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Refuge for the rational.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

You're On the List 

And last but not least, we’re watching Schindler’s list. That may seem tacky to some of you, it certainly seemed that way to me initially, though I’m not entirely certain why. I do know that college film students are conditioned to regard anything Hollywood with a certain degree of hostility and scepticism, which may in itself be fairly tacky.

This is most definitely the case for most of the tacky fuckers in my class. You all know about my most unreasonable loathing of a certain halo-endowed individual in this class (the validity of which has been more than confirmed by now). What I’ve come to realise is that I’ve wandered into a class populated with varying degrees of this person—he’s only their leader. There is power in numbers you know.

Of course we know that—that’s why Nazi film was supposed to be so interesting. Unfortunately, the rhetoric level in this class has reached maximum capacity. I want to throw things. Probably poo.

The lecture today began with questions regarding our reactions to the film. Most of us (myself included, after watching it last night) confessed we enjoyed it. Those who are clearly intellectually superior to us, however, snickered, and in audibly more…scholastic British…voices, began to list reasons why the film was a piece of cinematic shit. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. If someone actually gave a credible reason for not liking the film, I could live with that. The reason given was that people who did not live through the holocaust first hand had no capacity to make movies depicting it. Of course those weren’t their exact words, but I don’t consider that description to be dumbed down whatsoever; I’ve merely removed the fancy bullshit rhetoric.

I wouldn’t disagree that our sickening modern lives of entitlement and endowment have allowed us a certain degree of blindness when it comes to hardships and issues of actual survival. Most of us will never have to go hungry or fight for our lives. Most of us are lucky that the drama in our lives is of our own construction and our own faults and completely within our own control to stop. It is, however, an atrocity and really fucking gross that we think this semblance of peace and order and control means that we are somehow removed from what happened sixty years ago in Europe, or for that matter, fifteen years ago in Rwanda (besides the degree of organization, there is no difference whatsoever). The whole point of making films like Schindler’s List is not to accurately record details about isolated historical events caused by isolated, and conveniently dead, individuals, but so that we remember that individuals are collectively capable of committing such acts and that it is well within human nature, and well within our individual nature’s to do so. The attempt to isolate these events to a particular time and space is nothing more than a ridiculous and pious attempt to isolate one’s self from the possible ugliness of our character.

I think this is why the Amon Goeth character was so accessible. It wasn’t an accident that we could identify with certain aspects of his character, such as his susceptibility to Schindler’s suggestion that true power is forgiveness. Most of us are slaves to our egos, and therefore we should have identified and even laughed, especially when he single-handedly re-created The Creation of Adam in the mirror. It isn’t far-fetched to consider him an extreme and perverse version of ourselves. And of course, there is the multifaceted use of hands. There is endless symbolism in the use of hands in this film—it is so diverse and multilayered at times, I think I’ll write an entire essay about it.

There is a downfall to liberalism. It is always the kid with the dreadlocks and the adbusters stickers on his dirty water bottle who will claim that we can’t talk about anything but our own experience. That we have no right. They think this is respectful in some bizarre way. Don’t fuck with the hard facts, they say. This kind of attitude merely separates people and their experience instead of regarding events from the point of view of human nature. So long as you’re too liberal to (wash) consider things from a holistic point of view, and to consider yourself woven from the same thread, you are validating segregation. I'm not suggesting that responsibility lay at the feet of those who weren't there. I'm simply suggesting that we stop deluding ourselves about who and what we are.

Is it that we have no right to tell this story, or is it that we have no right to make you look at yourself in this light? The fear of tainting the real, lived, experience of the holocaust is nothing more than an attempt to separate the self from the possibility of it. Keeping your distance is the perfect way to ensure that it can and will happen again.
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