomes accepted that this continent has no specialprivileges, and that the refugees – who will continue to come

 

libya

 

Libyan detention centre

 as long as we go on visiting wars upon them – become a natural and accepted part of our culture. This is no crisis, this is our continuing condition; and the more we accept that, the nearer we will come to a reasonable and decent state of affairs.

Given this, you only need to watch the news every week to see what new depths of misery will arrive. One such in 2017 was surely the attempt to institutionalise Libya, where the violent exploitation of migrants is open and

lib2

well-known, as a dumping-ground for Europe’s lost and unwanted, via agreements between the Italian authorities and the Libyan coastguards, ongoing through the summer and still under discussion despite being denounced by all human rights organisations.

It seems a sensible (what does that mean?) place to return to Marlow’s reminder in the Polish migrant Conrad’s story Heart of Darkness that Britain (or Western Europe) does not have its comforts by right, hasn’t long had them, and -by implication – may lose them:

“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth…I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago–the other day. . . . Light came out of this river since–you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker–may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine–what d’ye call `em?–trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north; run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries,–a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been too–used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month oHr two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here– the very end apocalypse‘Heart of Darkness’, the movie, aka ‘Apocalypse Now’

of the world, a sea the color of lead, a sky the color of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina– and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sandbanks, marshes, forests, savages,–precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay–cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death,– death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here.’

As we see Palmyra and Aleppo (beautiful and cultured cities) and Calais (a handy place to pick up twenty litres of Beaujolais) sinking into the chaos of violent misrule and what Agamben – him again – calls the state of exception, we might reflect on a) the fact that nothing – not even the Zionist rule in Israel – lasts for ever, and b) that our aim is both to survive the injustices and to confront them. This gets us some way towards dealing with the horror (which the Polish migrant Conrad described, which Chinua Achebe condemned as a colonialist narrative, and Edward Said praised – for what?); but only marginally towards facing up to the challenges of 2018.  But did I say I was going to help with that?

 O for a time when the enlightened Muslim rulers may, as in Mozart’s immortal Die Entfuhrung, set everything straight, replacing torture by love!

Leave a Reply

What's this?

You are currently reading DAY 236: 2017 at Luke Hodgkin.

meta