If they hide under the ground, we will dig them up

27 12 2008

David Hwang did not have to invent the terror of Radio Falange: For each one of us they kill, we will kill them tenfold. If they hide under the ground, we will dig them up. And if find them dead, we will kill them again.

Nationalist General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano: For every one of mine who falls, I will kill at least ten extremists. Those leaders who flee should not think they will escape [that fate]; I will drag them out from under the stones if necessary and, if they are already dead, I will kill them again. [quoted in Giles Tremlett, Ghosts of Spain, p. 29]

Quiepo de Llano was not alone in his sentiments. General Emilio Mola  argued that Everyone who is openly or secretly a supporter of the Popular Front should be shot. . . We have to sow terror. We must eliminate without scruples all those who do not think like ourselves. [p. 32]

And then there were the stolen chilren, ‘separated from rojo families and then adopted or handed over to Falange or convent-run orphanages. Some 30,000 children passed through their doors between 1944-1955.’ [p.67]

Late-Franco Spain may have been ‘only’ authoritarian, but the bloody terror of the early decades gave way later not merely to suppression, but a more controlled violence. The transition from Franco to his selected successor (and eventual democratizer) King Juan Carlos could be called non-violent only in comparison to that bloody past. Manuel Fraga Iribarne, a Francoist who helped found the right-wing People’s Party (which governed Spain 1996-2004) and who had presided over police killings of protesters in the 1970s, enjoyed threatening his opponents. Remember, he told future Socialist president Felipe Gonzales, that I am the power, and you are nothing. And when, after Franco’s death, he was asked to go easy on protesters, he responded I shall beat them black and blue.

It is late, and I have nothing to say about this, for now. But I had wondered in a previous post if Hwang and Golijov had exaggerated or invented the terror of the Falange. They did not.





Here is my blood shed for thee

13 12 2008

Last thing about Ainadamar (for awhile): Did I mention that after the performance I trekked up to Corporate Bookstore and bought two books on the Spanish Civil War?

Wait! There’s a reason for this! The libretto  included broadcasts from Radio Falange, and I wanted to know if these were the product of David Hwang’s imagination or actual transcripts. Here’s a sample (translated)

Our youth must be ready//to shed their blood generously/ for the sacred cause of Spain//Whoever is not with us/is against us//We’ll exterminate the seeds of the Revolution,/even in the wombs of their mothers//Long live death!

And later:

. . . And if we find them dead, we will kill them again. I give you permission to kill them like dogs, and your hands will be clean.

Well. I just started Anthony Beevor’s The Battle for Spain (c. 2006) so I don’t know if these are actual transcripts, but he does note, on p. 56 that the nationalist Foreign Legion, ‘Composed in large part of fugitives and criminals. . . were taught to be useful suicides  with their battle cry ‘Viva la Muerte!’‘ And, skipping ahead to p. 424, Beevor notes that ‘Ideological and religious invocations deliberately tried to make the violence abstract. . . . Carlist [nationalist] requetes were told that they would have a year less in purgatory for every red they killed, as if Christendom were still fighting the Moors.’

So much for the notion that Al Qaeda invented the (anti-)political cult of death.

In any case, I was seized by the notion of the ideological underpinnings of massacre. What makes it killing those who are not trying to kill you okay? It seemed—seems—a tremendously important issue.

But as I thought more about this, I remembered the work I did a lifetime ago in a human rights seminar in grad school. We were trying to theorize about human rights abuses, and, frankly, having a terrible time doing so. There were too many massacres, across all populated areas, from all different ethnic, religious, and ideological groups: how does one find a way through such a fog of data?

One key feature, as discussed by Leo Kuper in his book Genocide, was the dehumanization of the victims. They were a cancer, an infection, rats, insects—anything which not only removed them from their fellow humans, but which also made it a positive good to eradicate.

But the casting out of humanity of the victims is only part of the story; what of the killers? There have certainly been a number of studies of the sociology and psychology of mass killing—cf. Ervin Staub The Roots of Evil; Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors; Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, among others—but what of the specific ideological indoctrination? Robert Proctor gets at both the material and ideological aspects of Nazi scientists and doctors in Racial Hygiene, as does Benno Muller-Hill  in Murderous Science, but even these are more sociological than political-ideological.

What kind of ideology posits mass murder as a good? National Socialism was proudly genocidal, but does all fascism necessarily lead to the valorization of massacre? And Stalinism was clearly genocidal, but that seemed more cultic or psychopathic than ideological. (That said, Bolshevism wasn’t all sunshine and daisies, and Bolshevism clearly shaped Stalin. And no, I’m not one to think Lenin was somehow betrayed by Stalin: ol’ Vladimir may have been more pragmatic than Stalin, but he was a revolutionary, after all, with all the ruthlessness that implies.) The errors and crimes of Leninism and Stalinism are clear to me (if not their precise etiology), but Marxism is an ideology, if not always a practice, of liberation.

