Tag Archives: History

Time to Speak Up Without Fear by Monica M. Brinkman

It has become quite baffling and confusing to me, as the years’ tick on, how people within the world find it necessary to maintain continued conflict.

It has become evident to me that many governments purpose is one of power and greed. I reluctantly state this, but Russia and the US are right there at the top. Tell me truthfully, how many wars were necessary to ensure the safety of the US citizens and/or our foreign friends? How many young people sacrificed their lives for naught? Examples are Vietnam and now, the Middle East conflicts that continues to this very day.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with CIA agents as well as government officials, who entered into their fields fully confident they were acting as peacekeepers of the country and world. What they found was a government intent upon control of other nations. What they also found was a government who placed monetary gain above all else. If a country did not do as the US wished, they would simply take the leader out, often under false pretense.

Know what you, the reader is thinking. Yes, we did need to intervene, and should have done so sooner, when Hitler began his horrific rein. Shockingly, it took so long because many powerful and wealthy individuals such as Ford, ITT, and American Standard Oil had invested their money and products within Germany and did not believe or looked the other way at the rumors coming out of Hitler’s true intentions.

Liken the greed and power to something simpler. The laws on marijuana. Hemp, marijuana, pot, call it what you wish, was an accepted part of many countries and used to manufacture numerous products. It was not illegal. Then came the prohibition of alcohol, backed for the most part by Conservative Christians. We all saw what occurred. The Mafia took it into their own hands to take over he alcohol control within the country and bootlegging prevailed. The government and local police stations within cities could not control the Mafia’s hold, and they eventually gave in to the legalization of alcohol.

In 1930, a new division in the Treasury Department was established — the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — and Harry J. Anslinger was named director. This, if anything, marked the beginning of the all-out war against marijuana. He realized, without the prohibition of alcohol, drugs such as cocaine, codeine, morphine were not prevalent enough to maintain the Department. Thus, he added marijuana to the list of illegal drugs. One of the largest campaigns began, supported by the News Media and even Hollywood, with their release of such movies a ‘Reefer Madness’. Slanted and untruthful headlines filled the papers and air waves, until, eventually and as planned, the citizens believed the words.

Does any of this sound familiar? If not, it should and it should also scare the hell out of you.

Instead of drugs, the US government along with the wealthy and powerful are centering on using peoples’ religion and fear of terrorists to control the masses. It is no secret why the politicians focused on issues such as abortion, immigrants, and gun control to deceivingly brainwash a huge part of the population. They used hate, racism, moral choices, climate change and fear as their weapons of choice. From preachers in churches, radio talk shows and news stations, whom they controlled, it was easy enough to reel in those who trusted these organizations. As sheep to the slaughter, they followed, unaware of the devastation their actions would ultimately create.

My questions are these:

When will people realize we are all humans on this planet?

If you do believe in a great Creator of all. When will you understand, then, that we are all part of that creation; brothers and sisters within the world?

When will people stand up for life instead of death?

When will differences in appearance and religion be accepted, rather than used as weapons to maim and kill?

And, the biggee, when will we, as a nation and world, understand war, greed, hostility creates the same, while peace, love and understanding creates harmony within the country and world?

Yes, I am tired; I am weary of it all, so many well-meaning individuals caught up in the propaganda the rich, greedy and powerful continue to push upon them. I am sick of heart that instead of defending life, we defend death.

In ending, remember, remaining silent and compliant equals acceptance and conformation of the acts and deeds spent against people within our country and our world. Time we, to put it bluntly, grew some balls, and took back decency, care, concern, and most of all love, within our lives.

You have a choice. I know which mine is. Do you?

Monica M. Brinkman,
Author, Radio Personality

Finding a Sanctuary for a Novel by Steve Lindahl

a

I dedicated my latest novel, Hopatcong Vision Quest, to its setting, Lake Hopatcong, NJ. The story takes place at the same location, in two different eras: the present time and the early 17th century, when the area was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans. My history with Hopatcong is important because it helps me understand the feel of riding a power boat across a crowded body of water, the serenity of paddling a canoe on smooth waters, the fun of searching for freshwater mussels in shallow water , and the thrill of competing with a best friend for the most skips of skimming stones. The lake has been a friend for most of my life.

I wonder how many others have a sanctuary near water: a different lake, a place by a river or a creek, or perhaps an ocean beach. If you’re one of those people, you understand the meditative pull of gentle water as well as the power of a storm or a flood.

My family bought the lake house in 1928. My grandfather wanted a country home, to get his family out of Brooklyn during the Polio season. He had a place in Connecticut for a time, but wasn’t happy there, so he relocated to an island on the largest lake in New Jersey. The family’s been there ever since.

Lake Hopatcong is where I spent summers when I was a child. I Learned to swim there, to sail, to explore the woodlands, to paddle a canoe, to drive a motorboat, and to take an outboard motor apart and put it back together. I grew up with my cousins and some of the best friends of my life, people I’m still close to today. When I grew a little older, it was at that lake where I met my wife.

In Hopatcong Vision Quest there is a scene where two nine year old children, a boy and a girl, go into a wooded area between a road and the shore of the lake. They are searching for an entrance hole to a muskrat burrow. This is an example of a section of the book that required research as well as a general knowledge of how it feels to approach a lake through a place where people seldom go.

The Lenape people of the late 16th, early 17th century felt a sense of respect and reverence for animals that lived both in and out of water. One of their clans was called the Turtle Clan, named after an animal that fits the description. In the book, the otter, another animal that fits, is the spirit guide of one of the main characters. So a muskrat, a third fit, was a logical animal to include in my story.

I remember, as a child, how I watched a muskrat swimming in front of our dock to a nearby shore, then disappearing into a hole in the ground. This happened many times and is an example of an experience that led to a plot choice. I never went looking for the animals with a flashlight to peer into their burrows, but I did go to the shore though the woods many times for other reasons.

I had to follow the decision to use muskrats with research. I used YouTube to be sure I understood how they swam and other sources to check on their eating habits and the time of the year when the kits are with their mother.

Hopatcong Vision Quest is a past life mystery, a story of two suspicious deaths and the use of past life regressions to discover clues. It’s about the past and present characters and their relationships: friendships, betrayals, and love. It is both a modern mystery and historical fiction, but it is also a tribute to a place for peaceful withdrawal from the troubles of the world, my own Walden Pond.

