Monday, 16 February 2009

A week of headaches

There were two topics I wanted to write about last week, and both of them ended up being too hard for me. First there was that thorny personal issue of smoking - and the quitting thereof. Nearly four days I spent not smoking, with nicotine patch firmly planted on arse (alternate cheeks on alternate days). Then I snapped - and it has been a low dose of my wife's clove cigarettes ever since. I have achieved a marked reduction, and I know the next time I suck on a non-clove cigarette I'll think it is disgusting. However, my lungs are still torched and I feel like the loser I always feel like when I fail to quit yet again. The second topic was the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Now why the hell would I want to touch that subject? A topic so complex, with such a mired history, that it is close to impossible to get the facts right. And even if by a miracle you could get the facts right, there are just too many people out there on both sides that will slam you down whatever opinion you may dare to put forward. Well there are two reasons I wanted to write something about it. The first was that I had just finished the near 500 page collection of Robert Fisk articles 'The Age of the Warrior'. The Israeli / Palestine conflict runs through that collection like a never ending car crash. I am deeply affected by books - and after obsessively reading these articles I was miserable, depressed, angry. To write something about it would be to help expunge the hopelessness and disempowerment I felt after finishing it. (The last book that provoked such powerful feelings in me was 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein). The second reason was the constantly repeated double deatholizer figures from the last Israeli incursion into Gaza. 13 Israeli dead, 1300 Palestinian dead. Without going into further detail right now - there is just something horribly wrong in that ratio.

Yet I couldn't write anything about either topic. Damn it - I still can't. It is 9:30am and I've just come back upstairs after opening my first beer of the day. Just thinking about writing about these two topics has caused me to start drinking earlier than usual (only a few hours earlier - but still...) Before I left Australia I disposed of my rather large and disparate library. This is not the time to discuss that, only that I have few regrets about doing so. One of those regrets just occurred. I had a number of books by the fantastic author Céline (aka Louis-Ferdinand Céline, aka Louis-Ferdinand Destouches). He is responsible for my over use of ellipses... One of these books had a forward by Kurt Vonnegut Jr - one of the best forwards I've ever read. He complains that writing this forward is giving him continual headaches - I wish I could quote him correctly here. Celine has often been denounced as an anti-semite. Kurt Vonnegut was a great admirer of Celine's work - yet obviously was in no way an anti-semite. I can see the cause of the headaches. I've been having headaches all week. No all of them to do with nicotine withdrawal.

Back to a safe topic. Dreams. I've been putting on nicotine patches before I go to bed to cut off that morning cigarette urge at the root so to speak. And one of the side-effects of this is that my dreams have become much more vivid, intense, and personally interesting. Yesterday I started reading 'In Evil Hour' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Last night I was treated to a retelling of the first 30 pages of the book in a stylized filmatic form. The priest, the mayor, the judge made their appearances. The action was no longer in Spain, but contemporary Faulconbridge / Springwood - the towns in the Blue Mountains I grew up in as a teenager. In some parts the dialogue was spoken like an awful high-school performance of Beckett. Other parts were depicted as a cartoon (a la Kill Bill). And one beautiful entrance (the Judge) was sung in a distinctly Gilbert and Sullivan fashion. In parts of the performance I was one of the actors - in other parts I was watching the whole thing on my laptop whilst charging it up before the train ride to my old school. As often happens now when my high school slips into my dreams, I remember that I have graduated from University and no longer need to debase myself into going to my much disliked place of earlier learning. I remember feeling happy in the dream when I realized this - 'Great, I've got a day off!' - I remember thinking. I awoke with the dream not finished and had an urge to roll over and sink back down perchance to sneak another episode. After all, John Goodman had mysteriously made an appearance. My wife was making the coffee, however, and the guilt of my selfishness rolled me out of bed.

