A Pithy Commentary on the History of...shall we call it Canaan?

may be found here. Abstracting it to every other part of the human-occupied earth is left as an exercise for the reader. h/t Gene Expression.


Grim said...

Sure makes the British look good, though.

Also, in this context, the credits might have given the final player a right name.

Texan99 said...

Growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in Jewish schools, I often heard this "God gave this land to me" argument and found it odd.

Populations move and change and boundaries shift. I'm more interested in who's got a functioning society, who's using the local resources well, and who's a good neighbor. There was nothing good going on in that part of Jordan before the Israelis made it bloom.

Joseph W. said...

I would substitute the word "unconvincing" for "odd" - this argument isn't at all odd, at least not historically it isn't. Handing out particular pieces of the earth or, sometimes, the entire earth to their particular chosen peoples is one of those things that gods do.

(But I quite agree that you've got a better standard than that.)

Grim said...

Ridley Scott made the same point in Kingdom of Heaven. That was the point of the motto, "What man is a man who does not make the world better?" It was likewise the point of the scene with the digging of the well.

That was the Crusader state, the Kingdom of Jerusalem. They made it flower too, in their time.

Grim said...

It's also worth noting that, as charming as the illustrations are, the great art is the song. It is another example of the propensity of the current generation of artists to ride piggyback: we see it everywhere, from 'hip-hop' sampling to covers of old movies. It's even worse here, in a way, because it mocks the very message of the art without which it would itself be of no consequence.

Joseph W. said...

That is not a knock on the video at all. Every generation of artists that we know has ridden piggyback. So many of the traditional songs you and I both like are to tunes much older than the lyrics we know best - "Auld Lang Syne" being set to "The Miller's Wedding" is but an especially well-known example. And that tune is the closing credits to Gunga Din - which includes also a rousing rendition of "Will Ye No' Come Back Again" - and of course also piggybacks on Kipling's poem, yet we do not speak ill of the generation that produced the film; at least I hope you don't, because I had a grand old time watching it.

This particular choice of song (and artist) is simply brilliant, in the way a brand new song would not be. Because the lyrics and the interpretation are perfectly straight, not meant with any kind of irony, and the viewer (if he knows the song already) instantly knows that. Yet the animation adds a supreme irony, far greater by contrast. (A little like using "Soldiers of the Queen" for the closing credits to Breaker Morant, only better. That just sounded sarcastic.)

Grim said...

Irony is a weak sort of thing. Henry Denham proposed an "irony punctuation mark," which oddly enough is the same as the symbolic logic notation for necessity. Maybe it is necessary, these days: now people are too weak to look things in the eye, like they used to do. Irony lets them look away.

It's not a joke. People died for these things; they believed in them. We owe them more than to mock them. We ought to want to know why. We ought to speak to it in its true register: not irony, but tragedy.

Joseph W. said...

Oh, I do disagree. Jihadi thugs who kill kids at pizza parlors for the sake of their waqf land ought to be mocked and despised, as well as killed for it. And their presumptuousness in claiming to know the will of God, that he loves their terrorism and cares which patch of ground they occupy - this ought to receive far less respect than it does. What the film does, in a short space and a brilliantly simple way, is to give some historical perspective to this terrible idea.

Joseph W. said...

...and is thus the opposite of inviting people to "look away."

Irony needn't be weak. Sometimes it is, but in this case it is not.

Grim said...

Despised! You might well despise them. That's done with the full heart. You need not look away.

Yet if you can leave the bodies on the floor of the pizza parlor as a kind of joke -- foolish Islamists! -- you have failed to grasp the thing. I would say that you have not dared to grasp it. It is a terrible thing, an awful thing, in the truest sense of the word.

Joseph W. said...

There's more than one brand of mockery, and I don't think you'd say this film is the lighthearted kind (which I would not like), nor does it encourage anyone to look away from what's going on here. (Though a person predisposed to do that may watch the film and look away still.) Terrorists are despicable in any cause; but how much more so, if the cause itself is based on an idea with no bottom.

A bit of art that shows this dramatically - is well done. If it shakes up a simpleminded, wrongheaded view - "the Arabs were there first; the Jews are invaders; so whatever the Arabs do to drive them out is justified" - and points anyone away from playing historical grievance games with real human lives, then it has done some good.

(I suspect the artist herself doesn't share my views, which doesn't bother me a bit.)

Joseph W. said...

P.S. - I know nothing of Henry Denham, but maybe the /sarc tag fits his ideas?

Grim said...

