Thursday 23 June 2011

The Afghan Chalk Outline

The story goes that Solomon, the judge, is presented with the case of one child claimed by two women. So he devises a plan (an ingenious one, according to Hebrew scripture) to reveal the real mother. He summons the power of the sword: Since there is no way of knowing which of the women is lying, the only solution is to divide the infant between the two claimants.

His sabre-rattling works. Not only does the real mother in this story immediately give up her claim to the child in order to save his life, but the liar - remaining true to all tales of triumphant vengeance - responds that, no, Solomon's solution is best, the bastard must be sacrificed. You see, she is cartoon evil, bitter and jealous, and only wants to deprive the real mother and licks her chops at the prospective bloody outcome.

This biblical narrative might have inspired Xingdao's and then Brecht's parables, the latter turning conventional instinct on its head, showing that the caring nurturer is not necessarily the biological mother. (I reluctantly add that all of these variations are scenically patriarchal with a misogynistic flavor.)

But how would this play out in the 21st century? How would the parties react to such a ruling today?

Easy. They split the difference, one party muttering something about not having much choice in the matter, the other party bickering about the weakness of the decision, both taking their dripping portion back to their respective corners, neither accepting their bloody responsibility.

Any motherly grumbling from this play within a play are staged as naive to political reality at best, or - if you care what Solomon really thinks - presented as professional retardation.

In other words: The only ones with any say in this Grand-Guignol are the cartoonish evil villains. All they care about is political reality. The "reality on the ground" is rhetoric to them. Even the court reporter sees the dead baby-halves as progress.

Not that there's no revenge. This being such high art, however, it remains to the theatre-goer's fantasy, their having been conditioned to crave such emotion. So vengeance is anyone's guess.

Here's your goddamn, motherfucking rule of law!