***

Steve Lindahl’s first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, were published in 2009 and 2014 by All Things That Matter Press. His short fiction has appeared in Space and Time, The Alaska Quarterly, The Wisconsin Review, Eclipse, Ellipsis, and Red Wheelbarrow. He served for five years as an associate editor on the staff of The Crescent Review, a literary magazine he co-founded. He is currently the managing/fiction editor for Flying South, a literary magazine sponsored by Winston-Salem Writers and is also a board member of that organization.

His Theater Arts background has helped nurture a love for intricate characters in complex situations that is evident in his writing. Steve and his wife Toni live and work together outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. They have two adult children: Nicole and Erik. Hopatcong Vision Quest is Steve’s latest novel.

BORGES REMEMBRANCE AND NOSTALGIA

borges

Thirty years ago no one used yet such terms as internet, e-mail, nor cell-phone in Latin America. The most advanced in technology available then for popular use was compact discs, which of course represented a luxurious expense for the great majority.

The night of June 14th, 1986, trapped inside the passionate DX mania, so strange and ancient nowadays, completely antediluvian and left behind in the last century for most of the young, I was listening to Radio Suiza Internacional, found by mere chance after playing with the dial, transmitting from Berna. The overwhelming news was: Borges, the great Jorge Luis Borges, who never received a Nobel Prize even though he deserved it much more than the great majority who had obtained it, has just died in Geneva.

That fact left a mark on us for all time to come, given that there would not be any talking of any other topic in the Special Literature subject. From the following day on, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo would be, for all of us who represented the specialty of Social Sciences, the great torture or the great passion, according to the characteristics of each of those fifteen-year-old spirits who knew little to nothing about the author of El Aleph. Assignments, monographs, expos, research, essays, mandatory readings (and for that reason not so pleasant as those that arise from the feeding need of a bibliophile) left some of Borges in us: in the case of the author of these lines were his mark, his circling ruins that from time to time raise again to involve and enfold us in oneiric worlds from which no one ever knows how to emerge, or from which one emerges, as in La Flor de Coleridge, disturbed forever and carrying material evidence brought from those orbs, forever tempted to return and disappear in the magical forcefulness of their complacent idealism.

We were only a few, of course, very few, who remained so marked by the fact, that ever since then we would never abandon the Borgesian world, because we would even discover later, as enthused as the one who makes a discovery by his own even though others have already done it before: the Kafkaesque condition of Borges’ literature, and years later the Borgesian condition of Eco’s literature.

From him it was, top and paradigm of the writer, from whom we learned that books are extensions of the thinking and the mind of the human being. The book, the magazine, the newspaper, as extensions of the thinking, must so keep that condition of word and human ideas’ vehicle, must serve as means of broadcasting of those ideas among all cultures, for only so we will be able to move forward on this cosmic journey without losing track, without getting lost nor ending up buried under the uncontainable avalanche of data and images.

Thirty years since his death, the Argentinian tiger, the most universal gaucho, still rests in Geneva, though his work and his name are now more immortal than ever. To me, though Borges did not live to see it, the current world is full of his fiction. For example, if someone wants to meet/know the aleph, they can read and read again that Borgesian tale, but can also connect to the internet from a computer or a cell phone, and in that precise moment converge at a single spot, all the spots around the world.

pepeserrano-borges

Remembranza y nostalgia de Borges
Por: Rodrigo Aguilar Orejuela

Hace treinta años nadie usaba aún en Latinoamérica los términos internet, correo electrónico ni teléfono celular. Lo más adelantado de la tecnología al servicio del consumo popular suntuoso era por entonces el disco compacto, que por supuesto resultaba aún demasiado oneroso para las grandes mayorías.

La noche del 14 de junio de 1986, atrapado por la manía apasionante del diexismo, hoy tan extraña y antiquísima, tan del siglo pasado y para la mayoría de los jóvenes completamente antediluviana, escuchaba por esas casualidades del dial Radio Suiza Internacional, que transmitía desde Berna. La noticia fue contundente: Borges, el gran Jorge Luis Borges, aquél que nunca recibió el Premio Nobel aunque lo merecía mucho más que la gran mayoría de quienes lo obtuvieron, acababa de fallecer en Ginebra.

El hecho nos marcó para siempre, pues no se hablaría de otro tema en la materia de Literatura Especial. A partir del día siguiente, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo sería, para la gran mayoría de quienes conformábamos la especialidad de Ciencias Sociales, la gran tortura o la gran pasión, según las características de cada uno de esos espíritus quinceañeros que poco o nada sabían del autor de El Aleph. Trabajos, monografías, exposiciones, investigaciones, ensayos, lecturas obligadas (y por ese motivo no tan placenteras como aquellas surgidas de la propia necesidad alimenticia de un bibliófago) dejaron en nosotros algo de Borges: en el caso del autor de estas líneas fueron su marca, sus ruinas circulares que de cuando en cuando vuelven a erigirse para envolvernos e involucrarnos en mundos oníricos de los que nunca se sabe cómo emerger, o de los que se emerge, como en La Flor de Coleridge, para siempre turbados y portando pruebas materiales traídas desde aquellos orbes, para siempre tentados a retornar y desaparecer en la mágica contundencia de su idealismo complaciente.
Por supuesto que fuimos pocos, muy pocos, quienes quedamos tan marcados por el hecho, que desde entonces jamás abandonaríamos el mundo borgiano, porque además descubriríamos luego, con el entusiasmo de quien hace un descubrimiento por sí solo aunque ya otros lo hayan hecho antes: la condición kafkiana de la literatura de Borges, y años después la condición borgiana de la literatura de Eco.

Fue de él, cima y paradigma del escritor, de quien aprendimos que es el libro una extensión del pensamiento y la mente del ser humano. El libro, la revista, el diario, como extensiones del pensamiento, deben por ende mantener esa condición de vehículos de la palabra y las ideas humanas, deben servir de medios de difusión de aquellas ideas entre todas las culturas, pues solo así podremos avanzar en este viaje cósmico sin perder el rumbo, sin extraviarnos ni quedar sepultados bajo la avalancha incontenible de la información y las imágenes.

A treinta años de su deceso, el tigre argentino, el gaucho más universal, aún descansa en Ginebra, pero su obra y su nombre siguen más inmortales que nunca. Para mí, aunque Borges no vivió para verlo, el mundo actual está lleno de su ficción. Si alguien quiere conocer el aleph, por ejemplo, puede leer y releer ese relato borgiano, pero también puede conectarse desde una computadora o un teléfono celular a internet, y en ese mismo momento tener en un solo punto todos los puntos del mundo.

