Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Paradise Lost in America and Germany

So this is basically a post where I get to pretend that I'm on Front Row (on radio 4 yes?), and talk about   the things I've been thinking about and reading and watching and stuff. Also, I just wrote a new song which is all about this stuff, which is why it's sort of Eyes & No Eyes related.
I recently read an incredible novel by Philip Roth called 'American Pastoral', set in New Jersey during the Vietnam war, and watched a film called 'The Baader Meinhof Complex', which is based on real events and tells the story of the Red Army Brigade, a faction of left wing terrorists active in Germany, primarily during the seventies.

The two things feel connected and are both pretty good, (the novel is really really good actually). Both deal with young people during the late sixties and early seventies who were strongly opposed to the war in Vietnam, and connected it to a broader view about American imperialism and the capitalist society of America and Western Europe. And both sets of young people decide that it's justifiable and necessary to reply to the injustices of the state and 'the military industrial complex', as people sometimes used to put it, by using violence.
I don't want to give too much of the plot of the novel away, but it comes at it from the view of the father of someone who resorts to violence, to terrorism basically, and it's pretty heart-wrenching, seeing his agonised bemusement as to why this has happened. He represents the 'establishment' side of things, but the telling thing for me is that he is the one in the novel with whom I have the most sympathy, not the 'revolutionary' youth. Similarly, in the Baader-Meinhof film the terrorist gang are protagonists and sort of anti-heroes, so you kind of feel sympathy for them, but the stuff that they did is straight up wrong as far as I'm concerned, and fairly horrendous at times.

The thing I take from the film and the novel is that any view of the world that divides people into two camps, some of whom are morally virtuous (revolutionaries, the proletariat, etc) and some of whom deserve whatever they get (capitalist oppressors etc etc) is just too simple and is useless, and also dangerous. Stuff is always complicated.
Also, violence is not cool. It doesn't solve anything. Music solves, if not everything, then some things at least, for sure. I actually ended up watching 'The Baader-Meinhof Connection' because of my general interest in German music at the moment, which come to think about it, is what I should be telling you all about, and is probably way more interesting. Oh well. Soon.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tristram,
    You might enjoy this piece comparing '68 and today. Doesn't address violence, and would benefit from doing so: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/robert-gildea/recipe-for-revolution-could-1968-happen-today#.Ud_LKG0c8ZA.twitter
    You'd also love "The World That Never Was" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/apr/11/world-that-never-was-alex-butterworth-book-review) which make a pretty good fist of implying certain elements of the anarchist movement of C19th ("propaganda of the deed" etc) can be seen as an analogue to modern day trends in terrorism (inspired by different political/religious 'idealism' / 'utopianism'.
    I haven't finished the latter yet, but it is fascinating (not just on terrorism/violence but anarchist/radical history/philosophy)