10:30am - second beer. The headache is back. The patch is my left cheek today. Why do I want to write about Palestine / Israel? Why don't I want to write about it? OK. Let's bite the bullet here (no pun intended). The Israeli military invasion of Gaza disgusted me. Like every time you see the vastly more powerful, the vastly more resourced antagonist, pummel, pound and annihilate a weaker opponent. Like when a pack of big kids beat up the small one. When a burly drunken husband smacks the shit out of his wife or daughter. Even trivially - in a professional boxing match when one opponent just far out-classes the other. When the cat plays with the half-dead mouse. There is something disgusting in watching naked power reigning down upon the weaker opponent. There is a myth about Australian's that we always bet on the underdog (it is a myth - there are plenty of Australians both as individuals and as a government that relish playing the role of the bully). Yet there is that visceral feeling of disgust I get when I see unmatched opponents. I guess I'm not a sadist at heart. 13 Israelis dead. 1300 Palestinians dead. The ratio does not diminish the deaths of those Israelis. A death-is-a-death-is-a-death. Irreversible no matter what your nationality, creed, religion, occupation etc... But that number - 1300. Almost 200 people died in the recent (on-going) Australian bushfires. This is, quite rightly, seen as a national disaster. The Australian papers have been overflowing on the subject. It is an awful number of deaths. More than 200 children were killed in the recent Gaza invasion. That number is mentioned here and there in the press, and is now quickly being forgotten. But a death-is-a-death-is-a-death...

Why don't I want to write about this stuff? Because there are plenty of people that as soon as you sympathize with the Palestinians will accuse you of being on 'their' side. To criticize the Israeli invasion of Gaza is synonymous with being anti-Israeli, and then it is just a short step to being anti-semetic, and then someone is going to bring up the Holocaust. And this familiar slope is just so much bullshit I don't want to get dragged into. Don't I know that 'they' were firing rockets into Israel? Yes - I know that. Does it justify killing 1300 people. No. Am I supporting those terrorists Hamas? No, I am not supporting the democratically elected Hamas government. When Hamas (or other factions) kill Israelis (or other Palestinians) I don't support it. Believe it or not - you can hold a position where you neither support what the Israeli government does, or the Hamas government, or the Fatah government, or the US government. There is a position where you don't support any of the major players - but still find the sheer death and suffering caused unbearable to watch. And find the lies, misinformation, demonizing and endless justifications from all sides sickening. And this is when the headaches start. So much easier not read about it, not think about it, not try to understand. Because when I try to understand - I get sick. And why should I get sick over something that I largely cannot do anything about? It's too late. I already know about it - and it has been banging around in my head for weeks, months, years - and the best I can do is try to learn why this happens. Why this continues to happen. And what it is about humans that makes this - and so much much worse - possible. Robert Fisk has just published another column which makes a fair stab at why writing about this stuff is something most sane people would want to avoid. It is so much better than what I can do.

Is this my third or my fourth beer now? It isn't quite midday. I should be ashamed of myself. I want a cigarette - but I asked my wife to take all the open packets out of the house to her workplace this morning. My headache is real and getting worse. Screw this writing shit. The next piece is going to be about another dream. Who reads this stuff anyway? (And if there happens to be some Vietnamese government censor out there who does read my blog - keep up the good work - I hope you are getting something out of it!).


Krin said...

I'm reading it, and enjoying the posts.

Bravo on the Israel-Palestine conflict discussion. Yes, a tough topic, but you explained your concerns and the troubles inherenet in voicing those concerns well.

Hope the headaches, both withdrawal related and stress-related get better soon.

Drew said...

No writer has affected my typography as heavily as Celine I reckon. I make ellipses usually without thinking now, but sometimes recall his relentless mirthful pessimism, and I smile... Particularly when it spices up a turgid chunk of bureaucratic correspondence.

And I'm on the same page, at least as far as gut feelings go, with the geopolitical real-crime thrillers we're so spoilt for choice with, like Fisk. So I'm reading less of them. Only taking in bite-sized chunks of news. Avoiding the indigestion.

Hope the headaches pass soon enough.