CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 1 December 2018

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But not conquered

My little bit of knowledge gleaned through hours of labour in Latin classes during my school days came to the fore as I watched the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games in Sydney on October 27.
 
In what can only be described as a demonstration of raw human courage and dogged survival spirit, those mauled by the horrors of war demonstrated to the world the extent of solidarity that people are capable of mustering and the ability to overcome almost any setback.
 
It reminded me of our school-day love affair with Julius Caesar’s famous utterance, “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) and my loved memory came back to me of entering the examination hall at the University of Adelaide to find scratched in artistic calligraphic style on the desk the words, “Veni, vidi, victus sum” (I came, I saw, I was conquered).
 
Feeling pleased that I could actually understand the graffiti, I approached the exam with a new found confidence and managed to squeeze out a pass.
 
The memory also prompted me to take to the Internet to search a bit of background information on the Invictus Games, which without doubt are a great display of the best humanity has to offer.
 
But those past Latin classes proved not completely lost on me either and I also know that invictus means unconquered, which in this context may be better translated as, “But not conquered.”
 
From my personal friendship with more than a few mauled victims of war, I deeply admire the great achievements that were on display in the arena in the most beautiful city of the southern hemisphere.
 
But great as the games may have been, there are facets that should not be taken for granted. It is easy to cheer for winners, but what of the losers, the victus (conquered), who went to war, but failed to triumph over disfigurement and trauma.
 
In his epic novel, Silence, Japanese author, Endo Shusaku, gives us much fodder for thought. Endo found an incongruity in doting on the agony of the minority unconquered (invictus), while ignoring the agony of the majority conquered (victus).
 
He challenges assumptions about the importance of the heroics of the unconquered to the exclusion of the experience of the heroics of the conquered, who in his nation’s history ensured the survival of the faith through the Hidden Church over several centuries.
 
The Invictus Games are the brainchild of Britain’s dashing young Prince Harry, a man who not only has an admirable record of military service, but also a well-earned public persona as a deeply caring human being.
 
He has invested much in promoting the games, but I fear is also risking much with some of its less exposed shadows.
 
Each and every one competing under the title of wounded warrior is in a real sense a victim of the munitions manufacturers putting up the millions of dollars needed to stage the captivating event.
 
So I believe it is fair to ask why are some of the biggest world arms profiteers, like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Leidos and Saab, among the major sponsors.
 
Every heroic competitor is in a real way a victim of these companies and there is something quite crass in them basking in the same limelight, which sadly could dim the illuminating value of the achievements of those in the arena.
 
But while there is no doubt Prince Harry and his glamorous wife, Meghan Markle, are a class act, his youthful attraction and her good looks will fade with time and the day will come when they will have to present themselves solely on their interior credibility.
 
The prince’s choice of sponsors and failure to address the role of his own father and grandmother in directly promoting arms sales, especially in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, may sadly prove a fatal wound marring the profound truths spoken in the royal couple’s stirring closing addresses.
 
Without doubt, the invictus have extremely salient lessons for our world, but like Endo, with the wisdom of time we may find that the hidden victus, who wear their suffering unheard, has a far more poignant lesson for our broken lands and hearts than the invictus.
 
May the epitaph of this Invictus Games be, But not conquered, and, through inadvertent neglect, never become, Veni, vidi, victus sum. JiM