Friday, July 23, 2010


It’s an unfashionable thing to say, but the world is a fairly predictable place most of the time. In similar situations, similar things happen. There’s only so many ways people will behave. That said, there are times when that predictability takes own its own strange scope and mystery.

In April, or June, a plane went down in Poland, taking with it an extraordinary chunk of the country’s national leadership. The dignitaries, strangely enough, were on their way to a memorial service for the Katyn Massacre, in which almost 22,000 Polish politicians, doctors, lawyers and intelligensia were killed by the Soviet internal security services. I don’t have to spell the parallels out, do I? But the most extraordinary thing, the thing about Poland that always caused some part of my brain grind to an astonished halt, was that this was a country presided over by twins. One was current president, the other Poland’s previous prime minister. It was a mythic set-up made real, perhaps by Poland’s inimitable history.

The plane crash, which mirrored so perfectly the very memorial they were on their way to attend, felt like fate. This is not a word I like, but what others do we have? How do we talk about this kind of thing? It is the sort of news that leaves me feeling supersititious. It was as though, for an instant, some arcane universal machinery had creaked into action. Its purpose – to redress circumstances too ridiculous, or too extraordinary to be allowed to last. Only an event of equal absurdity could reset the balance.

Later, a completely unrelated thing happened in the mediterranean. Isreali security forces stormed a group of aid vessels attempting to defy the Gaza Blockade. Whereas the Polish aircrash has something of the ineffable about it, this event had a logical ugliness to it – nine people were killed in the latest piece of violence to erupt in an area proverbial for it.

I think my point is that two very different kinds of predictability were at work. One, the aircrash, has a sort of mythic fatalism about it. The other, Israel’s most recent piece of criminal activity, seemed simply inevitable. I found myself enjoying both guiltily – the former because it suggested the world may yet act in ways too strange to fully explain; the latter because it seems to push us ever closer to a watershed moment in the Middle East, when Israel’s claim to self-defense would finally fall flat.

I don’t know how to finish this, because the process is unfinished itself. I am waiting, I suppose, for something to happen. Something bigger that, once and for all, exposes things for what they are. Heidegger would talk about lanterns in the darkness, someone like Swedenborg would speak of veils moving briefly aside. I don't know.

I really don't.