9A Vane Attempt

"Don't Need A Weatherman To Tell Which Way the Wind Blows"

A Series of Innocuous Blogs for Vainglorious Edification.

A Ghetto of Disbelief
March 31, 2007

In Jon Avnet’s excellent, moving film “Uprising” we are given the story of the Jewish underground in the Warsaw ghetto.  It is a powerful telling of heroism and courage in the face of overwhelming odds.  Amidst the selfless acts, the refusal to accept extermination, the uncompromising bravery - there are deeply disturbing images.  The one that comes hauntingly to mind is that of a completely naked woman, lying dead in a busy ghetto street - people stepping over the body.  Then a man, overwhelmed with shame, attempts to cover it with newspapers.  No sooner has
he pitifully covered the woman, a bitter wind blows the papers carelessly away.  And again there is a dead woman lying naked in a Warsaw street filled with terror.

The image disturbs in the way the newcomer to big cities are disturbed to see the sick and poor crouching in doorways.  Like the homeless vet lying drunk on a sidewalk so that people must step awkwardly around him.  Or the child beggars with filthy faces and broken teeth.  Or the legless woman pulling herself down a broken sidewalk on a roller board.  But the Warsaw ghetto is more grotesque, more chilling, more uncomfortable, because it is death that must be ignored.  The woman is dead from who knows what - a gunshot to the head, a rifle butt in the face, a bayonet to the gut.  She is dead, naked, and people around her blind themselves to it. 

And we must ask ourselves in what kind of hell is it that people ignore such depravity?  What level of existence must one descend to extinguish the compassion of human nature?  Because it is human nature to care about  human degradation.  But in 1940, the Warsaw ghetto, where three hundred fifty thousand Jews were herded  like so many cattle - people had human nature stripped from them like the naked body in the street.  People were so filled with fear, terror, anxiety and loathing they were no longer human beings at all.  It was a killing field.  A battleground of the most decrepit making.  A place where at any minute you could be stopped, stripped and bludgeoned by  hellacious “soldiers.”  Some of whom, unfortunately were Jews wearing Police uniforms - working for the Nazis. 

When confronted with what appears to be the outrage of dispassion, the crime of denial, inaction in the face of disaster - we cannot avoid the lessons of this hell.  Every man… Every man  will strap on blinders to allow their soul to survive.  Those who do not, who cannot, will die victims of their own thin skin or at the hands of the murderers.  What is shocking but altogether true is that people in the face of horror will go to any length to insulate themselves from it.  Who among us has not stepped over a  body in a city street?  Who does not erase the vision of a man mercilessly beating a child ?  Who doesn’t seek refuge from the horrors of war and death and brutality - in order to protect our fragile souls from overwhelming collapse? 

We then ask ourselves when does the face of disaster, or catastrophe, inspire good behavior?  Are we really expecting people to act with nobility because they are shown mayhem?  Do we really think that the concoctions of storms and natural disaster will force people to act the way we wish?  We live in a world so inundated with media-spouting calamity that to call people “desensitized” is a pathetic understatement.  Is it any wonder we get tepid reactions from people who live in a televised ghetto of  pillage, disease, and cynical forces pitting man against man?  The message is that when the boy cries wolf too many times - people will disregard the cry.  They will walk around that naked body avoiding compassion and “good” behavior.  

We have seen too much.  We have been alarmed too many times.  We have been beaten with the cynicism of those that hate human nature too long.  For those who hope these conflagrations will bring about great swings in human consciousness - you are mistaken.  You have overplayed your hand one too many times.  The village no longer listens to your cry for help.  The people walk around your call for compassion.  Because you have drowned their spirits in fear; in confected horror, in excess.  It is a failed policy to beat a child to teach it kindness.  You have built a ghetto, filled it with horror, and now stand blinking when your players blind themselves to it.  "Exaggeration leads the coalition of disbelief."

There is a new way to inspire the nascent spirit.  It does not divide.  It does not separate.  It reaches to the extremes of all sides and brings them together in loving embrace.