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#57 No news today
The fall of Kabul, the fall of Afghanistan, it saddens me, like you, probably. Minutes before a series of talks Yesterday, it threw me into deep despair — who am I to talk now, when the West is naked in front of the world. At a tremendous human cost. A disaster imagined and designed in Washington, London, The Hague.
The narrative of the second-best book ever written on war is in its title, Im Westen Nichts Neues, or All Quiet on the Western Front. If you haven’t read it, after 200 pages of senseless murder, the protagonist in Remarque’s masterpiece is finally killed on a day so quiet it doesn’t merit a mention in the press.
A journalist finds connections in seemingly independent events, I once read. I cannot trace the source; Google offers too many options. When I read this years ago, it made me sad for not having studied journalism. Connecting dots is my favorite pastime.
Thanks to Twitter, no event is without news nowadays. There are too many dots. It is never quiet on the Western front. The good is that when the world sees suffering, it may be less easily forgotten. The bad is that we risk going numb. Like Paul Bäumer in the novel.
Accidentally, I ended up with enough Audible tokens to finally try a few audiobooks—the first, Doom, by Niall Ferguson. In chapter six, he reminds us of Tolstoy’s critique of the Great Man perspective on history. In War and Peace, Tolstoy ridicules the notion of historians that Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia was prompted by an insult to the Duke of Oldenburg. No, Tolstoy argues, leaders are powerless without the support and consent of millions shaping their command. Leaders are history’s slaves.
Tolstoy would warn against blaming Afghanistan on Biden, or Trump, or any one individual. Endless dots willingly and slavishly went along to make this history. The proof may be in the few dots that courageously defied history’s predetermination, for instance by flying the plane regardless.
More than ever, we need people that connect the dots, some of them, all of them, meaningfully. And if you can’t connect the dots, be one, independently, to change the story of history.
Until next week, thanks for reading, subscribing, staying with me through my rambling! All the best,