A conversation – catching up with Brandt in Vienna.
Frank: I feel I’m on a train holding a ticket with a question mark as the destination.
Brandt: (laughs) Welcome to my world, Frank.
Frank: Thomas Mann in his work, Doctor Faustus writes about a man “broken by the horrors of his times”. I read the news on the Internet, listen to it on television, with advertisements and propaganda immersed within the actual news, and I sigh. The truth of our times? I think of Thomas Mann’s words just in terms of the Middle East, let alone all the suffering and brutality in other parts of the world affected by unlivable conditions, political upheaval and I can’t help but wonder about the future, especially of Israelis and Palestinians and how the world is affected…as we’re all connected somewhere down the line.
Brandt: We all live in a shrinking world of global angst and absurdity. The brutality of war is historic. Pain has no language as we both have talked about. A person can easily be misled with lies that are hatched in the heads of people who find it easier to tear down than to build. Instincts between right and wrong is second to survival and becomes more ensnarled as if caught like a fly in a spider’s web.
Frank: And the fog of war?
Brandt: Nebel des Krieges or fog of war was Clausewitz’s observation in his work On War. In war clarity is lost in the shadows. Paranoia creeps in and distorts a person’s view. The Middle East is in an extremely perilous situation. The view is distorted. The truth is ominous. Hate is a weapon. Vigilance is complicated.
In this war the shroud of uncertainty is embroidered with the real spectacle of war’s inhumanness. The camera’s eye does not record all. I have worked in Israel and Jordan and traveled through neighboring countries. The anger stretches back in time. Fear, as has been repeatedly stated in the media, is a tool of control and oppression. Chaos exploits its own confused facile rewards. It’s written that in war no one is left unpunished. The conditions on the ground are visceral, deceptive, alarming, and sucks the person down as if they were being swallowed by quicksand… grasping for anything to hold on to. The odors of war are foul smelling…new methods mixed with old ways of barbarism.
Frank: You use the word truth. Any further thoughts you’d like to share… I was thinking of something I read about how unprofitable peace is, compared to war. Cynicism eats away at the soul.
Brandt: One must trust the truth of what actually occurs. I’m not astonished by the disinformation and lies of the Hezbollah and Hamas or other players. No one is innocent. Lies have unlimited followers. They live in an existential universe – to create chaos not to build, not to restore peace but want disharmony. The purposeful lie? When is a lie better than the truth? Some people exist to destroy. It’s in their brain tissue and environment. Something happened in their life. But why this person and not that person? How does their mind translate the world around them? We have talked about this Frank…the I and Thou. Who were their teachers, mentors, and peers? Read history from within. Fury surrounding disenfranchisement has a long arc. Opinions rage. People forget why they are angry…they are angry at the injustices, real and perceived. And dogma serves as a supporting structure.
Frank: Are some problems unsolvable?
Brandt: Hmm. While here in Vienna a colleague and I considered Israel’s long-term solution was and is the two states…that is contrary to the current prime minister’s goal (as well as Hamas). In the interim the horror of inhumanity is a tool for deceivers. It will continue. Corporations and international banks make profits off of war. War is regularly condemned but the profits drive the machine of war in my opinion. Indebtedness and fear are useful instruments.
Frank: The future of democracies in Europe?
Brandt: Of course, the worry is inherent in public and private conversations. The abuse of power is historic not only in Europe. The wealthy have a role. Is it a game of chess? At what cost in human life? Many expatriates, living in Europe call Trump and his minions the epitome of corruption. America’s Republicans have engendered the perception of corruption throughout Europe and the Middle East. Corruption is part of the human quilt of experience. No one is free from it. Where will this lead? Europe is not innocent. No country is innocent. Terrorism is also without borders and easily exploited and exported in any given country. Fascism continues to be an insidious player. Poland knows as this past week’s election displayed in public view.
All countries appear to have some networks tied to power and wealth. Some networks (deep states) are perceptively deeper than others. Conspiracies are a death spiral. We must not feed into such behavior.
My colleague whom I met here and me are always concerned about our angle of view. We may be at the same event and witness the horrors of it and arrive with different interpretations but the mutilated dead bodies are an objective reality. We report what we experience and observe. We know what a person sees can be manipulated. Truth, the facts, and knowledge should not have borders. Who gains from the manipulation of truth?
Frank: The horrors of the times Thomas Mann speaks of extends beyond the Faustian bargain people make with the “devil” within themselves.
Brandt: I’m afraid so (pause) as I look out at this wonderful city, we have much to be thankful for…much to love…can we hold on to it?