Sunday 26 July 2009

Make Me An Island...

Been reading this very interesting book review. As usual, the name of the author and that of the book, elude me.

Why is it that I have so much difficulty remembering names ? Yet, faces from way long before, remain so vivid in my memory, right down to their minutest details.

Maybe this has to do with the fact that names can and do change, but the face doesn't. The face is the person, in my mind. Not his name. The name comes later.

Anyway, now that I've given you an introduction into my memory lapses, let me tell you about the book in question.

It is a real story of some guy who had been involved in the "humanitarian" business for over 20 years of his life. He worked for the Red Cross, I believe.

In 1994, upon his return from Rwanda as a field officer, his life swung.

What he witnessed there and elsewhere propelled him into such an existential crisis, that he decided to leave everything behind and simply go...

Go to places where he'd have minimal contact with others. He thus embarked on this 4 months journey hopping from one Island to another...

From the book review, he was not there to discover Islands, more like to get away from people. I can relate to that.

When asked why ? He simply said - I needed to exorcise my disillusionment. My disillusionment about political solidarity, the humanitarian field, the ideals and values that were instilled in me...

He added - when in Rwanda, within the space of one week, 800'000 Rwandas were massacred. No one stopped it. I saw Priests tolling Church bells for people to gather, only to have them massacred in the church premises. I saw Nuns gouging eyes out. I saw children killing in exchange for food...

So his 6 Islands odyssey started...

Even though taken by the wild beauty of nature there, he was still no Robinson Crusoe. He came across people struggling to survive, ex-army men from Britain and the U.S playing masters there, boredom drowned in alcohol, a globalization that was squeezing these Islands out -- basically Islands about to drown.

Seems that No man is an Island. What a pity.

Because from way back and this is something I used to joke often about, with my best friend - I had this fantasy of just retreating to an Island - all by myself. Only allowing the odd visitor every now and then. My friend had this same fantasy. We'd sit for hours thinking out the logistics. We finally chose two Islands not far apart from one another and a boat for each - for visiting purposes. We added a few favorite books to be taken with us along with our favorite music.

Later on, I even devised this silly game I played with my friends. It was called --if you were to embark on an island, all by yourself - what food, music, book, film, clothes, gadget, transport...would you take with you ? Only one item of each was allowed. And each was allowed only one person to be there with them. It is an interesting game. Tells you a lot about a person.

Anyway, we embarked nowhere.

We stayed just where we were - not quite in my case - and lived in Islands inside our heads. I did.

I uploaded this song - a hit from 1969 by the late Joe Dolan. I remember adults, around me, listening to it with an air of rĂªverie, a call for evasion
elsewhere...only to return to the acrid reality state of humans.