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Disaster

The Tragedy of Andreas Lubitz

Friday, 27 March, 2015 0 Comments

They buried Richard III in Leicester Cathedral yesterday. As the excavated remains of the blood-sodden English king were being laid to rest, the Bishop of Leicester said, “All our journeys lead to this place where reputation counts for nothing.” But what does this mean? That history does not distinguish between good and evil? That the passenger and the pilot are made equal when the plane crashes? Shakespeare begged to differ, and he had this to say in The Tragedy of Richard the Third, Act 5, Scene 3:

What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Richard loves Richard; that is, I and I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain. Yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter:
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

Brice Robin, the chief prosecutor of Marseilles, listened to the recovered audio file, from start to finish, of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525. He concluded that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz knew his actions and his slow, steady breathing were being recorded.
“Is there a murderer here?”
Why did the lives of those 149 people mean absolutely nothing to him?
“Alas, I rather hate myself.”
We do not know what goes through the mind of a person who feels utter despair. We cannot comprehend the anguish the chronically depressed feel. We are unable to understand the actions of those who have lost all hope. But the Bishop of Leicester was wrong in claiming that all our journeys lead to a place where reputation counts for nothing. Those who write the rough drafts of history have examined the last moments of the co-pilot and his hostage passengers. Their Shakespearean verdict will stand:
“And every tale condemns me for a villain.”


Primo Levi remembers the horror of Auschwitz

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015 0 Comments

Primo Levi described his return to Italy from the Auschwitz concentration camp in La tregua (The Truce). The Truce In this Paris Review interview, Levi reminisces about one of the book’s characters: “You remember Mordo Nahum? I had mixed feelings toward him. I admired him as a man fit for every situation. But of course he was very cruel to me. He despised me because I was not able to manage. I had no shoes. He told me, Remember, when there is war, the first thing is shoes, and second is eating. Because if you have shoes, then you can run and steal. But you must have shoes. Yes, I told him, well you are right, but there is not war any more. And he told me, Guerra es siempre. There is always war.”

Today, as the world commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we should strive to understand the revulsion that Primo Levi felt towards those who took part in the Nazi extermination campaign and also towards those who could have but did not speak out against it. In memory of the murdered millions, here’s an excerpt from The Truce:

“There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred: it is hate that is not in us, it is outside of man. We cannot understand it, but we must understand from where it springs, and we must be on our guard. If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Consciences can be seduced and obscured again — even our consciences. For this reason, it is everyone duty to reflect on what happened. Everybody must know, or remember, that when Hitler and Mussolini spoke in public, they were believed, applauded, admired, adored like gods. They were ‘charismatic leaders’; they possessed a secret power of seduction that did not proceed from the soundness of things they said but from the suggestive way in which they said them, from their eloquence, from their histrionic art, perhaps instinctive, perhaps patiently learned and practised. The ideas they proclaimed were not always the same and were, in general, aberrant or silly or cruel. And yet they were acclaimed with hosannas and followed to the death by millions of the faithful.”


Dear Prime Minister, Iraq and IS

Sunday, 17 August, 2014 0 Comments

The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, writes to Prime Minister David Cameron. Snippet:

2. The focus by both politicians and media on the plight of the Yezidis has been notable and admirable. However, there has been increasing silence about the plight of tens of thousands of Christians who have been displaced, driven from cities and homelands, and who face a bleak future. Despite appalling persecution, they seem to have fallen from consciousness, and I wonder why. Does your Government have a coherent response to the plight of these huge numbers of Christians whose plight appears to be less regarded than that of others? Or are we simply reacting to the loudest media voice at any particular time?

The inaction of Cameron and Obama in the face of Islamic extremism is very disturbing, and their apparent embarrassment in addressing the plight of persecuted Christians is alarming. Once again, the West is sleepwalking towards a catastrophe.