Yesterday I was overwhelmed by the tweets flooding in about Mumbai. I first heard about the attacks when I woke up in Adelaide, and every hour or so checked in to try and understand what was unfolding.
After watching the US produced News Hour on SBS3 I turned to ABC2 and came across Fora (that aims to bring to ABC2 viewers “the most engaging and interesting speeches and debates from all over the world”) and was pleased to hear that Anna Funder (author of the brilliant and moving Stasiland) would be delivering her essay on ‘Courage’.
It opens on a reflection on the last moments of the life of assassinated Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She was shot as she entered her apartment in October 2006.
I had been in Russia the month before. Things had not felt right. It didn’t feel “free”. The stories of police intimidation, bullying gangster thugs and corrupt politicians, felt like this place was going backwards, not forwards. But most of all it felt pretty scary. There was palpable fear everywhere. We had met some people who told us stories that were almost unbelievable to us. People were afraid.
Anna Politkovskaya wrote about these things people were afraid of, but didn’t tend to talk about. She was openly critical of Vladimir Putin. She wrote about the horrible conditions of Russian troops in Chechnya, and covered the Chachyan war lifting the cover off Russian propaganda. She received death threats, was poisoned on a plane heading to Belsen, and Russian troops performed a mock-execution on her. But still she carried on.
Funder’s essay is all about how people find the courage to stand up and say “no”. What is in the fibre of people who do this? What is this feeling people have that say “you have crossed the line – enough.”
The video of Funder’s reading of the essay can be found here. It’s about an hour, but it’s a good hour. Find the time if you can to watch it.
Back to news watching after this, and thinking of Funder’s words made the phrase “War on Terror” impotent. The war is unwinable in the form we have chosen to fight it. Our moral compass in the west has come back to bite us on the arse. Because we have turned a blind eye to poverty, to genocide, to inequality. We look at terrorists and think “how can they do this”, but we have indirectly done similar things. We are reaping what we sow. We haven’t put a line in the ground and said this is what I am prepared to protect, I am going to say ‘no’ to anything beyond this.