May 31, 2006

Baghdad E.R.

The end of the quarter is imminent. Hence with the not hearing much out of me lately. However, while taking a break a bit ago I ended up watching the tail end of the HBO special Baghdad E.R. In a word, heartbreaking. In another, infuriating.

But in lieu of rambling on in fury, I'll leave you with a passage from Robert Anton Wilson's 1987 play, Wilhelm Reich in Hell, which I recently re-read. The play was written in the Reagan era and the following passage refers to a seminal event in the life of P.D. Ouspensky during WWI that he recounted in his book about the spiritual teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous. Yet Ouspensky's observations as paraphrased here, as well as the play itself, remain relevant.

Wilhelm Reich was a psychiatrist who studied with Freud and first described the concept of character armoring, or holding repressed emotions as physical tensions. Rolfing and bioenergetics are ideologically descended from Reich's work. Reich himself fled Europe after being subject to harassment for his increasingly heretical ideas, as well as having his books banned by both the Nazis and the communists, and finally moved to the U.S. where a 1956 court order led to the burning of his books and lab equipment. He died in jail about a year later.

REICH
You say Gurdjieff used the term "the horror of the situation"... What did he mean by that?

OUSPENSKY
Gurdjieff meant that as long as people think they are free, they will not work on the techniques to become free. He said it was hard work and that nobody would really try it until they became aware that none of us are free at present. The horror of the situation is that we think we are free and we therefore go on acting mechanically.

REICH
When did you become convinced Gurdjieff was correct about the horror of the situation?

OUSPENSKY
It was after the war started. I saw a lorry...

REICH
This was in Moscow?

OUSPENSKY
Yes.

REICH
You saw a lorry. What sort of lorry?

OUSPENSKY
It was a lorry full of artificial legs. Wooden legs, in those days. It was headed for the front lines.

REICH
A lorry full of wooden legs. And this convinced you of the horror of the situation?

OUSPENSKY
The fighting had hardly started. Those wooden legs were for men whose real legs had not yet been blown off.

REICH
Men whose legs had not been blown off but would be blown off?

OUSPENSKY
Yes. As a mathematician, I had studied a great deal of statistical analysis. I knew the principles the War Office had used in calculating how many wooden legs they would need at the front in the next few weeks. Such mathematical predictions are exact, but only if people behave as they are expected to behave. Only if people are predictable.

REICH
Only if people are armored and mechanical...

OUSPENSKY
Precisely. In that moment, looking at that lorry, I understood the horror of the situation, I understood that two hundred real legs would be blown off, on schedule, and two hundred wooden legs would arrive to replace them, and it was all mathematically certain... Because there was no real consciousness in any of it, just robot reactions. And yet everybody involved had the illusion that they were free and they they were making rational choices. They literally could not see what they were doing or what was going on around them. They had literally taken leave of their senses. ...

And so, my fellow asylum inmates, I bid you good night.

Posted by natasha at May 31, 2006 10:39 PM | Iraq | Technorati links |
Comments

Mike Farrell's review of "Baghdad ER"

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/05/24.html#a8419

I saw "Baghdad ER" on HBO last night (Sunday, May 21). I'd heard that the Defense Dept. had issued warnings urging servicemen and women back from Iraq to be wary of watching as it might trigger PTSD symptoms. Perhaps they hoped those about to go wouldn't watch as well, for fear they might not show up.

"Baghdad ER" is a documentary about a "CASH," a Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. I recommend it for every American, but the queasy be warned: it is excruciating. I cringed at the gore, was sickened by the death, wept at the frustration and resignation of the medics, at the faith of the chaplain, at the simple, shocked, blank expressions on the faces of kids younger than my son victims of this fool's war. Listening to the bravado of some, aching to comfort those who came in knowing they were hurt but not how badly, made me want to scream. Watching this horrifying, endless process, the tears on my face kept drying from the heat of my anger. Glorious, generous, talented, dedicated human beings forced to be part of this circus of carnage made me so furious I couldn't speak at the end.

I loathe the people who have created this monstrosity. I want the criminals who lied and cheated and pretended and twisted and perverted reality - and those who rationalized their crimes - so they could send over 2400 servicemen and woman to their death, nearly 18,000 to come home torn - some never to be whole again - thousands more to suffer mental damage, and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians to be swept into the garbage can of "collateral damage," to pay. These bastards and their apologists should be stripped naked and forced to walk the main streets of America, allowing every city and town that has lost a loved one to injury or death in this shameful catastrophe to heap on them the scorn they deserve.

John F. Kennedy said America would never start a war. Well, it has now, and its architects have damaged our character, poisoned our standing in the world and soiled the soul of what was once the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Posted by: the wizard of Oil at May 31, 2006 10:50 PM