Guernica:Picasso’s Warning


As the world debates the merits of just how many people this planet will realistically support and sustain, the art world continues to remind us that total population numbers are not necessarily key, but more importantly how human nature interacts with those numbers and the resources afforded and allocated among the different ethnic groups scattered around the globe.

Who would have guessed that a Spanish military operation (pre-WWII 1937) would have the impact it did on publicizing the horrors of war, and the gruesome consequences when groups of people turn to uncontrolled violence to mitigate their differences. Certainly Picasso captured the innate ability of mankind to shun their humanity and perpetuate any conceivable brutality possible, when called upon to demonstrate the strident emotionalism of conflicting political causes.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century it is clear technology has not made the world any safer, but only made it a more efficient killing machine. We in this country bemoan nuclear proliferation and the growing number of nations capable of nuclear weaponry, while oftentimes conveniently forgetting we are the only nation to have used it militarily-actually twice. Nuclear weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) are not only stockpiled by the West and others but are also coveted by terrorist organizations around the world. The first decade has given no indication warfare will soon be a thing of the past, in fact quite the opposite, it looks to be an ongoing and escalating method for gaining political advantage, terrorizing civilian populations and an effective means for genocidal policies.

When we view the image of Guernica, the muted cries of the wounded, the faces of the dead and shattered remains of both people and animals are crowded into a landscape devoid of hope. It leaves us all in a forlorn state of despair. History is on display for all to see, yet we continue to routinely make the same mistakes over and over again. 

The one glaring clue is that as mankind’s numbers have dramatically increased along with depleting the world’s resources, and the advent of technology has evolved into a false god for moral salvation, the degree of butchery has escalated in direct proportion. It is very likely we are doomed to continually finding ways of killing each other, until there is nothing left to kill.

We most likely have both the means and mean-spiritedness to make that happen. 

But a 11 x 26 ft oil on canvas created over 70 years ago now, still has the power to renew our resolve if we are willing to remember its lessons. Those lessons can only be implemented if we are willing to first control our numbers so that the circumstances that create poverty, want, hopelessness and suffering can be reduced to manageable levels, so all people are able to live in a world which is more equal and sustainable. 

Whether we like it or not, America is the future-as we go so goes the rest of the world. If we are not able to find the moral and spiritual determination necessary to discipline our own unfettered desires and control our own materialism, we will only lead the world farther down the path of conflict and destruction. 

That will certainly continue and multiply once again the horrors represented in Guernica.

If in doubt revisit, When The Man Comes Around: Johnny Cash

1 Comment

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. theultimateoutcast
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 16:43:46

    I recall a very good play in college that analyzed this painting.

    Generally, people do not want things to be this way. But they yield to the bold ideas of people in power. Bold ideas do not have to be smart ideas. Most people do not know the difference.

    When people become comfortable they seem apathetic. Others who are suffering are fearful. And those who are ignorant can be influenced by enough doubt to become stagnant and passive.

    A recipe for inaction, disaster or war? Where it not for heavy suspicion and cynism, these times could be an opportunity for great ideas and to display human nature’s best attributes.

    I think we need to be our own heroes to avoid a great fall. The ones we “hired” do not seem to be living up to their “promise”.

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