Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Worst Enemy

Ryszard Kapuscinski, in my opinion one of the greatest journalists of the 20th Century, died yesterday at the age of 74. His writing and reporting, usually about subjects and places that the West had little interest in, revealed much about the human condition, about the ways that people survive hardships and war. That his works maintain such impact even when translated from the original speaks to his skill.

I recommend his works to everyone. I've read both The Soccer War and Another Day of Life, and both are truly incredible. For anyone who's interested, I've included a passage from The Soccer War below.

SILENCE. People who write history devote too much attention to so-called events heard round the world, while neglecting the periods of silence. This neglect reveals the absence of that infallible intuition that every mother has when her child falls suddenly silent in its room. A mother knows that this silence signifies something bad. That the silence is hiding something. She runs to intervene because she can feel evil hanging in the air. Silence fulfills the same role in history and politics. Silence is a signal of unhappiness and, often, of crime. It is the same sort of political instrument as the chatter of weapons or a speech at a rally. Silence is necessary to tyrants and occupiers, who take pains to have their actions accompanied by quiet. Look at how colonialism has always fostered silence; at how discreetly the Holy Inquisition functioned...

Today one hears of noise pollution, but silence pollution is worse. Noise pollution affects the nerves; silence pollution is a matter of human lives. No one defends the maker of a loud noise, whereas those who establish silence in their own states are protected by an apparatus of repression. That is why the battle against silence is so difficult.