Monday, December 16, 2013

Peter O'Toole Dead at 81 - Lessons from Lawrence of Arabia

If you haven't seen Lawrence of Arabia, it's a great movie, dealing with certain issues that are  timeless, and other political issues that are still relevant today.

Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia
One theme through the movie is the West's relationship with the Middle-East. In the movie, the relationship is against the larger backdrop of WWII, but the relationship is still fractious and unstable today. The British have the Arabs as a small appendage to their army, but it's not until T.E. Lawrence figures out how to properly use the skills and resources of the Arabs, do they become a serious fighting force.

The movie deals with racial issues, in how the British view the Arabs. In one scene, after walking through the desert, Lawrence and a young Arab boy is picked up and brought into the British Headquarters. Lawrence pushes forward with the young boy and goes into the officer's club demanding a glass of lemonade for each of them, much to the consternation of the British officers there.

The movie also explore how the Arabs themselves struggle to find their place in the world. In the setting of the movie, the Arabs are dealing with the same issues they confront today, perfectly summed up by Lawrence in this line:
Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people. Greedy, barbarous and cruel, as you are.
Sound familiar? In 2013, the Middle-East is still dealing with the problem of sectarian, tribe on tribe violence. We know about Shiites fighting the Sunnis, as was made clear in the Iraq War. Much of that issue still plagues the Middle-East today.

Finally, the most over-arching theme is the idea of a man's fate, and how a man can make his own fate through his free will and actions. The idea that nothing is written deals with what is preordained by God, and how man can shape his own destiny.

In one instance, Lawrence sets out against all extreme odds to avert an event (someone's death) that a Muslim companion (Omar Sharif) declares "is written," and has accepted. Lawrence resuces the man and then caps off his act by emphatically declaring, "Nothing is written."

Later, Lawrence even goes so far as to proclaim of his own bold plans, "That is written — in here" (tapping his head). Eventually Sharif is forced to admit, "Truly, for some men, nothing is written, unless they write it."

If you've never seen Lawrence of Arabia, now might would be an appropriate time to do so.

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