Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Troubles of Human Life

The emblem here is from Alciato's Book of Emblems, Emblem 152 at:
The Latin name of the emblem is “In vitam humanam” or “On human life”.
The interpretation of the text is: “Weep for the troubles of human life now more than usual, Heraclitus: it overflows with many calamities. You, on the other hand, Democritus, laugh even more, if ever you laughed: life has become more ridiculous. Meanwhile, seeing these things, I wonder: how far in the end, Heraclitus, I may weep with you, or how, Democritus, I may joke merrily with you.”

Last night I watched the film clip “Manufactured Consent” a 1996 documentary of Noam Chomsky talking about how the media tends to tell us what it wants us to know and to distract us from what government doesn’t want us to know

This morning, I read a news item in Haaretz about four people arrested in Oslo, Norway and accused in “an alleged plot to decapitate the Israeli ambassador to Oslo and blow up the Israeli and American embassies in the city”.

“The evidence against the suspects was revealed in the course of extending the suspects' remand….”

What a creative use of passive voice, delicately sidestepping such nasty details about who did what to whom. Apparently, after the people were arrested, they were invited to spend the night (extending their remand) and at some point, possibly over tea and cookies, the information about the alleged bomb plot “was revealed”. Maybe they were playing Scrabble and “beheading” made a triple word score, and they got to chatting, and the next thing you know, one of the players blurted something about a bombing and beheading plot. Ooops!

Seeing these things, I wonder how much longer we can laugh to keep from crying. Our news is relayed through words tortured of cruel meaning, so we can all look away. The clown Democritus might laugh, but it’s enough to make Heraclitus cry. Life’s calamities are made to look like a sleep-over.

If you want, you can read it and weep yourself: