Short article: “We Were Swept away by a Landslide. A New Metaphorical Representation of Covid-19”, by Patrizia Piredda

On March 17, 2020, at the beginning of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, all French and foreign newspapers reported the war declaration of President Emmanuel Macron, “nous sommes en guerre”, which was followed on March 19 by that of the previous American President Donald Trump, who described himself as a “wartime president”. Those first steps, which politicians and newspapers around the world would henceforth follow, triggered the rush to applying metaphors of war during the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

From a logical and rhetorical point of view, several significant connections exist between the two related domains – the fight against Covid-19 and war. Therefore, the metaphor we are at war with the virus and all the metaphors derived from it (e.g. doctors are heroes, the virus is the enemy, intensive care units are trenches, etc.) have been formally adequate. However, from the ethical and emotional points of view, these metaphors have not been adequate because they do not produce that perspicuous clarity: they highlight some aspects of the situation while concealing other, such as the gravity of the structural weakness of public health systems in many countries worldwide. From the ethical point of view, then, war metaphors appear problematic because they arouse the same emotions felt by those who live in a state of war, which does not make the case of the Covid-19 pandemic…

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Dòng suối quê hương (The Streams of Our Native Land): a poem by Trần Đình Song

Dear readers of Close Encounters in War, we are delighted to publish another poetic contribution about the Vietnam war, this time from the perspective of a Vietnamese veteran: Trần Đình Song, who served in the Southern Vietnamese Air Force and was in the re-education forced labour camps after the war. This beautiful poem was written in 1966, and although the horror of civil war war haunted the Author and his country, his words are full of love and hope. We publish the poem in its original version, accompanied by the new English translation that the Author made with his friend and member of the CEIWJ Editorial Board Edward Tick.

Dòng suối quê hương (The Streams of Our Native Land), by Trần Đình Song

New publication: “Community, Diversity and Reconciliation in Remote Vietnamese Villages” by Edward Tick

Survive & Thrive: A Journal for Medical Humanities and Narrative as Medicine, 5, 2 (2020)

Meeting with the non-combatant Pioneer Women and Men who worked the
dangerous and heavily bombed Ho Chi Minh Trail during the war. The author is sitting next to Tran Dinh Song, a southern air force veteran; Kate Dahlstedt, therapist, is standing behind.

ABSTRACT

The American War in Viet Nam created
significant divisions among their population. Factions include southern Army of
the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) veterans, northern People’s Republic or North
Vietnamese Army (NVA) veterans, Viet Cong (VC)veterans who were essentially
militia, non-combatant Pioneers – largely women, Agent Orange victims. All
these are now treated as one people, one family. Some government prejudice and
denial of benefits remains toward ARVN vets, but as we will see not among the
common people. We turn to our American experiences in the Viet Nam of today of
otherness, differentness, moral responsibility for the war, the possibilities of
reconciliation between former foes. How do the Vietnamese experience us? And
what is our experience of being the outsiders from our country that formerly
invaded this land?

Download the open-access article as PDF for free HERE.

Poet, author, psychotherapist and international activist and guide, Edward Tick,
Ph.D., (www.edwardtick.com) is author of four nonfiction books, including War
and the Soul, and two volumes of poetry. A specialist in war and trauma healing
and the cultures of Viet Nam and Greece, Ed uses the humanities, literature,
cross-cultural and ancient psycho-spiritual-cultural practices for healing.

Close Encounters in War launches a new section for stories and poetry

Stories and poems of close encounters in war

Close encounters in war are, before anything else, life experiences that change in depth those who make them. As editors of the Close Encounters in War Journal, we have always been aware of this simple but basic fact and therefore decided to open the third issue of the journal (2020) to creative writing. We wanted to propose an experimental encounter between scholarly research and forms of creative and non-fictional writing whose roots go deep into experience and imagination.

After that exciting experience, being aware that stories and poems of close encounters in war deserve a place of their own in the website, we are happy to announce the launch of the new section “Stories and poems of close encounters in war“.