 

RODRIGO AGUILAR OREJUELA
Bio: (Ecuador – 1970) Writer, ghostwriter, journalist, editor, columnist, I have worked as a journalist of opinion and information for twenty five years at different press media institutions from Ecuador. In 2004 I was the absolute winner in the First National Essay Contest. My books: Colombia-Ecuador: an Example of Coexistence (2004), The Charm of Cuenca (editions in Spanish, English, French, and German, 2005), Market, Barrio and City: History of the Ninth (2009), The Hummingbird’s Flight (2011), Like a Thistle: spoken portrait of Eudoxia Estrella (2013), Monologue of a Castaway (2016).

History, and his story by Jon Magee

a (6)

Is it an accident that history is made of letters that remind us of “his story”? There is much within history, but we learn lessons when we see the people in the midst

As we reflect through the ages there are some things that will strike us for differing reasons. In the UK the 2nd of June will be remembered for the coronation of the Queen in 1953. Following the death of her father Queen Elizabeth II was formally crowned as The Queen with hundreds of millions listening on radio and for the first time people watched the coronation proceedings on live television. After the coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, millions of rain-drenched spectators cheered the 27-year-old queen born in 1926 and her husband, the 30-year-old duke of Edinburgh, as they passed along a five-mile procession route in a gilded horse-drawn carriage. I wonder if it was part of cementing the connection of my family in history that I have a family photo taken whilst in Singapore, dated on the back was the 2nd June 1953. My own father-in-law, a soldier with the Black Watch regiment, was flown back from his service in Korea to take part in the procession and celebrations in London. Once again, it was a personal role in history and a part of history in “his story”.

The same date will also be remembered for the Surveyor 1 moon landing on the 2nd June 1966. This was the first US space probe to land on the moon as “Surveyor 1” had a soft landing on Moon. Though the Russians had landed earlier, the newspapers headlines, internationally, were full of the event. I lived in Aden, Yemen, at the time during the military conflict and terrorism at the end of the British presence. We listened as the news came on the radio. It was a time of celebration as man reached to the stars, yet down the road from where we listened to the radio could be heard the sound of explosions and gun fire.

In my previous post, you will have noted the 2nd June was also the date on which my wife Joan and I were married. It was a landmark day for us as a couple, whatever may be happening in the history of the world. I recall talking with Joan, noting that my youth had been lived in the military hot spots of the world. However, things will be different now, I said. Our 1st posting together would be in a romantic Mediterranean island, with all the stories of Aphrodite. Is there any better way to start married life, it must be like an extended honeymoon? That was 1973, however, we were there a year and there was a military coup and the Turkish invasion.

Life does not always develop how we intend it to do. We look back and reflect, seeking to learn the lessons of history. We look forward and make our plans, even if we do not know what surprises or shocks will appear on the way. Life inevitably is full of lessons to learn and steps of faith, even if we do not consider ourselves to be people of faith, not knowing what the future will gift to us.

There are times when we personally have known the tragedy of death, and the joy of new life. I do not know how you plan to face the unknown, but for us it has been one where the faith in the God of life has been the source of enabling as we reached the turning points of history, both in the cradle of the world as well as our family life. My writings have been demonstrations of life in tough times, yet they have sought to find ways of showing the possibility of hopefulness, even when life may seem hopeless. My hope is that the reader will also discover hope, wherever you may be in history or reaching to the future.

Bio

Jon Magee is the author of 2 books, “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” and “Paradise Island, heavenly Journey”. The books come with the experience of life lived in a variety of countries throughout the world, often in the midst of military conflict and terrorism, which was the heart of his life from an early age. He is the wife of Joan, the father of 3 daughters, 2 sons and the grandfather of 7 children.

Because He Survived By T.R. Heinan

 

Nuno-173x236

He was rock star famous and Warren Buffet rich during his lifetime, but, unless you are a native Portuguese, you probably never heard of him.  His life was a series of improbable events that significantly changed the history of Western civilization.  Born out of wedlock, he became the father of royal dynasties, yet he died penniless.  With only 6,500 volunteers, he challenged an army of 30,000 professional soldiers, led by the King of Castile himself. It was the decisive battle for Portugal’s right to self-determination and independence. Few, if any of his contemporaries expected him to survive. Not only did he survive, he defeated the entire Castilian army in just one afternoon.  His name was Nuno Alvares Pereira, and had he not won that battle, it is likely that you or I would not even exist

Born in 1360, Nuno Pereira was the natural son of the Prior of Crato, who was himself the son of the Archbishop of Braga, both of whom appear to have had some difficulty keeping their solemn vows of chastity.  Given the circumstances of his birth, he seemed an unlikely candidate to become the ancestor of many European royal families.  Yet, both King Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic of Spain, the monarchs who sponsored the voyages of Christopher Columbus, were direct descendants of Nuno. So was Emperor Charles V, who ruled over more territory than any other European monarch, including most of the Americas.  Catherine of Braganća, Queen Consort of England, for whom the Borough of Queens in New York was named, Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered World War I, and the Royal Houses of Braganća who ruled over Portugal and Brazil, were all directly descended from this man.  By somehow surviving the Battle of Aljubarrota on August 14, 1385, Nuno not only preserved the independence of his native Portugal, but was lived to start a family and have a daughter who would marry into royal family of Portugal. Her decedents would rule much of Europe for centuries.

Nuno lived at a time when both his nation and his church were in total upheaval.  His elderly king was planning to offer his only legitimate heir, Princess Beatrice, into the royal family of Castile. His Queen was having a rather public and scandalous affair with an agent of Castile who hoped to serve as regent. Three different men claimed to be Pope.  Following the wrong one could have serious consequences. A mob had tossed the bishop of Lisbon to his death from the tower of the Cathedral.  Confusion and revolution reigned.

During this period, the Arthurian tales had begun to reach Portugal from the shores of England and, as a young boy, Nuno told his parents that he wanted to become a great knight, a knight like Sir Galahad.  At age 13, after taking it upon himself to spy on Castilian military scouts and reporting his findings to his king, Nuno’s wish was granted and he was invested as a knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, known today as the Knights of Malta.  So small was the boy at the time, that he had to borrow amour from the king’s teenaged natural son for the ceremony.

It is said that Nuno may be the only knight in history to have lived up to the ideals of the legendary Galahad. His reputation for chivalry soon spread beyond the borders of his native land.  In time of war, he fed the hungry populations of his Castilian opposition at his own expense. He customarily refused to share in the spoils of war. Once, he was so hungry that he traded his horse for a loaf of bread, then decided to give all of that loaf to a group of starving English knights who had allied themselves with Portugal.  It is recorded that Nuno even allowed squires from the enemy forces to meet with him in peace, just because they wanted to see the “Great Nuno” about whom they had heard so many stories.

