Echos From Shadows of The Past…

“The Law was made for one thing alone, for the exploitation of those who don’t understand it, or are prevented by naked misery from obeying it.” – Bertolt Brecht

“A man who sees another man on the street corner with only a stump for an arm will be so shocked the first time he’ll give him six-pence. But the second time it’ll only be a threepenny bit. And if he sees him a third time, he’ll have him cold-bloodedly handed over to the police.” – Bertolt Brecht

In 1933 the Nazis seized power, and like many German dissidents, the writer Bertolt Brecht had to leave. After several moves, he ended up in Denmark where he and his family accepted the offer of a house in a remote village. It was there that he penned an essay which quickly began appearing in different European cities. The journal responsible was Unsere Zeit (Our Times). It was even smuggled into Germany and distributed under a plain cover. The title “Statutes of Reich Association of German Writers.”

The actual title of this work was “Funf Schwierigkeiten beim schreiben der Wahrheit,” which translates to “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.

Brecht went on to say that if one chooses to oppose lies and ignorance, and to write the truth, there are five difficulties that you must overcome.

The real title of the essay was “Fünf Schwierigkeiten beim schreiben der Wahrheit,” or “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.” Brecht wrote:

“These days, if you want to struggle against lies and ignorance, and to write the truth, you must overcome at least five difficulties. You must have the courage to write the truth when everywhere truth is repressed. You must have the wit to recognize the truth, though everywhere it is concealed. You must have the skill to make the truth into a weapon. You must have the judgment to choose those in whose hands the truth will be effective. And you must have the cunning to spread the truth among such people.”

While the obstacles he faced were epic under fascism, they are also present in the lives of writers who have suffered exile, had to flee their homes and also for those who live in countries that claim to be democracies when they are not. Today we live in a world where fascism is rearing its ugly head. In some countries more than others, it is quickly become the rule of law in some parts of the world.

I believe that it is time to dust of Brecht and to committ to exactly what type of writer each of us will strive to be. Remembering his circumstances and reading his words, I shall endeavor to follow his ideals.

The Courage to Tell the Truth

It seems obvious that, as a writer, you should write the truth, in the sense that you ought not to suppress or conceal anything or deliberately write things that are untrue. You ought not to bow down before the powerful or betray the weak. It is, of course, very hard not to bow down before the powerful, and it is highly advantageous to betray the weak. To displease the possessors means to become one of the dispossessed. To pass up paid work or to decline fame when it is offered may mean being unpaid or unknown forever. This takes courage.

Any truth worth writing is one that those in power do not want you to tell, and the enemies of truth will try to exact a price. They will leak your personal information to the press or to your enemies. They will dox you. They will try to make it embarrassing or frightening or dangerous to tell the truth. A man who corrupts whole countries gets less prison time than a woman who votes by mistake. This is what power means.

In times of oppression, there is usually much talk about elevated matters. To write that you are “in the resistance” feels dramatic and important. You can get the feeling that you are a truth teller, because truth ought to feel dramatic and important. What is this feeling of drama? Surely, it must be the truth. In such times, it takes courage to write of low and boring matters such as food and shelter, access to healthcare, the rights of refugees.

When every channel is blaring the message that strong feelings trump knowledge, and that a man without compassion is more deserving of attention than one who cares for others, it takes courage to ask: Who profits? When all the talk is of who is a real American, it takes courage to ask: Who is unreal?

It also takes courage to tell the truth about yourself, about your own defeat. You lost. They are drinking your tears. Many of the oppressed lose the capacity to see their own mistakes. It seems to them that the persecution they suffer is itself the greatest injustice. The persecutors are wicked simply because they persecute; the persecuted suffer because of their goodness. But this goodness has been beaten, defeated, suppressed. It was therefore a weak goodness, a bad, unreliable goodness. For we cannot accept that goodness must be weak as rain must be wet. Weakness is not goodness. Goodness is not a weakness. It takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good, but because they were weak.

Naturally, in the struggle with lies we must write the truth, and this truth must not be a lofty and ambiguous abstraction. When we say of someone, “She spoke the truth,” we imply that some people said something that was not the truth—a lie or a generality—but she said something practical, factual, undeniable.

It takes little courage to mutter a complaint about the triumph of barbarism in a place where complaining is still permitted, even prized. Many writers pretend that the guns are aimed at them when, in reality, they are merely the targets of influencers, trackers, and ads. They shout their generalized demands to a world of friends and followers. They insist on a generalized justice for which they have never done anything. They ask for generalized freedom: Alexa, make the government change.

These writers think that truth is only what sounds good. If the truth turns out to be difficult or dry, they don’t recognize it as such. Because what they crave isn’t the truth but a feeling and a status: the feeling of truth, the status of being a truth teller. The trouble with them is: they do not know the truth.

Upcoming Post: The Wit to recognize the Truth

Bisous,

Léa

Surfers, Black Lives Matter, and the Star Count: It’s the news roundup from Britain

Notes from the U.K.

Let’s start with the star count: Back in the winter sometime, I posted information about an effort to study light pollution by asking people to count the stars they could see inside the constellation Orion. If you’d like to see the map that compiled from that study, here’s the link.

