The Story of Peter Coetzee and Julius Limbani

•November 8, 2017 • 1 Comment

A long time ago somebody told me that it is human nature to fear things they don’t understand. Back then I agreed with him. Then came the day Nevan was born. In the hospital I sneaked up in the nursery as often as I was allowed to (and more) just to look at him sleeping peacefully. And when I happened to be there when he was awake, I poked his tiny hand with index finger and he automatically grabbed it; and he smiled. He didn’t know who I am, and he was too young to even care, yet he seemed to enjoy the human contact even with a perfect stranger. As he grew up, I once saw how he easily befriended a stray puppy who wandered into our yard, and later a snake in the zoo.

What’s so special about those? Well, it made me start asking questions whether it is truly human nature to fear things they don’t understand. A habit, maybe, but a nature? Babies instinctively welcome strangers, and babies are humans, too. Adults tend to act differently, or even in a total contrast. Why this difference? What turns the warmth of trust within babies into the cold suspicions of adults?

Unfortunately, the only answer I can think of is that adults think and forget too much. As they grow up, people’s ideas grow too, and somewhere between they start to establish identities, either individual or as groups. They think of these identities as something beyond any kind of adjustment, forgetting that the identities actually come from adjustments. This kind of thinking, along with some other conditioning, has the tendency to grow into something else and not a very pleasant one: an irrational suspicion or even hatred toward something different from the mindset of one’s identity.

There is this unpublished novel written by Daniel Carney, a white Zimbabwean, titled The Thin White Line, about a group of 50 mercenaries hired to save a deposed president about to be executed. In 1978 it was made into a movie starring Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris, titled The Wild Geese. Some critics considered the novel only as “an intellectual mediocre”, and in some points I tend to agree with them, much as I love reading this novel over and over again. However, mediocre as it is, there is one interesting part of this novel that I never cease to see as one of the most beautiful parts of any novel ever written and that’s the interaction between Peter Coetzee and Julius Limbani.

Julius Limbani, whose character was based on the real-life Moise Tshombe, was a deposed Congolese leader. His plane was hijacked by the CIA as part of a deeal with current Congo president General Ndofa (based on Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga) and he was detained by Ndofa awaiting execution. Peter Coetzee was a white Rhodesian ex-anti-guerrilla police officer stranded in London and had to become a mercenary to earn money to return to the only home he knew, Rhodesia. Limbani had little reason to trust the whites, after what they’ve done to Africa and himself, and Coetzee generally distrusted the blacks, merely because he grew up as a part of an apartheid society. Due to the problem with the rescue operation, Coetzee (along with two other mercenaries) had to carry Limbani (whom he called ‘kafir’) through the bushes to eascape for the Simbas. It was during this flight that the two men truly started to interact with each other as two human beings, not as two identities. First they argued, then they reasoned.

At some point, Coetzee recalled to Limbani his experience when he had watch over a black prisoner. He and the prisoner started to like each other, until a question was asked by Coetzee, “If the blacks are marching against the whites and the blacks are wrong ones, which side will you take?” to which the prisoner replied, “The blacks.” The prisoner in turn asked Coetzee, “If the whites are marching against the blacks and the whites are wrong ones, which side will you take?” to which Coetzee replied “The whites.” Coetzee then told Limbani, that in the end you will always stick to your own kind. Limbani, on the other hand, replied that it was too premature to end it like that. To him, the talk between Coetzee and the black prisoner was a point where two different identities started to try to understand each other. He criticized how Rhodesia educated the blacks but kept on distrusting them and thus denying them opportunities. He also mentioned how the blacks started up by admiring the whites and ended up hating them because of this (and matters became even worse because of outside interference), and also about the 1960s African situation and how the blacks need the white; not the occasional whites who only stayed for business in Africa but people like Coetzee who had no other home and always considered Africa their home. Coetzee himself said to Limbani, “We whites are Africans, and we are staying.” As the discussion went on, both Coetzee and Limbani grew considerable respects toward each other that would have been grown into friendship if the Simbas didn’t attack them.

Screenshot-2017-11-8 WILDE GEESE EN - full movie
OK, that was a very long quote to make a point but I can only hope that it was not a waste of typing effort. There are many Limbanis and Coetzees out there. They distrust each other either because of post traumatic experience (as in Limbani’s case), or because of some classical conditioning by a society in which they live in (as in Coetzee’s case). Unlike Limbani and Coetzee, most of them choose to distrust, and even hate each other. Unlike Limbani and Coetzee, most of them don’t have the chance to understand each other. Choice and chance.