In appreciation for Nuno’s unexpected victory over the Castilian army, Portugal’s new King John bestowed Nuno with a great number of titles and, to the consternation of various nobles, granted him land amounting to almost a third of the nation. Nuno, a deeply religious man, attributed his victory to the protection of the Virgin Mary. Historians would note that masterful military strategy, a travel weary Castilian opposition suffering from dysentery, and a few hundred expert archers provided to Nuno by the king of England also played a significant role in achieving his “miraculous” victory.  Nuno believed in the power of prayer, but his was never a jingoistic, arrogant conviction that God was exclusively on his side.  Nuno fought side by side with English troops. He died the same year as Joan of Arc, who fought against the English.  His writings suggest that he would have had no problem accepting a God who favored justice over nationalities.

Having suffered greatly from thirst during the heat of the battle, Nuno erected a small chapel to be built and ordered that a pitcher water be kept there for thirsty travelers.  That chapel and the offer of free water remain to this day. Nearby, there remains a small monument that he erected in memory two of his own brothers who, seeing that Nuno was vastly outnumbered, died opposing him in battle with never fulfilled hopes of obtaining some land or title from the Castilian king.

As peace returned to Portugal, Nuno joined his close friend, Prince Henry the Navigator, in promoting mathematics, rudimentary science, and geographical understanding.  In doing this, he helped shelter many Jews and Moslems who were in danger of expulsion from Portugal.  He joined the Queen in a campaign to restore morality and marital fidelity to the royal court.  Finally, after the death of his wife, when his daughter reached the age of majority, he renounced all of his titles, built a monastery for the Carmelite religious order in Lisbon, and then entered that order as a lowly brother spending his remaining years under a vow of poverty as the monastery gate keeper.  During his lifetime, Nuno acquired incredible wealth, but by the time he died, he had given all of it to religious and charitable projects, one third of his fortune went to support children orphaned during Portugal’s wars to maintain independence.  Though he was known for his courage and brilliant military strategy, he grew to hate war and is remembered in Portugal as The Peacemaker. On April 1, 1431, at the monastery in Lisbon that he built and joined, Nuno died while his brother monks read the passion of Christ to him from the Scriptures.  Almost six centuries later, in 2009, Nuno was declared a saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI.

Based on the reports of his humility written by his contemporaries, I suspect Nuno would not like care for the many statues and monuments bearing his image that can now be seen throughout his native Portugal. His model of charity for the weak and marginalized has inspired the formation religious confraternities named for him in both Europe and North America and an orphanage chapel bearing his name now exits in Mexico. In life, Nuno preferred obscurity to fame. He believed that any good he may have accomplished was the work of his God. His worldview seems to have been less “God is on our side” and more “we can do nothing at all without him”.   It was a remarkable outlook for a man of his era and perhaps one that would be helpful in our own age.  I suspect no small number of Kurds, Palestinians, Tibetans and Basques would admire his firm belief in justice of national self-determination.  I believe that our world would benefit greatly from his example of humility and less boasting that God is on our side. I believe that we will never be able to fully grasp the significance of the ripples that just one human life can spread through time.

St. Nuno was an extraordinary individual whose contribution to both secular and religious history, while not altogether forgotten, has been largely ignored. We cannot imagine what course history would have taken had he died in battle, but he remains to me both an inspiration and a striking example of courage, humility, and the unfathomable value of every human life.

 

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a haunting 19th century New Orleans legend.http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710

Reflections on a certain crime by R.J. Ellory

a

Some while ago I was asked by the Wall Street Journal to write a piece concerning ‘unknown’ or forgotten literary classics.  Having recently spent a considerable amount of time in France, I decided to share my thoughts about several French writers, now widely available in English, who seemed yet to be unheard of by my English contemporaries, associates and friends.

Amongst the list of those I chose was Jean-Patrick Manchette, author of La Position de Tireur Couché (literally translates as ‘the position of the gunman lying down’, published in English as ‘The Prone Gunman’).  This book has now been adapted for film and is on general release as ‘The Gunman’ with Sean Penn and Javier Bardem.

Manchette said a very interesting thing about his genre, to the effect that the crime novel was the best way to hold up a mirror to the society within which we live.  That was the central theme of the piece I wrote for the Wall Street Journal, and seems to hold true as far as my own writing is concerned.  Dealing with the wider canvas of ethics, morals, justice, crime and punishment, the motivations and rationales of those who violate the laws of the land and all related subjects leads us – not only as writers, but also as interested individuals – into the subject of psychology, the mind, the very woof and warp of life itself.

And then the other night my wife and I watched a film called ‘The Imitation Game’ with Benedict Cumberbatch, itself a depiction of the life and work of Alan Turing, the man responsible for creating a machine that cracked the Enigma code.  The somewhat romanticized portrayal of life at Bletchley Park, the ‘emotional personalisation’ of the story that was facilitated by placing a brother of one of the research team on a ship that had to be ‘sacrificed’ so as to prevent any possibility of the Germans discovering that the code had been broken, did nothing to obscure the factual tragedy inherent in the tale.  Turing was a homosexual.  At the time, homosexuality was against the law.  Anyone engaging in homosexual activity could be charged with ‘gross indecency’.  Fifty years after the war the truth of Bletchley Park, Turing and the cracking of Enigma became public knowledge, at least those parts of it that the government permitted us to know, and Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a royal pardon.  It was the then-Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who stood up in parliament and announced that Turing had been ‘forgiven’.  Charles Dance, commenting in the film extras, said that the greatest irony of Turing’s pardon was that it was Turing who should have been forgiving us for the way in which he was treated, not the other way around.

After the film was over, my wife and discussed the moral and ethical ramifications of that specific situation.  Turing was a genius.  Turing built a machine with wires and valves and cogs that gave us the foundation for all things computer-related that we take for granted today.  It has been estimated that Turing’s machine and the cracking of Enigma shortened the war by two years and saved a further fourteen million lives.  Why couldn’t Churchill have stepped in when Turing was charged with ‘gross indecency’?  Why, after all that Turing had done, couldn’t someone ‘high up’ have bailed him out, saved the day, rescued him for the truly dreadful fate that awaited him?  But no.  No-one stepped in.  Turing was charged, tried, convicted, and not one person came forward to tell the world what this great man had done, how his ingenuity, resolve, courage and magnificent intellect had turned the tide of the war.  They couldn’t.  Such a thought was inconceivable.  Everything that Turing had ever accomplished was bound over and held confidential under the Official Secrets Act.  Had you looked up Turing’s war record, you would have found no record at all.  In effect, certainly for the duration of the war itself, Turing was a man who did not exist.

