We Are In Hell

a problem from hell cover

As stated here and there throughout worstwriter.com, I’ve been living the expat life since 1989 in a kind of daze. One of the main reason for that is, well, #Americant political conservatism manifest in the ideology of greed, can be confusing to those who are born to think free–and not the free one is told to think, i.e. think like the behaviourists that are (make-up) the greed $hitshow. Even though I eventually found certain cures for daze & (fake)free(dom) living in THE OLD COUNTRY, those cures were never the motivating factor to… expatriating till my gonads fall off. Indeed. Put another worst-way. There was so much STUPID brewing back home (in the 1970s and 80s, etc.) because of political conservatism and greed-galore, THE OLD COUNTRY and its lingering history, including a century or so of culture and art and willing women, was a godsend to someone yearning for anything but the status quo of money, money, money–and militarism. Of course, don’t get me wrong, dear worst-reader. #Eurowasteland is full of greed-mongers and in its essence just as STUPID as my beloved & missed #Americant. In fact, the capitalism-game that regulates to protect the rich of old Europe is as strong as ever. The only difference to #Americant is that Europe’s redistribution (of wealth) isn’t as one sided. But redistributed it is all the same. And before I get too far off subject.

Just finished the book “A Problem From Hell” by Samantha Power. It’s been on my to-read list for some time. I first heard of the book after it won the Pulitzer and was also recommended by Barry-O as he chose the author as a national security adviser. In fact, I think he picked her partly because of this book. And so. If anyone wants to know a detailed history of Genocide in the twentieth century, this is your book. Power details the origins of Genocide as an international and legal concept since the Armenian Genocide beginning in 1915. Power also details the genocide in Cambodia, Iraq, the whole mess that was/is the former Yugoslavia, and Rwanda. The book is a vast and well chronicled explanation of what is often referred to as “a problem from hell”, which is ultimately nothing more than humans killing humans for really, really, really stupid reason. To my surprise there was nothing in this book about Indonesian or East Timor, although both are referred to a few times.

They were killing anyone who wore glasses because if they wore glasses it suggested they knew how to read, and if they knew how to read, it suggested they had been infected with the bourgeois virus. It was a Great Leap Forward that made the Great Leap Forward under Mao look like a tentative half step. –Stephen Solarz @ Cambodia Genocide in 1975

The chapter that stirred me the most is the one on Cambodia. Having grown up in the wake of Vietnam, a war that fills my earliest memories of black & white television viewing while stuck in the humdrum of suburban hell, I’ve always been a bit curious as to the various power-proxies that made Southeast Asia tick (back then). The detailing of the Cambodian Genocide also presented me with an explanation of the fight against communism in the region, but with it all being twisted because of certain national and international interests and/or relationships. Lucky for me, this book is not only informative about Genocide but also is a wonderful narration regarding #Americants most dramatic war-loss.

In 1975, when its ally, the oil-producing, anti-Communist Indonesia, invaded East Timor, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians, the United States looked away. In the Cambodia case perhaps the most important factor behind (President Jimmy) Carter’s choice was US fondness for China, which remained the prime military and economic backer of Pol Pot’s ousted government. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski saw the problem through the Sino-Soviet prism. Since the US interest lay with China, they lay, indirectly, with the Khmer Rouge. Slamming the KR might jeopardise the United States’ new bond with China. Slamming the Vietnamese would cost the United States nothing.
-Samantha Powers, “A Problem From Hell”

Another profound detail Powers chronicles is that of Bosnia in the 1990s. Keep in mind, dear worst-reader, I began my expatriation in the old country just before hell broke out in the former Yugoslavia. As the war in the Balkans waged on, I lived only a day’s drive away from it all. It was also a time, due to personal issues, I was in and out of different hospitals. Not only was Germany doctoring Kuwaitis and some Iraqis from Desert Storm but also people from Croatia and Serbia. In one hospital an entire floor was being used to help the war wounded. Also, various makeshift housing facilities were put up throughout Germany to help the displaced from Yugoslavia. Along with a few church goers we used to bring old clothes and shoes and sometimes fresh cookies for the kids. When I tried to communicate with some of the refugees in either broken German or broken English, it became clear that many people weren’t willing to talk about their aggressors. But a few did mention the brutality and hate of Serbs towards Muslims. Of the serbs I’ve met and befriended in Germany, they’ve all been pretty upright and very friendly people. Needless to say, the Bosnia war was a fcuking mess.

Serb gunmen knew that their violent deportation and killing campaign would not be enough to ensure the lasting achievement of ethnic purity. The armed marauders sought to sever permanently the bond between citizens and land. Thus, they forced fathers to castrate their sons or molest their daughters; they humiliated and raped (often impregnating) young women. Theirs was a deliberate policy of destruction and degradation.
-Samantha Powers, “A Problem From Hell”

The only gripe I have with this book is that I’m not sure so many pages are required to explain what Genocide is and/or what some think its place should be in politics. On the other hand, this book might be enough to explain one particular aspect of humanity–mostly how men beguiled by power and/or moneyed and/or ideological interests always have a desire/need/want to kill, kill, kill. Only her writing style kept me reading this book, even though I often found myself resorting to skimming a few pages here and there because I was already familiar with Rwanda and Bosnia (from other sources). I can’t help but think, though, this type of book might not be the proper means to make a wide audience aware of Genocide. Something is missing. I’m just not sure what that is yet. That worst-said, it is a worthwhile read if you have any questions about how the term Genocide came to be, the first third of the book deals with exactly that subject. That worst-said… I still have a few questions about Serbia’s hate issues.

Rant on.


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