You say that you want facts – facts and more facts, before you can commit. Before you finally decide to become part of something: a political party, a movement or another human being. You already have plenty of them: an avalanche, a tsunami of facts. “In fact”, your life is overflowing with facts. Most of them are brought directly to your living room or bedroom, or to your office; they shine from the liquid crystals of your computer monitors, and from increasingly flat and sleek television screens.
There is really no need to travel, is there? There is no need to “get dirty”. Without leaving your chair or couch, you can even get some basic science of Newton, Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci. You can experience, second-hand of course, but in the safety and comfort of your home, the most extreme misery of Haitian or Jamaican slums. You can be shown a battleground, you can see the most exotic and most ‘forbidden’ women being made love to by someone else, and you can get inside royal palaces.
It is all there, at your fingertips: formulas and definitions, music and porn, history and even some poetry, if poetry is what you are really searching for.
There is no reason to step outside. Of course many people have to go out, at least from Monday to Friday, to attend to their typically monotonous jobs. From time to time they have to buy some groceries, although groceries can be ordered online or using the phone, and some jobs these days do not even require the personal presence of employees.
While individualism (egoism) is what increasingly defines most of the cultures in the West, true individuality (uniqueness) has almost vanished.
Although the internet is overflowing with information, data and “facts”, although there are now hundreds of channels available from the menus of television cable providers, the living room – computer or living room – television set combinations are producing increasingly monotonous results: people are more and more phlegmatic, their way of thinking is uniformed, and they are not willing to take almost any risks: intellectually, emotionally or physically.
Passivity is being constantly rationalized, defended. On the surface, reasons given to justify lack of commitment are logical, ‘sensible’, and sometimes even righteous.
Passivity has become ‘calm’, and so have despair, desolation and gloom.
Instead of encouraging violent rebellious outbursts of anguish as something natural,positive and even essential (should one not be fighting with all his or her might against all the forces which are making life pointless and useless?), almost everything that is defined by society as “negative emotions” gets subdued and controlled by medication and therapy. This way, medical “science” becomes a culprit, murders many healthy reactions, and in the end, kills life itself.
It is rarely pronounced, but it is essential to realize: A person who feels violently sick because he or she is surrounded by a thoroughly unhealthy, even insane environment (political system, family, work, sets of constantly repeated lies) is actually reacting in a vigorous and healthy way. It is like when the body is fighting against severe infection. Only in this case, the battle is mental.
People are expected to be “normal”, while standards defining “normalcy” have roots in mental illnesses from which entire society is clearly suffering. Not only immigrants; now everyone is obliged to “conform”. What does it really mean, to conform? Is it: to become atomized, apathetic and therefore alone and vulnerable?Life then flows slowly, calmly, coldly and emotionlessly. A person grows up, matures, ages and dies. Society slowly deteriorates. Planet Earth is getting gradually ruined.
Surrounded by uniformed and perpetual misery, passivity and amnesia, one is not aware of his or her suffering. The screen in front of people shines late into the night. Everything is reduced to short barks and uniformed symbols pre-programmed into mobile phones.
Something has gone missing. There seems to be an urgent lack of something very essential, a gaping deficit. In such an environment, love cannot thrive, and revolution can never take place. In sterility and surrounded by emotional emptiness, human beings can live a little bit longer, but can such an existence be really called life?
Reality is “authentic” only if experienced holistically and first-hand. This is the conclusion at which I arrived, after witnessing hundreds of conflicts all over the world, but also after observing so many glorious moments, so many great human achievements, in virtually all corners of the globe.
A computer monitor only offers extremely filtered, even “censored” images of reality (no matter how high-definition it might be), as well as some basic sound. Even our imperfect and limited human senses are capable of capturing, registering and processing incomparably much more than that.
When relying exclusively on processed and filtered reality (images and sound), a great part of our mind gets dormant, it begins to deteriorate (even degenerate), and eventually the process becomes irreversible. It is as if you only had use of your right hand for almost your entire life, no legs and no left hand: the situation would most definitely lead to the weakening of muscles and to fatal physical deformities. The same happens with the human mind, with the brain, if it is prevented from performing all of its natural functions on a regular basis.
I insist that “knowledge” and “understanding of reality” has to consist of a“complete approach”, in which, at least most of our senses, are involved. Practically: to ‘truly comprehend’ requires “being there”.
Let me give you one example, just one, although there are of course thousands of paradigms that I could provide:
You can sit all your life in Berlin, London or Boston, and watch news on your television screen, you can mull over countless “facts” provided by your best friends (internet and smart phone) but you would never, ever come close to understanding what has been happening during the last two decades in Latin America, or what is happening in Syria right now.
