Two Neil Gaiman Things of More Than Passing Interest
Posted on May 23, 2014 Posted by John Scalzi 25 Comments
They are thus:
1. Neil recently went to Jordan to visit a camp of refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war. He’s filed a report on it in the Guardian. It’s here. It’s a tough but worthy read; Neil’s background as a journalist serves him well for this report. Check it out.
2. More cheerfully, Neil is coming to Carnegie Hall on June 27, for an event for “a synchronized multimedia storytelling event,” which means that Neil will read his story “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” with illustrations provided by artist Eddie Campbell, whilst a live underscore is performed by the FourPlay String Quartet. Which sounds like fun. If you’ll be in the NYC metropolitan area at the end of June, you now have something interesting and worthwhile to do. I will not be there, and I am bereft.
Reblogged this on Attorney at Law Jan Vajda Namestovo, Slovakia.
He’s coming here to Madrid, Spain, on May 30. I wanted to go, but the tickets sold out in just a few hours.
I would love to go to Neil’s show. Unfortunately, I’ll be at Girl Scout camp with my very excited daughter. In a cabin with no electricity. With a bathroom in another building. And no doubt, rabid raccoons lurking everywhere. (Yeah, I’m a natural-born cityslicker.)
People sometimes ask why I support wars in foreign lands and the concept of an effective and powerful ‘global cop’ style force.
This is why. To defend those who are powerless. Not ‘might makes right’ but ‘might for right’.
For more on Neil Gaiman’s experience in Jordan, see http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2014/05/important-please-read-this-now.html
Ah yes… according to Wikipedia:
“Rumor is that a pedestrian on Fifty-seventh Street, Manhattan, stopped Jascha Heifetz and inquired, “Could you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Yes,” said Heifetz. “Practice!”
This response has also been attributed to Arthur Rubenstein.
After June 27th, SF folk can substitute Neil Gaiman’s name.
@ Mike Major – Team America: World Police was not a documentary, you know.
Much as Assad is a murdering, vile, chemical weapon using scumbag, probably the least bad outcome is for him to retain and reconsolidate power in Syria, so giving arms to the rebels is actually making the situation worse as it prolongs the struggle. It’s a big country (22.4M people) and awash with guns. Trying to go in there and impose a peace would be like the US invading Texas and trying to civilize that, and will probably go just as well. Also, take a look at Afghanistan and Iraq for how well nation building goes. And pretty much the entire British colonial experience for a second example.
Also, who’s morality are you tying to impose? Western? What about the Saudi Arabian morality, and getting women back in the home and in burkas, not driving, etc.
The only military in the world with global reach is the US, no one else is willing to pay for establishing a force with that capability, and as soon as you make it multi-national, you lose the ability to act as the contributing countries political ambitions are likely to be in conflict and so nothing happens.
Since for professional courtesy reasons, western political leaders will not authorize decapitation strikes against other foreign presidents, all you can do is invade and I like both my brothers-in-law at home, not back in some foreign country that doesn’t want us there.
In my opinion, the best way to spread democracy and tolerance is for the West (and other civilized nations, like Japan) to be that shining city on a hill, and set an example. Unfortunately, America in particular is eroding the moral leadership necessary to do that, by launching an unjustified war of aggression, screwing up the aftermath of two invasions, keeping Guantanamo Bay open, murdering people by drone strike, etc, etc etc.
That was a very well written piece. Bashar Assad should be killed. I never liked the executive order barring the killing of world leaders. We are better off with some of them gone.
The problem with targeted assassinations of world leaders you don’t like is that if you declare open season on them, they will declare open season on you. And you have no idea whose assassins will be better.
This is especially apt since we are five weeks away from the centenary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. We all know how well the aftermath of that played out.
And, as Queen Elizabeth I probably never said out loud, “Executing my cousin the Queen of Scotland sets a bad precedent, don’cha think?”
What to do about war in Syria and elsewhere- I don’t know. What I can do now- donate to UNHCR.
Very sad what’s happening in Syria. Unfortunately solutions are not obvious. Spending a trillion dollars and thousands of American soldiers’ lives may not be in America’s interest. If there were a reasonable opposition group that cared about all the people with some respect for human rights, one could support a group like that; unfortunately the main opposition forces are hardline Islamists who would simply replace Assad’s tyranny with their own, plus they could funnel military assistance (weapons) to future terrorists, so they’re not really a good investment. Also an external intervention would be really hard on civilians (hundreds of thousands of innocents dead in Iraq, for instance).
“Targeted assassination” is an inflammatory and inaccurate description, in that “assassination” implies an attack on a civilian target. Attacking the military leadership of the aggressor(s) is a legitimate application of military force, especially against dictatorships where leadership is based on personal influence, not the will of the people. Legitimate here is not some rules-lawyer term, it is measured very simply in the number of lives saved. Taking out the military resources–planes, barracks, command centers–of the worst sides of a civil war does save civilian lives, and drones are a much better way of accomplishing that then anything that puts US soldiers in harm’s way.
[Deleted because this looked uncomfortably like trolling quickly pecked out on a cell phone – JS]
A bigger problem with assassinating the leadership than them replying in kind is if you do a good job they have no leaders and the country ends up like Somalia and Syria. – :-/ A good place to bomb, but you wouldn’t want to visit. – also, (like long term refugee camps) a good place to recruit desperate people for very bad jobs.
Let’s make sure we don’t wander too far off topic, please. General discussions about the desirability of assassination are a bit out in the field.
sorry john. this one is my fault.
