For convoluted reasons yesterday, I was watching two very different videos. I study while I work, you see, because constructing jewellery is purely tactile and visual....I don't need any words in my head, so this is a doable multitask.
Anyway, because I had done all the lectures for the week, I needed something else to watch, and believe it or not I selected a course I would not have done otherwise: The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem.
Normally something only Jews or other Bible Scholars would study, it occurred to me that it was a black hole in my knowledge. I am quite well up on all of the surrounding cultures, with that one being sort of peripheral. Well, here's my chance to fill it in.
Now, I concur with Isaac Asimov: "that the Torah represented Hebrew mythology in the same way that the Iliad recorded Greek mythology." But just as the Iliad does help us with Greek history it is possible to piece together at least some history from the Torah, along with archaelogical and other data.
But still, this period in Jewish history is difficult, because they really don't have much to go on at all. There are a lot of names and dates, but not much detail, and consequently the professor started to sound like this:
I watched the first lecture 3 times, and still couldn't really tell you anything more than the dates. Late 7th/early 6th century BCE. I got that much. I even went to my massive Grun "Timelines of History" to compare it to what was happening in other places, and was able to fix it in my head a bit better. Most of all I got that this was the period when the Bronze Age slipped into the Iron Age.
I decided to watch it a 4th time to see if I could do better, and this time I gave it my full attention. I think I actually have something now, but it was hard work, and I have no idea whether I'll continue with this or not.
So I needed something else. To cut another very convoluted story short, I watched the Sir Kenneth Branagh version of "Look Back In Anger". If you are at all familiar with the 1959 Burton movie, this is very, very different.
You may love or hate Branagh, it seems to go that way. Or you may only know him from Harry Potter, and I won't chide you for it, but he is a very, very, very good actor, and while he was quite young in this, it was well worth watching for his performance alone.
If you're not familiar with this it's from a very famous stage play which was a bit of a revolution in its day for being about serious subjects and ordinary people. We're used to that now, but at the time the playwright, John Osborne, was a maverick. I'll quote directly from Wikipedia: "he helped make contempt an acceptable and now even cliched onstage emotion, argued for the cleansing wisdom of bad behaviour and bad taste, and combined unsparing truthfulness with devastating wit." It goes on to say that the play was very autobiographical and that the main character (that Branagh plays in this version) was largely based on Osborne himself.
You don't need to go and look him up, just take it from me, he was a genius and also a complete arsehole.
Of course, in his own mind he was misunderstood and honourable, and we've all seen people like that. They justify their appalling behaviour, and the harm they do to others, with some noble purpose.
Which brings us right back to the Fall of Jerusalem, and empires in general. You don't need to go back in time and interview those who marched in to these various lands to know they were genius arseholes. Every conqueror there ever was had to be both of those in order to succeed. Empires are built by the effective strategy of the widescale death and destruction of subjugated people and their property, and so are revolutions against them. So the revolutionary leaders are no different. It is a requirement that you be both very clever and very nasty, or you just can't get the job done.
But it's also clear from history that Empires work very well, and produce amazing things. Everything we value tends to have its roots in an Empire somewhere.
It's obvious from the arts that unpleasant people produce great work.
Does that excuse them? No.
There is no excuse for them. There is no justification for behaviour that harms others. They have to face the consequences of that behaviour be it natural, karmic, or whatever.
On a much, much smaller scale, being rude to somebody cannot be justified by the fact that you were right, or that they needed to hear it, or any of that. Plain words? Sure. Truths people don't want to hear? Has to be done. But actually being insulting? No. No. And.....No. If you do that you will get no forgiveness from me. I will not listen to your justifications.
There are an estimated QUARTER OF A MILLION words in the English language, and you can double that if you include archaic, dialect, and slang words. It is arguably the biggest vocabulary of any language.
If you cannot express youself without resorting to verbal abuse, it is you who has the problem.