 

I don’t like the idea of being xenophobic, but I can understand why and how somebody can become one. I don’t condemn them. I pitied them instead. As I’ve once asked a friend, “If you were a Palestinian, living under constant fear of an Israeli attack, would you be able to think that not all Israelis are monsters? If you were an Israeli, living under constant fear of Palestinian retaliation, would you be able to believe that not all Palestinian are terrorists? If you were black living in Mississippi under the fear of being lynched by the KKK mob, would you be able to believe that not all white were racists bastard? If you were an Indonesian Chinese who had suffered the attacks of the mob in 1982 and 1998, would you be able to feel that not all Indonesian ‘natives’ (if there is any such a thing) are jealous barbarians? If you were an Indonesian student who had been gang-raped by a bunch of Skinheads, would you be able to think that not all Germans are barbaric rapists?” When the time comes for you to experience such things, will you be able to think differently? Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. If you won’t, well, welcome to the xenophobic club and say goodbye to a wider horizon. By then you will totally forget that once you have condemned the xenophobic.

Coetzee was later killed trying to rescue Limbani from the Simbas. Limbani (in the movie version) later died before being able to make a difference as he promised Coetzee. Unlike Limbani and Coetzee, YOU ARE ALIVE. You still have the chance. You still have the choice.

Would you be able to resist the temptation of wearing a dead man’s shoes? You tell me.

 

 

NOTE: The picture is a screenshot of the movie The Wild Geese, taken without permission.

FIGHT BACK!!!

•November 8, 2017 • 1 Comment
“And I am reminded, on this holy day, of the sad story of Kitty Genovese. As you all may remember, a long time ago, almost thirty years ago, this poor soul cried out for help time and time again, but no person answered her calls. Though many saw, no one so much as called the police. They all just watched as Kitty was being stabbed to death in broad daylight. They watched as her assailant walked away. Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men.”
– The Monsignor in “The Boondock Saints” –

Yeah, I have a habit of rerunning an old movie when I heard about something that I consider relevant to the movie’s theme. Last night I watched The Boondock Saints again, and that reminded me of the fact that I’ve been pondering for long: One thing about being robbed, I notice that at best the victims talked about reporting to the police, tracking the lost smartphone, and any other talk referring to what to do after being robbed. Rarely do they talk about preventing it, let alone about FIGHTING BACK.

The Boondock Saints

As Sean Patrick Flanery’s character Connor says, “D’you know what I think is psycho, Roc? It’s decent men with loving families. They go home every day after work and they turn on the news. You know what they see? They see rapists, and murderers and child molesters. They’re all getting out of prison.” This is just not right. That’s just sooooooo wrong. Let me ask you all this questions. Where the fuck is it written in any book of law that the good guys should be afraid of the bad guys? Where the hell is it said in any religion that the evil shall inherit the Earth and the meek shall be their prey? If there is any any book of law that says so, I’ll say “FUCK THE LAW!”

It is the bad guys who should be afraid of the good guys. However, this is true only when the good guys fight back. When the good guys decide to let the bad guys threaten them without any consequence, when the good guys let another being threatened by the bad guys and do nothing, then we have pave our way toward the end of humanity. I say it’s time for all the good guys, either those in the police force or the civilians, to fight back. It is time for all the good guys to put the fear into the bad guys tenfold.

Sure, one may ask, “You’re talking about humanity. What about the criminals’ human right? Shouldn’t that be taken into consideration? And what about the law?” And of course to such a question I will simply answer, “Once you threaten your fellow human, you have forfeited your rights not to be threatened. Once you murder your fellow human, you have forfeited your rights not to be killed in return. You act inhumanely, you’ve forfeited your rights to be called human, and thus human rights no longer apply to you. You reap what you sow. It’s that simple. That’s the law. That’s MY LAW.”

No, I am NOT a vigilante, let alone a hero; never was and never will be. I am simply an ordinary man who, if put in an extraordinary situation, will do my best to come out on top. And now I am asking all of you to do the same. We are living in a crazy world where each man – and woman – is responsible for his/her own safety, not to mention the safety of his/her loved ones. It is your choice whether to live up to this responsibility or not. No, I am not talking about giving yourself the right to become your own vigilante police force or shoot whomever you want. I am talking about the will to fight for your rights. I think that’s a will we all deserve to have. I am up to it. Are you?

Finally, let this quote from Dalai Lama give you some thoughts: “But if someone has a gun and is trying to kill you … it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”

Stamp

Last Day #inktober 2015: A Tribute To The Departed

•October 31, 2015 • 3 Comments

Halloween. Day Of The Dead. And this morning I received the news that an old friend (I mean old, would be 68 next December) in Berlin died last Sunday. And a few minutes later I heard the news that Drs. Suyadi, my childhood hero who created the Indonesian puppet TV series Si Unyil and who dubbed the character Pak Raden himself, has passed away last night.