Maybe so. What always struck me about the irony punctuation mark is that it would actually destroy what value there is in irony: however weak, at least it makes us think outside plain meaning, and thus learn to understand deception on its own terms. I don't advocate deception in general, but as Sun Tzu said, you must know your enemy.

(Also, as Odysseus knew, there's a certain OPSEC value in your enemy not quite being able to see through to the root of your plans. But war is a special case; and even there, a reputation for honesty and plain-speaking is often a powerful ally. Especially if you intend to deceive!)

As for whether the idea has a bottom or not, that's another question. Maybe God sent both, for reasons of his own. Maybe God likes conflict. What is the point of men killing each other over land? Well, what is the point of wanting land for children to run over? That's just nature: natural law. We've got a problem here, and as you note in the original post, it's a bigger problem than the Arab/Israeli problem. There's a sense in which conflict is built-in. It won't do to laugh at the issue, in part because it is ultimately an issue we can't walk away from. We may have a momentary respite, as technology or economics or fertility rates permit, but sooner or later every one of us will have to take it seriously.

Joseph W. said...

Maybe God likes slavery as well - in which case Ben Franklin's most excellent satire was out of order. But I don't think that and don't think you do, either. The thing is, Franklin didn't laugh at "the issue" - the entire issue of slavery. Not at all. What he laughed at were the absurd ideas used by civilized men to justify the "peculiar institution." And those ideas deserved his mockery. Had they been discredited throughout the states, perhaps we'd have ended the institution as peacefully as Brazil did.

I can't blame the man for trying! He lived in a time when ideas, and convictions, had shown some amazing power. (Ideas and convictions that gave American independence a far different character than South American independence.) And there was a lot of mockery in the political rhetoric of that day, some more lighthearted than other.

(Yet according to Edmund Morgan's biography - which I read not so long ago - Franklin was much less a legal/constitutional theorist, and indeed much less an ideologue, than most of the Founders, and his ideas had much less to do with English constitutional theory than, say, Adams'.)

Anyway, my point is, I don't see that the cartoonist or I am laughing at "the question." In fact, I don't seen any laughter in this kind of mockery at all, and what I see it aimed at is not "the question," but only the justifications used for doing the evil. Abstract it to the world and we could indeed quickly reduce ourselves to poverty and misery, as we ceaselessly attacked each other over historical grievances - which would be no laughing matter. (To paraphrase Prof. Turney-High, in the introduction to his Primitive War - "Each of us is the victim of war, and the beneficiary of it. Now, who wants to call quits?")

If the idea of slaughtering over these historical grievances could be discredited among the Palestinian Arabs - there might be real hope for a peaceful solution. And whoever finds an effective way to discredit that idea, whether it uses irony, humor, mockery, sarcasm, rhyme, alliteration, assonance...has done good.

Until then, they play the same role that a deposed king did in European history (e.g., Henry VI after Edward IV took over)...as an excuse for foreign invaders and their enablers. Henry didn't last long after his second reign was over, nor Edward II, nor Richard II, after their first ones...the logic is not pretty.

Grim said...

To be honest, I never thought much of Franklin's parody: for one thing, he is wrong about the facts, and for another, no parody written in the Jackson period can be credited with the good that was done in eliminating slavery. It wasn't irony but blood, and great fields of it, that paid that debt.

Neither do I believe that irony will pay this debt. Possibly it might make Jews in the First World less likely to enjoin the effort to resolve the matter, one way or the other, according to the verdict of what Patrick Henry and the Old Testament alike refer to as an appeal to the Lord of Hosts. That leaves us with Palestine, where at least people still believe in the cause without irony; and if irony does no more for us than to enervate the better side, we are better off without it.

Joseph W. said...

I don't think you mean Jackson...but yes, I agree that Franklin's satire, and other works in the anti-slavery movement, did not have the desired effect. Self-interest and self-justification (well aided by religion) won out, as they so often do. Which is why, in the end, there was no solution left but, as you say, great fields of blood. But never blame the man for trying! (The "facts" of course didn't happen; the letter was a complete fabrication, as ever reader well knew, but the arguments he raised in it...were uncomfortably close to those used by American apologists for slavery.)

And I'm afraid that you are right also, in that no amount of talk or Art, however well reasoned or cleverly made, will settle the Palestinian question, and that instead it is going to end up "adjudicated by God." Which is to say, more fields of blood! But I don't blame anyone for trying to change, attack, or discredit the ideas that are leading that way.

(I don't like the "debt" metaphor because it implies a moral requirement for punishment, a collective historial guilt, or even the Hand of Fate, in an area that humans can change - if they choose to do so.)