This new section of the journal is divided into three subsections (Poetry, Fiction, and Testimonies and Autobiographical Essays) and is meant to be a space for creativity and exploration of all those forms of writing that help us understand war more thoroughly as a multifaceted and complex experience. We invite storytellers, veterans, practitioners, relatives and friends of veterans, poets, therapists, and much more to feel free to submit their contributions to the CEIWJ. We will be happy and grateful to read year round your original and unpublished works about your encounters in and with war, real and imagined. We will select and publish the best, more insightful, and inspiring contributions.

Close Encounters in War: Testimonies and Autobiographical Essays

We present in this section a collection of testimonies and short essays from veterans, therapists, witnesses, practitioners and others who have experienced close encounters in war in person or through their work and connections.

David Klein: Soul Operation (February 24, 2021)

Kate Dahlstedt: Wave (December 27, 2020)

Thayer Greene: My “Close Encounters” in World War 2 Combat (December 27, 2020)

Pat Guariglia: From a U.S. Marine to His Vietnamese Counterparts, with an Introduction by Edward Tick (December 27, 2020)

Close encounters in war: Poetry

We present in this section a collection of poetical contributions that explore the topic of the close encounter in war.

Trần Đình Song: Dòng suối quê hương (The Streams of Our Native Land) (February 22, 2021)

Charles “Sandy” Scull and Brent “Mac” MacKinnon: Selected poetry and prose by Sandy Scull and Brent MacKinnon from the volume Agent Orange Roundup. Living with a Foot in Two Worlds (Bookstand Publishing, 2020) (December 27, 2020)

Edward Tick: Selected poetry and prose by Edward Tick (December 27, 2020)

Call for articles: CEIWJ n. 4 (2021), “Emotions and Close Encounters in War”

The editors of the CEIWJ invite to submit abstracts by February 10, 2021

The universe of emotions has always represented a major challenge for research in every field of knowledge, from Philosophy to Physics, from Psychology to the Arts. Although everyone knows what emotions are insofar as almost everyone can “feel”, as it comes to provide a clear or systematic explanation of emotions, words fail. Today, interdisciplinary studies see cognitivists working side by side with psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, biologists, historians, and philosophers to elaborate insightful theories of emotions. One breakthrough that has oriented the new research agenda since the 1990s consists in the claim that the human mind is – despite the rationalist tradition rooted in Descartes’s philosophy and the following theories of Enlightenment and Positivism – emotional (see, for example, pivotal studies by Antonio Damasio and Joseph Ledoux in the 1990s).

During the preparation of Issue n. 3, devoted to post-traumatic stress disorder, we have grown even more aware that war and emotions are deeply entwined. We may even dare to say that if humans go to war, it is mostly due to emotions, although the rational urge to organise and explain war in term of science is equally powerful (as historian Bernd Hüppauf and ethologists such as Irenäus Eibl-Eibelsfeld have demonstrated). For sure, the individual caught in a war, from its preparation to the very experience of battle, is exposed to a great number of emotional stimuli that affect their reactions and decision-making. Propaganda, the feeling of “belonging”, affective bonds, ethical inclinations, and cultural notions such as racism, nationalism, patriotism, cosmopolitanism, as only some of the numerous and varied contributing factors that may lead people to make war or to avoid it. We believe that the “close encounter” makes this list as well as a fundamental emotional experience in war.

Issue n. 4 of CEIWJ will aim to investigate the theme of close encounters in connection to the emotions by exploring its facets both on a micro-scale, by studying individual testimonies and experiences, and on a theoretical and critical basis throughout history. CEIWJ encourages inter/multidisciplinary approaches and dialogue among different scientific fields. We therefore welcome articles that frame the topic within the context of close encounters in war from the perspective of Aesthetics, Anthropology, Arts, Classics, Cognitive Science, Ethics, History, Linguistics, Politics, Psychology, Sociology, and other disciplines relevant for the investigation of the topic. Case studies may include different historical periods as well as over different geographic areas.

