Friday, 11 September 2009

Anniversaries

It’s anniversary time.

Of course, there’s the obvious one: today is the eighth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. Though it cost fewer lives, in its sheer disregard for anything that gives value to links between human beings, it is the equal in infamy to the bombing of Dresden or of Hiroshima. It was also their equal in the impact it has had on the Western World, as the continued and apparently futile fighting in Afghanistan testifies. So it makes sense to mark the anniversary in sorrow and regret.

We ought, however, also to remember that the destruction of the Twin Towers wasn’t the only shameful event to blot the eleventh of September. Twenty-eight years earlier, on 11 September 1973, the government and indeed life of Salvador Allende, democractically elected President of Chile, were brought to an end by a violent coup engineered with the full support of the CIA. This was the start of a seventeen-year period of brutal dictatorship which cost 50,000 to 100,000 lives and led to the torturing of several hundred thousand. Years ago, I met one of its victims, a young man (young at that time: he was my age) who was gradually losing his hearing as a result of having been struck in the head with a rifle butt by a soldier. His offence? He was a member of the MIR, the Marxist group that resisted Pinochet for a time. He’d been manacled to ropes hanging from a ceiling so that he was forced to stand on his toes at all times, but had discovered he could slip one hand out of a manacle and therefore get some sleep with both feet flat on the floor. The soldier’s anger was caused by discovering him in that position.

‘I never understood why he did it,’ he told me, ‘he was a young campesino. What did he have to gain from the coup?’

So if we mark our respect on this day with a minute’s silence, let’s think of Santiago in 1973 as well as New York in 2001. Let’s remember, while we agree with George Bush and Tony Blair’s loathing for Osama bin Laden, that the shameful counterpoint for their sentiments was provided by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s enthusiasm for Augusto Pinochet.

But enough of all this negativity. Today also has personal value for me. Because today is the last day of my first year as a blogger. My first post went up on 12 September last year and to my slight surprise, as I put up number 124, I find I’m still going.

It’s an interesting exercise. An amateur runner can compare himself with Usain Bolt – it’s the same sport at a different level – and when I write these pieces I think of Michel de Montaigne, who gave us the concept of an ‘Essay’. What he was writing, he told us, were the ‘essais de mes facultés naturelles’, trials of his natural faculties. And that’s just how I feel each time I start to prepare a new post. There are always two great questions this kind of writing imperiously demands I answer: can I find anything to write about and can I shorten what I’ve said? I also used to wonder ‘is it worthy saying in the first place?’ but gave up on that one as a needless complication of the process.

So on 12 September I move into year 2 of my career as a blogger. I shall raise a glass to that moment, to the Chileans who have regained their freedom, and to the hope that some day we’ll have sorted out the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan and be able to put 9/11 behind us, in a more profound sense than just turning the pages of a calendar.

8 comments:

aileen said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Susan

http://dclottery.info

Davide said...

I will raise a glass to your anniversary tonight. Well done and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Didn't realise it's been a whole year! Misquoting Liebermann to Dan Quayle: "David you're no amateur to Usain Bolt's pro!" The quality and contents of your articles are worthy of being read by all thinking people. Keep it up!

San

David Beeson said...

Thanks, Susan, for your comment - it's always encouraging to get positive feedback.

Thank you San and Davide too - I enter the next year full of enthusiasm - and with a new post on our dear friend Berlusconi ready for tomorrow...

Anonymous said...

Anyone who reads Montaigne may also enjoy this new book--

Premature Factulation: The Ignorance of Certainty and the Ghost of Montaigne

by Philip D. Hansten
http://www.Philoponus.com/

Bob said...

To your anniversary: cheers!

Awoogamuffin said...

Yeah, keep up the good work! Congratulations on the anniversary!

David Beeson said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Bob and Michael - I look forward to the conversation continuing over the next twelve months...