The judge at Turing’s trial gave Turing a choice: two years in jail or be subjected to horrific chemical castration to ‘curb his proclivities’.  Turing, wishing not to be divorced from his ever-ongoing work and research, chose the latter.  He reported in for a year, taking mandatory injections of Stilboestrol (synthetic oestrogen).  The treatment rendered Turing impotent.  On June 8, 1954, Turing was found dead.  His body had lain undiscovered for twenty-four hours.  Whether he committed suicide by eating a cyanide-soaked apple, or whether his death was caused by inadvertent inhalation of cyanide fumes from a machine he’d set up in his tiny room is still a matter of conjecture.  He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered at Woking Crematorium.  His life and work went unknown for decades, but now – notwithstanding the fact that we will never have a chance to ask for his forgiveness – at least what he achieved has been acknowledged and appropriately commended.

However, having spoken to many who have seen the film, there still lies the question: Why did no-one step in to save Turing?  Answer: Because he broke the law.  It was that simple.  The simple fact is that many tens of thousands of individuals gave everything of themselves in the Second World War.  Turing was a genius, no doubt about it, but he did what he was able to do to assist in the war effort.  Others, perhaps blessed with less intellect, nevertheless gave no less of themselves.  Ordinary men and women learned to fly aircraft and parachute into occupied territory; they underwent rigorous training and volunteered for missions deep in the heart of Nazi Germany; they ferried supplies across a U-Boat-riddled Atlantic to bring ammunition and supplies to Allied forces abroad; they boarded landing craft for the invasion in June of 1944, certain that they would never again see home.  And millions of them didn’t see home again, as we know all too well.  Just because someone did something truly extraordinary and heroic did it them give them license to break the law, to perpetrate a crime, to be unreservedly forgiven?  No, it did not.  Did Montgomery’s success in defeating Rommel then give him permission to rob banks and kill innocent civilians?  No, it did not.  The law was the law.  Turing broke the law, and he had to face the penalty.

The real truth is that the law was insane.  A law that punishes a man or woman for their sexual preferences or predilections, save where those preferences and predilections actually render physical, mental or emotional harm to another, is the true criminal here.  It was a ‘sign of the times’, much the same as children born out of wedlock caused not only the mothers, but also the infants to be shunned and despised. My wife, as a girl of eight or nine, told a schoolfriend’s mother that her own mother lived with a man to whom she was not married.  That schoolfriend’s mother barred her own daughter from ever speaking to my wife again.  That was in the early 1970s.

We have grown up in many ways.  As a society, we appear to be more tolerant, liberal, perhaps even forgiving, but as individuals it is a different story.  We all harbour our own personal discriminations, our preconceptions, our unfounded and judgmental attitudes, and they influence the way we speak to people, deal with people, handle people.  I was once asked what I believed to be the fundamental difference between a child and an adult.  It was an interesting question.  My answer, regardless of whether it was right or wrong, was simply that a child appeared to trust other people until they were a given a reason not to trust, whereas an adult appeared to instinctively mistrust until they were given a reason to trust.

The newspapers and television news would have us believe that society is dangerous, crazy, unpredictable, potentially hazardous in every imaginable way.  That is a lie.  The newspapers engender, foster and encourage our cynicism and mistrust.  It seems to be their primary purpose.  How many times have you yourself been involved in or witness to an act of murder, rape, kidnapping, even physical or mental abuse?  If at all, then you are in the tiny minority.  Such things happen of course, but they are far less frequent and prolific than the media would have us believe.

The true criminals here are racism, religious intolerance, misogyny, greed, corruption, vested interest, and all the other ills that plague this society.  Beneath all of these is ignorance, perhaps the greatest crime of all, and a society that permits a decline in educational standards, a society that regards ‘celebrity for celebrity’s sake’ as something of value, a society that promotes the ‘let’s all get something for nothing’ viewpoint that appears pandemic, certainly in the West, is a society not only in dire need of change, but also very possibly on the way out.

We are all human.  We are all ridiculous in our own special way.  That old saw, never successfully attributed to a specific author, regarding holding onto anger being much the same as taking poison and hoping the other person will die, has a relevant place here.  Let others be who they are and they may very well let you be who you are.  If everyone was themselves, truly, and we accepted that others were also different and had just as much right to exist as we did, then wouldn’t the world seem different?

I guess it would.

Try it.  You never know, you might just like the world a whole lot better, and find that world likes you just as much in return.

 

***

On numerous occasions people have tried to identify Roger’s work with a particular genre – crime, thriller, historical fiction – but this categorisation has been a relatively fruitless endeavour. Roger’s ethos is merely to work towards producing a good story, something that encapsulates elements of humanity and life without necessarily slotting into a predetermined pigeonhole. He attempts to produce an average of forty thousand words a month, and aims to get a first draft completed within three to four months. His wife thinks he is a workaholic, his son considers him slightly left-of-centre, but they put up with him regardless. His son has long since been aware of the fact that ‘dad’ buys stuff, and thus his idiosyncrasies should be tolerated.

http://www.amazon.com/R.J.-Ellory/e/B002IVGFJO

 

How a Serial Killer’s Family Helped Saved the Nation By T. R. Heinan

1-New Orleans 046

How a Serial Killer’s Family Helped Saved the Nation

By T. R. Heinan

This year marks the bicentennial of one of the most decisive battles in American military history, the Battle of New Orleans. The War of 1812 is sometimes called “the forgotten war” and it is not uncommon to hear that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war was actually over. In fact, while the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814 and the final British assault did not occur until January 8, 1815, the treaty specifically provided that fighting would continue until the treaty had been ratified and exchanged, something that did not occur until February.

The British hope was for the war to end with the British in possession of the City of New Orleans. This would allow them to control traffic on the Mississippi. The fledgling American nation had been humiliated by one military defeat after another throughout the war. Except for some ports in New England, the entire coastline was now successfully blockaded, and the Americans were defeated on the Great Lakes. The British plan to turn the States into a helpless island surrounded by His Majesty’s naval might only lacked control of the Mississippi River.

The White House had been burned, American ports of entry were targeted for destruction, and there was confidence in London that the commercial sector in the former colonies would soon demand an end to their experiment with independence. To accomplish this end, the Crown sent Sir Edmund Pakenham with an armada of fifty ships and a force of 11,000 soldiers, sailors, and marines to capture New Orleans.

President James Madison ordered General Andrew Jackson to the Crescent City.   Jackson did not arrived until December 1, 1814. He required an interpreter to help him communicate with the largely French speaking population as he hastily assembled a small opposition force consisting of French and Spanish Creoles, free men of color, slaves, German famers, frontiersmen, militia, regular soldiers and a significant company of pirates.

