Saturday, October 28, 2017

Mata Hari: Remembering Her One Hundred Years After The Execution

In Vincennes, on Oct 15th, 2017, where Mata Hari was shot, one hundred years ago. 

The above is a short clip that I made when visiting the park of Vincennes, in Paris, for the centennial of Mata Hari's death. I was exactly (I think) where Mata Hari was executed, and I had my wife, Grazia, recording this short speech of mine. It was an impromptu performance, nothing scripted, so excuse me if it is a little rough. But I thought I could have done it as a small homage to Mata Hari; the best I could do. 

The idea this little talk of mine was to place Mata Hari's death in the context of the great "pulse" of extermination that gripped the world, starting with what we call the "first world war"; really just an episode of the pulse. Overall, some 260 million people are believed to have been killed over some 50 years of madness. 

Of course, Mata Hari was just one of the many victims of this period. There were many before her, and many, many more after her. But I think we can take her execution as somewhat of a starting point of something. 

In 1917, the Great War had raged already for three years, but at it was at that point that things really started to be ugly; uglier than anything ever seen before. It was the moment when a wave of hate-generating propaganda pervaded Europe - it was the starting point of everything that happened afterward. Just to cite an example, on the centennial of the battle of Caporetto, one week later than Mata Hari's death, an Italian General declared, correctly, "it was when we learned to hate our enemies". 

So, it is no coincidence that Mata Hari, a woman who was so clearly both innocent and harmless was killed by the French state. She was killed for no other reason than pure hate. It was part of the beginning of a true tsunami of hate that swamped Europe and most of the world.

The Great War was supposed to be the war that would end all wars. It didn't, just as no other war ever did. We cannot say whether the great pulse of the 20th century was an end of something or the start of something much larger. As always, only the future will tell us about the future.

But we can remember a brave woman, Mata Hari, who died that day at Vincennes, a victim of hate and injustice. Of course, she was not an intellectual, not a person of culture, she probably had no idea of what was happening to her and to the world. But she chose as her stage name that of "the path of light," a path that, one day, we might learn to follow.  

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