To understand, you’d have to roll up your sleeves, stop vegetating and begin living. You’d have to experience, with all your senses,what the dampness coming from the walls in tropical slums some fifteen or twenty years ago felt like, you’d have to observe from miserable and over-populated hills those obnoxiously expensive condominiums on the horizon, you’d have to smell bad breath of young women who couldn’t afford dental care while the country was awash with petrodollars. You’d have to see young people dance, on Friday nights, so desperately and hopelessly. One evening you’d have to walk down some narrow alley, alone, and see two men with guns walking straight towards you. You’d have to smell the cheap perfume of a woman approaching you at two in the morning in a dive frequented by local journalists, grabbing you by the shoulders, beginning to sob, confessing that now she is a prostitute, but just one year ago she was an elementary school teacher and wanted to live in a little house with a neat and colorful garden. You’d have to know how stale the air used to be in rooms stuffed with bodies in some godforsaken public hospital where poor people were dying from cancer. You’d have to see and feel and smell more, much more, in order to understand why those of us who were there then, are still where we are now, fully determined and loyal, working and living for the Revolution.
Ernesto Che Guevara had to leave his provincial bubble of family, which consisted of doctors enjoying their upper middle-class life; he had to hit the road. In a way, he never returned. Che had to see and smell and feel, in order to get engaged, to take sides, to become committed; he had to understand what misery is, what leprosy is, what hunger and despair are, but also, he had to face all that tremendous glory of his continent, of South America.
It all goes hand in hand: in order to fight, to commit, to risk your life, you have to love, or at least you have to know how to love. In order to love, first you have to be alive!
During his endless motorcycle journey through the continent, what Che experienced was not necessarily something “factual”, or even “rational”.
What Venezuelan revolutionaries based their actions on a few decades later was mainly deeply emotional. Their feelings eventually got rationalized, leading to the pledge to liberate the continent. The next step was to take several determined actions. Facts were employed, too, but they were harvested strictly for the Cause, for the Revolution. It was not, and it was never meant to be, the other way around.
Revolution is a highly emotional event, and so is love, so is life. There is no life and there is no love without rebellion, without “private revolution”, without commitment. To live and to love requires courage and personal freedom, but it also requires full dedication and loyalty, self-sacrifice and determination.
During the Revolution, as well as when one is in love, all senses are involved. One is fighting for humanity. One is fighting for happiness of his or her other half. No matter what obstacles are blocking the way, no matter how hard the journey is, while loving or struggling, but especially while loving and struggling, a person is fully alive. Then and only then, his or her life gains meaning.
Revolution can be totally stripped of religion; it could be, and it often is, completely secular. But it always relies, significantly, on three brilliant Muses, three sisters, that are never far away from anything great that is moving our human race forward. Their names are Faith, Love and Hope.
Faith can be never based on facts. Love can be never based on facts. Hope is not based on facts.
The three sisters cannot be ‘studied’, and not much can be learned about them from the internet.
They could never be fully understood with logic. All three of them simply represent Life.
Life that is increasingly absent from societies that are controlling the world; societies which are more and more limiting the natural range of human senses, while herding men and women into dark and narrow pre-fabricated tunnels that lead only into perverse meaninglessness.
Such societies have already managed to create a new horrible religion, a new breed of extreme fanaticism, based on cold, emotionless, and nonsensical “rationalism”, on dehumanized “science”, and on a pre-selected medley of “facts”. Such societies have already choked to death both poetry and the human ability to dream. They have ended up raping the world, inseminating it with passivity and depression, forcing humanity to reject faith, love, and hope, to spit at commitments, at loyalty, at courage, at constructive and positive actions, at Life itself.
“Fact-based” virtual analyses of the world lead mostly to dark pessimism and negativism. It is not only because the prolonged staring at computer and television screens is depressing and unhealthy, but also since such analyses are to a great extent, “unreal” and deceiving.
The analogy to ‘“facts”-based virtual experience’ versus ‘beneficial human knowledge’ would be: ‘pornography’ versus ‘love’.
To a poet, to a revolutionary, to a dreamer, to a humanist, such knowledge that consists exclusively of ‘hard facts’ (spiced with countless formulas and test results) would appear as cold, absurd and as empty as ‘hard porn’.
Love is not just the physical friction of two sexual organs, but also of great tenderness, compassion, honesty, and the disappearance of all fears accumulated throughout one’s entire life. It is genuine liberation and great adventure, a “private revolution”, a process through which the entire world, in fact the entire universe is re-discovered and re-defined, thoroughly and from the beginning, by two people, together.
True and big loves, like those loves that people used to experience and then write about in the past, (but so rarely now), were never easy, as people are not some simple beings, and two of them can hardly ever “perfectly match”. There were almost always some big dramas and temporary breakouts, then passionate reunions; there were misunderstandings and even severe pain. It always required great determination and willpower for two strong individuals to remain together, to survive as a couple, as one unit.
