April 14, 2012 Dear Julia, Happy birthday, my love! Today…
THUGS WITH MASKS WHO TAKE ORDERS FROM NOBODY
God be praised for Netflix!
Over the past three years, the mail order DVD rental service has significantly enriched my life in a way no conventional bricks-and-mortar video store could.
Please keep in mind I am not a movie junkie. In fact, the number of movies I have paid to see in the theaters has drastically declined over the past several years. To be exact, in the past 12 months I saw “300,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “The History Boys,” and “Casino Real” (the last two I saw on the same ticket: I paid for the first, and then snuck into see the second afterwards: a summer night of freedom and relaxation with my wife last July). Until the last few years I saw as many movies as most Americans but joined the rest of the country in finding better things to do than go to the movie house.
And to be entirely frank, I sat through maybe ten to fifteen movies from Nextlix last year and no more. In the sparse spare time I have, I would much rather read a book or learn something new on the computer. To spend almost two hours just sitting there watching a movie increasingly looks like a very poor use of time when I could actually DO something. In particular, it appears almost unforgivable to passively sit back and watch a movie when I could actively sit up and engage in my favorite and most fulfilling activity, writing. My beloved wife watches the vast majority of the movies in our household.
But Netflix has such an extensive library that the few movies I have seen have been so worth it, enriching my life. They have not been of that “entertainment” genre (romantic comedy; blockbuster thriller) that so burdens and stupefies America, but of the educational and documentary sort. I have seen a number of small-run, independent moves that I could never have accessed at the local Blockbuster video rental store on the corner.
And I saw these two movies called “The Gaza Strip” and “Death in Gaza” (in addition to “La Sierra” ).
These movie was made for little money and without the backing of a major studio. It was pretty much an independent filmmaker and his or her assistant with a digital camera walking around Gaza. Blissfully, the filmmakers let the camera show what it will show and there is little or none of the blatant editorializing that absolutely ruin somewhat similar films by Michael Moore or other polemicists. What truth could ever be gleaned from either “Farenheit 9/11” or “FahrenHYPE 9/11” It is the worst sort of blindly partisan opinionating that makes journalism into a gladiatorial activity giving off much heat but little light!)
And just watching the film pan up and down the Gaza strip and letting the young “gunmen” talk into the camera, I learned several things I had not known before — and would not have been able to learn through the mainstream media.
Firstly, Gaza is run by young men who can barely write their name, have no job other than to fight, and have all their social status tied up in being a “gunmen.” These sorts are never going to lay down their arms and get an honest job: they are “toughs.” Violence is what they have known since their earliest days. They maybe take orders from semi-recognized “superiors,” maybe not. They have the guns and the “guts,” and that is all they have; this is their way of life. Should any peace agreement be signed between the Palestinians and Israelis these guys are not going to go get legitimate jobs in grocery stores or driving taxis. It is the same in South Central Los Angeles, the favellas of Brazil, or the hillsides of Medellin. Violent young men who are illiterate and know nothing besides the gun and the struggle. Thugs who have little to offer besides violence. Gunmen who rarely live to be 30, who every eleven-year old boy in the neighborhood looks up to and wants to become, and who society’s elders shake their head with disappointment at —
— but the elders don’t have the power in Gaza or in South Central. That is the problem!
It is the young thugs who have the guns and the power. God help the society that is run by young men with guns and no education! Too much testosterone. So little to offer in terms of constructive action. “We fight, therefore we exist!” The Israelis will never have peace with them. Without Israel as an enemy, these young men have nothing to live for. As usual in the Middle East, the extremists are in the driver’s seat.
This “gunman” living amidst the rubble might agree he lives in a dump, but it is HIS dump! He has no idea what it is like to live in a “normal” society. He has never had a boss of the routine sort. He has his status because he has a gun and friends with guns. What he wants, he takes. He doesn’t really care about what other people not from his neighborhood think about him. He has no vision of a practical alternative for himself or his community. He lives to fight. It is all he knows.
He has a gun. What do you have?
All this I learned from documentary filmmakers who were simply willing to take a camera and let it record what it saw without external editorializing or meddling. I could hear these gunmen look into the camera and say their piece: I could filter their words and actions through my own life experience; and I could make up my own mind. It was very educational and well worth my time. I learned more from those two movies than in all the “L.A. Times,” “NPR,” and “Atlantic Monthly” articles of the past few years combined. Why? Because the media elites stopped talking and proffering their own analysis and simply let the participants talk for themselves.
As a consequence, when I read of the street fighting this week between the gunmen of Fatah and Hamas in Gaza, I knew what was happening. This tough guy was fighting it out with that tough guy, and little or none of it was going to be controlled by the supposed leaders of the Fatah or Hamas political organizations. This was a street issue. They would fight until they were done. They weren’t taking orders. It was a dogfight in Gaza that would go on until one side got the other by the neck.
Then there would be revenge, either from the Israelis or a rival Palestinian group. The Palestinian people in Gaza would be the big losers, in the end — all million and a half of them.
It is a tenuous thing to have regular army soldiers with a clear chain of command and legal accountability to an established government obey the rules and not abuse their power in a combat situation. You have a rifle and buddies with rifles; you have the power of life and death. That is a dangerous authority to give anyone. But give “gunmen” rather than soldiers that power in a situation with few rules and almost no accountability and it is a prescription for widespread and unstoppable violence.
There is a difference between a “soldier” and a “gunman.” Look at the Gaza strip, as well as other parts of the Arab world: the power of the gunman. No good will come of it.
THE GAZA STRIP: RULE BY “GUNMEN”
“We fight, therefore we exist!”