Not Moving

I’ve never been part of a movement. It was knocked into my head when I was a kid that you don’t join things. My dad began his career during McCarthyism and saw what happened to fellow grad students, professors and colleagues. It was a major thing with him not to form “entangling alliances,” and not only in social movements. It was his advice to me in matters of love.

When people organize into a movement, things can degenerate into power struggles and infighting. Unification on the basis of hatred is the most dangerous and the most volatile. It also seems to have the greatest potential to endure long enough to destroy things. Anger can be strangely satisfying and it is addictive. It doesn’t concern itself with the future all that much, either. It just wants to break things.

During the late sixties/early seventies, my teens, I watched the “youth movement” in all its various shapes and saw — even at my young age — that many of the various facets didn’t have a plan for the future. I wondered even then, “OK but what are you going to do INSTEAD?” I understood protesting the draft and the Vietnam War. I understood demonstrating for the vote for 18 year olds. Those objectives were focused and clean, though the movements weren’t. The objectives gave the movements an end point, something to negotiate. Sitting in for “peace and love” was way too abstract for me.

OK, I’m not very subtly referring to the insurrection at the capitol on January 6. I wonder what they were planning if they had TAKEN the Capitol and made hostages of some of the Congress people? Were they going to insist Trump be made president or else? And then? Setting up a monarchy with 45 followed by his son and/or daughter?

There’s an image from David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia that I thought about during the insurrection. Lawrence led the Arab Revolt (against the Turks) during WW I, basically a side-show that distracted one of the Allies’ enemies and gave Britain (France, etc.) the toehold in the Middle East that we’ve struggled with through the whole 20th and into the 21st century. It’s true that at the time no one knew about ALL the oil in that region, but… So in the film the Arab army takes Damascus. They go to the state house, sit around the table and prepare to start a new government. Then they realize they have no idea how. They don’t know how to use the power station to generate electricity. The city is quickly out of water. Government means technical skills and education; it means pushing papers and the tribal leaders don’t want to. It’s a gorgeous scene.

I’ve also realized that 1) I want my vaccination, 2) I’m tired of the present moment or tired from the present moment. Hard to say which it is.

24 thoughts on “Not Moving

  1. Great advice from your father- I finally have had my first shot and I know so many are still waiting. This has been such a long haul and I’m ready to have it over too

  2. Your realizations are mine, too. Tired OF or tired FROM….good one, Martha. I’m not sure which I am, either. I think I’ll just stick with ‘tired’ to cover all bases.

    • It’s not a racist movie. It’s a pretty accurate explication of the attitudes of the time, the whole “Manifest Destiny” racist, colonialist garbage.

      Poor Lawrence had a different view and ended up caught in the middle at Versailles. I think (and Seven Pillars of Wisdom bears it out) Lawrence thought of himself as a kind of Arab and believed in Arabia for the Arabs.

      • I did read 7 Pillars again this time last year, in preparation for a trip to Jordan which never happened. But to me it read like Kim: in terms of the underlying thinking. I much prefer to have grown up in the intellectually combative climate which could produce at the same time Tagore, Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, and Justice Pal.

        • I don’t see how Lawrence could not have imbibed some of the same serum as Kipling. I agree with Goethe in that — to a large extent — we are defined by our moment, the place and time in which we are born and the influence of the world around us. I personally don’t believe Lawrence was ever able to figure out what happened to him from the moment he first went to Arabia as an archeologist and THOUGHT he knew what he was doing to the moment he found himself back in Britain and famous and all that. In the midst of everything that phenomenal American showman — Lowell Thomas — made a rockstar out of Lawrence, turned him into an almost mythic hero which had to have been very weird since, in his own mind, I believe, Lawrence felt like he’d been duped. He would totally agree with you (and me) I think about the arrogant, colonialist, plundering paternalism of the British and also that it (at least partially) defined him.

          I fell in love with Lawrence when I was 10 and I owe him an enormous debt. Of course, I couldn’t fully understand ANYTHING about him, his life, his times nothing but something there captured me and pulled me into a world that was far larger than my parents’ home and the truly tragic situation in which I lived. It was probably not Lawrence himself, but my 10 year old perception of him, but whatever it was, I owe it a lot. The first book I bought when I began seriously studying the Crusades was his thesis on Crusader castles in Mesopotamia. My big dream was someday to visit Jordan (I won’t).

          That said, there’s no way a guy like Lawrence can be compared to Tagore or Gandhi or a number of other people I’ve “met” in the meantime. I think they were truly great thinkers, with deep souls and a bigger world inside that they could access for the well-being and inspiration of others. That’s not Lawrence. He was simply, I think, a medieval man lost in the modern world.

  3. My father was one to keep his political opinions to himself. He was adamantly opposed to “advertising” your position so no yard signs and definitely no bumper stickers!! He would mutter about “inviting trouble”. Anyway, I enjoyed this post but even more I enjoyed the comments/conversation!

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