Monday, December 5, 2011
Your Worst Day Would Be His Best
We study history (or read historical fiction) to learn how lives should not be lived. That way, we know how to live better lives today. People sometimes blanche at atrocities, whether occurring in the present or the past, but we need to know evil to recognize it when it creeps upon us and pretends to be something worthwhile. This comes from careful inspection of reality, or reality-based fiction.
This is why books such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr (i.e., Alexander) Solzhenitsyn, are worth reading. First published in 1962, the novel relates the struggles for existence in a Soviet forced labor camp during the early 1950s, near the end of Stalin's reign of terror. A single day in the title character's life in the camp is related in exquisitely simple, straightforward language (even in translation) to shocking effect. The book was semi-autobiographical, since its author had spent many years in Soviet gulags (beginning in 1945) for joking about Stalin in a personal letter.
When imprisonment is indistinguishable from torture, it reflects badly upon the society engaging in such practices. Simply put, it constitutes moral bankruptcy for the governments involved. As citizens of the earth, whether human or other life forms, we should beware (and be aware) of such atrocities. We ignore them at our peril. As a cat, I can tell you it's unwise to overlook danger lurking around any corner. Those nine lives come at a dear price indeed.
Historical Knowledge Keeps Us Stronger.
Cauli Le Chat
MPL Roving Reporter
Readers' Advisory News Beat
P.S. In totalitarian states, as well as in those supposedly more free, it is against the law to do practically anything. American folk legend Woody Guthrie concisely summed up the situation in "Aginst Th' Law" (1947). Billy Bragg crafted music to Guthrie's lyrics, as we can hear from this video. The song was included on the CD Mermaid Avenue, Vol. II (2000), by Billy Bragg & Wilco.