Capitalism? Certainly, in practise it has sanctioned the treatment of humans as ends rather than means, and there is plenty of violence woven into long history of the emergence from pre-capitalist economies and societies as well as colonization. And, oh yes, there were more than a few killings commited in the defense thereof during the Cold War. Yet, as with Marxism, as an ideology it pitches liberation.

Furthermore, I think it makes sense to distinguish between massacres, such as My Lai, and concerted extermination. It may make little difference to the victims of such massacres whether their deaths were the result of  a (morally, psychologically) chaotic situation or a fixed program, but as I’m trying to get at the programmatic content of mass murder, the distinction is important. In the former case it is a kind of criminal accident, a breakdown of ordinary operating procedures: Even if the soldiers or killers are not ultimately punished, the massacre itself must be explained [away] as something extrinsic to the (political, national) cause itself. In the latter case, however, massacres are intrinsic to the cause, necessary as both means and end.

Hm. I think that’s a part of it: an ideology in which death is not a mere (unfortunate) means, but a desired end. And this bifurcates: it is necessary and good to kill these others, as it is necessary and good for ourselves to die in battle against the others, and for ourselves.

So back to the ideology of death. Is this its own ideology, or a component of other ideologies? Can it be integrated into other ideologies? Does it require a belief in some kind of life [for the killers] beyond death?  And whatever its status as a freestanding or constituent part of another ideology, does the embrace of death mark the ideology as anti-political?

That last question, at least, I can answer: Yes. Politics is about the world, a particular kind of being-in-the-world which is predicated on human life (yep, Arendt again). To disdain such life is to disdain politics.

I’m not saying anything particularly shocking here: What violent dictator hasn’t asserted his triumph over politics? And while I think there is a political (i.e., worldly) agenda of Al Qaeda, from what I’ve read of bin Laden or Mullah Omar’s speeches, ideologically, they’re all about wiping out politics.

Sigh. Don’t know how much this helps me with the whole exterminationist-ideology thing, tho’.

Anyway, I did at least discover that one line from the opera is authentic. It is the response of the fascist Ramon Ruiz Alonso, to the question of the crimes of Lorca:

He has done more damage with his pen,/than others have with their pistols.






The Republic was a dream

12 12 2008

Still mulling the Ainadamar experience. The gathering-together for a purpose: the musicians and singers to perform, the audience to take in this performance. Yes, there was planning—practice, rehearsals—and those of us in attendance knew what was to be performed and who would perform.

But the. . . power? force? of the live performance is that it is live, i.e., that it is unpredictable, that anything could happen. Unpredictable is usually bad, insofar as it’s associated with things like falling lights or malfunctioning, er, wardrobes, or, as in the case of the Austrian actor, stabbing oneself with a real rather than prop knife. But what of the silence at the end of the performance? Is that usual? Why was it? Were we soaking it in? Waiting to hear if there’d be more music? Not wanting to clap ‘out of turn’? Just letting the moment be?

I don’t know. Any or all or none of the above. Regardless, it bound us all together, suspended us in a held breath, a silence both fraught and still.

I could not have imagined this. I could not have experience this in my apartment, or alone in that theatre. The performers threw themselves out there, and we could only marvel at their flight, and catch them at the end.

Am I making too much of this? No; I am making too little. It was as  mentioned in a previous post, and as I told Jtt.: The performers opened themselves to us, but I couldn’t open myself to them, not enough.

When I say the performers lay themselves bare, I don’t mean in every way. I knew almost nothing about them beforehand, and almost nothing after—performance ain’t group therapy. No, I mean a nakedness at the moment of performance, in the revelation of that part of themselves which was crucial to the performance itself. Sing Margarita, sing Lorca, sing Nuria and Ruiz Alonso, and bring yourself forth in bringing them forth.

It is an act of discipline and bravery.

I am sobered by all they brought forth, and my inability to respond in kind. I recognized this failing during the performance, as I kept yanking myself out of the moment. But it’s not just about ‘being in the moment’; there is also the willingness to let oneself be carried away by the moment. I wouldn’t, couldn’t, sustain that.

And yet, as I told Jtt., I could at least see this, I could see that being carried away isn’t always all bad. Carapaces and defenses and distances all have their place in my life—I do not yearn for my juvenile melodramatic self—but snark and detachment can get in the way of wonder.

I’ve joked with my students that political science doesn’t really deal with passion—‘we don’t do love’—and as such, misses so much of what drives people to meetings and demonstrations and to take part in all the scut work which is a necessary part of political action. And an analytic which doesn’t take heed of Arendt’s observation that politics happens when people gather together, that political power arises from that purposeful gathering, will miss both the passion and the purpose.

The gathering at Carnegie Hall this past Sunday was not a political one. But it was a reminder of the power of the gathering, of the purpose of passion.