August 9, 2016, Israel
If This Is A Man, by Primo Levi
by an Italian Jew who experienced Auschwitz
I often do not know where the blog will take me, but I need to write. Just as with Krav Maga we start with a technique not knowing how it will eventually evolve but we must begin the process. We get a spark, an idea, and we move with it, the wise know that we know nothing and the end result cannot be imagined. Plans? You make God laugh.
Primo Levi, If This Is A Man. I keep going back to it, so much to ponder. A man is in Auschwitz and he is sharing his thoughts with us. We must listen.
einrücken, ausrücken, we come and we go. Work, stop work. A newcomer asks...And for how long? But the old men laugh. How long? What a stupid question, just try and survive today. Tomorrow we worry about tomorrow.
Levi speaks of Logic. He is after all an intellectual, a university graduate, a chemist. "If we were logical we would resign ourselves to the evidence that our fate is beyond knowledge".
We cannot know the future. "every conjecture is arbitrary and demonstrably void of foundation". He explains that it is not logic that dictates our actions, our plans for the future, no, it is our character. It is our character which determines how we view the future. We do not approach anything logically, we define our expectations based on our own individual character.
Our actions are not a reflection of pure logic, or clever objective analysis. No. Our actions are a reflection of how we see things, how we see the future, and this vision is based on our character. One will panic, one will say there is no hope and one will say there is great hope. But all is purely personal.
Levi points out that most of us drift between one extreme and the other.
If we were truly logical, he points out, we would resign ourselves to the fact, the evidence, that the future is beyond our knowledge. All our guesses are just that, guesses. Our view of the future is based on our character, or our current mood, or someone we happen to meet at that moment.
So what can we do?
We can build tools. We can acquire skills. That is how Primo Levi survived Auschwitz. He did not live on false hope. He did not conjecture as to when the Russians would arrive or when the Red Cross or the USA would come to the rescue. He tried to barter for a pair of good shoes so he could survive another day in the Lager. He tried to melt some snow so he could drink a little.
And that is what we must do as well.
Acquire skills and tools. Learn Krav Maga, develop our self defense skills. We do not wait for the government to solve our problems. We do not wait for psychologists to teach all people that rape is bad, we do not wait for criminologist or sociologists to solve the socially related crimes of our times.
We must be logical. We must not say...things will be OK, I live in a good neighborhood, all is well, I am sure the police are doing their job. Conjecture is for fools. No one anticipates being attacked, "our fate is beyond knowledge".
We must ask; what is in our control? What can we do?
Krav Maga is part of our answer.