We invite articles which analyse the connection between war and emotions from ancient to modern and contemporary periods, from the perspective of the encounter, reaching beyond the study of military tactics and strategy and focusing on the emotional dimension of how human beings “encounter” each other – or themselves – in war. Contributions are invited to promote discussion and scholarly research from established scholars, early-career researchers, and from practitioners who have dealt with the emotional response to war in the course of their activities.

Topics and research fields that can be investigated include but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical inter/multidisciplinary approaches to the study of emotions and war;
  • The emotional impact of war on culture and social behaviour;
  • The emotional and ethical impact of language in the context of war (propaganda, pacifism, anti-war literature, etc.);
  • The emotional aspects of oral history, memory studies, therapy, and PTSD-counselling in theory and practice;
  • Expressing and representing emotions and war in music, figurative arts, literature, testimonies and personal narratives;
  • War and the emotional elaboration of death, mourning, trauma, and loss;
  • The emotional impact of colonial and civil wars, captivity and deportation;
  • Emotional response to war crimes and military justice;
  • Emotional implications of otherness, race, and gender in war-contexts.

The editors of Close Encounters in War Journal invite the submission of abstracts of 250 words in English by 10 February 2021 to ceiwj@nutorevelli.org. The authors invited to submit their works will be required to send articles of 6000-8000 words (endnotes included, bibliographical references not included in word-count: please see submission guidelines at https://closeencountersinwar.org/instruction-for-authors-submissions/) in English by 30 June 2021 to ceiwj@nutorevelli.org. All articles will undergo a process of double-blind peer-review. We will notify the results of the peer-reviewing in September 2021. Final versions of revised articles will be submitted by November of 2021.

Book launch: “Il paese dimenticato. Nuto Revelli e la crisi dell’Italia contadina”

Nuto Revelli Foundation – Thursday 17 December 2020, 18 pm.

Live streaming on Zoom and Facebook

On Thursday 17 December, the book Il paese dimenticato. Nuto Revelli e la crisi dell’Italia contadina will be presented online on Zoom, in collaboration with the Nuto Revelli Foundation.

This volume analyses, through Revelli’s published works, interviews, and unpublished archival sources, how he contributed to the national debate about Italy’s industrial revolution, during the 1960s and 1970s.

Nuto Revelli (Cuneo 1919-2004) fought in WW2 as a Second Lieutenant in the Italian Alpine Corps on the Russian front (August 1942 – January 1943). His unit was deployed on the river Don, and as the Red Army broke through the defensive lines of the Axis, Revelli took part in the catastrophic retreat through the steppe in early 1943. As he made it back home, he struggled with PTSD, until the Fascist regime was overturned in July. As Italy exited the war on 8 September 1943, Revelli instinctively decided to leave his hometown and to hide in the mountains, where he founded his first partisan group. After a few months of stalemate, he joined a politically organised partisan group led by two eminent members of the secret antifascist party “Giustizia e Libertà”: Duccio Galimberti and Dante Livio Bianco.

The latter was a lawyer who befriended Revelli and introduced him to a politically aware form of antifascism. Revelli had been an enthusiastic supporter of fascism as a young boy. Only after his disastrous military experience in Russia, he had begun to think critically about Mussolini’s failures. Through the defeat in Russia, Revelli realised that fascism had caused Italy to fall into chaos by deceiving the Italians with its propaganda. His revolt, however, remained for many months instinctive and politically unaware. Only the encounter with Dante Livio Bianco stirred up Revelli’s malcontent and will to revenge, orienting it toward mature political awareness.

The antifascist party “Giustizia e Libertà” was established on principles such as moral intransigence and individual responsibility. The members of this party aimed to educate the youth on ethics and they argued claimed that Italy should become a republican democracy. Revelli poured everything in his partisan experience and was also seriously injured in September 1944, when he had a motorcycle accident that disfigured him.