Witness to these events was thirty-nine year old Delphine Macarty Blanque, pregnant with her fourth child and married to her second husband, Jean Pierre Blanque. The Blanques lived near Conti on Royal Street, two doors down from where Brennan’s Restaurant now stands. Their townhouse was next to the Bank of Louisiana, of which Jean Blanque was a director. Their summers where spent at the Blanque Plantation located on the Mississippi near the Macarty Plantation owned by Delphine’s family. Jean did quite well as a merchant, banker and member of the Louisiana Legislature, but his best source of income was as a silent partner of the most notorious pirates of the Caribbean, Jean and Pierre Lafitte.

Since January 1, 1808 it had been illegal to import new slaves into the United States. The new law played right into the hands of Jean Blanque and the Lafitte brothers.   There was big money to be made in the smuggling of ‘black ivory.” By 1814, the United States government was after Jean Lafitte; his brother Pierre was already in jail, and Jean Blanque had been found guilty and fined for smuggling coffee. Louisiana Governor William Claiborne offered a $500 award for the capture of Jean Lafitte. The pirate responded by offering $1,500 for the capture of the governor.

The British, knowing that Lafitte had ships, canons and hundreds of trained men, approached the pirate, offering funds and the rank of captain if he would join them in their attack on the Americans. Lafitte asked for some time to think it over. After weighing his options, Lafitte dispatched letters to Jean Blanque, including one addressed to Governor Claiborne, revealing the British plans and offering to join the American forces. The letters were rushed to Delphine Macarty Blanque’s husband, arriving in less than 24 hours after a trip through the swamps that would normally take three days. Blanque, while insisting that he barely knew Lafitte, beseeched the Louisiana authorities to take advantage of the offer.

Claiborne assumed it was a trick, an attempt to free Jean’s brother Pierre from prison. He ordered an attack on the pirate’s headquarters. Jackson didn’t think he could accept the aid off an outlaw, but was furious that Claiborne had attacked the pirates, fearing that this would push them to accept the British offer. Blanque continued to plead with the legislature and New Orleans safety officials. In a matter of days Jackson realized how unprepared New Orleans still remained.   He had only two actual fighting ships on the river, both seriously undermanned. The pirates could help there. More importantly they had cannons, big powerful cannons, and men experienced at using them. After a meeting with Lafitte on Royal Street, Andrew Jackson decided to accept Lafitte’s offer.

During his reconnaissance, Jackson found the place he would make his stand. His headquarters, and the final battleground was to be the childhood home of Jean Blanque’s wife, Delphine Macarty Blanque. The Macarty Plantation, just a short distance downriver from New Orleans, still remained in the family and was still being operated by her cousin. Jackson dug in there and had Lafitte’s heavy ship guns brought onshore. When the British attack came it was fast and furious. Jackson’s headquarters at the Macarty plantation house was struck by cannon fire nearly 100 times in just ten minutes. Most of the British fire was aimed too high however, and the superiority of the American gunners, assisted by Lafitte’s pirates, surprised both sides.

The British suffered 2,459 casualties. American losses were remarkably few. Sir Edmund Pakenham was dead and his forces were forced to retreat.

The sudden and complete defeat of the invaders not only prevented British control of the Mississippi, it became a defining and unifying moment in American history, proving that the new nation had both the will and the ability to bring its people together in defense of their constitutional government and independence. The history, legends, and fame of Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte have become part of the American story.

The wife of Jean Blanque whose family plantation became Jackson’s battleground and whose husband brought Lafitte’s offer of assistance to the Americans is also remembered today, but not because of the events that took place while she was married to Blanque. She is remembered for what she did with her third husband, Dr. Louis Lalaurie.

Each year thousands of tourists go to visit her final home in New Orleans at 1140 Royal Street. A new generation has learned her name from Kathy Bates’ excellent, though historically inaccurate, portrayal of her on American Horror Story. She is remembered today for the torture and brutal murder of her slaves in the attic of New Orleans most “haunted house”. She is Madame Delphine Macarty Blanque Lalaurie.

 

T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a popular 19th century New Orleans legend. http://www.amazon.com/LImmortalite-Madame-Lalaurie-Voodoo-Queen/dp/0615634710

…AND WE THANK THEE

Thanksgiving-Brownscombe

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth
by Jennie A. Brownscombe. (1914)
A mythologized painting showing
Plymouth settlers feasting with Plains Indians.
en.wikipedia.org

 

Spicy, aromatic whiffs of pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and candied sweet potatoes mingle with and enhance the hearty, mouth-watering smell of roasted, stuffed turkeys. Thanksgiving, a harvest festival thanking the Creator for a bountiful year, has remained virtually unchanged since the pilgrims in Massachusetts shared that first feast with Chief Massoit and some of his braves.

On Staten Island, New York, as in homes across the nation, people will gather in love and harmony to give thanks. Holiday fare on the Island will not differ greatly from traditional foods, except for the addition of ethnic dishes, such as home-made ravioli, succulent tomato sauce, crusty loaves of Italian bread, lasagne and delectable pastries indigenous to the New York area. In Italian homes, especially, a nine course meal is not unusual.

The turkey will dominate the day, whether served in homes, hospital rooms, soup kitchens for the needy, or meals on wheels for housebound senior citizens. Restaurants across the Island will also defer to the turkey, serving those who wish to celebrate, but hate to cook. Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds people of the past, celebrates the present, and offers hope for the future; a day that gratifies body and soul.

Although Governor William Bradford, of the Plymouth Colony issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1621, the concept of giving thanks is as old as the need for worship, and dates back to the time when humanity realized its dependence upon a Higher Power.The colonists of Plymouth observed three days of feasting, games and contests following their plentiful harvest in the autumn of 1621. The journal of Governor Bradford describes the preparations for that first Thanksgiving: “They began now to gather in the swell harvest they had, and to fit their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty… Besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. . . . Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned, but true reports.”

Staten Island, at that time, was a beautiful lush wilderness, sparsely inhabited by the Aqehonga Indians, who fished, hunted deer, raccoon, and fowl, and harvested corn, pumpkins, berries and fruit. Settlers arriving from England and Holland in 1630, added sausage, head cheese and pies to the abundant game and vegetation on the Island. Twenty years ago, it was common practice for butchers to hang plucked turkeys in store windows, while grocers displayed fresh produce and jugs of apple cider.

