"When the Scyths came to Sparta on this errand Cleomenes was with them continually; and growing somewhat too familiar, learnt of them to drink his wine without water, a practice which is thought by the Spartans to have caused his madness. From this distance of time the Spartans, according to their own account, have been accustomed, when they want to drink purer wine than common, to give the order to fill 'Scythian fashion'." -
Herodotus, 'Histories', Book Six.
Alcoholism in Russia is clearly nothing new.
Lake Voskhod, on Antarctica, is the largest body of absolutely pure water on the planet. Its preservation is deemed essential, as cosmologists think it is the nearest thing on Earth to the environment on Europa. A BBC science program broadcast some years ago reported the horror of NASA engineers on finding out that a group of Russian researchers had come with seconds of polluting the whole lake, having drilled to within six inches of the surface using a bit oiled with kerosene.
The story may be apocryphal, but in the novel 'The Hunt For Red October' the late Tom Clancy recorded how a Kazakh cook on a Russian nuclear submarine attempted to clean his pots with the steam from the reactor's outpipe. He was vaporised instantly.
Those boozy thugs in balaclavas (a good Ukrainian word!) wandering through the wreckage of Flight MH17 may be willing to die for field, flag and fatherland, but whoever is responsible for massacring its passengers and crew made sure that three hundred other people with no real investment in their dispute can now be counted among their squabble's victims. Even before this, I found the conflict in Ukraine to be squalid and disgusting. It is heartbreaking that even in the year 2014 there are Europeans who cannot settle their cultural differences without resorting to guns and airstrikes. They kill each others' children with airstrikes; and now they have killed eighty children who might never even have heard of Ukraine. So many children.
Whoever is responsible, I do sincerely hope that this event causes these people to take a very good, very long and very hard look at why they are fighting each other. I hope that this is found to be the consequence of some drunken incompetent using a weapon which, in any situation requiring an iota of sanity, they would never be allowed near. In the context of the culture which prevails in that part of the world, such an event would be understandable; disgraceful, for sure, but understandable. If it is anything else - if that plane was fired at deliberately, for whatever reason - whichever juiced-up berserkers are responsible should be on the first flight to The Hague, by mutual consent of Moscow and Kiev. The Dutch are a civilised people, and I'm sure that the Netherlands prison authorities would not afford their new guests the welcome they might deserve.
No liability should attach to Malaysia Airlines for this incident. Its pilot was flying its plane at what they had every reason to consider was a safe height, over what they had every good reason to consider was safe airspace. In such circumstances, the possibility of being hit by a surface to air missile must have seemed as remote as being hit by a meteorite. There is nothing that either the captain of Flight MH17 or his employers could have done to prevent this crime. They are all innocents. May Malaysia Airlines fly forever.
Crimes have victims, and we should look forward to the perpetrators of this one, a crime of epic magnitude, being prosecuted forthwith. It is one of the very great tragedies of our time that we cannot consider the shooting down of a civilian aircraft and the three hundred consequent murders to be the crime of the century. Yet the perpetrators should be prosecuted, for if anything this is a greater attack upon our way of life, in terms of how we all actually live, than the horrible madness of that autumn morning thirteen years ago (God, it still seems like yesterday). The perpetrators of that crime were 'striking a blow', or some crap like that. The perpetrators of this crime weren't out for gain, or looking to make a point. Instead, their heads were full of the banality of nation-worship, making them reckless to a degree likely to be beyond the comprehension of psychiatry.
The sheer range of people
from all backgrounds who have been murdered - members of the Toon Army going to see Newcastle United play in New Zealand; a florist (how Dutch!); a retired headmaster (bit close to home, that one); one of the world's greatest experts on the spread of HIV - remind one of how universal the ability to travel now is. Indeed, travelling isn't something we should consider ourselves as being able to do anymore, it's something one we should be considered as having the right to do, if we have the means. Both the nature of his work, and the degree of distinction he achieved within his field - evident from the regard with which he seems to have been held by fellow HIV researchers - has meant that the murder of Joep Lange
has attracted more comment than most (I'm sure that the Internet's crackpot evangelical right will have had a field day celebrating the murder of someone who's alleviated the suffering of AIDS victims, but that's one sewer I have no inclination to trawl).
Yet his murder shines the light of a perfect irony on the massacre of Flight MH17. His murderers may have murdered him thinking that he was an enemy of their village/tribe/oblast/volk*(*delete as applicable), but Joep Lange spent his working life fighting a virus, an organism with no respect for borders and nationhood; an enemy of all mankind - even of his murderers, the hateful, drunken, bloody-minded, bloody-handed, bloody fools.
Labels: Human Wretchedness, Humanity, Russia, The Stinky Doings Of States And Nations, The Way We Live Now