28Sherman regularly posts WWI images on his blog. Some of them connect us with the soldier in the image, other photos show strange inventions as each side was rushing to adapt to the changing technology of the battlefield. I think his aim is to reconnect us with the continuity of our civilization. I came across a good maxim the other day: “In Europe 100 miles is far. In America 100 years is old.”
A cultural amnesia is reinforced by the cacophony of electronic stimuli and shades of mud. Westerners are drowning in sewage and have no idea what to say besides “White people have no culture.” For someone under thirty in the United States, watching a YouTube video with 1980s TV commercials can be dislocating. “Wow, everybody is White and the girls are … how do you say… I’ve never seen this before… is ‘nice’ the word I’m looking for?”
I don’t know much about Dresden beside what I read in Vonnegut’s novel. What do young Germans know about it? Do they even know that something existed before all the bitchy women, the Turks and now the full terror of race-replacement? The teenagers who died in the firebombings… did they ever exist? do they have anything to tell us?
It’s a similar idea with my Warsaw snapshots in the previous post. My blog’s tagline is also an appeal to cultural memory. How can you live any other way when all you know is the way you live now? To somebody who is Eastern European, Communist propaganda reels from the 1940s might connect him with his grandparents’ stories about rabid Party apparatchiks and their unchecked power to ruin lives at every level of society, the blood-curdling 3:00 AM secret police knocks on the door, the mass imprisonments — and the Happy Face of socio-realist art plastered over all of it. But there were also ruins that had to be rebuilt, and they were. The workers were the heroes, whatever they thought about those staged Bricklaying Competitions.
A Westerner will look at scenes from Warsaw as exotic in their particulars but familiar in terms of his undefined hunger. Whether it’s the idyllic video of a stroll of a through 1990s Warsaw I linked to in my previous post, or the bricklayers in 1947 “A Warsaw Day,” he will see a public space that belongs to its rightful people. No war, no tension, no ceding of ground, no foreign faces, no ugly languages, no dissonance, no withdrawal from life. Having seen the past, he’ll find clarity about fighting for peace and his future.