Monday, February 13, 2012

reflecting on conflict

Got some new ink pads and have been playing at gilting some of my deck edges. Was doing a bit with Light and Shadow and decided to draw a card while I was at it. Despite the size of it (I like my decks SMALL, not huge; this is a major reason why I've developed such a penchant for deck trimming...) it really is a charming deck...

The Prince of Swords. He rides an eagle, sword at the ready, off to battle at any moment, excited. The eagle too, holds butterflies in its beak. The prince of swords, with his impetuous energy, his recklessness, his violent tendencies. And how many princes like this, or knights, or warlords, or whatever you want to call them, are there, have there been, will there be?

I'm sitting here, hours past midnight, drinking coffee and forcing myself to finish reading about the 19th century Mahdist rebellion in the Sudan. Dates and figures and reasons. This man studied here and here with this and that religious figure, took up this and that position, gathered followers and fighters with these words. And they fought here and here for these reasons. They used this and that as propaganda. And they fought against these men under the command of this man and when that didn't go so well this man was put in charge. There was a battle here and so many people died. Fields were destroyed here to deprive the rebels of sustenance. They moved here. There was another battle. This reasoning was used to continue the struggle. And so on, and so forth.

What the reading doesn't mention, what the HISTORICAL readings rarely do, is the human cost: how many people were displaced? How many villages destroyed? How many civilians died in the chaos? How many starved? Where were their bodies buried? How long did their children mourn? And would the god for which they ostensibly fought have approved of this? Yes, well why? Oh, that reasoning, that doctrine. And how many of the men following the leader into battle BELIEVED in that and how many, like this prince, just wanted the chance to pick up a sword, to show themselves capable at the "Art of War"?

Always the reasoning, the CAUSE: for these men religion and for these men nationalism and for these men colonialism and economic exploitation and political domination and always the youths to follow and always the same grim results and on and on it goes. History books are filled and we read them with interest or horror or indifference and if there was something particularly shocking maybe we gasp and say never again and then watch it happen again somewhere far away where men's skins are colored different than our own and pretend it isn't happening and so it goes. Reminds me of a poem I wrote a while ago...

The glory
of ancient Greece,
Persia and Rome was once
Perhaps their odes,
their many tomes
of words can account
for their renown.
But perhaps it was swords,
chariots, shields and ships
that pushed their wonders
down the throats
of men around the world.
Perhaps the only
sounds that glory needs
are grunts and shrieks,
the swoosh and clang
of blades hitting blades,
cutting skin;
Perhaps men, seeking
always to bask in its awe
will crave war
for all of eternity.


Post a Comment