241 Things

1000 Things is a subjective encyclopedia of inspirational ideas, things, people, and events.

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241 Things

Compared to nightsticks, Kalasjnikovs and bats, whips don’t come across as very intimidating. Who ever heard of a war won by an army armed with whips? Or of bank robbers using whips as their method of coercion?

The whip’s power to induce fear is as good as lost in the Western world. Slaves were whipped to death. Children were covered in welts after educational beatings. Now, the whip has become a decorative attribute, a prop. From being an instrument of power, it’s transitioned into a representation of an instrument of power, a symbol.

In other parts of the world, the whip is still used as an instrument of punishment. For example, two Saudi Arabian men were recently convicted to two thousand whiplashes and ten years of imprisonment. They had uploaded a video on which they were dancing on a car naked.

The other day, a smart looking older gentleman lifted his cane towards me and yelled: “Would you like a free slap?” I politely declined his offer. Later I regretted it. Why hadn’t I enquired further? Maybe the gentleman could have provided me with some convincing arguments regarding the free slap. What I know for sure is that I would have interpreted his offer much differently had he offered me a knife wound, or a gunshot wound. I would have been scared, now I was merely surprised.

Why does the whip no longer strike fear into the hearts of Westerners? Has the whip been overtaken by large scaled, advanced weaponry, that in comparison transform the whip into an old fashioned, primitive, and nearly innocent object? Are we so inexperienced with the force of the whip that even our imagination falters?

Erotica thrives on taboo. It comes as no surprise, then, that the whip is a staple item in every sex shop. Like the penis, the whip seems to possess a certain level of autonomy, although both remain dependent on a body in order to come to life and to discharge.

One particularly commanding whip is the metal chain whip, made of two metal rods joined together by metal rods. Because of the many chain links between the rods, it takes endless practice in order to comprehend how movement courses its way through, and furthermore how to use it without injuring yourself.

The chain whip is popular with the Taoist and Buddhist monks of China. Into the air they endlessly crack their formidable whips, breaking through the sound barrier in their search for salvation.

Dutch theatre maker Boukje Schweigman and dancer Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti trained with these fighting monks, and in 2011 made the performance Zweep (Whip.) In a making of the film, Guardia Ferragutti says: “A whip has no master. The master is the whip itself.”

Raymond Talis, author of Michelangelo’s Finger (2010,) explores why humans, in contrast to animals, point using their fingers. According to Talis, we point thanks to our consciousness. We experience ourselves as separate individuals, and thus do not become one with our surroundings. But in our fellow humans, we recognise isolated peers, we can see each other looking. We’re able to guide the gaze of the other by drawing invisible lines using our eyes or our index finger. Is the whip an extension of the index finger, with which we can impose our will onto the bodies of others? Still, no one will ever have complete control over a whip. The first flick of the whip may be under your control, but you’ll never know exactly what path you’ve set into motion. Before you know it, the whip you’ve cracked will rebound and hit you with twice as much power and take you down. The real force of the whip remains impossible to truly fathom.

The weapon holds a great power of attraction.

And not only for those hungry for power. The weapon is beautiful. Whether it’s a Roman catapult, a Indian axe, or an American fighter-bomber. I know of ugly paintings, deplorable cars, but an ugly weapon? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single one. Even the most murderous weapon is beautiful. How is this possible? Shouldn’t evil automatically be ugly? A landmine is ugly. Especially those embellished with Mickey Mouse dolls.

Little children pick them up and – boom – they’ve lost their hands. These mines find their market because there is nothing that upsets the enemy as much as sick, wounded, wailing children. But fighter jets are so beautiful.

The MacDonnel F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber is beautiful, despite being guilty of more mutilation and deaths than all the landmines in the world during its long career in the American air force.

Fighter jets are beautiful thanks to their organic form and their advanced technology. There's absolutely nothing I can about feeling this way. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. The capitalist Americans retreated and left the communist Vietnamese at peace. I’m not sure how long the American army was stationed in Vietnam. All I know is that it was a long time. The carpet of bombs released by the F-4 Phantom set the country ablaze. What remained were ashes. I was in high school at the time. I sent letters to American airplane factories. I expressed my interest about certain types of fighter planes. I wrote to MacDonnel, Douglas, Northrop, Boeing, Lockheed, North American, Convair. They always responded.

Then the folders came, full of wondrous colour images. I’d cut them out and paste them in an album on which I’d written in large, fat letters: “American Fighter Planes in Vietnam.” The album is nowhere to be found.Under each photo, I’d write how the particular airplane was armed. Which kind of bombs it could carry. Its range. Its cruising speed. And so forth. Strange hobby. Strange boy. I must have been fourteen. I lived in Amsterdam, it was the late sixties. The Spui was two kilometres from my home, where each Saturday evening the Provo’s would organise themselves around het Lieverdje to perform their socio-critical happenings. Huge demonstrations passed through the city. Thousands of voices shouted that the Americans must retreat from Vietnam and that Johnson, the American president at the time, was a murderer. A police regulation became enforced: anyone who shouted that the American president was a murderer could expect to be arrested for insulting a befriended head of state. And so, a thousand voices shouted that he was a gardener instead. And everyone heard what they wanted to hear. Except for me, I heard nothing. I cycled from home to school with a bag full of books, and from school to home again. When I’d finished my homework, I assembled plastic models of airplanes.
Boeing B17 Flying Fortress/North American P51 Mustang: Queen of the Sky/Messerschmitt ME 109/Lockheed F104 Starfighter/Convair F102 Delta Dagger. I read comics with star pilot in the lead role like Buck Danny and Dan Cooper. In class I sat next to a boy, airplane-crazy like me. Without fail, at the sight of a plane we’d turn to each other and whisper: Tupolev 114, Douglas DC 10, BAC One-eleven, Boeing 707, Caravelle. After a while, we didn’t even need to look, and the sound of the engine was enough. My deafness to the cries from streets against the American president certainly wasn’t due to a lack of hearing.
At a certain age, the world makes its entrance into the lives of boys. The real world of flesh and blood. Then, the cool beauty of the thing; the thing for the sake of being a thing, must step aside. I won’t divulge which girl first broke the spell. One day I stood on the rear balcony of my parents’ house, a pile of model airplanes at my side, a catapult in hand. Instead of flying them, I shot them, one by one, into a wall bordering the yard. They flew into the air like cups and saucers and were smashed to bits.