Books, Documentaries, Society

The Banality of Evil: Learning from the Horrors of the Past

Last week I watched The Look of Silence, a documentary film by Joshua Oppenheimer and a companion piece to his 2012 work The Act of Killing. Both films explore how the Indonesian military killed a million people – suspected communists and subversives – over the course of 1965-66 after it overthrew the government. The films bring this hidden history to life through the voices of both victim and perpetrator.

In this recent work, a family of survivors discovers how their son Ramli was murdered, as well as the identities of the killers, nearly half a century after the event unfolded. The documentary focuses on the youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, who decides to break the suffocating spell of submission and terror by doing something unimaginable in a society where the murderers remain in power: he confronts the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions. This film initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.

First he meets Inong who, wearing the heavy optical frames Adi has placed over his eyes, speaks freely about his crimes, how he once cut off the breast of a communist woman who had been given up for execution by her own brother and how, like many of the killers, he drank the blood of his victims in the belief that it would stop him going mad amid the relentless slaughter. Continue reading

Standard
Society

The Power of Humanity to Reach New Heights

The thing about new human endeavors is how easy and obvious they seem in hindsight.

From sailing around the world tapollo-11-920-0o submerging to the bottom of the ocean, humanity is defined by inspiring people solving seemingly impossible challenges.

We’ve designed telescopes that peer deep into the universe and particle colliders that tell us how it all began. We’ve built airplanes that defy gravity (and made the world seem smaller). We’ve even sent men to the Moon! This last great achievement, accomplished in 1969, is what I would like to discuss now.

The Space Race of the 1960s between the USA and the USSR showed how human imagination, combined with technology and science, can make something which seems impossible possible. It’s astonishing to think that John F. Kennedy promised (quote below) to have an American land on the Moon less than 60 years after the Wright Brothers first flight! From our feet off the ground to our first steps on another body of the solar system in only six decades! Continue reading

Standard