NOBEL SPEECH-ART, TRUTH and POLITICS
Ever since I read the transcript of the speech given by Harold Pinter on the occasion of his receipt of the Nobel Prize In Literature I've pondered whether to write about it. Before I read the speech on the internet, I had never heard of Pinter in spite of the evidently considerable attention that has been given to his work. That I haven't heard or read of him is probably because of what can be viewed as a shortcoming in not having spent much time with plays and fiction.
I have hesitated writing about the speech because of the obvious strength of its evaluation of United States international activity in the post World War II era and its clear denunciation of the United States current invasion and occupation of Iraq. Yet, I have had reservations about the speech. I can certainly just be silent about my reservations and given the accolades that he has received what I have to write about his speech can easily be dismissed. Yet the unmentionable in Harold Pinter's speech has acquired its own life in other commentaries and needs to be addressed in this the most obvious of circumstances.
There is no question about the fact that the speech serves to focus considerable detail on the murderous activity of the United States foreign policy in the world and England's subservient support of such activity particularly in its participation in the latest slaughter of innocents in Iraq. The passionate verbal portrait of the process of these horrors only serves to make unquestionably obvious, in my opinion, the glaring omission in the speech.
I read with real interest the description of how Pinter described the process that he went through to produce two of his plays. Pinter tells us that one play began with a word and the other play began with a phrase. According to Pinter,
Pinter then distinquishes between himself as a writer and himself as a citizen and writes,
Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of Old Times is 'Dark.'"
For Pinter the "truth in drama is forever elusive". He writes,
There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false".. "But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.
I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?With that established, Pinter describes the process of his writing and then proceeds to describe the truth of United States foreign policy. Pinter then describes two methods of the implementation of United States foreign policy. If he, a writer and a citizen, can describe them so precisely and succinctly, it occurs to me that the policy makers, the policy implementers must have the two methods as part of their play book of standard methods for United States domination. In any case they seem, at least to me, to be accurate descriptions of what the United States has been about. One of the methods Pinter calls the "low intensity conflict" and describes it as follows,
"Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer."From there Pinter proceeds through the litany of the United States support of the slaughter of innocents by this method of low intensity conflict ----Nicarauga, El Salvador, Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile.
His use of language in the descriptions makes it evident that he is a writer who is a citizen. My friend Kenneth Burke described humans as "symbol-using animals, inventors of the negative" in distinction from anthropologists who described humans as "tool-using animals". But it has always occurred to me that we are an identity of symbol-using, tool-using animals, inventors of the negative. One or the other elements of this identity can be the most dominant as the dominance of tool-using for the auto mechanic compared to the dominance of symbol-using for the playwright. The Nobel Prize for Literature is evidence of Pinter's skill as a symbol-user.
Pinter uses this skill with language to describe the United States involvement with torture and imprisonment both in the United States prison system but also in its creation of the torture prisons at Quantanamo and elsewhere in the world. Pinter's descriptions are sonorously graphic. He writes,
"We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'"And, again,
"The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves."And, more,
"Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally - a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood."But in the end, Pinter writes, the "low intensity conflict" is not enough for the United States. The stakes have been raised; all bets are off; the United states policy makers decide on the final solution. Pinter writes,
"I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'. That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources."So there we have it. Full spectrum dominance.
Pinter describes the United States' use of torture, its proliferation of nuclear weapons, its torturous prison policies, the mounting direct horrendous death and consequent death tolls of its policies, its targeted assassination of leaders of the countries that are the targets of its policies and, finally, "control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources".
It is, using his words, a "full spectrum" description of United States foreign policy.
Yet, in the 2970 odd words of his speech, amounting to about eleven pages of printed material, there is not a single word, not even a hint of a word or phrase not a scintilla of the United States unstinting, incontrovertible support for the Jewish Zionist-led Israeli government's assault against the people of Palestine.
Given the means that he describes how he came to write some of his work- the mention of a word or the mention of a phrase leads to conjuring a whole story---one is forced to wonder how the mention of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in the Middle East didn't conjure up the invasion and occupation of the Palestine beyond the internationally recognized 1949 and 1967 borders by Israel in the Middle East.
. how the mention of United States nuclear proliferation did not conjure up the near life long imprisonment of Israeli citizen Mordechai Vanunu for revealing Israel's nuclear proliferation
. how the mention of Quantanamo and the other torture prisons did not conjure up the Israeli dungeon-like prisons that hold nearly ten thousand Palestinian men, women, adolescents and children and, until recently , the Israeli use of torture of prisoners sanctioned in Israeli law
. how the mention of the targeted assassination of the leaders of countries did not conjure up Israel's stated policy of killing Palestinian leaders
. how the mention of cluster bombs, depleted uranium, random killings and murder did not conjure up the Israeli behemoth buldozers leveling homes and decades old olive groves and Israeli helicopter gunships and jet plane killing machines assaulting the peopl;e of Palestine and their infrastructure of every description
Because I wondered how Pinter's words and phrases did not manage to conjure up the details of United States supported Israeli actions in the very location of the world that occupied so much of Pinter's speech, I went to the internet to find out about Pinter.
What I found out was that Pinter is Jewish. Yet that means little in the context of the fact that there are a considerable number of Jews that have demonstrated and voiced opposition to the Israeli government's occupation and absorption of the Palestine beyond its internationally recognized borders. That opposition includes hundreds of military "refuseniks" that will not participate in the occupation.