I am with McCain on this one. We should do something about what is going on Syria. I dont think we should send our kids in there to fight and die, but we can use air power and arm some of the moderate rebels. People need to be able to defend themselves.
hope this isn’t too far off base.
Very powerful piece, John. Thanks for posting the link. So much pain and for what? Neil nails it at the core. We really aren’t all that different, because when it comes right down to it, most people only want to live out their lives as best they can. Politics, economics, religion. Words that diminish into fabricated husks when compared with what truly matters in life.
[This one deleted because Ash appears to not know the difference between his/her unsupported opinion, and truth, and in the meantime tries to an employ “how long has it been since you beat your wife” argument on me. Run along, Ash, you’re making a nuisance of yourself – JS]
Why is the first response more violence?
Don’t drop bombs in another country’s civil war, but when some side’s tactics is starving the civilians, dropping food on cities like Homs would seem a lot more helpful. Why was airlifting food and everything to West Berlin possible, but is nothing like that contemplated for the people of Homs?
And why not try to negotiate and guarantee something like a civilian refugee escape corridor, and put international monitors at the Syrian side of the border guardposts, so people who reach the border and want to leave can cross out of the country.
And why is nothing being done to seriously protest the deliberate targeting of those usually considered the most off-limits of the civilian targets, like primary schools, and doctors, nurses, hospitals, anyone capable of providing basic or emergency health care as well as the health care infrastructure?
It should be a lot more politically possible to get UN approval for basic provisions and guarantees of minimal levels of safety and health care for children, elderly, families and other obvious noncombatants and refugees, than it is to get all those countries to agree to do more warlike things. Even China and Russia would find it hard to say no to getting schoolchildren basic food, water, and healthcare, though they block any military intervention.
And since Assad needs them, they should be able to put some pressure on him regarding how he’s pursuing this war, and how he’s choosing his targets.
I hope mr.Gaiman’s actions help raise awareness enough that donations flow in to UNHCR to help the refugees, and maybe get countries who are years behind in paying their contributions to those organisations to finally pay their dues so they can do some good; but also that the countries still supporting Assad and the rebels will take a good look at what they’re condoning and supporting (some of the rebels started out reasonable, but by now both sides are committing atrocities) and put enough pressure on both sides to allow the civilians to get out of the way. Then the combatants can fight as much as they want, as there will not be a worldwide concensus on what the most desirable outcome would be, and so no worldwide UN police force will be able to step in and separate the combatants. When they’ve reduced their whole country to rubble and killed most of this generation, as they seem intent on doing, maybe the refugee survivors can come back and try to build something back up on the disaster.
I know real life doesn’t work this way, but *why not*!
Why can’t the world, seeing this conflict has turned into a no-win wasteland, cooperate enough to save as much as possible, both in civilian human life, and things like irreplaceable ancient artifacts, and then let those idiot fighters get on with their war without involving everyone else?
Lovely to discuss these things in the abstract. We are lucky to live in a peaceful, albeit fractious country. Much harder to say ‘no, we shouldn’t intervene’ or ‘yes, bomb the hell out of them’ when you are looking into the eyes of the people who are affected. Sorry, it sucks to be you, but hey, doing something about your plight isn’t in my best interest. Sorry that we bombed your house, but we did it to help you out.
Is there a moral high ground to be had here? I suppose, but I’m having a hard time seeing it amongst all the collateral damage. Short version – there are no easy answers. I’m with Pam Adams – donations to MSF and UNHCR seem to be the best that I can do for these people.
Good on Mr. Gaiman for shining light in to this dark corner.
Heart-wrenching article. A side of war and conflict often not seen or reported on, but perhaps the most tragic aspect of the whole ordeal.
Getting back to the Carnegie Hall bit, I’m chuffed because I am acquainted with one of the FourPlay String Quartet members but I hadn’t been keeping up with this world-conquering they appear to be engaged in. Good on ’em!
Hanneke @ 2:10:
When one side’s tactics is starving civilians, sending in relief supplies is taking a side. That means the only way to unilaterally start an airlift is to start dropping bombs, as otherwise you will have pro-Assad forces shooting down planes full of food. Since we’ve chosen not to go that way we’re stuck with the slow process of convincing Assad to allow relief into rebel areas.
As for why nothing is done to effectively protest the targeting of civilians, it comes down to Russia and China. They just vetoed a war crimes referral to the ICC the other day. I wish your hope would work and forcing the countries still supporting Assad to confront the fruit of their support would cause them to relent. Unfortunately I think they see it quite clearly, and wholeheartedly back the idea that a government may slaughter its own people as they want that option open for themselves.
To force lasting change in Syria or anywhere else, really, through military force/nation building would require:
1. A consistently astronomical military budget for decades
2. A willingness to accept a constant trickle, with occasional floods, of maimed and dead American Soldiers and indigenous noncombatants caught up in the mess for decades,
3. A unified vision of foreign polic, again, for decades.
We have 0 of 3. Having already fought two wars without these prerequisites, I vote no, thanks. By all means donate to UNHCR and other NGOs that can save some lives- that is a good end unto itself. But the situation in Syria is going to continue to defy any semblance of what we in the Western Democracies would call humane civilization. And there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it with the unavoidable constraints under which we operate.
On a non-Syria note, I was lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman perform The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains complete with images by Eddie Campbell (I don’t remember if there was a string quartet, but I either saw them perform during this or at something to do with Amanda Palmer in the same venue) at the Graphic festival at The Sydney Opera House.
You are right to be bereft. It was an incredible experience. Neil is a wonderful oral storyteller and I often get his books as audio just to listen to him narrate them. On the other hand, there may be other opportunities for a similar performance some time down the track. You never know.