Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Flying Without Wing

Everybody’s looking for that something

One thing that makes it all complete

You’ll find it in the strangest places

Places you never knew it could be – Westlife

Occurrences over the last week or so have brought to mind the fragility of life, the frailty of the human condition and in particular the human body which, for most of us, is softer and more vulnerable than the ground it comes to rest on – when it hits, that is.

In the midst of life, and investigations, we are, indeed, in death.

DEATH - Terry Pratchett’s sombre character, dressed in robes and carrying his all-encompassing scythe awaits us all, and not just those in the Discworld either.

His, for we are assured by his chronicler that he is very much a male, is a public service of sorts, as DEATH collects us all, eventually, and no manner of flight can delay or prevent this.

Baring this in mind, there are, at the very least, two meanings to that oft-misunderstood word, “flight”. One is to flee, as in to scarper, slope off, to skedaddle, and to make yourself scarce, away from persecution and nice men in uniform who insist on having the pleasure of your company. The other is mimicking what birds do best.

It is odd, is it not, that over the years, so many foolhardy people have sought out the forces of government to teach them flight, in both senses, quite unsuccessfully for some, as it turns out.

Somewhere between 43 BC and 18 AD, Oublius Ovidius Naso (Ovid) wrote in his Metamorphoses, concerning Icarus and his dad Daedalus.

These two inventive, yet seemingly hapless, characters were two of the first recorded recruits to the local government (non) flying school. In this case it was the King Minos of Crete (non) flying school – all entrants guaranteed to crash, and Icarus did.

Seemingly Icarus, no doubt mentally humming the very latest popular ditty, did not listen to his dear old dad’s advice and flew too close to the sun. The bee’s wax holding his feathered wings together melted, and Icarus, devoid of other means to keep him aloft, plummeted to his fate. At least that was the official story leaked to the press, by King Minos’s publicity dept.

We are, therefore, according to the KMPB (King Minos Publicity Department), to believe that son Icarus launched himself voluntarily into the incredible blue of the Greek sky and plummeted to his demise, much in the manner of Monty Python’s inquisitive, yet suicidal, leaves.

No doubt, in the Middle Ages, when not looking for the Holy Grail, the infamous Spanish Inquisition, which nobody expects, assisted many ex-prisoners to fly, those that were not drowned by ‘ducking’ that is.

The twisted and mangled corpses heading to open graves attested to the failure of the yet-to-be-found secret of actual flying without wings.

Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy and Franco’s Spain, were each, in their turn, pioneers of the secret of flying – down concrete steps – without wings. They became leading experts in the art of releasing prisoners, only for said prisoners to attempt what the birds do best, and discover the hardness of the ground and the softness of their own bodies.

Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, too, were to add subtleties to this art, perfecting the alibis and the dialogues which excused them from the acts committed.

Many years later, in the 1970s, Steve Biko of South Africa – a hero in the fight against apartheid, enrolled voluntarily, so it is alleged, in the South African government’s very own (non) flying school.

He too, successfully, took a plunging flight down the security forces steps and winged his way to the next world and martyrdom.

So now it seems that forces closer to home have joined the hallowed ranks of agencies practising their very own (non) flying schools, teaching not just fleeing suspects, but also cooperative witnesses to fly, unsuccessfully, without wings, leaving grieving fianceés to ponder. You can learn a lot from history.

Elsewhere, in fumbling, bumbling Penang, the violence of gangs has erupted, causing chaos and mayhem – chiefly to themselves.

Intend upon beating up a martial arts coach, a gang of bullies and, as it turned out, idiots, became discontent with merely beating but felt that shots from firearms might give more credence to their cause.

While his mates were still laying into their victim with iron bars, sticks and parangs, beating him bloody and causing his girlfriend to run off in fear, one clever gangbanger whipped out a gun.

With a cavalier attitude towards another’s life, the gangbanger shot. He shot the coach in the pelvis, causing him later to be rushed to hospital. But not content with inflicting that injury, the gangbanger continued shooting until he had also gunned down two of his mates, brothers biologically and in gang patois.

Three further bullets the trigger-happy gang member pumped into his friends, enabling the police to catch them much easier. Such is the rule of violence.

Unleashed violence often consumes friends and foes alike, and, in time, also consumes the perpetrator whether he hides behind the corrupt mask of civil duty or excuses his actions by saying “I was told to do it”.

Trainers in the (non) flying schools, men, and it is frequently men, who breach the fragile peace with violence find that they have taken a step too far down the road towards the folly of fascism.

Did he fall or was he pushed? Did a young man enlist in the infamous (non) flying school, to depart this earth by flying without wings, leaving a grieving fianceé who thought their love gave them the only wings they would ever need.

Some find it in the face of their children

Some find it in their lover’s eyes

Who can deny the joy it brings

When you’ve found that special thing

You’re flying without wings.

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