Monday, June 18, 2007

Reviewing an Edward Lucas review...

I will not deny that being held in a Stasi jail would have been probably the most terrifying thing in the world, but frankly the whole world is filled with instances of political torture, genocide and terrorism in the years since end of the Second World War.
Just read a review of the film The Lives of Others by Edward Lucas. The film concerns an improbable romance that takes place in an East German prison camp and according to Lucas the movie, though purely fictitious, seems to him to be an accurate depiction of life within a communist police state. Further, it also epitomizes life under communism in general as he details in this quote:

    the film shows the people who ran communist countries in their true colours. Far from building socialism with the bricks of altruism and the mortar of discipline, they were disgusting hypocrites: greedy, brutal and lecherous. A poisonous mixture of deceit and fear fuelled the system. Even for the brave, it was dreadfully difficult to stay clean. The film shows all that well.

He later concludes with another statement that allowing for any sort of counter argument should be considered foolish:

    Overall, the film is a magnificent reminder to those, particularly in the West, who doubt the real horror of the communist secret-police state. Most people under 40 remember no Soviet leader before Mikhail Gorbachev; the gulag is something in history books. For these, and the warm-hearted and soft-headed people of all ages who think that communism probably wasn’t all that bad, the film may be the first time they have experienced even a frisson of what it was really like.

I have not seen this film (and probably won't get a chance to, all things considered), but I have had some reasonable experience living in Belarus which is pretty much filled with people who did live during the times of communism. Because I live here, I do know that those bricks of altruism and mortar of discipline were very much a part of things, and in fact had very, very much to do with why I decided to come here in the first place.

I think a lot of westerners make the mistake of thinking of the people of the FSU as having forever actually been closet capitalists but had been held back by treacherous forces of the Soviet vlasti. Certainly this is the story of anyone who had immigrated but not everybody left and absolutely, not everybody hated it. In polls taken over the last few years in fact it seems as though there is actually a majority of people who would return to a new Soviet Union. We also have the last elections in Belarus and Russia, in which both presidents ran on a nostalgia ticket and received a vast majority of the votes. Even Ukraine's return to Russia campaign and their rejection of NATO's presence in Crimea is evidence of this. Why should we deny that there was in fact altruism, idealism and a desire to improve humanity here? Why should we be so fast to dismiss the self sacrifice and discipline that actually was practiced or that people might have come to understand and respect these ideas? Or for that matter, what makes us think that living without these ideals actually makes for a better world? Where is the proof?

Are the Poles going to look back in another 30 years and feel shame because they collaborated with the Americans?
I will not deny that being held in a Stasi jail would have been probably the most terrifying thing in the world, but frankly the whole world is filled with instances of political torture, genocide and terrorism in the years since end of the Second World War. Examples of similar behavior in fact can be found in South America, Bosnia, Africa, Afghanistan and of course in the Middle East and in most cases the west has been there right along. Should we say that those secret prisons in Poland should denounce the entire idea of capitalism? Should we say that the psychological and physical torture of Iraqi prisoners should be a general statement of how horrific the Bush administration is and was?

I guess I could also say here that my own experience of being held in Poland probably qualifies as at least mental torture. There was never the slightest information given me either from a legal point of view or about procedure, or of course that no evidence was accepted from me (or existed on the prosecution's side). But before you say that this is communism in action, understand that despite all of the obvious and overt corruption involved, the whole of the process was done with the full knowledge of the American embassy. Were they involved? Well, if we are speaking of complicity in the same way that Mr. Lucas speaks of the Stasi police, then they were. And as for general references, in terms of time frame this was exactly the same time as those secret prisons were being used and when Poland was waiting to become a member of the EU. Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? I have been saying so for five years now.

There are two ways to express a thought. The first is to discover some meaningful information and then create a physical format to present it, the other is to have a physical format and then stuff information into it. I understand Mr. Lucas' point of view. I understand that to a large extent, he is right about the failures and negatives of the FSU. However, throwing stones when you live in a glass house is never a good idea. Everybody in the world is guilty of corruption, political intrigues and cultural and ethnic abuses. To lay on the negatives of one particular culture without allowing for even the existence of any positives is propaganda. What is needed is to stop playing on and furthering stupidity and start building on rational thought and reason.

We are looking at a new cold war because the west is simply refusing to knock it off about the former USSR. Disregarding democratic elections, popular opinion and even political movements in which the downfall of the west is exactly the primary point of connection is simply foolish and having allowed it to go this far has been a crime. The self-righteous, heavy hand approach is not working. Demanding that people turn their head and look the other way is playing on their ignorence and not their intelligence. Does the west truly believe that theirs is the only way to live? Can the constant turnover in ideologies and social practices really mean nothing? The Poles went from a territory, to a Republic, to Nazism, to communism to their present state (confusion?) all in the last 100 years. I wonder if the Poles going to look back in another 30 years and feel shame because they collaborated with the Americans.

