Yesterday Chris posted a homeland security fable. Later the fable’s author commented by, in part, quoting from Albert Camus’ The Wind at Djemila. (It’s only three pages, I encourage you to click the link and read the whole.)
Djemila is a Roman ruin in Algeria. The city — the ancients called it Cuicul — was established at the imperial apogee and suddenly, almost completely abandoned after 450 years of prosperous obscurity. It was left empty and substantially intact for most of the next fifteen centuries.
The ruin’s contemporary name means beautiful in Arabic and signals the gracious, haunted symmetry of the place. The Camus essay inspired by Djemila is mostly about death. Here’s a middle passage:
And, I do not know why, before this furrowed landscape, before this solemn, mournful outcry of stone, Djemila, inhuman in the setting sun,before this death of colors and hope, I was sure that at the end of their lives men worthy of the name should find this confrontation again, deny the few ideas which were theirs and recover the innocence and the truth that shines in the faces of the men of ancient times before their destiny. They regain their youth, but it is by embracing death. Nothing is more contemptible in this respect than sickness. It is a remedy against death. It prepares for it. It creates an apprenticeship of which the first stage is tenderness for oneself. It supports man in the great effort he makes to escape from the certainty of utter death. But Djemila …. and then I feel that the true, the only progress of civilization, that to which from time to time a man attaches himself, is in creating conscious deaths.
Homeland security is part of the great effort we make to escape from the certainty of utter death.
This morning between the Gospel of Luke and Camus, I read excerpts from the Global Homeland Security Market 2012-2022, including this:
Currently, the major driver of the global homeland security market is the rise in terrorist activities across the world. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the threat of terrorist attacks against countries all across the world including the US, the UK, Israel, India, Pakistan and Indonesia. Moreover, recent years have witnessed advancement in technologies used by terrorists and this has fueled research and development activities by various countries in an endeavor to develop effective and advanced counter measures.
The authors of the market projection expect that over the next decade US$2595 billion will be spent on this global effort to find a remedy for death.
I project the effort will fail.
From time to time our specific counter measures will fail. More profoundly we will fail in our strategic objective. Death will take us. Camus continues:
Djemila speaks truly tonight, and with what sad and insistent beauty! For myself, here in the world,I do not want to lie nor to be lied to. I want to carry my lucidity to the end and look at my death with all the profusion of my jealousy and horror. It is in the measure that I separate myself from the world that I am afraid of death, in the measure that I attach myself to the fate of living men, instead of contemplating the enduring sky. To create conscious deaths is to diminish the distance which separates us from the world, and makes us enter without joy into the consummation of our lives, conscious of the exalting images of a world forever lost. And the sad song of the hills of Djemila drives deeper into my soul the bitterness of this lesson.
I understand. I sympathize with Camus. And in an important particular, I disagree.
Homeland security — and much more — is best fulfilled when we embrace the reality of death. In making the journey to conscious death the possibility of joy is made manifest. Living boldly in the shade of death is joyful consummation. There is surely sadness, but through our grief we might better know the measure of our joy.