You are an ethnic and cultural group based in another country. Your people, in the Nationalist army for said country, are systematically disarmed and taken away and executed. Your great thinkers, politicians and intellectual leaders are rounded up and killed. Anyone from your racial group is taken from their homes and either summarily executed or placed on forced marches which practically guarantee death. You are, of course, denied any food or water on these marches, so it's rather a given that your captors won't be surprised if you die.
If you are not on a forced march, you may be taken out on a ship to sea that is deliberately sunk. Some of your people fare even better; they are stretched out, like sacrifical animals and have their limbs, from the fingers to the arms to the torso, cut off piece by excruciating piece.
Now, does this sound slightly like genocide? According to twenty countries - France, Argentina, Italy, Sweden, etc. - it certainly does. If you're the UK, you might jump in and say it does. Well, you stood up to the Nazis and the Holocaust was undeniably an act of atrocious genocide. However, what if you had a lot to gain from the political and geographical strength of the country which perpetuated these crimes? I guess, if you're the UK, you demur on the subject.
Let's not beat about the bush: America has a lot to lose if Turkey pitches a fit and does something childish, like withdraw access to their military bases, if a resolution is passed to recognise the Armenian genocide. But America is the world leader; it has the strength and clout to push this through, despite Turkey's objections and threats. America surely can't bow to threats from this country? I really hope so. It's time Turkey was made to acknowledge at least one of its sadistic crimes over the last century.
Go on, Turkey. Throw your toys out of the pram. You murdered over a million people in an act of cold-blooded GENOCIDE that was so ruthless and efficient, it inspired the Nazis in that little-known Holocaust.
The entire thing makes me furious. Some commentators worry that the US acknowledging what happened will destroy the bridges built between Turkey and the US, and Armenia and Turkey, recently. Well, who wants to cross a bridge based on genocide denial, anyway?
Working with tenuously-linked relatives (i.e. 20th cousin twice-removed), I have managed to make some headway with my mother's maternal grandmother and her side of the family line. Whereas the Gordons enjoyed silly adventures and fell from a position of monied idleness in Scotland (I wonder if Alexander ever regretted running away with the maidservant), the Gauls were just one long line of Fail.
Robert Gaul was born around 1800, possibly in Lincoln, before deciding to set off on his merry way and go and see Liverpool. There, he fell in with Esther Connor, an Irish immigrant and they had an amazing life together.
If by Amazing Life, we mean thrown into the Walton workhouse, along with their children. Esther died there at 47 years of age; Robert once again disappears from history.
All their children made their way out of the workhouse eventually, although one son, Thomas (and a direct ancestor of mine) seemed to really, really like that place. For what does he do but get slung back in there when he's 50? His wife Ann either scarpered or died, which really was probably the most sensible option. What a joyless lot! They could have at least called one of their sons Asterix.
Anyway, so I Googled Walton workhouse. Pssh! Good thing nobody ends up there these days. And it was this:
At which point, I was all OMGWTF! Because, during a particularly depressing and awful, awful stint working at Aintree hospital, I had to go to the grey, ugly, despairing Walton hospital site to work. I honestly thought my working life could not get any worse. And the view from my window in that hellish place was... this clock tower. Yes, Walton Workhouse became Walton Hospital. The Gaul Fail continues for another generation. D:
Casablanca, the Marseillaise scene.
Forget Ilsa and Rick (though I love you, bbs); to dismiss this film as nothing but a turgid romance is To Miss the Point.
In this scene, Victor (Ilsa's husband and therefore love rival) is begging Rick to sell much-needed papers for him to flee to America with Ilsa and escape Nazi persecution. Rick, full of jealousy and unable to see why Ilsa loves him, refuses to sell them. And yet, Victor forgets this to once again stand up for what is right. The Nazis are singing Der Wacht am Rhein, an Austrian nationalistic song whilst the refugees of those countries they have persecuted sit around, listless and unmoved.
Lazslo is beside himself with anger; although he should be keeping his head down, he cannot stand to see this. He demands that the band play La Marseillaise and the people, moved, inspired, stand to sing it with him, drowning out the Nazis as they do so; a deadly but brave show of defiance. Contre nous de la tyrannie - against us, tyranny.
