It worked and still works the same…
It worked and still works the same…
“It’s a funny game, chess. Like a Mandelbrot set, there’s more to it than meets the eye – the more you look at a chess as a game, the more it really gets into your soul…
The world is, essentially, black and white. Right and wrong. Truth or lie. Do or die. For the pieces that reside in the world of chess experience this stark dichotomy on a daily basis. Their world, such as it is, allows for only restricted movement. They have no real freedoms at all…
Each of the players in life’s little game has their role, as in real life. From the menial, toilet-bowl washers through to the “do nothing but sit around and look magnificent” top tier of life, all facets of class system are there. As in life, the pieces are more or less defined by what they do. “You’re a doctor? Awesome… settle a bet – is this a boil or a mozzie bite?” – likewise each piece on a chess board is effectively hamstrung, their career chosen at birth and with little chance of respite from the gruelling daily grind…
It’s a damning indictment on the state of the world when you consider this fact: The most populous piece on the board is also the weakest. Like the serfs and peons of eras gone by, the fact that there are 16 of the so-called ‘little people’ on the world at the beginning of any match should supply some glimmer of hope – the most precious gift in the world – to the pawns. But they are not the sum of their parts. Repressed and homogenous, they simply exist to do the dirty work, and to die quietly with as much dignity as they can muster….
Ahhh… the safety and security of bricks and mortar are the lesson to be learned here. How solid and dependable are the rooks? They occupy and guard the outer edges of the world, keeping the other players safe from invading paws of curious kittens and insurgencies of spilt beverages. But how high is the price of such security?
I’ll tell you – it’s a terrible toll. Severely restricted movement, and a mindset programmed to think in unbending lines…
By immediate comparison comes the Knight, a piece with a wonderfully British outlook atop the chequered arena. It’s movements appear eratic, but are – in fact – carefully thought out in advance, taking into account the dual notions of sense of purpose and unpredictability. They like to give the impression that they might, if pushed, be a rogue state. Their wild nature is characterised by the brumby-like physical representation, which in itself speaks volumes.
But… and there’s always a but… on their own, they are all but useless. Any successful hostile action requires the recipient of violence to be backed, literally, into a corner with all avenues of escape cut off.
And then in rides the cavalry, to take the glory and claim the victory as their own. It’s typical, if you ask me… the horsey set always likes to think of itself as punching well above its social weight. When they’re not prancing about the board of life, you’ll find the Knights playing polo and drinking champagne…
Imagine a life where you are confined in your thinking to a single shade. Black or white, once you are placed in your initial position, that’s it – you may not ever occupy a square of the other shade. You must only believe in the one thing, forever more, until you are killed or the war is won.
It’s a damning indictment upon life off-board – where religious views are expounded upon at length, but rarely scrutinised and never challenged. As with any belief that is set in stone, it invariably ends in tears – it’s okay to have convictions and a strong set of moral values, but without wriggle room, it’s easy to end up trapped. If you cannot see the other side of an argument, you are doomed to lose.
The other telling point about the Bishops is that they do not move in a straight line – not in the classical sense. They’re sneaky, often arriving unexpectedly from the far side of the world to wreak violence and brutality upon those least expecting it. All of this from a man of the cloth? It’s wrong… but it’s the way of the world….
The Queen is the most honestly representative piece on the board, in terms of power, gender politics and potential capabilities. As a female, the Queen is the sole representative of women. As in the real world, women are horrendously under-represented in the upper echelons of power. This is, of course, coupled with the obvious glass ceiling – the Queen can never become the King, as the King never dies. Add to that the constant threat that one of the pawns may indeed reach the far rank of the board, and suddenly the Queen has another contender for the favours of the King. It’s horrible… and an eerily accurate reflection of the real world…
Bloated, corpulent and lazy, the King is a figurehead – a lumbering dinosaur whose only relevance to the world at large is to simply be. Without him, all is lost – but his presence serves only to provide purpose to the lives of others, who must live and die to protect him.
On many levels, I’m sure the other pieces have grown to hate the King. The King is little more than a chubby dictator – his whims to be observed, his life sacrosanct…
It’s obvious to even the most casual observer that chess is indeed a game – one that has its roots in the violence of conquest and its complexities founded in the notion of human interaction. But at the end of the day it is – just like the life and universe it mirrors – just a game. It’s unbalanced and bigoted, often violent and strangely bleak… and that’s the way we seem to like it. “
From The Politics of Chess by Gregor Stronach
“War does not determine who is right – only who is left.”
