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Tag: Stalinism

The gardening gift

Sunday, 30 June, 2019

What a life! Diplomat, dissident, defector, poet, Nobel Prize winner… Czesław Miłosz did it all, and more. After World War II, he served as Polish cultural attaché in Paris and Washington but, disillusioned with Communism, he defected to the West in 1951. His resulting book, The Captive Mind, exposed the pernicious effects of Marxist orthodoxy on his generation of idealists. “Written before the Berlin Wall went up, The Captive Mind was a key factor in eventually bringing it down,” noted Clive James in Cultural Amnesia.

When the Polish intelligentsia was being “wiped out half by one set of madmen and half by another”, Miłosz found strength in the Bible because it “provided a standard of authenticity against a much more dangerous language, the language of legalized murder,” writes James, a confirmed atheist. Of his own position regarding the Good Book, James declares: “But without the scriptures we poor wretches would be lost indeed, because without them, conscience itself would become just another disturbance of the personality to be cured by counselling. We are surrounded by voices telling us that everything will come right if we learn to love ourselves. Imagine the torment of Jesus in his passion, if, on top of the sponge of vinegar and the spear, they had offered him counselling as well.”

From 1961 to 1998, Miłosz was professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, and he punctuated his stay in the USA by winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Fellow Nobel prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, described Miłosz as “among those members of humankind who have had the ambiguous privilege of knowing and standing more reality than the rest of us.” Born on this day, 30 June, in 1911, Czesław Miłosz died on 14 August 2004 in Kraków.

Gift

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

Czesław Miłosz (1911 – 2004)

Our garden


Ending the North Korean horror show

Monday, 17 April, 2017 0 Comments

It is, said the late Christopher Hitchens in 2010, “the world’s most hysterical and operatic leader-cult.” He was speaking about North Korea, and he was doing so after reading The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B.R. Myers. It matters more than ever because Pyongyang threatens regional security more than ever and a generation of world leaders that has dared not watch this ghastly horror show must now face up to the final act. Today, US Vice-President Mike Pence said that America’s “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over. Good.

The Cleanest Race One can, of course, understand why the world has looked the other way. Who wants to pay the price of battling a death cult? B.R. Myers points out that many of the slogans displayed by the North Korean state are borrowed directly from the evil kamikaze ideology of Japanese imperialism and every North Korean child is told every day of the magnificent possibility of death in the service of the motherland and taught not to fear the idea of nuclear war.

Along with perpetual militarism, North Korean totalitarianism is particularly frightening because its racist nationalism is expressed in gigantic mausoleums and mass parades that blend pure Stalinism with perverted Confucianism. The state’s permanent mobilization is maintained by slave labour and is based on a dogma of xenophobia. There can be little doubt that the regime believes its own propaganda and this suggests that the endless peace talks and disarmament negotiations are an utter and dangerous waste of time.

Since its creation, North Korea has kept its wretched subjects in ignorance and fear and has brainwashed them in the hatred of others. The world can no longer tolerate this repudiation of civilization. The show must end.


Where’s the omelette?

Thursday, 13 March, 2014 0 Comments

In the glory days of the Soviet Union, for which Putin pines so much, it was not uncommon to hear famous apologists for murderous totalitarianism — Sartre, Pete Seger, Picasso, Eric Hobsbawm, Neruda — say that one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.

“Where’s the omelette?” George Orwell asked when confronting an egg-breaking advocate of Stalinism in the 1940s.

When speaking of Vietnam, Cuba and Venezuela today, one should ask the same culinary-ethical question.

unbroken eggs