23 Aug. 2007

They Write Letters: Howard and Bush, Greene And Camus

"This is the patent age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls
All propagated with the best intentions."
- Graham Greene, The Quiet American.
To the Canberra Times:
At the next election we will confirm to ourselves and the world what we stand for. By voting for Liberals we will be saying we continue to support dishonesty, evasiveness, oppression, inequality, elitism, poverty, heartlessness and aggression. We will be admitting that 30 pieces of silver are more important than moral integrity.

I am ashamed at present to be an Australian, because I believe the actions of this Government reflect the ideals of the people.

Labor may not turn out to be any better than the Liberals, but by handing power to them we will at least be saying we reject the current immoral state of affairs and are looking for something nobler and finer.

Please, however hard your financial situation may be, don't sell yourself short. Listen to your heart and vote against the wrong things, because bad things happen when good people do nothing.

Paul House, Kaleen
There were also a few interesting letters to E&P in response to Greg Mitchell's outrage at Bush quoting his favorite 20th century novel and its author – Graham Greene’s prescient "The Quiet American". Here's the quote from Bush:
“In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called ‘The Quiet American.’ It was set in Saigon and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: ‘I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.’

“After America entered the Vietnam War, Graham Greene -- the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. Matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out, there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people. In 1972, one anti-war senator put it this way: ‘What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?'"
An E&P reader pulls together the rest of that quote from William Fulbright's "The Crippled Giant":
"Nor does it matter all that terribly to the inhabitants. At the risk of being accused of every sin from racism to communism, I stress the irrelevance of ideology to poor, peasant populations. Someday, perhaps, it will matter, in what one hopes will be a constructive and utilitarian way. But in the meantime, what earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers, in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they have never seen and may never even have heard of?

"At their current stage of undevelopment these populations have more basic requirements. They need governments which will provide medical services, education, birth control programs, fertilizer, high-yield seeds and instruction in how to use them. They need governments which are honest enough to refrain from robbing and exploiting them, purposeful enough to want to modernize their societies, and efficient enough to have some ideas about how to do it. Whether such governments are capitalist or socialist can be of little interest to the people involved, or to anyone except their incumbent rulers, whose perquisites are at stake, and their great-power mentors, fretting in their distant capitals about ideology and "spheres of interest."
This whole farce reminds me of my own outrage at Bush quoting Albert Camus' "L'Etranger", my own favourite novel. The post I wrote at Bush Out was one of my most widely read posts ever.