I’m living in my third country now and every time I move country I believe in each one less and less. It could be because I see how much people believe in this abstract notion of a state as a holy or spiritual thing worth suffering over.
Dying for a place, or rather a bunch of geography with some people and their ideas sprinkled on top of it, is even more pointless perhaps. I can understand to an extent dying for an idea, but most of the time this isn’t what is happening. You’re dying for an idea of a place. Yet, this dying for the idea of a place is often equated with heroism.
The story I’m not writing is the story of national heroism. Among other reasons its because it wasn’t the real story of what went on if you ask me. The 1683 Siege of Vienna, the Battle of Kahlenberg, or whatever you want to call this whole fracas was not about what we think about as nations because nations didn’t really exist like we think of them. It was about empires crashing and splashing into one another with innumerable overlaps. So it wasn’t about Austria, or Poland saving Christian Europe from Islam really. Things were a lot more complicated than that.
Religion might have been a motivating factor to get the boots on the ground doing the dying going, but the people at the top just wanted some more of the other guy’s geography and that was that. Reading somewhere in some academic paper, I believe about Ottoman arms and command structure by a Hungarian academic, I came upon an amazing number, which was that up to a third of the Sultan’s army could have been Christian. There were tens of thousands of Christians, Hungarian Protestants to be exact, among them who were all too happy to join up with Muslims to save their Christianity from the other one, the Roman Catholic one, that went through ruthlessly massacring them periodically. So not that simple basically. It wasn’t exactly us versus them.
On the Bastion blog I wrote recently about having an enemy. This is in terms of a digital product or a design of a thing having an enemy, that is to define what you want to make by clearly defining what you believe to be its antithesis. You might not be exactly sure of what it is, yet or ever, but you sure as hell are clear on what it definitely is not. I think this applies to stories.
I can’t find a single documentary online about this damn siege I’m writing about that doesn’t make it out to be some massive civilisational end of the world sort of thing. Most of them, rightly so, are in German, which my understanding at this point is at the level of of a tourist with I’m told really good pronunciation, so I can’t get the overall tone of them that well, but it’s generally about Christianity vs Islam but both confounded as solid, cohesive forces and super states, which of course is not true. But find something on the internet and well, you’re waist deep in stock animation flag animations, YouTube comment sabre rattling and calls for war because you know my place is better than yours.
I’m not very into this and upon pondering it, I’ve discovered this is my story’s enemy: the idea that suffering or even dying for a place is not only somehow heroic, but necessary.