Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thinking of ancestors then & us now

Peter Paul Rubens painted two versions / variations / interpretations of "The Massacre of the Innocents," depicting the biblical account of Herod the Great's murder of all young, male children in and around Bethlehem as his solution to put an end to the prophecy that a newborn king of the Jews would oust him some day. The upper painting was done in 1611-12 and the lower piece in 1636-38. Rubens was a Flemish painter in the Baroque style who lived during an era when religious wars led to any number of battles and outright massacres of innocents. The key words linking these paintings with the words of my post are "massacre of innocents." It seems to be a common event in every era.

As for the music accompanying this post, who and what it is should be self-evident, I would imagine .... but, just in case: "Paranoid," baby !! Some would say this song is not at all related to the words of this post; others might see clearly and distinctly that it is. Whichever position you accept, here is a taste of what I was enjoying only a few miles down the road from home on the Minneapolis side of the river on Monday evening. In case you had better places to be that night and missed the performance by Black Sabbath in its "The End" tour, I actually think the concert formed the center of the universe for a few hours.

I also think I will have one more post coming yet before the blog doors close and are bolted shut for a while. This one is too desperate and too dismal and too disheartening to close out things. I am a chameleon, I am a mirror, I am a disciple of Bitter Bierce -- but, despite those things, remember: I only write happy endings ....

Words spoken by Alec Leamas
in the novel, "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"
by John le Carre (1963)

"I reserve the right to be ignorant. That's the Western way of life."

The ancient man vs. the modern man -- 2

(This is Part 2 of 2 pieces, not including prequels or sequels. There will be no third segment. If I could do things over, several of my recent posts would be thrown into a kettle, stirred considerably and allowed to simmer before being poured out into different bowls to be consumed in different sequences and portions. Oh well, nothing here is for posterity or purpose, and I have other things on my mind.)

The partial remains of twenty-seven individuals, including at least eight women and six children, who evidently were murdered in cold blood were recently unearthed. Twelve skeletons were in a relatively complete state, and ten of these showed clear signs of a violent death, including extreme blunt-force trauma to crania and cheekbones, broken hands, knees and ribs, arrow lesions to the neck, and stone projectile tips lodged in the skull and thorax of two men. 

Several of the skeletons were found face down; most had severe cranial fractures. Among the in situ skeletons, at least five showed sharp-force trauma, some suggestive of arrow wounds. Four were discovered in a position indicating their hands probably had been bound, including a woman in the last stages of pregnancy. Fetal bones were uncovered.

The bodies were not buried. Some had fallen into a lagoon that has since dried; the bones preserved in sediment. 

It sounds like a story about the atrocities which have been occurring in places like Syria, Iraq and regions of North Africa during the past few years, does it not?

Well, it was not. Possibly a few of you noticed words like "arrow wounds" and "stone projectile tips" in the account. Arrow wounds are not especially common these days, and these remains were unearthed about eighteen miles west of Lake Turkana in Kenya at a place called Nataruk.

They were the fossilized bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were massacred around ten thousand (10,000) years ago. Findings suggest these hunter-gatherers, perhaps members of an extended family, were attacked and killed by a rival group of prehistoric foragers. Researchers believe it is the earliest scientifically-dated historical evidence of human conflict.

Why these people were killed in the manner they were will never be known. Were they interlopers or were they murdered by interlopers? It would seem certain they were brutally dispatched because they had something others simply wanted or because they were somehow "different" from their attackers.

I recently read a few dozen definitions and illustrations of the words "civilized" and "civilization."

From my point of view, I found them comedic. In as much as I am able to determine, humankind is no less barbaric now than it ever has been. The worst offenders, I think, are not necessarily those who cut the throats of helpless others or burn them alive in cages. The worst offenders are those who stand by and allow it to happen when they could -- in the least -- make an effort to prevent it.

Witness the actions of the "civilized," fearless leaders whose mailing address is Washington, D.C., who stand looking at themselves in the mirror, playing golf and attending political fund raisers while thousands of men, women and children round the world live in imminent threat of torture, slavery and death. How Americans can elect such vile, soulless "creatures" as their political leaders is inexplicable to me.

I have said such things before and probably will again. It is pointless to keeping repeating them because, it would seem, humankind has not advanced an iota other than in a technological manner during the past ten thousand years -- probably not in the past million years -- but it makes me feel good to say them.

There was a time when I thought a great deal about my ancestors and their contemporaries who left Europe in the 1850s to come to the United States -- men and women who lived on the prairies in sod shelters while they battled a hostile Nature and built their farms from nothing. More recently, I have been thinking about those unknowable ancestors who endured ice ages for thousands of generations to ensure the survival of their species. (And, in a way, to bring about the eventual presence of me on this Earth -- for which I am thankful and grateful.)

Now, I wonder, to ensure survival of what and to what end? The continuation of an enduring species which finds no difficulty at burning and cutting the throats of those whose religion or lifestyle is different from their own?

Oh, well. Why should I care who lives and who dies, who suffers and who prospers, who is the victim and who victimizes? The leaders of my country and other "civilized" nations do not care, so why should I? I can go to concerts .... buy guns and books and brandy every day of the week .... go just about anywhere I want whenever I want .... pretend I am doing something important by worrying about climate which is always going to be in perpetual, constant change whether I worry about it or not .... why worry, why think ?? Be numb, be happy .... that is the Western way ....

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Something special ....