My Shout

Article excerpt


`EVERY man's death diminishes me. '' So wrote John Donne (1572-1631) and, by his token, we must be the most diminished survivors in the history of the planet.

The twentieth century ran with blood from end to end, while science and technology advanced by leaps and bounds -- on the one hand bettering the developed world and extending life spans; on the other, vastly increasing our ability to kill each other. But then, from the earliest times, war and science had a mutually profitable relationship. In occupied China in the 1930s, the Japanese used their captives as human guinea pigs for countless experiments. Nazi Germany carried on the tradition, learning how to industrialise murder. In massive retaliation for Pearl Harbour, America tested the atomic bomb by vaporising Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Napalm denuded the Vietnamese countryside as it incinerated its people. Remember the little girl in flames, running screaming down a lane?

The camera and television have revolutionised our perceptions of war and killing. One of my earliest memories, alongside Bambi, is of news footage shot in the Nazi death camps. Others include Robert Capa's iconic image of a dying soldier in the Spanish Civil War; a heap of dead horses in a Spanish street offering shelter to snipers; grinning skulls and crossed bones in Cambodia's killing fields; a Cambodian prisoner receiving a bullet in the brain; innumerable, butchered corpses from decades of conflict across Africa; mass graves in the Balkans; a pilot's view of missiles homing in on Afghan or Iraqi targets; Death going off for a jaunt as gigantic B52 bombers take off from Fairford; jets flying endlessly into the World Trade Centre; the towers endlessly collapsing. …