Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Czeslaw Milosz

Millions of us knew the Iraq war would be a catastrophe.

Why didn’t Tony Blair?

What kind of democracy are we talking about

On 15 February 2003, my partner and I packed our two young children into their pushchairs and travelled across London to take part in what has since become recognised as the single largest protest event in human history.

Between six and 30 million people (depending on whom you believe) took part in about 600 cities worldwide, united by a belief that the proposed military intervention in Iraq was not justified by the facts.

Sir John Chilcot has, in his newly published report, reinforced this view.

In the intervening years a gigantic political disaster, like some sort of all-consuming black hole, has devoured everything in its path including the credibility of our democratic process and any moral capital the west had. The human cost is staggering.

The repercussions and aftershocks endless – international law, natural resources, political norms, the UN, religious tolerance, all irrevocably altered or destroyed, while, 13 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, one of the oldest civilisations on our planet lies a shattered ruin; a destabilising presence in a fragile region, locked in a permanent civil war, with any prospects for a peaceful civil society decades in the future.

Somehow, “We told you so” just doesn’t do it justice.

Najat Rizk shared this link

“I remember thinking at the time: “How can it be blindingly obvious to me, and to millions of other ordinary people like me, that the invasion will be a disaster, while our political leadership fails to see it?”

There was no question that Saddam’s brutality needed addressing – but not like this.”

Prior to the decision to go to war being made – in the months the debates raged – I did the only thing I knew how which was to put my frustrations into a new piece.

The Blue Notebooks would be a protest album about Iraq, a mediation on violence – both the violence that I had personally experienced around me as a child and the violence of war, at the utter futility of so much armed conflict. We recorded it in London about a week after the protests.

I structured the work around a series of readings by Tilda Swinton from the works of Franz Kafka. I think of Kafka as a sort of patron saint of doubt, and his writing spoke to the bleak absurdity of that political moment for me.

Balancing the Kafka texts are extracts from Czesław Miłosz, a sort of anti-Kafka, for whom the universe is redeemed by human creativity and compassion. I wrote the piece to meander through music history – quoting and re-contextualising musical texts – the music I had run to as a child to escape my own reality.

Blair’s creative way with the facts seems in retrospect to be the beginning of the sort of post-truth politics we have seen in the recent Brexit debate, where fiction and reality were treated by Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and their like as essentially interchangeable. Donald Trump does the same.

A second, less charitable, justification is that Blair deliberately ignored warnings from the Ministry of Defence and joint intelligence committee about the reliability of the intelligence, and in a striking example of confirmation bias, chose to engage with the facts only insofar as they supported the decision to go to war, a decision which we now know had been taken long before the other options to deal with Saddam had been exhausted.

Chilcot agrees; Blair withheld information from the cabinet, misled parliament, the public, and the military. Thousands paid with their lives.

Looking more deeply into why he might do this leads inevitably to the peculiar romance that developed between Bush and Blair, the cowboy and his poodle, united in some sort of shared crusade.

Blair’s hubristic view of himself as a moderating influence on the imbecile Bush betrays a spectacular miscalculation of the power dynamics in play.

A third scenario is that Blair was simply too dumb to see what was coming down the tracks.

The Ordeal of Freedom? Is hope playing the vanishing act? And replaced by what?

Is hope playing hide and seek in the discourse on Freedom?

What redundant choices are the players busy prioritizing, sorting out, rating, erasing, replacing, settling their mind upon….?

Is it the proper time to write down the goals we want to achieve?

The long-term and short-term goals that will set us “free” from all the diversions we are bombarded with?

And what kinds of goals we favor?

Amassing wealth for the sake of wealth?

Communicating with as many people so that we get first pick on opportunities, looking us in the face, and seeing nothing of value, for our lack of observational skills?

Goals for what kinds of success? In what and for what?

For a 15-minutes recognition as a unique individual, among the billion surrounding us? Billion of mankind, still in the phase of survival, waking up with the sole purpose of finding something to fill the stomach, anything to eat…?

For a recognition by the community that we are a worthy member, hard at work, steady in following customs and traditions…?

For a recognition by the extended family that we were not such a big loser, an irredeemable loss after decades of nurturing, in pushing us around to get at par with the neighboring family children…

Is it Saul Bellow who wrote:

“The Russian poets Mandelstam and Sinayvsky restored the soul for the million of Russians, on whom Stalin poured the Old Death. Reciting poetry to fellow convicts (mostly political prisoners) and by writing about it in their journals…Perhaps to remain a poet in such circumstances, is also to reach the heart of politics: The human feelings, experiences, human form and face, recover their proper place, in the foreground…”

The Ordeal of Freedom is to learn and absorb the private cruelties and brutalities, where “More die of Heartbreak“, all the kinds of “New Deaths“.

“Never mind rising entitlements, never mind the luxury life-style… All this is seen by remote centers of consciousness, which struggle against full wakefulness. The opening of a true consciousness to what is actually occurring would be a purgatory”

There aren’t any words for what happens to the soul in the “Free World“.

The ordeal of freedom, having to take responsibility for our own choices and decisions… being cornered and forbidden to blame our shortcomings and problems, on external circumstances and conditions, foreign pressures, hidden powers exercised by Big Brothers

The ordeal of freedom, and hope gone out the window.

Having no time to focus on “Who we are“, or having plenty of time to reflect on our needs and wants, but feeling too shy and coward to confront the savage ordeal of freedom, telling us that time is money, time is invested for success stories, time is not a luxury to revert to our soul and discover our personal dreams…

Time is not a luxury to empathize with friends, to take all the needed time to listen to the aches and pains of friends, to contribute our energy and some time to other more needy people…

This cold world in this ravaging ordeal of freedom

Czeslaw Milosz wrote in Annalena:

“To whom do we tell what happened

On the earth,

For whom do we place everywhere huge mirrors

In the hope that they will be filled up

And will stay so?”

Note: I read this term “The ordeal of freedom” in “Reading Lolita in Tehran




June 2023

Blog Stats

  • 1,522,166 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 770 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: