Cataclysms, Carnivals

This story was halfway written when the subject was killed, it even had a title, which is often the hardest part: “Twilight of Caetano.”

Let me explain. As I don’t live in Brazil anymore, one or two things can happen: I stay out of the most current topics, not always in the newspapers, or already feel disconnected from one storm or another, and god knows that rain has poured often, lately. So one way to keep updated is when a close friend sends me a message, stating some serious problem that may have passed unnoticed, or that he knows is of my maximum interest, such as, for example, the case of Caetano Veloso last weekend.

From what I heard, Caetano had received a controversial request from Roger Waters to cancel his concert in Israel at the end of July. As everyone knows, the Liberals of this world believe it is glorious to advocate for free (or very well paid), from the top of their bright stages and well-nourished balconies, in favor of victims and minorities; and for them, when it comes to the Israel vs Palestinians conflict, the obvious unfortunate ones would be the Palestinians.

They could not be more wrong, but they do not care about knowing, an attitude that has become increasingly common. The great scandal of the week in the United States, for example, was this man — a persona non grata at the White House — who, apparently motivated by some shady financial scheme, managed through his emails to influence Hillary Clinton concerning the American intervention in Libya, which resulted in the death of Muammar Gaddafi. Don’t worry, I don’t intend to follow this thread, this foreign mess must have bored you to death.

The point is, this person was not an expert on Libya at all. And, apparently again (because today no one can be sure of anything), Gaddafi’s death was another of those Pandora’s misfortunes that result in unintended consequences; as the hanging of Saddam, another example, that, at the end of the bloody Iraq war, unleashed these demons we know today as ISIS — all birds, but from very different feathers.

Yes, we live in a quite complex world, and increasingly fewer people know what they’re talking about, which does not stop them from blathering. What is sad is that fine, sensitive people are just giving up, as this friend of mine who last year could not resist the pressure against her opinions on the internet and disappeared, her brilliant ponderings never to be heard ever again. Pity.

This week, for example, Bill O’Reilly, the icon of American conservatism, stated in his daily show that “the internet is a sewer from which he makes a point of keeping his distance,” not without immediately inviting the viewers to his websites, billoreilly.com and a few others — a bit of a contradiction, don’t you think?

I, for one, owe a good portion of my daily activities to the opportunities presented by the internet, and although always in need of some time away from the computer, it’s not very likely that I will opt for the silence of a disconnected privacy anytime soon. I resist. Life, as a Brazilian poet once said, is “a combat that appeases the weak, while extolling the strong and the brave,” okay, but this kind of bravado has been overemphasized lately.

Back to Caetano, who was left behind: My friend was truly indignant, because, when asked to respond to Waters’s boycott request, Caetano declared on his show in São Paulo, before thousands of people: “Israel, No! Palestine, Yes!” And the local press, in a clear anti-Israel attitude (as dictated by fashion these days), gave him the Front Page. Nevertheless, the next day I read his letter to Waters, saying that he “had many doubts about such a complex subject.”

My friend insisted, saying Caetano had chickened out, but I don’t really know the exact sequence of events — chicken or egg, letter or show —, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

In my opinion, Caetano’s statement in the letter was very appropriate, since the theme is truly complex. It is very unlikely that someone who is not emotionally involved, such as my friend and myself, would be willing to delve deeper in order to understand the facts regarding this explosive part of the world — containing the highest technological creativity that this planet has ever seen. Yes, I’m talking about Israel, a democratic country where everyone say what they want, and the way they want, bluntly, no subterfuges, since, as everyone knows, where there are two Jews, there are three opinions — what a politicized people, and I honor my ancestry.

This does not prevent anyone, of course, of violently manifesting themselves against one thing or another, lead by the wave of media manipulation that few people know is not bound by truth, but by money — like everything else. What worries me is that everybody, including myself, is getting addicted to this hyperpolarized reality; not a week goes by without some tragic and very divisive issue to discuss, or is it just me?

I don’t know. Life is changing, and we are forced to follow. Or not.

Anyway, I’m going to tell you a little story. It would have made perfect sense to have titled my story “Twilight of Caetano,” a clear reference to the iconic opera by Richard Wagner. Hitler, as everyone knows, adored Wagner, regarded by the Nazis as the true soul of German culture, and he was. The problem was, after the War, with their spirit immeasurably harmed, the surviving Jews went to Israel — ah, yes. Israel, at that time a British protectorate, handed over to the Jews so they could have a home, after being decimated in one of the most shameful episodes of the human race (although Iran officially says it’s all bollocks, the Holocaust had never happened, the bones stacked in Auschwitz some kind of special effects) — therefore, the Jews of Israel, I insist, made a decision to mistake apples for oranges and boycott everything that was connected to German culture, and it was no small thing — Goethe, Wagner, Volkswagen and the like, all prohibited in the Promised Land.

It was painful. Besides having to deal with their tortured memories, the European exiles should have to deprive themselves of their high level of erudition in the name of ideology, and woe to those who dared to doubt it was the right thing to do.

Well, time, fortunately or not, heals all wounds, at least on the surface. And so it happened that on our last visit to Israel (mother was still alive), for the 50th anniversary of the independence, there was a celebratory concert outdoors at the park in Tel Aviv, if my memory does not fail, conducted by Barenboim. And the program, for the first time in 53 years, included Richard Wagner. Many people in that audience had never heard his music live. It was exciting.

My point is, not forgiveness per se, but the need to forgive what hurts us more than the one we can’t forgive, because you can’t live a whole life hating.

Even believing that Caetano’s “Israel, No!” was a kind of disgusting and misinformed anti-Semitic act (calling it what it is) to be savored by hundreds of thousands, I was predisposed to forgive him, if you know what I mean. Caetano is an icon of my generation, the soundtrack of so many precious, emotional moments; not to mention his classical trajectory as a Brazilian hero from the time of the dictatorship — exile, censorship etc. He is my Wagner of sorts, pardon my exaggeration. Certainly, in his London solitude back in the 1970’s, he used his excess of free time to learn the workings of this cruel world, and that qualifies him a little bit further to behave like a true humanist, not some blind-and-deaf-but-never-dumb radical leftist, as we’ve seen so many in this damn “plugged-in” life.

To survive, and this I tell myself, we will need to learn how to protect ourselves from the daily violence we are exposed to — too many cataclysms and almost no Carnival.[1]

Shalom!

 

[1] “Cataclysms and carnivals” is an inspired line from an old Caetano’s song, “She and I.”

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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