Tag: Madness

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“In reading The History of Nations, we find that, like individuals, they have their whims and their peculiarities, their seasons of excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit… “Men, it has been well said, […]

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40 Years Ago Today

 

File:TuckermanRavine.MtWashington.NH.jpgI was sitting in the little snack bar in the base station of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington (a short mountain, comparatively speaking, but one which has its own set of challenges for climbers), prior to setting out on an expedition with Mr. She, “when our love was young,” as the saying goes, when a shocking newsflash came over the radio: Hundreds of people had died in an impossibly massive murder-suicide event in Jonestown, Guyana.  It was one of those “Where were you when…?” moments.  That’s where I was.

People were flabbergasted. Most of us had no idea what any of it was about. And as the bizarre and gory details came out over the next several days, the story just got stranger and sadder. By the time all the facts were known, over 900 people were dead, a US Congressman had been assassinated, and an ominous, and often flippant new phrase, “he drank the Kool-Aid,” had entered the English Language.

This article provides a fascinating first-person account of Congressman Leo Ryan’s visit to the colony, of his interactions with Jones and his followers, and of the subsequent massacre of Ryan and several others as they were leaving. It’s written by a survivor of said massacre, a congressional aide who was traveling with the group, and who was shot several times herself as the melee progressed. It’s a powerful witness to the situation, as well as a sidelight on how different so many things were, forty years ago today.

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If I understand it correctly Iran signed an agreement with the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany in 2015 which placed significant retrictions on its nuclear program – in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions and the return of some frozen funds to Iran. The deal’s called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of […]

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Am I the only person who hopes the eclipse is overcast everywhere? At least in that case nobody will have their sight damaged.  I cannot understand why people value experiences over their accomplishments. And watching an eclipse is the very definition of an experience, a passive event in which the person does nothing productive or […]

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Illinois didn’t have a passed budget for FY ’16. And it looks like we won’t have one for FY ’17 anytime soon. Mike Madigan, speaker of the House for the past 30 years, is holding the state hostage. He won’t offer a new vote or a compromise on a budget until after the elections in […]

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When I cannot sleep, I take it as a sign. The below is the result.  Most people think that they talk to G-d. But when people say that G-d talks back to them, we instinctively recoil. As Hermione Granger puts it: “Even in the wizarding world, hearing voices isn’t a good sign.” Preview Open

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The Nazi Within

 

amis_cover_3019706aI recently finished Martin Amis’s novel, The Zone of Interest, the plot of which centers around the conflicts of a host of characters inside a Nazi death camp — German soldiers, their wives, children, and, of course, the Jews. The book was rejected by Amis’s German publisher and received mixed reviews when it came out last year. That’s largely because of the unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable use of satire in a Holocaust novel.

The book reads much like a conventional character drama, centered around themes of jealousy, lust, ambition, and longing. Only, in this case, this rather standard human tale happens to be taking place in the midst of the most inhuman atrocities imaginable. Gruesome and brutal crimes of world-historic proportions serve as a mere backdrop for a story that stubbornly focuses on the mundane and rather unremarkable relationships of those guilty of the crimes.

You’ve never read a Holocaust novel like this one. Some readers might feel that Amis’s approach minimizes the heinous crimes that are taking place. But for me, it worked in just the opposite way. Amis’s focus on the trivial “drama” taking place among his Nazi characters has the effect of humanizing them and making the horrible genocide they are carrying out seem all the more incomprehensible. By the end of the book I was left wondering how, how, how did the genocidal mania of Nazism ever take hold of nearly an entire nation of seemingly normal human beings? What was the origin of this great hatred, and of the great collective will to act on it?