It's heartbreaking. At the time of its making, Europe was in turmoil. France had been ravaged with bloodshed and war, refugees fleeing the country. This film was made right in the middle of the war; who knew what would happen? Would the Allies win? Would France ever stand again?
Then of course, drunken, lascivious Louis has to come in and shut the place down because he's shocked, SHOCKED that gambling is taking place in the establishment. Brilliant, high drama followed by sharp comedy. Tell me it's not perfect.
Runners up: The kids with the paving slab in Hostel, interview with the boss in Fight Club.
30 Days of Night: We're not scared
But let me show you something else instead. Right in the city centre in Liverpool, there is a decrepit churc called St. Luke's, a dubious landmark better known to Liverpudlians as 'The Bombed-Out Church'. It is reasonably old, with work begun in 1811. It has been closed off to the public since 5th of May, 1941, when an incendiary bomb was dropped by the Germans, destroying the interior of the church with fire.
For years, Chris and I have ached to go and see the inside of the church. I even took to begging a film crew that were using the grounds for a television drama a few years back, to no avail. So when we saw that the church has been opened as part of an art installation, with admission a princely £1, we leapt at the chance. Thankfully, Chris had his camera with him that day...
I'm thrilled that we finally managed to see that church. It's a piece of history that is now being actively preserved because it's such a huge part of local culture - the war, the Irish famine and how it changed Liverpool forever. It's a much-loved landmark and, ironically, its decay has saved it. Whereas the beautiful old Polish church was turned into the Alma de Cuba bar, this church shall now be preserved. For once, the city council's policy of neglect has worked to Liverpool's advantage.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her iights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
- Rupert Brooke, The Soldier
I am definitely more of the Wilfred Owen mindset to war and bloodshed, and screw patriotism, but at least the eleventh of November can be used to remember the human cost of war and the ultimate sacrifice given by so many millions of people, whether justified or not. Rest in peace.
ETA: English pome only chosen because I couldn't think of any non-bitter war poem that didn't focus on England. Er, yeah.
I caught Downfall on television last night-- that controversial German film about the last days of Hitler's life, as he spiralled into further delusion whilst the Russians marched on Berlin. It was dark, depressing viewing, as expected, but in humanising Hitler a little (something this film has been criticised for) it actually brought out the sheer horror of this man's regime and twisted viewpoints. It was stringently researched, and scenes and quotes were taken directly from accounts of those with him in those final days, particularly Hitler's secretary, Trudl.
Hitler demonstrated callous disregard for his own people while acting tenderly towards the women in his life. Berlin was torn apart by infighting amongst the troops, some of whom slaughtered shellshocked German people who could no longer struggle on. And yet, despite this, some people still followed him blindly as he passed the death sentence on all those around him, as Frau Goebbels poisoned her own children and took her own life after staying with the dictator. I think it was one of the most effective films I've seen about that terrible period, conveying suffering and the best and worst of human nature succinctly in a film that never patronised nor judged and that was for me more effective in some ways than many other films I've seen about the Second World War.
At the end of the film, the real Trudl (who died in 2002) expressed bitter regret that she was ever foolish and naive enough to take up with such a ruthless regime. She said that she had always told herself that she had been young, she hadn't known about the concentration camps, the widespread slaughter across Europe. And then she said that one day, she came across a plaque dedicated to Sophie Scholl, the young German woman who was executed by the Nazis for drawing attention to the slaughter going on in Germany at the time. Trudl pointed out that Sophie had been born in the same year as her, and was executed in the same year that Trudl began to work for Hitler-- if she had wanted to find out the truth, then she could have. Like a lot of people, she chose to ignore it and the full horror of what had been happening only came out towards the end of Hitler's reign and the dark postwar period. Very sobering.
Last night, I stayed up to watch a pretty innovative documentary on BBC2 about George Orwell. They used fake footage with an actor speaking his words, giving already powerful or amusing thoughts on everything from the death penalty to the Spanish civil war to patriotism to making a cup of tea.
One part of the documentary focused on his days spent with the British police in India when it was controlled by the Empire. He mused at one point that it struck him how inherently wrong, and how hypocritical it is, for a power to force itself on another country and then presume to police it with force and expect the inhabitants to be grateful.
I wish we had a writer as powerful as Orwell around to record the events of today.