CHARLIE WILSON AND THE ZEN MASTER

I saw Charlie Wilson’s War the other day, with that great actor who played Truman Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was very moving talking about his new film recently, and especially about love. With the risk that we just have to take each time of getting hurt, even if in five or ten years time people may not even like us, let alone love us. But the story in this film is of the almost privately begun covert war in Afghanistan, between the US and the Soviets, and is quite extraordinary. Charlie Wilson pushed the military precurements budget from $1 million to $1 billion. Afghanistan was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

Yet, of course, half the film’s point was the civil war that then began, the arrival of the ‘crazies’ in Kabul, who the Taliban were originally the heroes against, in bringing some kind of order, and the perhaps inevitable betrayal of various idealisms. It was tragic when you saw Wilson arguing hopelessly for a $1 million to rebuild a school, only to be told no one was interested in schools. So the budget was about the military industrial complex, and the judgeable victories of war waged in high places, but the history of the world has been others suffering the damage of international conflicts. No more American bashing, yet there is great truth in the observation that the US is a country of real and high idealisms, even innocences, that at times can be atrociously blinkered and superficial, masking the true hardball. As Wilson said “These things happened and they were glorious…and then we fucked up the peace.

I loved the CIA man played by Hoffman though, perfectly open about wanting to kill some Soviets and do his job, yet strangely humane. He tells the story of the Zen Master who, when an Afghan boy was given a horse, and the villagers asked him if he agreed it was wonderful fortune, answered ”We’ll see’. The boy promptly fell off the horse and broke his leg, and when the Zen Master was asked if he thought it was terrible, answered ‘we’ll see’. Then war came and half the young men went off to fight and got killed. Except the boy with the horse and the broken leg. Life’s that all over, and so’s love, so as for Afghanistan now, or the everyday, perhaps the only response is always ‘we’ll see!

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