Son of Saul BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by László Nemes and written by Clara Royer.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m00029kr/son-of-saul

This is a straightforward narrative. A Hungarian man finds the body of a young boy, he thinks is his son and he wants to give him a proper Jewish burial. To do so he needs to find a Rabbi willing to perform Mourner’s Kaddish.

Transpose that scene to an unnamed Nazi death camp, (Auschwitz), running at full capacity, murdering Jews and burning their bodies. Fling in the babble of languages – German, Hungarian, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, French, Greek, Slovak and Hebrew – and make your central character, Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig) a Jewish Sonderkommdo. There’s a red X on the back of his coat and his job, as is the job of all survivors is to live as long as possible. He’s an old hand at it. Burying the young boy endangers not only him, but everyone around him. Scroll back.

Redemption comes when a miracle happens. A shipment of Jews are herded into the shower-room.  We hear the banging and shrieking as those inside try to escape from Zyklon- B gas. Sonderkommandos wait until ‘the pieces’ are dispatched, until they can get to work cleaning up. Pieces, are, of course, bodies. Saul’s job was, literally, picking up the pieces. And one of the pieces he picks up is his son, who is still alive, but dies later.

Nothing was wasted in the death camps, teeth extracted for gold, hair and even skin used for lamps. Eighty-percent of those arriving were processed immediately and send to the gas chambers. For some trainloads it was one-hundred percent and the ovens couldn’t cope.  Clothes recycled and the hunt for jewellery, gold and currency went on. ‘Canada’ was a place in camp where much of this reprocessing happened.

Euphemisms abounded and the film gets much of it right. While they can show the cruelty that was an integral part of the Nazi genocide, what they cannot show is how a body disintegrates without food and how crowded the camps were. They cannot replicate the stench of burning bodies. What they do well is show how many camps were situated in areas of natural beauty. Prisoners are shown shovelling ash (from bodies) into the nearby lake.

Son of Saul depicts, and indeed educates us, around the existential issue of what it means to be a man or a woman, what it means to be human, while giving no set answer. What it cannot do is legislate for stupidity and the cultivation of ignorance. A poll taken before Holocaust Memorial day on Sunday found that said the one in twenty Britons, say the Holocaust never happened. And eight- percent say the scale of the Holocaust has been exaggerated.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/27/one-in-20-britons-does-not-believe-holocaust-happened

The surprising thing about that poll is it doesn’t surprise me. The only exaggeration is how stupid these people are. But with the moron’s moron in the White House and the growth of right-wing neo-Nazi parties across the world, even in Germany, I don’t know whether you should watch this film or weep or look at the poll and weep. I tend towards the latter.

 

Shirzad Chamine (2012) Positive Intelligence. Why only 20% of Teams and Individual Achieve Their True Identity.

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It would be unfair to suggest I read Positive Intelligence with an open mind, or even read it, rather I flipped through it. I did read today’s report in The Observer by Harriet Sherwood, the headline of which is Top cleric says C of E reforms risk making it a ‘suburban sect’.  How does that apply to Shirzad Chamine’s New York Time’s bestseller?  Well, I’d argue that Positive Intelligence (PQ) which measure the percentage of your mind that is sabotaging you as opposed to  helping you is pseudoscience or just plain bullshit. ‘The great news is you can improve your PQ.’ You can minimise the Judge that rules your life and increase your Sagacity and empathise more. Win-Win. In other words, do unto other what you would do to yourself.

I’ll quote Sherwood here on the Church of England’s plans, but they could apply equally to PQ:

There seems to be no sagacity, serious science or spiritual substance to the curatives being offered.

Make no mistake Positive Intelligence tells you, like the Church of England or indeed Alcoholic Anonymous’ Big Book, how to turn your life around. Read, for example, the account of ‘Peter an entrepreneur’. He had wanted to make $10 million before his retirement. He was offered $125 million for his company, but turned it down because his college buddy had been offered $330 million. Late Peter became bankrupt. Peter is an asshole is the lesson I learned. I’m not great at empathising with people like him, but that is being judgemental. You need to ask yourself why you are being judgemental. Ask your Sagacity.

My Sagacity says fuck off.

Chamine points out in his research that ‘on average, able-bodied adults who become quadriplegic through an accident return to their baseline happiness’.

I thought I was poor and unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet. Read that sentence again. Happiness has a baseline. Unhappiness too must have a baseline. I’m going to send away for one of those things you blow into when the cops arrest you and they say ‘sorry, pal, you’ve driving a car and you’re three times over the unhappiness limit’. You’re looking at a two year ban, put in the cells and beat up.’ Blow into the bag again. ‘look pal, you’re ten time over the limit, we need to cut your feet off and you’ve done this before so we’re cutting your fingers off. Are you happy now? See what you’ve made us do?’

If you look through Positive Intelligence peppered with stories that could have come straight from AA’s Big Book so you don’t need to read the PI book. ‘The Vicious Cycle’; ‘Women Suffer Too’; ‘Jim’s Story’; ‘The Man Who Mastered Fear’; ‘He Sold Himself Short’; ‘The Missing Link’; ‘My Chance to Live’; ‘Acceptance Was the Answer’; ‘Winner Takes All’.

I’m not asking you to read the Big Book or take the PI test, or read the New York Times bestseller. I’d just ask the kind of people that read books where they can slap themselves on the back and thing how they’ve created such a fine test and algorithm for measuring happiness to blow in that bag, pal and take a long hard look at themselves. Books are the answer because they can help us empathise with the other, the worker, the underlining, the refugee.

Anthony Trollope’s character had something to say in the nineteenth century in The Way We Live Now that has added bite in the twenty-first century. ‘People said of him that he had framed and carried out long and premeditated and deeply laid schemes for the ruins of those who had trusted him, that he had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him, that he was fed with the blood of widows and children’.

Positive Intelligence is an argument for the placebo effect and for backslapping for those that own the top 100 US companies Chamine is writing and works for. These are not my people. This is not my book. Read. Read. Read widely and wisely. Then you’ll understand.