Friday, May 18, 2012

n my mind, no picture of war can be beautiful (in theory), for a poignant act of valour

#Syria + In my mind, no picture of war can be beautiful (in theory), for a poignant act of valour or dreadful sacrifice can too easily be dressed up on a stage with bunting and stirring Nationalist anthems and aggression and "heroes" (or what my compatriot/concitoyen Camille Alexandre Otrakji might mean by heroes) -- because valour is almost always painted by innocent blood -- no matter how stirring the anthem, no matter how emotive the theatrics, no matter how crazed with State pomp (Russia/France/Britain/USA/China).

Yet some images are still moving, emotively beautiful -- as clarity of vision, as a strong dose of reality can be beautiful in effect, beautiful in outcome, even if painful and disturbing to experience.

This is why we cherish and protect and maintain our unifying myths. When Canada's Quebecers were polled back in my Montreal days, in a year-end l'Actualité roundup of opinion, the cover line was Le Canada dans l'peau. The image was of a faceless male's sleeveless t-shirt. The shirt featured the fleur-de-lysée flag of the nation. On the bicep however was the tattoo Je heart [Big Maple Leaf]. One of the inevitable set of political questions on sovereignty checked to see what circumstances might budge Quebec opinion on independence past 50%

The only scenario that got above 50 was if an independent Quebec got to keep the name (Canada) and the anthem (O Canada) and the symbols (Maple Leaf, beaver, etc). 75 percent of Quebecers would have been fine with that. I was struck by the power of Canada's mythic culture in Quebec.


As myths battle in Syria, with great valour, as shells hiss and thud, as blood flows and drains, as real folks become 'ghosts,' here is a striking image from 1931 - Ghosts of Vimy Ridge. No Royal Socialist Confederated Canuckistani can be totally ignorant of our war myth and our settling our national symbols ... and here it is as X-File. Beautiful and horrible as Myth must be. It is a treasure from the collection of Parliament.

I shall repost this starkly beautiful painting again on November 11th, I hope at eleven minutes after the eleventh hour.

The universality of war and destruction tells me that what myths survive must unite in pain and in purpose. No current Syrian Myth can solve X in the horror-stricken daily equation, not without new work, not without time and trust, not without morality clarity and consensus.

I think a mythos must be generally agreeable for a nation to ascribe to it, any nation that has known great death. If Canada is a nation born at Vimy Ridge (but not in Charlottetown), where will the new Syrian myths be tabled and agreed? Is this uniting myth already fielded? Can someone solve the equations?

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