think of what it is like to lose some pictures of your family - when you have destroyed the contents of the folder: family in the folder: pictures on your hard disk, at the time you were trying to protect those images, literally, from the very thing you did - from being deleted - now you discovered you deleted them and you emptied the trash - how you pass over and over again through the same areas of this disk, believing you will find them, with the image of S as a crawling baby looming towards you, a huge moist face, taken by M, one of his famous pictures, which have now all been lost - these images are so alive, as they say, it seems inconceivable they can be gone, you can not believe it! despite yourself, in the face of your calculations, by which you can imagine and begin to suspect what you have done, you will still spend many hours searching this hard disk, and the other two hard disks in this room, which is turned from a repository and place where precious materials will be carefully protected to a place where precious materials are casually destroyed, as it seems, handed to cack handed operators and routinely destroyed and discarded, so that great seams of time are ruthlessly exposed and lost, literally thrown away - a sense of helplessness, guilty helplessness surrounds us, so that there is nowhere to go to escape our troubles, which follow us from room to room and are not alleviated by all the people we tell, those same people we have let down - it makes us sick -
now imagine that instead of digital images it is the living breathing people themselves in your family who have been wiped out -
after reading Matthew Engel's story about the death of his young son from cancer, a piece that a person hesitates to pick up - now we know a little more - after looking over that edge -
which we endlessly investigate - from which we are protected by a geometry we instinctively know to be fragile, provisional, subject at any moment to crumple, so that our faces are crushed against the machinery we dread - of course I mean the machinery of history - at certain times we feel death, the dark wing, in fact, sweep over this house - the force of the sweeping away, we know, will be unimaginable, the reduction of the minutiae of daily life to a pulp -
I have been watching the short video clips we made of battery powered boats sailing in the paddling pool - limbs of this or that child are thrust in and out of the frame, the boats rush or dawdle across the sparkling surface of the pool, this was on monday, the scene is drenched in sun, sometimes a face is seen: max stirs the water, poking a boat with a tube, it is all in silence, we feel as though we are in a strange elysium, a sheltered place, these children hold us in their orbit, somehow, well they work at it! holding nothing back, each of these experiences they plunge in to , literally, into the still cold water, fresh from the mains, shivering and grinning and talking, talking and talking as if nothing can quench their expression, their desire to tell every thing about this experience they are having, of themselves, that they are here, in their bodies, with their friends, they are eating sausages and ice creams, they are fighting for their right to be heard and to be silent and to fight, their right to fight for what they believe in!
well, against that is Robert McNamara and his group of the highest achievers, they were all either the top in their year or they were in the top percentile in their year, they were phi beta capa graduates from the Harvard Business School and they formed a special unit associated with the U S Air Force which investigated statistical aspects of air warfare and was responsible for the fire bombing of the German cities, and for the more or less total destruction of the cities of Japan by fire bombing, as well as for the total destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and so forth, along with most or all of the civilian populations of those places, men, as they say, women, as McNamara himself said, and children - in order to do good, McNamara tells us, in this film, you have to be prepared to do evil - this is one of his 11 lessons, learned in his long life of public service - there is no point in the film where it is explicitly asked: how many people have you killed, directly or indirectly, in this long public service career, but we are told that Robert McNamara and a Commander May, who was obsessively fascinated by the question of target destruction, making him, in Robert McNamara's opinion, the best combat commander he, Robert McNamara had ever known, and who was notable for speaking little, and then only in monosyllables: hn, yu, unhn, he said, and this? he would demand, jabbing his thick finger at the map - they killed 100 thousand civilians in one night - men, women, and children, of course - an action that Robert McNamara would neither take full responsibility for, nor, exactly, defend, nor condemn - for him it was a question of doing the best he could to help his country or his president or whatever authorial entity he was associated with, so that he careered through history wreaking havoc, ceaseless havoc of a kind perhaps not to be grasped, so that his periodic breakdowns, his periodic breaking down in to tears at unpredictable moments, felt like the more or less random failures of an emotional and ethical system so deformed and deteriorated that it leaks continually and uncontrollably and unpredictably, the way you have to keep boosting the pressure on an old heating system - the pressure comes out somewhere, at the eyes, in the various hesitations of the facial apparatus, which sometimes hang, in a curious way, like a cursor, when there is an operating conflict in the background, there's a hesitation before normal service is resumed - this would happen to McNamara's face if he was asked certain questions, it took a moment for the discursive machinery to cover up, i e by not answering the question, by asking a different question and answering that one, as he later said was one of his key strategies, never say never, he said, and then he said: never answer the question they ask you, answer the question you wish they'd asked you -
diminished, and reduced, it can readily be imagined why the crowds of people moving around the streets are growing indistinct, less coherent, cruder in their movements, even as the overall size of their bodies is increasing - asked to comment on this situation, they stare uncomprehendingly -
we too have no good response to these losses - they are irreparable -