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Monday, July 10, 2006

What in peace is so easy?

Tbilisi, Georgia resident Sue on Georgia's warrior culture:
Touring through Georgia is at times like examining the scarred body of a battered veteran. Here are wounds the Persians left behind, there's where the Arabs pierced through, the Mongols, the Turks...

Sometimes I fear that modern Georgia could suffocate on all this bloody glory. It's all well enough for the women, whose worth was never based on derring do, but could these men, with their warrior ancestors summoned up at every toast, be content as accountants and bank clerks should the opportunity arise in Georgia?
The most elegant and resigned riposte to this is from Rebecca West. In her Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, it so happens that her Serbian friend is telling a legend about a certain Bosnian village. It's a war legend about when the Turks were attacking and how the women and men of the village came up with a plan that involved the women bravely acting as bait so that the men could surprise the Turks and save the village.
The Serb tells the story, and then he says something that could be precisely about Georgia:

And so a man can give himself great pleasure in telling himself that story, and he can imagine all sorts of like happenings... with all the loveliest little ones being brave for his sake, and all his enemies lying dead in the marshes, with water over the face; and on that he can build up a philosophy which is very simple but is a real thing; it makes a man's life mean more than it did before he held it. Now, will you tell me what in peace is so easy for a simple man to think about as this scene of war? So do not despise my people when they cannot settle down to freedom, when they are like those people on the road of whom I said to you, 'They think all the time they must die for Yugoslavia, and they cannot understand why we do not ask them to do that but another thing, that they should live and be happy.'

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