 

It would be too much for me to draw both of them, and I’ve drawn enough friends this month, so I decided to make a quick drawing of the characters Pak Raden & Unyil, emulating the Calvin & Hobbes strips.

 

Pak Raden & Unyil

Pak Raden & Unyil

 

So there it is. The final one to end this year’s Inktober, a tribute to Drs. Suyadi, aka Pak Raden Mas Singomenggolo Jalmowono, one of the most likable misers I’ve ever known, apart from Scrooge McDuck.

 

 

See you next year?

 

 

 

HELL, YES!!

 

 

 

Inktober

 

 

Stamp

Twenty-third to Thirtieth Day #inktober2015: Faces

•October 30, 2015 • 1 Comment

Well, I haven’t skipped a day. No day passed without at least one ink-drawing. Unfortunately, not all of them can be published here, due to the fact that some of my models are slightly reluctant to see their faces posted here.

So these are those who allowed me to publish the drawings:

 

Inktober Day 23: Self portrait, I suppose.

Self portrait, I suppose.

 

Inktober Day 25: Yanti

Yanti

 

Inktober Day 26: Dyah Sujiati

Dyah Sujiati

 

Inktober Day 29: Kamto

Inktober Day 29: Kamto

So those are those allowed to be shared here. If someday in the future the others changed their minds, I will post Inktober Day 24, 27, 28 and 30 here as well.

 

 

 

Inktober

 

 

Stamp

A DEATH DEALER’S CONSCIENCE

•October 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So quiet. No sign of our targets. The sergeant gave a hand-sign to lay low and wait.

There were five of us, including the sergeant. The others were spread everywhere in this wasteland in other small groups, each with their own target to hunt down.

“They will pass that rice fields to reach that empty village.” the sergeant said. “It’s only a matter of time before we spot them. You’d better rest while you can, boys. I’ll take the first watch.”

No need for him to repeat that. We were all exhausted after three days and two nights without any rest, and his words sounded like the blessing of a holy saint to a dying villain. The others immediately stretched their bodies luxuriously on the grass. Me, I walked a bit further before I sat on a large flat rock on the edge of the cliff. I released the magazine off my AR-10, checked the rounds, and rammed it back in place. Then I took my .38 revolver out of my shoulder holster and started cleaning it up. The sergeant took off to patrol the perimeter, his Ithaca 37 slung carelessly on his right shoulder.

As I sat facing the valley below, watching the villages ruined by the massive earthquake, for the thousandth time I thought, “How did it all come to this? How could I be involved in this…. this horror?”

 

2006

 

It was all started by the aftermath of the earthquake. Nothing was ever the same after that disaster. That was when I and some friends formed a group of volunteers rescuing and evacuating the victims since Day One, and in later days delivering whatever needed supplies we could gather. With little resources that we had, we tried to do what we could to help. To say that it was hard is truly the understatement of the year. It’s more psychological than physical, actually, although I wouldn’t say five days and four nights without any sleep is the physical equivalent of a walk in the park either. It was not an easy thing to see so many wounded people, who at the same time have lost everything they had in the earthquake. It was even harder having to see to the injured children and babies.

I was not ready to see the dead children and babies, though. I nearly went crazy in those early days, and on the third day my brain snapped and I could not quite remember what happened. My teammates told me later that they found me holding two dead babies close to my chest, weeping helplessly, singing lullaby to them, as if trying to console them. That was bad, and let me tell you one thing, I never get over it. Not really.

That day left a deep scar. And it never healed properly.

And it changed me.

I became more easily agitated since that day. When I saw a bunch of disaster-tourists – people who came to the disaster site only to watch and take pictures – blocking the road with their cars and motorcycles, I went into a berserk mode instantly. I floored my jeep and rammed it into their vehicles and left them screaming in terror.

That was the first time I did such a thing, and that was not the last. When I heard about the existence of the fake “command posts” spread all over the area, fake posts who pretended to help circulating the aid sent by donors but actually smuggled them into their own warehouses, I could not control my icy rage. I went with several friends and started a vigilante-like raid on those posts. Those we found we burned down, and the goods were confiscated and delivered to the local police stations. The persons behind the fake posts? Let’s just say we gave them some lesson they would never forget.

Things got better after that episode. Helps were arriving from virtually every directions, and for the first time after two weeks of hell, the volunteers could actually rest a bit. I was even thinking about getting my family back to this city.

Then came the rumor about the robbers. It was said that they came in groups from several different cities and started looting the houses left by the refugees. In several places they even murdered the people who were left behind to guard their damaged houses and took their belongings. Once again I felt such a helpless rage.

That was when the sergeant came to me. He was direct and right to the point.

“I’ve heard about what you did with the fake posts.” he said, “And we have checked your background. We can use a man like you.”

