In addition, Vidal probes the possibility that September 11 could be perceived as a `pre-emptive strike'. He states: "...Four days earlier, the Guardian had reported that `Osama bin Laden and the Taliban received threats of possible American military action against them two months before the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington...[which] raises the possibility that bin Laden was launching a pre-emptive strike in response to what he saw as US threats.' A replay of the `day of infamy' in the Pacific 62 years earlier?" Irrespective of what point of view you believe, the essay highlights how various situations and events can be seen from an alternative perspective. Different examples of aggression may not be as straightforward and one-sided as superficially seems. Emotive language plays a strong influence in how we perceive things.
Additionally, the multinational acts of aggression such as the September 11 strikes and other world large-scale conflicts (such as the conflicts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East) show that the world has not fully learnt from the past of the devastating effects large-scale formes of aggression can have on human life.
We can see that the film, Schindler's List is biased (which is not necessarily negative). It is very difficult to create an objective film that is entertaining as well as provides the intended message, in this case, the atrocities that occurred during the Jewish Holocaust. Apart from the negative personification of Amon Goeth's character (which cannot be entirely factual as no one knows his true psychology and thought processes), the director uses various film techniques to draw viewers towards the message he is trying to promote. During a sequence in which Goeth is bashing Helen Hirsch, the camera takes on a subjective viewpoint, that is, the view that the camera is providing is the apparent view of a particular character. We see Geoth slapping Helen from her point of view, and it is if Goeth is slapping us, the viewer. This technique increases our negative response to Geoth and simultaneously provides us with an illusional empathy for Helen (i.e. it is as if we have experienced the event and can thus relate directly to it). Other subjectivity influencing aspects include the fact that the information for the original novel was provided extensively by one side of the spectrum (Jewish survivors) and that the director of the movie himself is indeed Jewish. It could be reasonable to say that a film presenting the Nazis in a more positive light would be perceived and interpreted differently by a viewer, as would a film made from an entirely non-partisan viewpoint. Thus, the way we view aggression is influenced by our past experiences and the version of events that we receive if we do not witness the aggression in first hand.
Steven Spielberg does not exclude the aggression that Jews showed towards each other in desperate survival situations (although it does not feature prominently in the storyline). There are two obvious examples of this aggression. One is during the clearing of the ghetto, when a mother and daughter ask to be allowed into an occupied hidden floorboard compartment only to be told that there is only room for the daughter (even though we can see from a high angle shot that the compartment is not full). Another act of mental aggression occurs during the `health testing day' at the camp, in which a small boy resorts to lowering himself into a pit toilet to avoid being apprehended by camp authorities, only to be told by children already in that hiding spot to leave. Regina Zielinski was a Polish born, Australian migrant. In an extract from the book, "With a Guitar to Sobibor", published in 1983 and written by Dunya Breur, the author provides a recount of the retrial of Karl Frenzel in which Zielinski was requested to give evidence. Regina was asked to travel to a court in the German city of Hagen to give evidence against Frenzel, a commanding officer at the Sobibor `Death' camp where she resided during the 2nd World War. She was given a job at the camp as a knitter and thus survived, while the rest of her family were killed. During her testimony, Regina described a young boy by the name of Caruso, who was viciously murdered by Frenzel. The fact that Regina stayed behind after her testimony, during a court recess, staring, with her shoulders slumped, convinced the author that Regina was indeed telling the truth.
The source shows how devastating and unforgettable certain acts of aggression can be. The seriousness that a person perceives the effects of an act of aggression to be, influences how significant the occurrence is to the individual. For example, while an act of antagonism by a sibling is soon forgiven and forgotten by most, witnessing a murder(s) remains with people, such as Regina Zielinski, for up to a lifetime.
A particularly disturbing scene in the film shows a large procession of Jews being led into the closed Jewish ghetto. As the Jews walk along the main road carrying their most valuable possessions, a sizeable contingency of onlookers shout out insults and throw dirt at the Jews. Above the noise, a distinguishable voice of a girl no more than ten years old can be heard screaming out, "Goodbye Jews", with frightening prejudice and scorn.
This form of psychological aggression and racial resentment is quite shocking as we know that the girl is probably not old enough to forge her own ideas on such issues and the shallow prejudice could only be instilled in her by family and elder peers. The scene shows that aggressively prejudiced thoughts and beliefs are easily `picked-up' by the young, who are not mature enough to realise the true significance and enormity behind these beliefs.
The film divulges into the psychological mindset of a recognised villain of the era, Amon Goeth. Goeth is portrayed in the film as the main scoundrel (although there were hundreds of people just as cruel as he was). He seemed to have no sympathy whatsoever for the plight of the Jews. He strongly believed that the Jews were an inferior race and followed the ideology of the Nazi's with similar fanaticism.
The documentary "As it Happened - The Long Road to War" (which aired on SBS on the 12/05/03 at 7:30pm) provided a recap of U.S. and Iraqi relations over the last 2 decades. In addition, the 2-hour special presented an in-depth insight into Saddam Hussein's rise to power and his time as dictator of Iraq. This analysis of Saddam's character provided me with an excellent source to compare Hussein to Goeth.
Both Hussein and Goeth had unregulated power over a group of people. The foremost distinction between the two is that Hussein controlled an entire country (from 1973 onwards) and was essentially above any laws and rules that applied to Iraqis. Goeth, on the other hand, had dictator-like control of the people in his concentration camp, however, Goeth was not above common Nazi law at the time (i.e. he could have been jailed or even executed for having a liaison with Helen Hisch, the servant Jew). An example of Hussein's unbridled authority is a section in the documentary, which displays black and white video recorded footage of a meeting that Saddam had with other members of his Baath party in a large auditorium. In it Hussein reads from a list the names of people from his own party that he believes are disloyal. Those whose names are read out are escorted from the room and were never seen again.
The most eminent aspect of aggression expressed by Hussein, was the incursion of the Iraqi military into Kuwait, which was subsequently the initiation of the Persian Gulf War. During the incursion, countless numbers of Kuwaitis were tortured and murdered. This is a segment of a speech Bush Snr made in the lead up to war: "Summary executions, routine torture, Hitler revisited. America will not stand aside, the world will not allow the strong to swallow up the weak." In saying this, Bush compares the reign of Saddam Hussein to the reign of Hitler and the Nazis in the Second World War. In response Hussein states: "Iraqis will not forget the maxim, that cutting necks is better than cutting the means of living. God almighty be witness that we have warned them". Both speeches have differing target audiences and use very different language, however they both evoke an aggressive pretext.
The Concise English dictionary defines the noun `aggression' as `an unprovoked attack; a hostile action or behaviour'. Through my viewing of the film, I came to realise that the first definition of aggression was not necessarily the case. Instead I recognized that aggression could indeed be provoked (while remaining outside `retaliation') but almost always inadvertently. Provocation can only be defined by an individual (through cultural influences and self-temperament). The more acceptable view is that the aggression brought to bear by Amon Goeth towards Helen Hersch in the cellar was unprovoked, however one could (controversially) argue that Helen provoked the situation by failing to respond to Goeth and his questions. Obviously the aggression was not warranted or acceptable and there was unquestionably no intent to incite on Helen's part, but such an argument is still marginally valid.
In retrospect, the film presented me with an in-depth look at the plight of the Jews during the period. It provided a display of emotion which is absent or easily overlooked in a written text. In particular, the film showed how the reaction of the audience to acts of aggression can be heightened or subdued through the use of film techniques.