On October 31, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Daniel Roberdau, to draft a resolution “to set aside a day of thanksgiving for the signal success lately obtained over the enemies of the United States.” Their solution was accepted on November 1,1777.

George Washington issued a presidential proclamation appointing November 26,1789, as a day of general thanksgiving for the adoption of the constitution. The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863, due to the unrelenting efforts of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale. While editor of The Ladies Magazine in Boston, she penned countless editorials urging the uniform observance throughout the United States, of one day dedicated to giving thanks for blessings received throughout the year. She mailed personal letters to the governors of all the states, and to President Lincoln, persuading many governors to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. Her editorial was titled,”Our National Thanksgiving”, and began with a biblical quote: “Then he said to them, go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send persons unto them for whom nothing is prepared; For this day is holy unto the lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the lord is your strength.” Nehemiah, VIII:10

President Lincoln, moved by Mrs. Hale’s editorial and letter, issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which reads in part: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.” Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a day “to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion.” The northern states, in response to the proclamation, held services in churches of all denominations, and gave appropriate sermons.

President Roosevelt, on December 26, 1941, approved the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, to be observed in every state and the District of Columbia.

The first international Thanksgiving was held in Washington, D.C. in 1909. It was the brain-child of Rev. Dr. William T. Russell, rector of St. Patrick’s Church of Washington. Dr. Russell called it a Pan American celebration, and it was attended by representatives of all the Latin American countries. The Catholic Church was chosen for the services, since Catholicism is the religion of the Latin American countries.

St. Patrick’s Church published an account of the celebration, noting that “it was the first time in the history of the Western World that all the republics were assembled for a religious function…When asked what prompted Dr. Russell in planning a Pan American Thanksgiving celebration, Dr. Russell said, “My purpose was to bring into closer relations the Republics of the Western World. As Christianity had first taught the brotherhood of man, it was appropriate that the celebration should take the form of a solemn mass.” The Pan American celebration continued from year to year.

Some Eastern cities adopted the old world custom of dressing children in the over-sized clothes of their elders, masking their faces, and having them march through the streets blowing tin horns. The children often carried baskets, and solicited fruits and vegetables from house to house to help celebrate the day. This tradition was adapted from an old Scotch wassail custom.

The warm, loving atmosphere of this holiday has been immortalized in song, literature, and poetry, such as the well-known poem by Lydia Maria Child: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go. . . .”

Thanksgiving signals the onset of the joyous holiday season which continues until New Year’s Day. The only sad note is the number of people killed on the highways each year, en route to their destinations. Thanksgiving also proclaims the arrival of Santa Claus, who assumes temporary residence at the Staten Island Mall, which will be ablaze with Christmas decorations. Those shoppers brave enough to venture out on “Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, can take advantage of Island sales.

Today, more than ever, Thanksgiving is intrinsic to our time. The need to give thanks is profoundly American. As a people, we have pursued idealism, struggled for individual freedoms, and enjoyed the fruits of capitalism. Like the starship “Enterprise” on Star Trek, Americans have “dared to go where no man has gone before.” The act of giving thanks acknowledges the greater force that inspires this nation, encouraging and demanding excellence. This Thanksgiving, when stomachs are bulging with savory, traditional food, and hearts are full with love for family and friends, it is fitting to give thanks.

Stand up on this Thanksgiving Day, stand
upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and
with clear eyes, believe in your own time and
place. There is not, and there never has
been a better time, or a better place to live.
 

Micki Peluso began writing after a personal tragedy, as a catharsis for her grief. This lead to several publications in Victimology: An International Magazine & a 25 year career in Journalism. Her first book was published in 2008; a funny family memoir of love, loss and survival, called, . . .AND THE WHIPPOORWILL SANG which won the Nesta CBC Silver award for writing that builds character. She’s presently finishing a collection of short fiction, slice of life stories & essays, in a book called, DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK.

 

Way Back When by Sharla Lee Shults

 

Stepping back in time is so interesting . . . in fact, it is often just plain, simple fun! Whether you are a teenager wanting to learn about the eras in which your parents grew up or the adult who wants to relive the memories, the nostalgia is an alluring invitation for a trip down memory lane.

More than likely at one time or another you have said, or heard someone else say the phrase way back when. Its context could be in reference to good times or bad times but in either case reflects upon events of the distant past—a different year, decade or even a different era. Some folks refer to it as back in the day. But, whose day? Before indoor plumbing? Before electricity? Before the phonograph? Before the automobile? Before radio? Before television? Before the cellphone, iPhone, iPad?

Regardless of how you say it, distinctive spans of time become identifiers for each individual. There are countless, precious moments held dear to the heart before time erases all memory. Each footnote has its own unique melody playing out the music of life. Looking back provides reflections into who we are, how we have evolved and in some instances, where we are going [again]. Making comparisons of how things were ‘back in the day’ to present day is often hilarious. The changes in fashion, cars, appliances, entertainment and sayings about the future (which is now the present) can have one doubling over with laughter or simply smiling in amazement.

Conversations can quickly turn to making comparisons of the amenities that are commonplace today but totally void in the past. Such things as living in houses with dirt floors, having to complete private business in outhouses, boiling clothes to get them clean, bathing once a month with or without soap, etc. are considered primitive by today’s standards. Of course, we don’t have to step that far back in time. Simply disregard the cellphone, TV and Internet. Without those three, some people would not know how to survive.

Many comparisons to way back when or back in the day are derived from the changes in the state of the economy. For instance, think about the cost of gasoline. Today excitement abounds if to fill the car, truck, lawn mower or farm equipment with gas costs under $4.00 a gallon. Also, if a trip to the doctor’s office or a prescription is under $100, shouts of jubilation can be heard! It has not always been that way. Can you date either of these scenarios? Do you remember when…

Who would have thought gas would ever cost 25 cents a gallon? I hear it will soon go up to 26 cents. Up a penny now, another penny later. The rate it is going gasoline will reach a dollar a gallon before we know it. What’s the world coming to?

At $15.00 a day in the hospital, no one can afford to be sick anymore. All those doctors want to do is make their lives easier at our expense! Maw, what’s that home remedy for sore throat?

These are only a random sampling of conversations today that ultimately begin with I remember when or back in the day. These examples would place one’s when in the 50s.

Another inevitable change through the decades is the use of catch phrases. These are expressions used repeatedly until at some point in time they are replaced or simply have worn themselves out. See if you can date any of the following:

Look at that cat’s ‘zoot’ suit. It’s crazy, man.

You are ‘lighting up the tilt sign!’

‘Are we having fun yet?’

Can you dig it?

Say what?

Whatever!

Wassup!