“Doing what?” I asked him, confused.

“Rather similar to what you’ve done. I suppose you’ve heard the rumor about the robbery and murder in the south?”

I nodded. “So it wasn’t a rumor.”

“No. It’s not, and we are going to do something about it. However, we need somebody with knowledge of the area. Somebody who can also take care of himself. That’s why I come to see you.”

I was a little bit bewildered. “But why me? You people have enough resources to do that without me, don’t you?”

He shook his head gravely, “In normal times, yes, but there is nothing normal about this situation. Most of our people are out for the disaster relief efforts. So my commanding officer formed a task force, small task force of 24, to deal with it. Unofficially. And he checked your background personally. We know you’ve had some sort of military training from your grandfather and uncle who served as a military officer and a policeman back in your hometown, so we are sure you can handle firearms if necessary.”

He paused, and took an envelope from his fading TAD jacket and gave it to me. “Open it.”

So I did. And I was not ready to see what was in it. Photos of houses burned down, of dead bodies, terribly mutilated.

“As I’ve said, it’s not a rumor.” the sergeant said. “Any doubt you have must be gone by now.”

I nodded slowly. “OK, I’m with you. What can I do?”

He grinned. “I know you would agree to join us. Come to the base tonight. My commanding officer will explain and give you a briefing personally.”

The morning after, we started our operation. There were twenty five of us, including the commanding officer and the sergeant. Of those only two of us were civilians.

No ordinary civilians, though. The other guy was a sharpshooter who can shoot the ear of a rabbit from two hundred meters away with his Remington 700; an Olympic athlete in his better days. And me, I knew the area better than any of the team members, and I can handle firearms properly, as the sergeant said. We are divided into five groups, spread into different areas.

In the afternoon our group reached the empty village marked in the mission profile. The sergeant said, “Spread out and check every house. According to the intel we received, this village is still untouched by the robbers, but we’d better make sure no one is around. I’ll see you all in the village hall. That will be our base for tonight.”

So we did, and later gathered in the hall to rest and eat. At sunset, the sergeant called softly, “Get ready and take your positions as planned. Three of them are coming in.” And to me he said, “You come with me.”

Ten minutes later, from our hidings, I could see them. Three big men, walking carelessly into the village. Each carried a knife and a home-made pistol stuck on the belt, and one of them also carried a rifle.

The sergeant chuckled. “Cocky assholes. They are so sure they will get away with it.”

“Who will come out and make the arrest? You?” I asked.

He grinned mirthlessly. “Who said we’re going to arrest them?”

It took me a few seconds before I fully understood what he meant. “Hold it. You are not going to…”

“I’m not. We are.” he replied. “You can’t back off now. As for now, everyone is an operative. Remember that photos. Remember what those bastards did. Now get your rifle ready and take aim. And aim for the head.”

They didn’t stand a chance. They didn’t even know what hit them, bullets shot from three different directions, all aimed to the heads.

And one of them was mine.

And every single operation that followed went in similar fashion. We tracked them down, we hunted them down, we arrested none of them.

Have you ever heard stories about how hard it was to get over your first time of killing another human? Those stories were true enough, but none could prepare me for what I felt later. Instead of feeling endless remorse, I began to feel a grim satisfaction.

So we kept hunting them down, and we took them down one by one. Mostly from a distance, but for a few times from up close so I could smell their fears.

And I enjoyed it. I enjoyed their pain, their fear, their blood, their death. I kept telling myself that I was doing it for the good of the people, that those robbers deserved to die after all the robberies and murders they committed, that I was simply doing what was right, that if I didn’t do it somebody else would.

I kept telling myself that although deep inside I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I enjoyed every second of it, but that was not the worst part. The worst part is when I found out that I felt guilt as well, and that was the worst cocktail the almighty bartender could ever mix: guilt and satisfaction. And yet I went on with it. I killed and killed and killed. No hesitation at all. Until tonight.

I heard the sergeant called softly from among the trees. “They’re coming. Take your positions.”

As I crouched and took aim with my AR-10, I felt the guilt coming up again. I felt that if I killed again, I would never be able to wash the blood off my hands. I felt such a bitter irony, knowing that I started as the protectors and helpers of people, and I would likely end up a ruthless death-dealer. I knew that I’ve nearly crossed my Rubicon, the point of no return where I had to decide what I wanted to be: a human, or a monster.

The group of five robbers were crossing the rice field. Soon they would reach the single tree in the middle of the field, which was the mark of the killing ground as set by the sergeant earlier. I knew I had to decide. I knew it was my one last chance to prevent myself from turning completely into an inhuman monster.

They reached the tree.

 

 

 

 

 
And I pulled the trigger….

 

 
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