It is not documented exactly when the monster Grendel left "his mossy home beneath the stagnant mere" to "drip his claws with mortal blood as moonbeams haunt the sky." But when he did, we can be sure that the results were rather tragic. Indeed, there may even be some truth in the rumours that "screams were his music, lightning his guide," and he may in fact have "raped the darkness, death by his side."
Likewise, closer to our own modern mythology, April 19th is the day on which, in 1943, the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, realizing the unpleasant fate in store for them, steeled themselves for an uprising against their Nazi oppressors – with tragic results (but the results would have been tragic anyway, one assumes).
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this whole affair is that, even with the element of surprise and well-prepared stocks of weapons and ammunition, the Jewish rebels (with help from Polish allies) only succeeded in killing a grand total of 17 Germans at the cost of thousands of their own and the eradication of the Warsaw ghetto. Not really a result worth getting out of bed for.
But whatever the ins-and-outs of opposing Germany's total-war-influenced inter-ethnic management policy, anniversaries of events like this provide our modern-day political class with the chance to go into platitude overdrive, as typified by this message on Senator Ted Cruz's Facebook page:
"Seventy-two years ago, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was about to begin. By 1943, it was painfully obvious that the Holocaust was underway. Jews who were being deported from their ancestral homes were not just being moved, they were being exterminated. The brave Jews of Warsaw resolved to resist, and the full fury of the SS was unleashed upon them. For almost a month, less than a thousand fighters battled the Nazis, and while in the end they were crushed, their heroic effort lives on through Holocaust Remembrance Day. Today we pause to reaffirm our commitment to 'Never Again' as a sacred pledge, and that we will honor it by fighting against genocidal threats against the Jewish people in our own time."As most prominent politicians don't actually write their FB pages themselves, we can assume that this message was cobbled together by some internet gimp tasked with ladling out Cruz's 'managerial class' conservatism to the millions of boring people who "liked" his page (along, one assumes, with videos of kittens, FarmVille updates, and InspiriQuotes).
|History: "enough already..."|
The much over-used trope of "never again" is a classic example of the level at which they operate. First of all, they hate history or know nothing of it. They are the representatives of the Last Man and even if they don't consciously believe in the End of History in a Fukuyamian sense they certainly live it. But occasionally some event that pertains to one of the sacred victim groups – gays, Blacks, Jews, etc. – pierces through the chronocentric fog and demands comment. How revealing that the comment is typically "never again." This is as revealingly obvious as it sounds.
Earlier generations had a different formula when disturbed from the daydream of the present by resonances of the past. Instead of a robotic, non-comprehending invocation of the negative, they strove for the positive: "Remember the Alamo," "Remember the Maine," "Remember Pearl Harbor" was the type. The idea of positive memory was even projected into the future, as in Churchill's famous though ultimately inaccurate speech:
"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour."Contrast this with "never again," which implies that history – or at least those parts of it that involve people getting hurt (or possibly suffering micro-aggressions) – is something that shouldn't have happened, and which can and should be switched off in the future.
|Cruz – home for bats?|
Although there are exceptions, history is largely a catalogue of killings, brutalities, battles, and atrocities. Its essence is struggle and where victory produces peace, the pen of the historian tends to nod.
The attitude of "never again" applied with any kind of logic and fairness would produce such absurdities as "Siege of Carthage 146 BC: Never Again." In that siege which took three years, a city of 500,000 was wiped out by the victorious Roman army.
History provides an endless supply of such winners and losers, and generally it is not too pretty for the losers. How about the 35,000,000 killed by the Mongol Invasions of China, Europe and the Middle East when the global population wasn't that much higher than the number of victims? Or the 32,000,000 killed in the Taiping Rebellion in China in the 19th century?
If you're going to sing "never again" about the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where do you legitimately stop? While it's obviously a good a thing to try to avoid pointless slaughter carried out to expand the grazing zone of Eurasian ponies or to fulfill the megalomaniac Jesus fantasies of a Chinese peasant, are we seriously striving towards a universe in which nothing bad ever happens to anyone ever, and does any idiot actually think that would even work?
But the abnegation of history implicit in the phrase "never again" is only part of it. The other part is the implication that only certain historical events – those connected to cherished victim groups seeking to rent-seek on their past sufferings – are always on the verge of happening again. The argument would be that there is no point decrying the siege of Carthage, as that happened too long ago and won't happen again, but that the Jews inefficiently rising up and being massacred in Warsaw is a distinct possibility and may happen again tomorrow.
Of course, history does occasionally repeat itself. Three thousand years or so ago, a group of refugees from persecution in another land, arrived in Palestine – or the Land of Canaan as it was then known – and, according to the sources in which history was recorded in those days, wiped out the original inhabitants to create lebensraum for their own.
I'm sure a good Southern Baptist like Cruz must be just as appalled by that as he is by the unrepeatable events in Warsaw, especially since a group identifying with that earlier group of refugees not so long ago did more or less the same thing. So, Ted how about it, "Ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the Jews: Never Again"?
|Too late to say "never again."|