Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Moscow Papers: The Naming of Things

Square closed, Crane Puts Lenin Back in Place
This image was originally posted right here, baby

The following article can be read on high gloss paper in the May Star Wars Issue of 24/7, Taichung's premiere English language magazine. The magazine version contains quite a bit more nudity, and far stronger language.

The first printed Gentle Rant, the 24/7 Stars Wars Issue and a recent return from Russia; so a discussion of the battle between Good and Evil seems to fit. I know this will sell a lot of advertising because the Star Wars movies sold a lot of movie tickets, and they were all about good and evil; black and white, but little true grey.

I was originally sent to Moscow to try and get a photo of Vladimir Ilich Lenin inside his glass coffin in the Soviet style mausoleum on the west side of Red Square. There’s a strict no camera’s rule within the tomb and anyone caught is sent to one of the Siberian gulags, but it sounded like a good story. Is it really Lenin, or is he living it up in Bermuda?

It was a mad cab-ride downtown, dodging tens of thousands of soldiers, policemen, builders, gardeners and painters who were sprucing up Moscow for the 60th Anniversary of the End of the Great Patriotic War. The anniversary preparations closed the square for the duration of my trip. (More likely they had heard about the mission, and closed the area down just to be safe.) The Great Patriotic War was fought against the Nazis, cost 27 million Soviet souls, and is known to most of us as World War Two. This got me thinking about the names of wars.

The names of wars are funny old things. In 1898 the Americans unseated the Spanish in their colonies in the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico and Cuba. They were going to free these lands from the far away kings as they had done with their own. That never really happened. All four lands are still crawling with rednecks and at least 600, 000 Philipinos were murdered in the process of liberating and civilizing them. In the US history books it’s known as the, ‘Splendid Little War’ because it all went so swimmingly.

In 1914 an archduke was shot and so everyone had to fight. It was called World War One, but it was also called, ‘The War to End All Wars’. Whatever became of that? It’s too bad governments aren’t subject to more stringent false advertising laws.

I met a Russian lady, Natalya, on the flight back to HK, and we started talking about the anniversary. I said if it hadn’t been for Stalin we would all be speaking German; she said that if they hadn’t persevered against Hitler, she would never have been born.

I knew that Hitler had written in Mein Kampf that the Slavic peoples were animals to be enslaved or slaughtered. She told me that the plan was to kill all but 20 million of the Slavs , who would work his new, northern estates. They have the document in one of the thousand museums that cover this history-sodden land. I’m glad war’s still so popular.

What about the wars of our times? The Cold War, The Vietnam War, (which the Vietnamese call the American War) The War on Drugs, The War Against Terrorism, the War Against Low Income Afghani Housing, or the current one which is called Operation Iraqi Freedom, oddly enough. Careful, and remember these all come after, ‘The War to End All Wars’.

It was like the relief we all felt 22 years ago when the Rebels had overcome against the Evil Empire, the Emperor was dead and that Darth Vader wasn’t really such a bad guy after all (despite the millions of people that had perished during his difficult period) only to find out sixteen years later that the Emperor was coming back and Darth Vader was cute again, but about to go through a ‘difficult period’.

So why don’t they just start naming wars and movies more accurately, after the currencies or commodities on the table: The Doubloon Wars, the Dollar Wars, the Oil Wars, and the sequels, or prequels, where the franchise name is so strong that they’re going to make money whatever they dish out? It never matters. We’ll always go to the movies for a good war. Christ, some people will go anywhere for a good war...

"Nothing to lose but your chains"
This image was originally posted right here, baby

Sean Reilly,
Tai Chung, Taiwan
May 4, 2005

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lenin's body really was moved once from the mausoleum. It was during WWII. It was transported to Siberia. Conditions were not very good. The body was brought back in a bad state. Doctors responsible for it knew that they could be imprisoned. They did all the best to clean the body (also from mold). Since then one of Lenin's ears and one of his nostrils are wax. Katya