Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Poetry and Politics

OK, I'm not sure if it is politics exactly, but I liked the two "p" words together.
I was struggling with a poem today and had a feeling it wanted to be a sonnet. So I pulled a volume of Seamus Heaney poems off my shelf ("Opened Ground"). Instead of reading poems for the inspiration of the rhythm, as I had intended, I found myself turning to his speech on accepting the Nobel prize, which is published in the back of the book. You can find it on the internet here. This is a man who grew up amid bitter sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, and managed somehow to acknowledge the reality of what was going on around him, and yet still affirm the value of art and literature. It is well worth reading.

Over at Paris Parfait, Tara, has been posting about the situation in the Middle East. Some have criticised her for presenting "only one side". Each of us is one person with one viewpoint - that's why we listen to each other, to see more than one side. No one person can give a complete view. However Tara has seen what life is like for Palestinians and is telling us about it. Is it a question of sides? Of right and wrong? I don't think so. It is a matter of the future of humanity.

A few of my random thoughts: I don't, of course, expect the Israelis to adopt the injunction "love your enemy". That's a Christian, not a Jewish, concept, and one which Christians have failed miserably to live up to. What the Old Testament teaches is "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". This is taken by some to justify all sorts of retaliation. Actually, it was a concept meant to limit retaliation. You could do no more harm to the enemy than they had done to you.

I grieve with my friend who is part of a peace movement in Israel, for her despair at the future. As she says "Israel's actions only serve to strengthen the extremists".

And yet, I can see what fear for one's existence might do (for both sides).

It is easy to claim justification for one's actions. It reminds me of an epitaph, possibly invented but it makes the point:
"Here likes the body of Henry Grey
who died defending his right of way
he was right, dead right, as he sped along
but he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong".

I realise the above is beginning to get a bit rambling. That's the problem when trying to recognise that there's more than one viewpoint. It really is a lot easier to pick one strong view and stick to it, it makes for a much more coherent argument. Seamus Heaney's piece without being one-sided holds together much better than mine - I recommend it.


paris parfait said...

I love Seamus Heaney's poetry and perspective. And thanks for the nod. The person who criticized me for "having only one side" actually said that he thinks I'm blaming Israel more than Hezbollah and Iran and he's right. I do blame Israel more, because their violence is disproportionate to the attacks against them. Half of Lebanon has been destroyed as a result of their aggression, in addition to all the innocents killed on both sides. And I personally have seen the suffering the Palestinians have endured at the hands of Israeli aggression. I believe both Israel and Palestine have the right to exist, in two separate states - but not one at the expense of the other. OK, off my soapbox now. Thanks for your lovely, insightful post. And the epitaph is excellent!

kenju said...

Michele sent me, Catherine. I also love the epitaph. It is one my mom used to tell me often.