Huizinga “Play and War” in Homo Ludens
We can only speak of war as a cultural function so long as it is waged within a sphere whose members regard each other as equals or antagonists with equal rights; in other words its cultural function depends on its play-quality. This condition changes as soon as war is waged outside the sphere of equals, against groups not recognized as human beings and thus deprived of human rights – barbarians, devils, heathens, heretics and “lesser breeds without the law”. In such circumstances war loses its play-quality altogether and can only remain within the bounds of civilization in so far as the parties to it accept certain limitations for the sake of their own honour. Until recently the “law of nations” was generally held to constitute such a system of limitation, recognizing as it did the ideal of a community of mankind with rights and claims for all, and expressly separating the state of war – by declaring it – from peace on the one hand and criminal violence on the other. It remained for a theory of “total war” to banish war’s cultural function and extinguish the last vestige of the play-element.
Last lines of The Kingdom. Cutting between Saudi Arabia and the USA.
Adam Leavitt: Fleury. Tell me what you whispered to Janet, in the briefing, to get her to stop crying about Fran, you know, before all this, before we even got airborne. What’d you say to her?
Aunt: Tell me, what did your grandfather whisper in your ear before he died?
Adam Leavitt: You remember?
Ronald Fleury: I told her we were gonna kill ’em all.
15-Year-Old Grandson: Don’t fear them, my child. We are going to kill them all.
“We” is problematic for the viewer — it’s an invitation to identification that can be resisted through memory — the Ronald Fleury character is depicted at least three times interacting with male children trying to explain the unexplainable. In all three instances the scene is expected to elicit the viewer’s sympathy. The conflict is individualized and the figure of the good man laminated to that of the good soldier and by that adulterated.
But note that between the tenses, past and future, is the present. Jetzeit. Where and when you remember.
It is in that time of the viewing that the viewer can recall a moment earlier in the film that underscored the recognition of universal mortality as a impetus to action. In a scene in the corridors of power far from the theatre of war.
Attorney General Gideon Young: I’m gonna bury you.
FBI Director James Grace: You know, Westmoreland made all of us officers write our own obituaries during Tet, when we thought The Cong were gonna end it all right there. And, once we clued into the fact that life is finite, the thought of losing it didn’t scare us anymore. The end comes no matter what, the only thing that matters is how do you wanna go out, on your feet or on your knees? I bring that lesson to this job. I act, knowing that someday this job will end, no matter what. You should do the same.
Genesis of the Daleks
(Sarah and Harry pull at the gelatinous thing and finally get it off the Doctor’s throat. Harry throws part of it back into the incubation room, the Doctor does the same with the remainder and closes the door. They move a little way down the corridor, and the Doctor holds the two wires. Then he hesitates putting them together to close the circuit and detonate the explosives.)
SARAH: What are you waiting for?
DOCTOR: Just touch these two strands together and the Daleks are finished. Have I that right?
SARAH: To destroy the Daleks? You can’t doubt it.
DOCTOR: Well, I do. You see, some things could be better with the Daleks. Many future worlds will become allies just because of their fear of the Daleks.
SARAH: But it isn’t like that.
DOCTOR: But the final responsibility is mine, and mine alone. Listen, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?
SARAH: We’re talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented. You must destroy them. You must complete your mission for the Time Lords.
DOCTOR: Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that’s it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace, and never even know the word Dalek.
SARAH: Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteria you were destroying, you wouldn’t hesitate.
DOCTOR: But I kill, wipe out a whole intelligent life form, then I become like them. I’d be no better than the Daleks.
SARAH: Think of all the suffering there’ll be if you don’t do it.
The ambiguity is preserved. He doesn’t launch the explosion later on…
(The Doctor comes out of the room and picks up the bare wires again, but before he can put them together, two Daleks come round the corner and fire. He drops the wires and gets out of the way just in time.)
(Inside, the Doctor reaches out from his hiding place for the wires, and the Dalek fires. Then it starts moving forward, and the Doctor runs away. The Dalek trundles over the wires, completing the circuit. The KaBOOM! is heard at the entrance.)
If we know that our “we” is constructed, not given, then what are we to make of the other?
And so for day 2329