Re: Does no one read [between] Vygotsky's words?

From: Ana (ana@zmajcenter.org)
Date: Wed May 05 2004 - 22:00:27 PDT


Dear Eliza,
Your story is very touching. Sometimes the critical situation like a war
battle brings the "best" and the most noble in people. Sometimes it is
the opposite. However, war is traumatic regardless of which side of you
it brought out. Without denigrating any soldier who was put into a
situation to defend their own people, I think that the real task in
resolving issues is on the politicians and diplomats. Once it comes to
the situation we call "war", where people start killing other people,
the humanity is already half lost. The tragedy for the ordinary soldiers
on all sides is that they all have to believe that their cause is the
just cause and that they are doing what they are doing to defend their
people from some evil. If they don't believe that, they are either
psychopaths or criminals who kill for money. If they do, they are just
the marionettes in the hands of the higher powers who direct them.
Unfortunately the past century (and centuries) have been so cruel, so
many wars have annihilated so many people, wounded others, and left
traumas in even more of us, that it is possible to accept war as an
event through which one has to live and do one's best to survive and
remain noble. To me, war is a disintegration of a civil society, caused
by irresponsible, criminal, ignorant, greedy, etc. individuals in
positions of power they could use to prevent any violence long before it
comes to its eruption. However, once it comes to that that you have to
be a "Simcha" -- you have nothing else left but your own body and
consciousness. And those who really caused a war (on all sides) have
already deserted all the Simchas, and had long before ran away with all
the spoils.

Someone said that we ought to use our theoretical understanding and
teaching to understand the activity of war. I agree!! We should -- we
should find the objects/objectives that can drive anyone into such a
destruction and self destruction, we should examine the "relaxation" of
the otherwise very strict laws and legislature, the development of
double and multiple standards in "handling" people, development of
concepts that perpetrate violence, and manufacturing (and selling) the
tools of destruction.

Ana

eliza@pob.huji.ac.il wrote:

>Dear Zhenya (I like Russian nick-names),
>One of the beautiful things in Israel is the multi-culturalism. I love meeting
>different cultures this is what attracts me in anthropology. I LOVE Native
>American culture; although the Native Americans ("Red Indians") are an
>oppressed minority (just like the Kurds in Iraq) I consider their values
>superior to traditional European values so I ask myself who is here really
>the "primitive savage"?
>Concerning what you wrote:
>
>
>>Actually, my compassion is expanded to all people - not only to
>>innocent victims - soldiers who become traumatized by the war even if they
>>fight on the "right" side but also even if they fight on the "wrong" side.
>>Being drafted in the USSR to the war in Afghanistan in 1986 (I managed to
>>escape), I had a lot of "thoughts" about and sympathy for soldiers fighting
>>on the "wrong" side.
>>
>>
>In my oppinion defending your country for the sake of security and
>independance is the "right" side, fighting for 'getting more than is due' like
>the British Empire etc. etc. is the "wrong" side.
>In the case of the USSR invasion to Afghanistan, the motive was not defense
>but expansion of the regime's cosmopolitical power, the same was true for the
>US invasion to Vietnam miles away from the US border. The attitude of the
>USSR was very much 'religious fanaticism' a crusade/jihad for spreading
>the 'religion' of Communism in the rest of the world. The US is far more
>democratic compared to the USSR, but also the US has no inhibitions in
>furthering their own economic-capitalistic aspirations at the expense of other
>cultures this is the heritage of the British Empire: war mongering in India
>(Hindus vs. Moslems), Palestine (Jews vs. Moslems), Ireland (Catholics vs.
>Protestants), etc. for the British economy.
>
>
>
>>I think many people would agree with this statement as presented in
>>this black and white formulation. Unfortunately, in-situ, many situations
>>are "grey areas" with a lot of pressures and lack of communal support to see
>>things in a "straight way".
>>
>>
>Here is a story from the Syrian front during the Yom-Kippur War to illustrate
>my point of view published by Aharon Becher in Yediot Acharonot (I have
>rendered it from Hebrew):
>Yariv Ben-Aharon a commander of a tank unit was on his way to speak to Simcha
>the half-track vehicle of the deputy brigade commander. Behind him stand a
>dozen of worn-out soldiers. "I'm sorry" Ben-Aharon tells the deputy brigade
>commander, "my soldiers are no longer capable of climbing into another tank;
>some of them barely escaped with their lives from a burning tank, one even
>fled from two burning tanks, all of them have traumatic memories of witnessing
>comrades burning to death because they couldn't escape in time." "Tell them to
>come here," Simcha answered, "I'll speak to them. After the soldiers
>approached, Simcha announced: "Look boys I have no complaints those who
>don't want to return to their tanks are released I shall force no one. In
>know what you've all endured. You've done an excellent job each and everyone
>of you. Who wants to return home has my permission." One of the privates came
>forward and in an apologetic tone started to explain "I can't any more, I
>haven't seen my family since the beginning of the war, I'm the only survivor
>from my tank, the rest didn't make it " "You certainly deserve release,"
>Simcha answered.
>Simcha was a slender tall man, his white hair disclosed his age which was long
>beyond retiring. The journalist Aharon Becher writes: "I looked at Simcha and
>asked myself, what is this old gentleman doing at the front in the midst of a
>bloody war?"
>"Now I must tell you something," Simcha continued, "My name is Simcha and I
>live in Kibbutz Nezer Sirni (Kibbutz Nezer Sirni was founded by a group of
>holocaust survivors who fought as Partisans). This is my 4th war defending
>this country: the war of independence, the Sinai war, the six-day-war and now
>the Yom-Kippur war. Back in Europe I fought as a Partisan in WWII, before that
>my whole family was exterminated without even having the right to defend
>themselves I'm the only survivor. Believe me I'm so very tired of fighting
>wars, I fully understand how you all feel right now; long before you were born
>I was out on the front fighting, but I shall continue to fight for the defense
>of this country so that my children and grandchildren should never encounter
>what I lived through in Europe." Simcha fell silent. Suddenly one private came
>forward and announced "Commander, I shall return to my tank!" After him others
>came forward and announced "me too", "me too" until the last soldier.
>Aharon Becher writes: "I watched the soldiers silently waiting to be taken
>back to the battlefield and realized at that instant that if there is a time
>when a person faces a moment of unadulterated truth then this was such a
>moment". As Becher approached Ben-Aharon and Simcha to take his leave, Simcha
>reached out to his walkie-talkie. Becher caught site of the purple number
>tattooed on Simcha's arm, at that moment he knew that Simcha had escaped
>Auschwitz.
>My husband was in a tank unit and he witnessed his best friend, the only child
>of holocaust-survivors, burn to death. In spite of the trauma of the Yom-
>Kippur war he continued to serve as a combatant soldier because he knows that
>everything has to be done to defend this country. As a religious person he
>feels a moral obligation to contribute to the defense of his country and the
>safety of his people. He doesn't see his military biography as something to
>pride himself, but as a moral duty that he did. Also a neighbor of ours, a
>religious Yemenite Jew, fought at the Egyptian front and was traumatized by
>the horrors of war. Today his son is a combatant soldier who had been exposed
>to a lot of fire etc. In spite of his personal trauma he sees it as his son's
>moral obligation to defend his country. During the 60s and 70s, for most of
>the secular Israelis from the Kibbutzim fighting at the front was a source for
>personal glory and a sense of being superior to others; many generals of that
>generation like Amram Mitzna, Ehud Barak etc. never miss a chance to state "I
>fought", "I was Combatant" etc. etc. The religious and oriental-Jewish
>soldiers have a more humble attitude, because their motives are less
>egocentric and more idealistic. Holocaust survivors like Simcha from the above
>mentioned report in Yediot Acharonot have a greater appreciation for a free
>and independent Jewish State as well as an independent Jewish Defense Force,
>because they lived through the greater horrors of being dependant and
>defenseless in a genocide like the Tutsi in Rwanda.
>
>
>
>>I think it is very important not to
>>forget in this story about US and UK soldiers that in many Arab countries
>>torture and humiliation and extra judicial killings (?) is wide spread
>>practice with little coverage by media. Very few courageous human right Arab
>>observers try to monitor the situation and report to international
>>organizations (like Amnesty International) with little attention from the
>>overall international community (e.g., UN). It is understandable that people
>>in US and UK are shocked about actions of their soldiers but they are a part
>>of bigger problem of military abuse of power around the world: bigger in
>>scope and spread.
>>
>>
>The Israeli Press is still living in an ethnocentric cultural ghetto and
>writes as if those outside of their clique were to primitive (or mentally
>retarded?) to be capable to think for themselves and have a mind of their own.
>For example yesterday, Daniel Ben-Simon, a conceited journalist from Haaretz
>(the official organ of the Israeli elite) was amazed to discover that
>those 'primitive' oriental Jews from the development towns in the Negev,
>actually had a political opinion of their own!!! Another self-important
>journalist from Haaretz, Ari Shavit, published a personal column the day after
>a terror attack in the coffee shop "Moment" in which he was surprised to
>discover that Palestinian terrorists made no distinction between "us" (the
>Israeli elite) and "them" (the simple folk).
>
>
>>Yes, according to some reports during the Soviet time, even in peace time
>>there was 5% deaths in Soviet military when almost every young male between
>>18-10 had to serve in military. The death rate was even higher in so-called
>>national minorities (Armenians, Jews, Azerbaijani, Georgians, Tatars, and so
>>on). Official causes of the deaths were suicide and "accidents" however they
>>were not reported to the press, of course.
>>
>>
>I'm happy that the Russian and Ethiopian immigrants have contributed to
>breaking the cultural-regime of MAPAI ("Israeli labor" i.e. the israeli
>political and economic elite) in the army and raised the general moral
>standards in the IDF. Those soldiers have brought into the army a new spirit
>of solidarity, patriotism and egalitarianism. Today there are very devoted
>officers from the Ethiopian community, who are respected and liked by the
>Israelis of European descent. During the 'dark age' of the Ben-Gurion regime
>it wouldn't have been possible that a soldier like Shaul Mofaz, born in Iran,
>would be even a commander, not to mention the chief of staff or even the
>defense minister; the 1977 elections made this possible.
>
>By the way the chief Rabbi of Morrocco has the same name as you: Solomon
>Matusov - did you know this? Rabbi Matusov has a life history which is one of
>those incredible stories: he was in one of Stalin's death camps from the age
>of 14 to 18.
>
>Alisa L.
>
>
>
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