If you recognize the ‘zoot’ suit, your memories have dated back to men’s fashion of the 40s, which consisted of a long jacket with wide shoulders and pants that were wide at the top but narrow at the bottom. ‘Lighting up the tilt sign’ was slang of the 50s when someone was not telling the truth. ‘Are we having fun yet?’ is the most famous quote by bizarre, non-sequitur-spouting comic strip character Zippy the Pinhead. This caught on quite rapidly with the general public in the 60s. The phrase ‘Can you dig it?’ was first used in the awesome cult classic “The Warriors.” It became synonymous with ‘groovy’ in the 70s. The wild and funky decade, the 80s, spawned ‘Say What’ and ‘Mikey Likes It,’ both of which ran the gamut. ‘Whatever!’ was made popular in the 90s and is the one that has been dubbed the most irritating in the English language. Then, there is ‘Wassup!’ stemming from a Budweiser commercial that definitely bludgeoned itself to death in the beginning of the new millennium. It thankfully died!

Movies are a great source of entertainment with certain movie lines sticking in our heads, much like the catch phrases, to be repeated just at the right place and time in real life. Here are but a few. See if you remember using them upon occasion, perhaps even recently.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Gone with the Wind (1939)

“Well, nobody’s perfect.” Some Like it Hot (1959)

“Bond. James Bond.” Dr. No (1962)

“May the force be with you.” Star Wars (1977)

“I’ll be back.” The Terminator (1984)

“Houston, we have a problem.” Apollo 13 (1995)

The memory triggers during a visit to the past vary greatly. Hopefully those shared here are ones that have brought on smiles, adding a bit of humor to the day. To end our trip down memory lane, do you recall who said…

“Love is being stupid together.”

“Ever notice how “what the hell” is always the right answer?”

Both are still very apropos in the 21st century. The first is credited to Paul Valéry but made popular by Lucille Ball in the I Love Lucy show. The second is said to be attributed to none other than Marilyn Monroe but not credited to her as an original.

And life goes on beating to the rhythm of the changing times…


Way Back When

 

Way back when could be days gone by

When leisure reigned and time didn’t fly

Back in the day brought a blissful vision

Summer nights with no television

 

We’d play hide-n-seek way passed dark

When shadows played tricks as we embarked

Wearing socks emitted soundless steps

Muffled strides which slowly crept

 

Good ol’ days forged many a fable

When conversation ruled the dinner table

Freshly cooked chow incited a snicker

“Peas, please, and the pot liquor”

 

Way back when could be days gone by

When things remembered made you cry

Reminiscing brought an unwelcomed vision

Summer nights with no television

 

We’d play inside after Jack Frost

When darkness reigned and time was lost

Sounds of the night repeated all week

Rocking chairs that steadily creaked

 

Now the days pass much too fast

Memories still linger holding on to the past

Remembrances prompt the slyest grin

“A way of life, way back when!”

 

©2009 Remembering Sharla Lee Shults

 
“Let each day begin with happy thoughts that return to remember when.” ~SLS

 

Poem excepted from Remembering (http://goo.gl/C5PZcP) by Sharla Lee Shults. Sharla’s passion for writing is poetry: Historical and inspirational. Become acquainted with her writing by visiting http://sharlashults.com/ where links are accessible to her books, blogs and social networks. Sharla previously shared here at The Write Room:  A Woodsy Morning http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1060, A Day That Will Live in Infamy: December 7, 1941 http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1538, Why do you celebrate Memorial Day? http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=2082 and joined Linda Hales in Turning Winter into Summer http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1695.

TWO THEORIES OF HISTORY by BryanMurphy

conspiracy

 Have you read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine? If you are in the USA, you may have seen the Public Service TV series called Commanding Heights, which was based on it. It’s a marvellous book, I’ve just finished it, one that shows you things that were in front of your eyes but you had not noticed, or had noticed but not paid due attention to. It is about the rise of market fundamentalism and the disasters which that has unleashed upon the world since 1973, the date of the violent overthrow of democracy in Chile, which, by coincidence, is also the year in which my novel-in-progress opens.

When I lived in Africa in the 1980s, the crimes of the international financial institutions on that continent were no secret: basically forcing countries in debt to sacrifice their children by denying them health and education so that bankers could sleep easily at night secure in the knowledge that the bad loans they had made would be repaid at any cost. That, it seemed to me, was in the nature of bankers; what seemed more scandalous was how little anyone outside Africa was bothered. People in Europe would care very deeply when famine hit Africa, and fork out enormous sums to alleviate the suffering it caused, but were oblivious to the suffering meted out by human institutions. Well, as you know, what went round came round, and since 2008, when many of the less rich countries in Western Europe got into trouble over their finances, international financial institutions have been forcing market fundamentalism on them in return for debt relief. And guess what? The people in those countries do not like it.

Now, I live in one of the affected countries, and boy, do people moan. About the loss of their jobs, their children’s future, decaying public services, you name it. Quite right, too. But they do not actually do very much, here in Italy. Klein’s book was published in 2007, before “disaster capitalism” turned its attention to Western Europe, but she would accurately have predicted people’s initial reaction here: they were shocked into inactivity. Klein details how, in Latin America, it took over 20 years before governments started to stop taking the medicine that was killing them. People in Europe, with more hindsight available to them, may swallow less before they say “We’re not going to take it!” I hope I live to see that day.

balls-up

One useful way of seeing history is that it offers us two main theories for why things go awry (Murphy’s Law, no relation): the balls-up theory and the conspiracy theory. The latter says that things go wrong because tightly-knit groups of politically or economically motivated men cause them to do so for their own ends. The former says that people would like things to work to everyone’s benefit, but we are just too incompetent to make that happen. Klein is clearly in the conspiracy camp; I’ve always been in the balls-up camp, which is a hard place to be in Italy, where mafias and politicians traditionally feed off each other out of public sight. I had thought that Italy was exceptional, in this as in so many other ways. Maybe it is not.

It is irresistible for a science fiction writer to imagine where market fundamentalism will lead us, if it manages to continue its current dominance unchecked. Unfortunately, I think we have already seen the answer, in the cult classic film Zardoz, in which the rich live a genteel life inside a high-tech bubble which physically excludes the poor, whom the rich continually urge to renounce sex and kill each other. It is the ultimate gated community, although in the real thing the bubble will have to be opaque, because transparency helps people to see not just into fundamentalism, but through it.

 

Bryan Murphy is a British writer who lives in Turin, Italy. He is currently working on the second draft of a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. You can find his e-books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts. His individual blog is at: http://bit.ly/1cq1yus . Bryan also welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu .