‘Hey, Selwyn, you never told me. Wy did you give up the missionary business?’
Never did. It gave up on me. I got another germ, see?’
… ‘It’s my theory that religion is like a disease. A great religion’s like an epidemic. Take Christianity, Mohammedanism, Buddhism. Just like epidemics. Start in one place, always spread along the trade routes, flourish for a few hundred years and die out. Or get overrun by a new epidemic. I was sent here like a germ, to infect you people. Instead,’ he shrugged, ‘you infected me.’
What God is he, writes laws of peace, & clothes him in a tempest What pitying Angel lusts for tears, and fans himself with sighs What crawling villain preaches abstinence & wraps himself In fat of lambs? no more I follow, no more obedience pay!
William Blake in “America: A Prophecy” (1793). Spoken by “Boston’s Angel”.
Between 8 September 1941 and 27 January 1944, 2 million lives were lost, including about a million civilians (40% of the city’s population), during the siege of Leningrad (St Petersburg, the ancient capital of Russia) which lasted 872 days or 2 years, 4 months and 5 days – one of the longest, most brutal and destructive sieges in human history, and possibly the costliest in casualties suffered.
During the first winter the temperature dropped to -40 F.
Soviet forces managed eventually to open a narrow land corridor to the city. Around 1.4 million people were rescued by military evacuation.
Some historians classify the siege as genocide.
The siege became ‘an internal battle’, with starvation and isolation tearing into every aspect of everyday life and ‘every recess of the mind.’
Despair permeates the diary of Berta Zlotnikova, a teenager, who wrote: “I am becoming an animal. There is no worse feeling than when all your thoughts are on food.”
Alexis Peri writes: “Leningraders were indeed heroes for all that they endured. They suffered through the unimaginable. What interests me is that, in their diaries, they did not narrate themselves in heroic terms. They did not use the narrative of heroic resistance to describe their fight for survival, but found other ways to make sense of their suffering. They looked to literature, to history, etc.
Truth may not be as straightforward as we think, that it may be as elusive and coy as a woman pursued by a fumbling man. Through most of history we’ve only fumbled with truth, with a pathetically simplistic, straightforward and naive notion of truth.
being the book that saw resistance to injustice as a moral imperative.I bought my copy in 1978.
Tarrou, the character who most starkly articulates Camus’ own philosophy, says: “I have realised that we all have the plague … The good man is the man who has fewest lapses of attention.”
Only a handful can do more: these are the ‘healers.’ The central character in the novel is literally a healer, a doctor who tends the plague victims. Dr Rieux, the one who gets on with the job of alleviating the suffering he sees plainly before him.
For Camus to deprive a person her or his life because of war was to him the most complete form of oppression, and he never saw it as other than ‘legalised murder.’
Iraq War (2003) conservative estimate of deaths 470,000 (60% of those violent deaths). The US led ‘Afghan War’ (2001) 120,000.During the decade-long Soviet occupation (1979-1989) 500,000 Afghans died ‘from acts of war!’
So, in the 21st century so far, well over half a million deaths from these two ‘war viruses’ alone! – and that’s a very conservative estimate.
Camus was born into extreme poverty and from boyhood his life was threatened by TB. He died suddenly at the age of 46 in an unexplained car crash – just two years after winning the Nobel prize for literature in 1958.
People are no longer trusted to see truth from falsehood; it is no longer believed that, in Milton’s words, the public’s ‘knowledge thrives by exercise’. Rather, the public is viewed as the child-like victim of false claims, of media manipulation, of awesomely powerful advertising, and other forces likely to warp our minds and fill us up with misinformation. Thus we must be protected from the consequences of freedom of speech and be given ‘the truth’.
Everything the new elites say in favour of truth is called into question, shot down in fact, by their instinctive and increasingly institutionalised hostility to the freedom of contradiction and ridicule and blasphemy against their ideals.
Not that long ago the speakers that students wanted to shut down on campus were fascists, Islamists, the worst kind of authoritarian, bigoted people. Now we hear that middle-of-the-road Conservative Amber Rudd has been disinvited by students at Oxford. That we’ve gone from No Platform for Fascists to No Platform for Wet Tories might seem absurd. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. As spiked has long argued, you cannot pick and choose when it comes to free speech. As soon as you concede that certain views are too hateful to be aired, it is only a matter of time before more mainstream views are silenced on similar grounds. More than ever we need to defend free speech as a fundamental right – for all or for none at all.