Elisa's Blog
Friday, November 18, 2005
This morning I came across the following passage from Günter Grass's Mein Jahrhundert ("My Century"), which is a collection of short sketches about life in Germany during the past 100 years as described from many different viewpoints (a housewife, a soccer star, a laborer, a doctor, a child, a journalist set to interview Remarque and Ernst Jünger, for instance, among many others), with each chapter depicting one each of the years in question.

The following passage is from the chapter corresponding to the year 1991:

"You don't see any dead people. All you see are wobbly gun sights and then hits. Bull's-eyes supposedly. It's like a game...."
     "Right. Because CNN's got the TV rights for this war---and the next one after that..."
     "But you do see oil fields burning...."
     "Because that's what the whole thing's about. Oil and only oil! Any kid knows that. That's why they're out in the streets. Leaving their teachers, leaving whole schools empty. In Hamburg, Berlin, Hannover. Even in the East---Schwerin, Rostock. They're carrying candles again, like two years ago...."
     "But when we marched against the war in Vietnam and napalm..."
     "Don't give me any of your '68 crap.While you're sitting here on your ass, those kids..."
     "It's not the same. We had our own perspective, a revolutionary concept, you might say, whereas these kids with their candles..."
     "But comparing Saddam to Hitler, that makes sense, doesn't it? Isn't it clear what's good and what's evil?"
     "It's more of a metaphor.We should have gone on talking, negotiating, used an economic boycott the way we did in South Africa. Pressure, not war..."
     "But this is no war! It's a show put on by CNN. A co-production with the Pentagon. The consumer can turn it on and off at will. Fireworks in the comfort of your own home. Nice and clean. No deaths. A science-fiction extravaganza. Just add pretzels..."
     "But you do see the oil fields burning and missiles falling on Israel. There are people in basements with gas masks on...."
     "And who's been arming Saddam against Iran all these years? Right. The Yanks, the French..."
     "And German business. Here. Look. A long list of choice goods: missile accessories, poison kitchens with recipes..."
     "I guess that's why that Bierman guy, who I always thought was a pacifist, I guess that's why he's for the war. He even says..."
     "He doesn't say shit; he just blasts the people who don't agree with him...."
     "Know what he calls the kids marching with the candles for peace? Crybabies..."
     "Because they have no goal in mind. No broader social perspective, whereas we..."
     "What about 'No blood for oil!' Doesn't that say something?"
     "Not enough. When we marched against the war in Vietnam..."
     "Look, 'Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh!' is not what you'd call a brilliant argument. And now it's a bunch of kids out in the streets. Munich, Stuttgart. Over five thousand of them. Play-group kids even. They march a while in silence, then burst out with 'I'm scared! I'm scared!' That's a first for Germany---public confession....If you want my opinion..."
     "Who needs fucking opinions! Look at those kids, will you? What isn't Adidas is Armani. Spoiled brats, scared their designer clothes are in jeopardy, whereas in '68 and later---when we marched against the Frankfurt airport expansion and the Pershing II in Mutlangen---that was the real thing. These toddlers and their candles..."
     "Look, isn't that how it began in Leipzig? Every Monday we met at the Nikolai Church for a peaceful march. Every Monday till the bosses got the jitters..."
     "It's not the same...."
     "But Hitler and Saddam. They go together, don't they?"
     "The oil fields are burning...."
     "And in Baghdad a shelter packed with civilians was..."
     "You don't see that on CNN..."
     "Of course not. This is the future. TV rights will be auctioned off before every war. And the time to start pre-production is now. Because there'll be another one soon. Somewhere else if not in the Gulf..."
     "In the Balkans? The Serbs and the Croats..."
     "No, only where there's oil..."
     "And where you don't see any dead people..."
     "And only the children are scared..."

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