It is always easier to give up, to leave, as is done these days.
It is all down to those “facts” stripped of passion, depth and courage, isn’t it?
Take a woman you think you fell in love with, and look at the facts – analyze her. Go ahead – try. Do it the way everything is done these days: coldly and rationally. Is she “good for you”? Is living with her going to “improve your life”? Aren’t her buttocks too wide or legs bit too short? Isn’t she a bit“complicated”, in fact, “isn’t she too complicated?” And, “doesn’t she come with too much baggage?” Isn’t being with her going to “jeopardize your career?” “Is it going to strain the relationship with your family?”
Such thoughts would have been considered grotesque in the past. But they are acceptable, even normal, now. And the conclusions are usually predictable: “if it is not easy, leave! Just go…”
Do you remember the greatest novel written by Hemingway: “For Whom The Bell Tolls”?
A man, a middle-class American teacher goes to Spain. He volunteers; he wants to fight on the side of socialism, on the side of Republican Spain, against fascism. His name is Robert Jordan. He meets a girl; her name is Maria. Maria’s head was shaved, before she was brutally raped by fascist troops. From the beginning, it appears to bean absolutely impossible love, but to hell with it: it is love, and both Robert Jordan and Maria know it, they feel it, and they don’t even attempt to be rational about it. Against all odds, suddenly but fully, two people from two faraway countries do give their lives to each other, and then they make love, and ‘the earth moves’, as it moves only once in a lifetime. And Maria dies, and Robert Jordan does not leave; he stays by the side of the road, in a futile but heroic gesture, waiting for a fascist column to approach, so he could do what he pledged to do, to her and to himself: to fight and most likely to die in this foreign land, to die honestly, for Maria’s country.
Well, this is how people used to write, and this is how they use to live… and this is how they used to love.
This is what used to be normal, and what used to be admired and treasured.
And this is still how I write and live and love, and I don’t give a damn whether it is in vogue or not. I know when I write well, no matter what others say. I know when I fight bravely and honestly, even if, at the end, I lose. One knows these things, as one perhaps also knows when he or she lives like a coward, or when he or she betrays. I also know when ‘the earth moves’, and if it does, even if the other one does something insane and ‘unforgivable’, no matter what I declare, I will stay.
In today’s world, Maria and women like Maria would be seen as very ‘bad match’. An injured, traumatized woman with ‘terrible baggage’ carried on her shoulders. No ‘sane man’ would take her hand. No one would embrace her; no one would fight and die for her. (Although somewhere deep inside I know: I would… I am… even now.)
Pornography,or some secret encounter with a bimbo in a love hotel, would be much ‘safer’, much ‘simpler’ for today’s ‘sensible’ Western men.
That is why, I’m convinced, in such an environment, with such a state of mind, no true revolution is possible anymore!
Every great love is confusing and often painful. True revolutions are never tidy, never easy, and never faultless. It is because both human love and human passion for progress and change consists of a set of complex emotions and instincts, sometimes clashing, often co-existing somehow inharmoniously, but always creating great whirlpool of passions, which actually makes life worth living.
By definition, love can never be ‘sterile’, and the same can be said about true revolution. True love and true revolution are always raw, full of fluids, of boiling blood, of tears. They consist of hope, of pain, but also of great joy.
Pornography is totally sterile, and sterile is that self-righteous universe of detachment, of cold ‘impartial’ observation of the world, as well as electronically transmitted “facts”. Sterile is also the refusal to get ‘engaged’, to get ‘dirty’, to get involved, and to take sides. Sterile is not to fight and not to be ready to die for one’s ideals.
Sterile is when one is desiring absolute purity:
“I cannot get involved, because I’m not ready to fully support this ideal, this ideology, this revolution.”
When I hear this, I immediately imagine those bodies of women, created by fashion and advertisement agencies: “perfect”, smooth, slim, and tall… but absolutely lacking life and individuality.
I’m not attracted to such bodies, and I’m not attracted to ‘perfect’, tidy and ‘inoffensive’, ‘harmless’ ideologies. I’d never want to be with a woman whom I wouldn’t want to murder, at least once. I’d never fight for perfection, only for human beings, and those are never thoroughly (and luckily) faultless.
During a revolution and also when one loves and is loved madly, one can easily burn to ashes, but that’s life and it is better to go this way, than vanishing from influenza, old age or in a car accident.
One can also fall, disappear, while searching for true knowledge, because knowledge is often hidden in the most peculiar, dangerous and unsavory places. You have to come close, damn close, if you want to truly comprehend.
Sometimes, if you come too close, you die. But that is life, too. That’s how it is and that’s how it should be. Without tremendous effort, without true courage, stamina, passion, without taking risks, life is never worth living.
Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novel “Aurora” and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”. View his other books here. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.