“Freedom!” shout the Yanks. “Equality!” bellow the Commies. “Life! ” yell the people, but their voices are drowned out.
Christa Wolf wrote about prophetess Cassandra and her role in the war between the Greeks and the Trojans. She saw parallels between herself and Cassandra, between East Germany and Troy - both states insist on absolute loyalty, both keep fighting on when there is nothing left to fight with, both are eventually defeated by a stronger state. In the Greek –Trojan war, the ideological cause of war (Helen, epitomizing beauty and love) is little more than a noble myth to disguise the power struggle over territory and trade routes: namely, the Hellespont. The war between the USSR and the USA was the same - argues Wolf - although portrayed as an ideological struggle, the Cold War was actually about economic control and territory. The Cold War, like the Greek-Trojan war, brought both states to the brink of self destruction with the arms race; the people of both empires lived in perpetual fear of attack.
…a few hours after reading Cassandra we start talking about Nicaragua, and the fact that mum was a foreign reporter there in the 80s. She told me she travelled with a Nicaraguan translator. A year after she left he ended up dead. My dad produces a book of photos from the country, taken in the '70s. I flick through the book of photos, trying to get a handle on the political situation of Nicaragua of the last thirty years. Reluctantly I move from the timeline at the back to the beginning – for how can I judge the people in the photos or understand their plight if I do not know the dates and facts of their story?
Fool. Has the Cassandra allegory taught you nothing? Troy could be a state now; the disputes for territory and ideology continue. The earth is the earth is the earth. I look at the photos: the women intently studying pistols; the guerillas with their dirt-studded jeans; one lighting a cigarette below the ubiquitous Coca Cola posters (that hint at the American involvement); the lower half of a body; a skeleton jumped and livewired out of the earth – the remnants of a man, his love, his legs.
The red blood tinge, always somewhere in the frame. I don’t need to know the dates to get the story: humans, suffering, pride, fighting, desperation, intense poverty of materials and intense creativity of spirit – a people to despair of and a people to admire – a people that we first world Westerners rarely have to face and never really understand. We don't get it, because we have not in seventy years been forced to face ourselves, bloody and skeletal in the mirror, with almost nothing left as future or past, and ask ourselves if we will fight.
Blood, feuding, fighting, revenge, death. Revolution, civil war, guerilla fighting, collapsing government, exile. As a Westerner, I find that this is the language of the newspapers. I never have to read it in the mirror.