The movie was fiction and the director took artistic license to make the drama more… dramatic. Mr. Lucas in his McCarthy-like anti-communist fervor has done the same.

It is time for a friendlier, more open, and more fair and human approach. It is time to stop the smear campagn and start working together for a common future. Check out the comments on his blog by the way. I am not the only one who thinks this.

More soon…

7 Comments:

Anonymous Johm Q Law said...

Nice hippy thoughts there Ag but I am not sure I am buying your argument. Life under Stalin must have been like a living hell with everyone disappearing all over the place. You allusion to the Spanish inquisition a few posts back was probably pretty much what it was like. I know you have this fixation with staying in Belarus, but I think you are sticking your head in the sand. Nobody trusts them and nobody is going to.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous Steve R said...

Communism doesn't work.
Communism doesn't work.
Communism doesn't work.
Communism doesn't work.
Communism doesn't work.
Communism doesn't work.
Communism doesn't work.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I am not saying I am advocating a return to Communism, I am not saying that the post war purges by Stalin were not ugly. All I am saying, is give peace a chance. Right Yoko?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Edward Lucas said...

The whole of the Soviet Zone of Germany was a prison camp. The film is not set inside a jail.

I do not appreciate being compared to Joe McCarthy


Edward

Tuesday, June 19, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Walls work both ways; they keep people in and they keep people out.
McCarthy was a staunch advocate for his cause. It is only time and changing attitudes which showed him to be over-zealous. However, the blacklist did exist and the congressional hearings went on at exactly the same time did the purges. As I said, the whole world has its persecutions by those in power. Don't take offence Mr. Lucas, I greatly admire your work.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

After the fall of the iron curtain, I remember people who wanted to go back to communism. I often asked them why they would like to do so and I think they were more afraid of adapting themselves to new practices in their way-of-life. I think they were more seduced by the consumerist society and nothing else. Years later, I did not go back to any eastern country at all, but it would seem there has been new developments over there. People are more opened to business, lots of schools from the Baltik offer MBA courses (Estonia for example), so it cannot be all negative.
For once I've always been appealed by the idea of "socialism", I really think it is a very humanist idea, opposed as "individualism": people are afraid to live alone or they are afraid to live with anyone that is different from them, so it balances out all these conditions based on existence. No country in the world succeeded in exploiting the idea of socialism, worse in the communist countries they used this idea to oppress their people with draconian rules.
Besides the idea of socialism is clearly compatible with the idea of capitalism, and it gives good things when socialism is operated within the frame of capitalism.

For the case of Ukraine, it was completely crazy to start negotiating its entry in NATO. Lots of Ukrainians come from Russia, and the european objective is to dismantle the ex-soviet Union from its satellites: we started with Poland and God knows where it is going to stop. We can't even digest the latest countries that came into the EU (Poland for example). At one point there was an axi France/Germany/Russia between Chirac/Schroeder/Putin and this axi has been abandoned with Merkel from Germany and possibly with Sarkozy too, I am not sure 100% under Sarkozy. But when I look at other blogs (Ie la russophobe), we blamed our very own existence in the past on the Soviet-Union, and now we are blaming it on Russia. I'm just wondering where it is going stop, but in the meantime, we should freeze NATO operations from Europe as long as things have not been sorted out with Russia.

The case of the US practicing torture is nothing new, they've been doing it since the existence of the CIA; they are just not hiding anymore and they are getting away from the international laws. In a democratic state, it is intolerant that tortionners are not guilty of crimes and can get away with murder. "Know yourself first before judging others".


For the Stasi (Staatliche Polizei), well I lived other there in Eastern Germany, but I'm not very familiar with their "work", I have examples though, so i won't talk about it. For sure there were intimidation technics, and it was given by the Soviets.
For the case of the US the technics were given by the French, it started during the revolutionary war with Indochina, and their perfected their technics. Back then there was only 2 books in the US army corp, it was "special operations" and "counter-insurgency technics" than they used a new technics called "urban warfare". I had started writing about that and you can find more information here

...etc

Sunday, July 01, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Are the Poles going to look back in another 30 years and feel shame because they collaborated with the Americans?
There are historical links and Poland has never been lucky in History. They were oppressed at the same time between Russia and the Nazis. We have the same problem today in western Europe with the Russians and Germany and Russians cannot trust Germany.

Sunday, July 01, 2007  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home