a tribute to two outstanding action men
commentary • 19.02.11
There won’t have been too many philosopher-types I imagine, men of reflection, who were charismatic and attractive as well as having lived dynamic lives in the world’s war zones. Yonatan Netanyahu and Sergio Vieira de Mello would qualify for that unusual order of merit.
Yoni was the older brother of the current Israeli prime minister. He was army commander at Entebbe and died that day in 1976 as his men successfully freed the Jewish hostages.
He seems to have been one of life’s rare and extraordinary individuals. Alongside an exemplary military career he studied philosophy at Harvard. His writings resonate with spirituality and intellect. Unusually self-contained and independent, he at the same time thrived on brotherhood choosing military life over the academic or political. He is one of Israel’s eminent heroes.
Quote: “I could endure and persevere, both physically and emotionally way after everyone else broke down."
Sergio Vieira de Mello
After reading philosophy at the Sorbonne and being radical in left wing student politics, Sergio became a leading figure in the United Nations. His preparedness to talk to the world’s bogeymen stood him apart from other diplomat types. He was a central figure in bringing about independence in East Timor after which he became a marked man for an army of fundamentalists.
He met his end in Iraq in 2003, wedged between two collapsed floors, the victim of a suicide bomber. During his final hours he saw the guy next to him saved by having his legs amputated and then a dead guy above him cut in half to clear the way.
De Mello died there in unimaginably horrific conditions along with twenty of his colleagues. A leader to the last, it was reported by two soldier paramedics that he consistently asked after the others caught in the blast.
It was also reported by one of the soldiers that when urged to pray for help Sergio replied “Fuck God. He got us into this.” The soldier persisted to no avail. Facing death under hundreds of tons of rubble there is something remarkable about a man who won’t give God a shot anyway. “What would’ve been the harm?” the soldier said later.
Outlook: “Go out into the world and be a man of action but never stop being a man of reflection."