From Syrian Atheists
* * *
(from ‘Escape from Bosnia’ as told to Sue McCauley)
“On 27 March 1992 I went home to Purtici…I was going to stay for the week, then return to Sarajevo as I had oral and written exams coming up. On the way home I stopped off at a mountain town where I had some close Serb friends, and went to have a coffee with them. One of them said to me, “Please don’t go into Zepa. There’s going to be war there.”
I thought he was joking. “Why should there be?”
“Can’t tell you that,” he said. “It’s not my fault, it’s not your fault, but there will definitely be fighting in Zepa, and very soon, so keep away from there. Leave Bosnia. If you don’t have the money to leave, I’ll give you money. Just go.”
“No,” I told him. “I don’t want to. I can’t leave my family. I can’t leave my little sister. I can’t leave my friends.”
I was laughing, I really thought it was a joke. I said, “If there’s a war and I’m in Zepa with my family, will you kill me?”
“I would never kill you, or your family, but if the fighting starts, get well away from the road. Go into the forest and hide.”
You silly man, I thought. So I went home. On 5 April there were big meetings and rallies in Sarajevo and after that all travel was stopped. I could not get back to the city…”
“In the second week… we had heard that the Serbs had taken Visegrad, a border town, and we were trying to work out what we should do. Visegrad was a very long drive from Zepa, but by river it was not far at all and anyone who came to Zepa from Visegrad would usually come by boat.
But the people who came now were not in boats – they floated down the river tied to pieces of wood in the form of a cross, or just on their own. Dead bodies, about a hundred and fifty of them. Some had names attached to them like luggage labels. Some were so mutilated there was no way of knowing if there were male or female. A mother and her small child were roped together and put on a kind of raft so their bodies wouldn’t just sink from sight. There was a woman’s body with a long stick running from mouth to anus. Was that the means of her death or did it happen afterwards? How could we know?… From that time we knew we could rely on nothing…”
“One night we had all listened to the evening news at seven o’clock…. My mother and grandparents had gone out to say goodbye to the visitors and when I looked through the window I saw that those leaving had taken cover in our little woodshed. I asked my mother what was happening.
“Shhh,” she whispered. “There are soldiers out there. You can see the green uniform.”…
I could see a soldier about five hundred metres away in an open rolling field. I started to walk towards him…. I had on my usual clothes, black trousers and black T-shirt. I liked black and wore it a lot; black clothes were considered a Serb thing. I walked towards the soldier and, when I got close to him, I felt rather sick because he had a big, heavy machine gun and at least one grenade. I said, “Hello.”
He stopped walking and a big smile came over his face. “Oh, hello. How are you? What are you doing here?”
I said, “Oh, everyone has left the villages and become separated. I don’t know what’s happening. What are you doing here?”
“I left the line,” he said. “I’m trying to find my way back.”
I told him he was heading the wrong way… Thinking he knew me, he trusted me…
“Come with me to my place,” I said, “and have something to eat, then I’ll show you which way to go.” I took his gun. “Let me carry this for you.”…
We walked towards our summer house where all the people were hiding and when we were quite close he saw the faces looking out and my mother coming forward, and he looked at me and his eyes were saying, “You bitch!” Then he was surrounded and bombarded with questions….
The man began to answer our questions… And then – I’ll never forget this – Alide walked out of the house, cradling something, and walked up to the soldier. Everyone was looking at her, and we saw that she was holding a big piece of bread. “I brought this for him,” she told us. “I think he is very hungry.”
The soldier began to cry. He told us than that he was married and had two children. He was shaking so much… You could see he was very scared…
My grandfather said the soldier should be taken to our militia’s headquarters nearby, for interrogation by out commander. Before he walked away the soldier looked at me and said, “Thank you.”
But the commander wasn’t at the headquarters, so some other people questioned the Serb soldier. As they knew, earlier that day two or three other Serb soldiers had become separated from their group and some of our refugees had told them how to get back to where they wanted to go. An hour or two later those refugees had been shelled by the Serbs. So, after questioning the soldier, our people set off to take him to another house, closer to the forest. On the way, they said, he’d tried to run away and so they killed him. Maybe, that was true, maybe it wasn’t. It made me wish that when I first spoke to him, I had told him to turn and run as fast as he could…”