[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/01/19/gaza.war/art.gaza.prayer.gi.jpg caption="A Palestinian man Monday prays in the rubble of his home, destroyed during Israel's offensive in Gaza."]
The Smart Set
Say what you like about Israelis, they know how to play the game. I'm speaking of the humanity game. It's a game with specific rules and expectations in Western civilization. Its centerpiece, the very core of the game, is self-reflection. Demonstrating your humanity (since the Enlightenment, at least, but the roots go back to the beginning) is less about doing and more about reflecting on what you've done. The basic formula is already there at the Delphic Oracle: Know thyself. The trick of it, the reason that the humanity game is hard to play, is that the quest for self-knowledge does not lead to clarity, but down ever deeper into the muck. Knowledge, in the Western tradition, is very much about its limits. Knowing ourselves is thus partly about knowing the infinity of an enigma.
Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir is a “know thyself” kind of movie. It is obsessed with memory, and memory is the thread around which a self is built. You can't know yourself without memory. The problem is that Folman doesn't remember. Crucially, he doesn't remember anything from his youthful days in the Israeli army when he was part of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon. He decides that he needs to remember, and tracks down a number of his fellow soldiers in order to reconstruct that past. The story is told in animated form. It's a nice move. It creates a distance from the reality of lived experience. It is like drifting through someone else's dream.
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