Speaking from Portugal, a poor country that happens to have a magnificente geographical location, this may sound dramatic and nonsense. After all, we’re all safe here. We have some wheat, potatoes, cows, sheep, milk and sunshine, ocean surfers and couch surfers, though definitely less crowd surfing than needed. Basically, nothing with global significance is happening here, as it usually isn’t. We have been part of Europe’s strategic plan for world dominance since 1986, but, being poor and highly dependent on external supplies, we keep challenging our survival skills and enjoying ourselves as we can. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, last Wednesday, everyone has been very supportive towards those who have their lives on the line, with family and friends back in Ukraine. Some are considering going back to join the army. Familial protests are happening almost everyday. Non-ukrainian people hang-out, shout come slogans, clap, call Putin a mass murderer, take some photographs and videos to post on social media – to prove they were out and about – and move on.
Let me just shake the nausea provoked by all the joy and stupidity parading around me since Wednesday and say: go fuck yourselves (no children included)!
I’m being cynic overhere, I know. Today I joined one of these protests. Knew it was pointless and meaningless, but felt obliged to. Stayed for less than an hour, immediately recognizing that I didn’t belong and that I was just falling prey to the apparatus. I’m no stranger to protests, know one shouldn’t overthink the reasons for being there. Also know they are autonomous living beings with a soul. What matters most is that we make things noticeable, audible, visible. But who can hear us this time? And for those who listen to protests around the world, what are we saying? I guess that’s what’s problematic to me. I don’t identify with most of the slogans and the message.
I know nothing about war. Thought I wouldn’t live thru one. My father experienced it and history has it that it can skip a generation. I wasn’t paying attention, I guess.
I know nothing about war, but am very interested in things that push the boundaries of mundane living. The Balkans War, in particular, guided me in some readings. Books, movies, documentaries and individual accounts have long painted a picture of what wars look like and this is what I could grasp:
A group of people in power decides to orgasm on it. There’s a lot of hormones flying around. Synthetic drugs are usually on the mix to guarantee the escalation of the craziest methodologies.
The orgasmic force spreads. Enemies are identified. A group of people get ordered to get moving and kill the enemy. Some reject this placement, others don’t. Those who do, turn into meat. They become the public facade for the killing machine.
On the enemy front, some people get ordered to get moving and defende themselves. A sense of common creeps in. People are fueled by a survival instinct and also a sense of duty.
People flee. People throw up and fight.
Heroes and villains fight the war and it’s not always clear who is who, though history guarantees honours to those resisting. If you pick up a gun, history will appreciate it even more.
People get traumatized. The trauma lasts for decades, guaranteeing a life of nightmares, panic, anguish, agony and suffering.
Hearing hundreds of people singing along to the anthem of a nation is a torturous experience for me. I haven’t a single patriotic drip in my blood. You can be singing the Portuguese or the Ukrainian anthem, for all I care, they all mean the same to me: that a certain group of people feel culturally attached to this mythic construction that is a country. For what I can understand, Ukraine’s sense of patriotism cannot be compared to Portugal’s. I’m told the communal sense is intrinsic, a result of several aspects that shape the living in that land. There, the saying that it takes a village to raise a child seems to gain momentum. Here, it sounds like bulshit. Here, cooperation and organization are but a joke. We’re poor and that says a lot about how we deal with hardships, but it doesn’t say it all.
War is a swamp, there’s no escaping. Everyone gets theirs hands dirty and battles to stay afloat. One’s sense of reality gets crippled. Blood and dirt everywhere. People’s corpses. Lifeless bodies. Death staring at you. Death staring at you, filling your eyes with blood, filling your mouth with dirt. Death all and everywhere. Despair, chaos, screams, whistles, sirens. The smell of burnt flesh, flies all over dead animals. Cries. Screams. Atrocity, orgasmic atrocity, rupturing thru every nerve of your being. Muscles being ripped out of legs and arms, mouths struggling to open, tongues struggling to move. You wanting to be dead, gazes coming for your life. Splashes of blood, hair being ripped of people’s heads, women being raped. People watching. Houses set on fire. There’s beauty and horror everywhere and it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. Crushed under the heavy artillery of the sublime, bodies are stripped of their humanity. Then judgment, punishment and revenge. More blood, more corpses, colorless images and more trauma. Archives of traumatic images flooding your memory. Death forevermore.
This is not what the media shows us. Not their fault. They cannot. We cannot. Photojournalism is now all over social media. You want to see war in real time, it’s here. You want to praise dead souls for their bravery, no shortage of heroes. How can we make sense of any of this? How can one understand the experience of being at war, without having been thru one?
Sergio Alexander Kochergin, born in Ukraine, now living in the USA, also part of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (he joined the US army and did two deployments to Iraq between 2003 and 2005) tells about his experience in war, but also about his understanding of Ukraine’s recent history. Like many others, he spoke of party and drugs as the necessary cocktail to deal with the trauma. In this conversation, Sergio also accounts for this moment of clairvoyance, as he recognizes he’d been used for the apparatus and, not surprisingly, that moment took place only after leaving the army and getting involved with anti-war ideologies.
As I see this video from Snake Island, where we hear Ukrainian soldiers telling the agressor to go fuck themselves, denying surrender and accepting death in battle as their fate, I can’t help but smile and shrink. As we become part of a world where war is back in Europe and the public agressor is a well oiled killing machine, should we brace for impact, loot the supermarkets, store for gas and oil, or buy guns and build cocktails molotov? If fighting capitalism is out of the equation – though the obvious root of this and all wars that will follow in Europe – what’s left?
War, as we can all see, is perhaps the best example of “organized society”. The violence that imposes on individuals and their future is and has always been part of our culture. That does not mean it defines us or that it is imprinted in human nature.
Fuck war and all the greedy bastards that keep capitalism alive!