The partisan war and antifascist education helped Revelli overcome his PTSD. After the war, he became a writer with the two personal narratives Mai tardi (1946, about his war in Russia); and La guerra dei poveri (1962, on his partisan experience). In the 1960s, though, he understood that war testimonies were mostly written by former officers, educated individuals, who had attended school and were used to reading and writing. Privates, who constituted the bulk of the Italian troops and were in large part uneducated and often even illiterate, had not published but very few memoirs. Their war experience remained, for the time being, vastly unknown and neglected by public opinion. Revelli thus found out that the war continued to inflict harm and to kill still many years after its end.

Revelli became an anthropologist and oral historian as he started collecting oral interviews of former Italian soldiers who had fought in Russia. He realised that the Italian post-war society had no interest in listening to the stories of these wrecked men, who often endured PTSD and other physical and spiritual injuries. Many of them were poor peasants, who, after the conflict, came back to a country that they could hardly recognise. In the meantime, Italy had gone under a thorough socio-economic transformation. Since the early 1950s, Italy started its industrial revolution, especially in the northern regions; and manpower was massively drained from the fields, in particular from the most fragile areas of the country, in the South as well as in the North.

Revelli saluted the fact that industrialisation introduced and spread new forms of well-being. Many peasants employed in factories began to collect more solid salaries that helped their families slowly emerge from poverty. However, this revolution imposed its toll. Peasants from the poorer agricultural areas had to decide if either to leave their land and move to the industrial cities in the North industrial workers; or to keep working in the fields part-time, alternating this job with shifts in the factories.

The reason for such a dramatic situation was due to the international political context in which Italy’s industrialisation unfolded. On the one hand, the American Marshall Plan aimed to transform the agricultural economies in the poorer countries (like Italy) into industrialised economic activities. As a consequence, the first accords of the European Economic Community in the 1950s designed the agricultural development strategies in terms of very competitive liberalism. That meant that those areas where agriculture was thriving received economic and technical support to grow faster and stronger into industrial establishments. The poor rural areas, though, did not receive the same support, so their population was forced to move to the cities and to transform quickly into industrial manpower. Quite cruelly, rural economists used to say, still in the 1960s, that the archaic rural economy had to become extinct through depopulation.

Unfortunately, not everyone was able to leave their fields and homes and move to the cities. Many elderly peasants had made sacrifices to buy their fields and homes and now were too old to become factory workers. Moreover, a relevant number of those peasants were WW2 veterans struggling with PTSD and chronic diseases. Peasant women in these rural areas were mostly illiterate too. In the 1950s, the Italian peasant culture still rested on ancient traditions including rigid religiousness and superstition. That culture exploited children as workers and confined women in the house under harsh conditions of ignorance and hard physical labour.

Revelli felt indignation as he discovered this concealed world existing almost unnoticed just outside his hometown. A few kilometres beyond the wealthy agricultural establishments in the plains, the rural world that showed itself on the hills and mountains was comparable to a medieval society. Revelli did not accept that the national political and economic agenda could leave these people to their extinction, just because they would not adapt to the new model of economic growth.

He devoted four books to the people of the archaic rural areas of his region, Piedmont: La strada del davai (1966, forty interviews with veterans from the Russian front and captivity – translated into English as Mussolini’s Death March); L’ultimo fronte. Lettere di soldati dispersi o caduti nella seconda guerra mondiale (1971, collecting about 1300 letters from KIA or MIA Italian soldiers); Il mondo dei vinti. Testimonianze di vita contadina (1977, over 200 oral testimonies from elderly peasants); and L’anello forte. La donna. Storie di vita contadina (1985, more than 200 oral interviews with female peasants).

Nuto Revelli today represents one important critical voice insofar as he reminds us that no one should be left behind in the name of economic growth. No well-being is such if it can be benefited only by the happy few to the detriment of the others.