Thursday, December 11, 2014

No Place for Triumphalism


As I took this photograph, I wondered who died here.  On the road from Cuito Cuanavale to Menongue there were many such wrecks.  Someone, somewhere, is likely to know the story behind each one.  A story likely to include fear and death and grief.

I tried to be respectful of these places. Particularly as I was part of an invading army all those years ago.  Someone's son or brother or husband died here. 

I was reminded of the need to tread lightly when I was showing some slides to an audience which included former liberation movement soldiers.  Afterwards one man told me that he had lost a close family member during an ambush on this road.  He was in an APC like the one in this picture.  This could have been the very vehicle in which he died.  The man said the photograph had upset him, raising feelings of grief and perhaps the trauma of his own war experiences.

For those of us who have returned to the war-places of our youth, it is good to remember that this is no place for triumphant poses next to the burned out wrecks of 'enemy' vehicles.  Instead, these should be places for deep, human reflection.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jy praat nou kak man. Ons was nie 'n "invading army" nie. Mens moet hierdie PTSD ding nie in 'n soetsappige storie begin verander nie. Onafhanklik van mens se werklike gevoelens oor al hierdie dinge (ek was nie by Cuito nie, maar 'n vroeere pantserkar inname by Katima) bly reg nog reg, en verkeerd bly verkeerd. Ons het voor 'n kommunistiese inval gestaan. Natuurlik het die vyand seer gekry, en daaronder was by hulle klomp eenvoudige rekrute wat geen seggenskap gehad het (hierdie feit word onderspeel) en moes veg, soos eens die kommunistiese kommissare (Politruk) die russiese troepe met 'n masjiengeweer van agter hulle in die range van die duitsers ingedryf het. Maar daar was ook die kriminle leiers en offisiere, wat die speletjie goed verstaan het, en saamgespeel het. Hulle kon na ons kant toe oorgeloop het (en sommiges het ook), so my simpatie bly in perke.

Paul said...

Anonymous, your comments are welcome here. It's unfortunate that telling me I'm talking 'kak' detracts from an otherwise clear point of view. It's not a point of view I agree with, but you are free to express it. It is worth remembering that dissenting views could end people in prison, often without trial, and worse, during the era we are discussing. Finally, I'd request that you put your name to your comments in future. Though perhaps it's easier to tell someone they are talking shit when hiding behind internet anonymity.

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