Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day.

Flash back 36 years.

It's 1967, and Israel has been at war with surrounding countries for several days. An unexpected string of victories has elated the Israeli public, and troops are finally, after 2 days of waiting outside the walls, told to take the Old City of Jerusalem. After more than 1900 years of exile, Jews once again controlled the place that G-d gave to them, almost 4000 years before.

Flash forward to now.

Millions of Israelis will instantly recognize the phrase "Har haBayit Bi'Yadaynu" ("The temple mount is in our hands.") That it was a mixed blessing, few would dispute. Whether it will remain Israel's is now seriously in doubt. But for the first time in centuries, since the early muslim rule in Israel, Jews are able to live in peace, and pray, at their holiest site.

It seems strange, but in Israel, this is what has real meaning. Not the politics, as tortuous as they are, but the fact that Israel is a homeland for the Jews. The fact that of all the states in the middle east, it is the only with freedom of worship for all of it's citizens. But maily, these Israeli's are proud, as strange as this seems, of their roots to this city that go back more than 3000 years. It may be crazy, but nobody is going to deny it's what Israel is about. I'm going to go daven at the kotel today. It is an opportunity that few Jews in the last couple of centuries have had.

During the run-up to lunch I picked up another file, that of a man from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was a member of the youth wing of the Movement Populaire du Revolution (MPR), but left to form the Union de Democrates pour le Development du Congo (UDDC), although a breakaway UDDC faction eventually formed the Movement de Liberation du Congo (MLC), all of which are dedicated to overthrowing the government of the DRC.

And then I had lunch and read the Daily Telegraph, and there was a report on the DRC as it is today, right now, not six months ago, and it seems that the appellant has got his wish as the government is not in control outside the major cities. The situation has deteriorated and now the DRC is like Angola or Fernando Poo in the 1970s or any number of disaster areas, with the interesting addition of cannibalism to the familiar reports of killing, mutilation, piles of burning bodies and so forth. Sometimes I wonder if diversity is a good thing or not. We seem to have an unquenchable instinct to kill, and a multiculural society merely makes the killing more granular, by reducing the scale. Instead of nations fighting nations, streets fight streets, families fight families, gangs fight gangs. Centuries ago, when Britain's villages and towns were mortal enemies of each other, the fighting was gradually supplanted with football, but so much of politics today is about removing all kinds of competition, friendly or otherwise. We will always have a reason to fight; when there are no good reasons left, we'll fight and kill because we're bored.

Two photographs in the newspaper struck me, both of which feature AK-47-type rifles. The AK-47 is one of the few firearms that could form a final-year thesis; it is one of the most influential objects of the post-WW2 era. Produced by a repressive communist country as a means of allowing a poorly-trained conscript army to belt out huge amounts of firepower, the AK-47 can kill and kill, reliably and accurately, to a distance of 300 yards, in thirty-round doses at 600 rounds per minute. All that is required is the strength to lift it; the report mentions a 9-year old militiaman (militiachild?), and when I was 9 I would have given anything to own an AK-47. He must be having incredible fun, running around killing anybody who disagrees with him, or indeed anybody in general. I can fully understand why people do this kind of thing. Nobody is going to stop them, or punish them. They're going to have their fun, and if they survive, they'll go home, sit back, and live out their lives. There will not be a final reckoning and they will not go to hell.

They are free in an anarchic society of free men, although not free women, except in the sense that women cost nothing. The DRC is a healthy society which has weeded out and killed the fat and the old and the disabled and the infirm; the only people left alive are physically fit, ruthless killers, and everybody wants to be a fit, ruthless killer. Schoolkids across the world want to be buff murderers. If they lived in the DRC, they would be happy.

On page 7 of the newspaper is Grayson Perry, artist and transvestite, dressed in a big girl's blouse, carrying an airsoft replica of a folding-stock AK-47S. Grayson is 43 and has spent his life and career as an artist, casting and painting pots, and embroidering. The website for the Saatchi Gallery's EyeStorm collection has this to say about 'Love Plane', a garish cartoon of an aeroplane surrounded by what appear to be explosions ($630):

" the centre of the design is a fighter aircraft whose presence subverts initial reactions. Many aspects of this work have a double meaning. On the plane's wings are purple hearts, whose prettiness would be in keeping with typical tasteful embroidery, but which here make reference to the medal given to heroes of the Vietnam War. The forms that surround the plane resemble both flowers and explosions occurring on the ground..."

On page 15 of the newspaper is an un-named militiaman in the DRC, carrying what appears to be a Czech-made vz58, a rifle which resembles and fires the same ammunition as the AK-47, although it is an original design. His pose is similar to that of Perry, as there is only one easy way to hold a rifle if you are right-handed; pistol grip in the right hand, foregrip in the left hand, rifle held over the body, pointing to the left. He is wearing a t-shirt with the prominent slogan 'Peachtree'. The newspaper doesn't record the militiaman's name, or anything else about him. He is not interviewed in the text, and when he dies or is killed he will probably not have a gravestone. His daily life undoubtedly mirrors and surpasses the atrocities depicted in Goya's 'Disasters of War', a series of gruesome drawings recently recast by Jake and Dinos Chapman, bright lights in the art world. In the DRC everybody hates each other; different ethnic and political groups hate each other, native africans hate former slaves and/or Americanos, who in turn treat the native Africans with contempt, men hate women, dogs and cats hate each other.

The text of the article about the DRC goes over the atrocities currently happening there, a fascinating litany of horrors which are too familiar now to be shocking. I read the article as I ate my lunch, which was a microwaveable beefburger - 'The Big One', £1.59 from the local shop, soggy but addictive. The paint is coming off the militiaman's magazines and the weapon looks worn and well-used. I enjoying reading doom-laden news reports for the same reason that people crane their necks to look at car wrecks; I like to see other people suffer, it makes me happier with my life. I hope that things get worse, so that we realise how well-off we are, and that we should stay that way. Do it to them; let them absord the world's misery, whilst we live happy lives. As you get old you move beyond egalitarianism. It's easy to give all your money to charity if you have never known what it is like to be poor. We forget that, in Victorian times, people were very conscious of how lucky they were, of how they had 'won the lottery of life', because they were so close to death and misery. But it is not luck or a lottery that puts you where you are; it's ruthless bastardlyness, either your own or somebody else's.

In 1989 a man called Charles Taylor, with a force of 150 militiamen and the help of Libya and the Ivory Coast, invaded the country of Liberia. His strategy was to force villagers to support him on pain of death, and many did so. Four years later Taylor was in charge of the whole country, a quarter of a million people were dead, and he remains there still after having won a landslide election victory in 1997 from a population whose country he had destroyed. There's a whole complex thing with Jesse Jackson and America as well, but I can't make head or tail of it. Today Bob Hope is 100 years and one day old.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.