In fact, what I found out was that Pinter is one of those Jewish intellectuals that specifically and directly expresses opposition to Israel's occupation and absorption of the Palestine beyond its borders outside of the context of his Nobel Prize lecture.
In a letter also signed by Noam Chomsky, John Berger and Jose Saramago, Pinter along with these others declared on July 26, 2006,
"Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.
This has to be said loud and clear for the practice, only half declared and often covert, is advancing fast these days, and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognised for what it is and resisted. See the letter at LETTER BY PINTER
So, in December of 2005, at the time of the Nobel Lecture, Pinter delivers a 45 minute speech of some 2900 words that translates into 11 printed pages whose content ranges all over the world, including the middle east, about the United States support and direction of "low intensity conflict" and "full spectrum dominance" without even an aside mention or obscure reference to the United State support of Israel's nearly half century combination of these tactics against the people palestine.
Then in July of 2006, only six months after his Nobel presentation before the entire world, Pinter signs a letter that the United States supported Israeli ".long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation...must be unceasingly and eternally recognised for what it is and resisted.'
See the liquidation of the Palestinian nation by a graphic portrayal of the land lost by the Palestinians since 1946 LOST LAND OF PALESTINE
Even more than that according to Genevieve Fraser of Ramallah On Line,
"When Israel held Mordechai Vanunu in captivity (much of it in solitary confinement) for 18 years as a nuclear whistleblower, Britain's renowned playwright Harold Pinter served as a trustee for the Campaign to Free Vanunu and for a Free Middle East.
Since 2001, Pinter has promoted the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's boycott of Israeli products and tourism. And when George Galloway, Britain's anti-Israel MP, declared that Ariel Sharon was a war criminal who deserves to be locked up for human rights abuses, Pinter supported Sharon's condemnation. He has not only been vocal about the desperate suffering of the Palestinians, but has gone so far as to declare Israel "the central factor in world unrest."
But Israel and its supporters in Washington and throughout the world would have a hard time condemning Pinter as an anti-Semite. Pinter was born in London to working-class Jewish parents of Ashkenazi ancestry. Three of Pinter's grandparents were from Poland and one from Odessa.
In his acceptance speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, "Art, Truth & Politics," Pinter stated, ".the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot." In keeping with that philosophy, on July 6th, Pinter's name appeared along with 300 prominent members of the Jewish Community in Britain in a full page ad published in the Times of London condemning Israel's massive assault on Gaza. Sponsored by Jews for Justice in Palestine, the ad serves as a "Call by Jews in Britain" and begins by asking, "What is Israel doing?"
"We watch with horror the collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Everything reasonable must be done to secure Corporal Gilad Shalit's safe release but nothing Israel is doing contributes to that aim. Instead, it is using its enormously superior military might to terrorize an entire people."
"Destruction of the fragile Gaza infrastructure will not release Shalit. Bombing power stations and cutting off fuel supplies deprives people of electricity, refrigeration, pumped drinking water and sewage disposal services. It holds hostage hospital patients on life support systems, or undergoing dialysis. It brings the threat of epidemics and starvation."
"As Gideon Levy wrote in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, this is "not only pointless, but. blatantly illegitimate". Gilad Shalit has become a pawn in the Israeli government's ongoing battle to topple the democratically-elected government of the Palestinians."
"Presenting this as an isolated hostage-taking incident ignores Israel's regular snatching of Palestinians from their homes. Thousands are held in 'administrative detention' without trial, women and children amongst them. A doctor and his brother - civilians - were kidnapped from their home in Al Shouka, near Rafah, the day before Corporal Shalit was captured. Like him, they need to be returned to their families in the established practice of prisoner exchange. And all elected MPs, punitively imprisoned by Israel in recent days, must be immediately released."
"For the US and its allies merely to call for 'restraint' is desperately inadequate - and evidently ineffective. This is a situation that requires determined action by the international community."
See Jews For Justice For Palestinians at JUSTICE
So it is clear that outside of his presentation of the lecture on the occasion of his receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pinter is thoroughly aware of the Israeli "low intensity conflict' and "full spectrum dominance" of the people of Palestine supported by the United States.
The question remains, then, how is that Pinter's participation in the collective statements that address the United States nearly half century support of Israel's invasion, occupation and absorption of the Palestine beyond its borders--- ".that is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation."--- is omitted entirely in his personal statement; draws a blank in his own Nobel Prize lecture even when he has contended that Israel is "the central factor in the world unrest"?
We can only conjecture about the reasons for the glaring omission. But Pinter's information provides us with the process of producing his writings---how it proceeds from the mention of a word, from the mention of a phrase and as a citizen his writing is a search for "What is true?, What is false?" His writing is deliberate, it is thoughtful, and it is precise. And that is exactly what Pinter's omission of the United States support of the Israeli "liquidation of the Palestinian nation" in the personal statement of his Nobel Prize lecture was---it was deliberate, thoughtful, and precise.
Perhaps Pinter anticipated that the organized response (a la Jimmy Carter) that he would have received if his lecture included his personal condemnation of United States support for Israel's slaughter of innocents in Palestine would have been too much to bear at a moment of personal triumph when the world's accolades and attention were focused on the successful son of a Jewish tailor.
William C. Carlotti
August 23, 2007