*

I know I said the news was from Britain, but what the hell, I’m sitting in Britain and I’m typing this, so this comes from Britain, even if the news is from the U.S. It’s too good to miss: Someone from Nebraska is suing every gay person on the planet. In federal court.

She’s not claiming gay people have broken any laws. In fact, her hand-written, seven-page statement doesn’t talk about law. She quotes the Bible and she quotes a dictionary.

Now, I’ll admit to having misspelled a word or two in my time–possibly more than two. And…

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BANNED BOOK WEEK: Thank a Librarian and read a Banned Book

“We are willing enough to praise freedom when she is tucked away in the past and cannot be a nuisance. In the present, amidst dangers whose outcome we cannot foresee, we get nervous about her and admit censorship.   –  E.M. Forster

 

“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.”   –  Henry Louis Gates

 

“Submitting to censorship is to enter the seductive world of ‘The Giver’: the world where there are no bad words and no bad deeds. But it is also the world where choice has been taken away and reality distorted. And that is the most dangerous world of all.”   –  Lois Lowry

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND READ:

http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/freedomreadstatement

*

Fight Censorship and thank a Librarian

It’s banned books week

And if a book hasn’t

Made it on that list

I’m not sure it is

Worth my time

Reading

*

It’s banned books week

If you care about

Making your own

Choices

If there is a book

You like that

Has made the list

Speak out

*

It’s banned books week

Somewhere there is a

Librarian who has stuck

Her neck out

For your right to

Read what you choose

They are the hero’s of

The hour

*

It’s banned books week

Celebrate

Read a book

From the list

Read the statement

Freedom to Read 1953

Celebrate

Then go to the independent

Book store and buy

Banned books

*

Stop by and leave a comment. Share your favorite Banned Book.

 

Bisous,

Léa

Caligula Unbound

Caligula, Trump… what’s in a name? unconscionable.

Earth Tourist

Caligula Unbound cover

CALIGULA UNBOUND

alan reynolds

copyright © 2019 alan reynolds
all rights reserved
http://www.alanreynolds.nl

Preface
Some stories need to told and retold. One of them is the story of the notorious Roman emperor Caligula.
Struck by the resemblances between Caligula and current American politics, I tried to capture them in this story of a ruler unchained and dangerously free from restraining, sane, and ethical influences and considerations.
In addition to being available in a print version and as ebooks* the full text of Caligula Unbound is online here.

Alan Reynolds
Monnickendam, 2019

* Please contact me at alanreynolds@gmail.com if you would like the print version or an ebook (either epub or mobi format)

Prologue
Long long ago when times were unenlightened
a madman gained much power. Don’t ask how.
His twitches soon had his own Cabinet frightened.
He cajoled, barked, and bullied trying to cow
those doubting that his dubious advent…

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It Can Happen Here: Revisited — charles french words reading and writing

Given the horrors of the mass shootings over the weekend, clearly inspired by bigotry, white nationalism, and racism, I decided to use this post again. (https://en.wikipedia.org) In 1935, Sinclair Lewis, in It Can’t Happen Here, spoke to the idea that many Americans held that fascism could not occur in the United States of America. His […]

via It Can Happen Here: Revisited — charles french words reading and writing

Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace, – You be the judge…

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression, for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” – Thomas Paine

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” – Howard Zinn

“If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.”  – Nelson Mandela

“If those in charge of our society – politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television – can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”              – Howard Zinn

 

“If the Nuremberg Laws were applied, every postwar president would have been hanged.” – Noam Chomsky

 

The above quote was made in 1990 and did not include Presidents after Bush Sr. With the criteria, one can easily see to which ones following, the quote applies.

 

His reasoning:

 

Truman for the atomic bomb ( deliberate targeting of civilians as mass murder), plus counter-insurgency work in Greece

 

Eisenhower for his role in the CIA overthrow of the Arbentz government in Guatemala, maybe also an intervention in Lebanon and the role of CIA in Iran

 

Kennedy for Bay of Pigs invasion (“outright aggression”), Operation Mongoose, and his involvement in Vietnam

Johnson for Vietnam escalation

 

Nixon for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos

 

Ford he acknowledges as tricky but his support of Indonesian invasion of East Timor (“near-genocidal”)

 

Carter as “least violent” but supported the Indonesian government despite atrocities

 

Reagan for “the stuff in Central America,” support of Israeli invasion of Lebanon

 

Bush (Sr.) for his involvement in the Gulf War

 

In making his assessment, Mr. Chomsky uses the Nuremberg principles that follow

 

“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

 

  • Crimes against peace:
  • Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

 

  • Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (I)

 

  • War Crimes

Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder of ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity

 

  • Crimes against humanity

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime”

“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”  – Rumi

 

As Rumi said, be still and listen to the voice that comes from within you. Search your conscience and decide if you will now stand against ignorance, war, and hate.

Peace,

Léa

 

 

Emma Lazarus: She spins within her tomb

 

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

“The woman power of this nation can be the power which makes us whole and heals the rotten community now so shattered by war and poverty and racism. I have great faith in the power of women who will dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the task of remaking our society.” – Coretta Scott King

 

“I think that the roots of racism have always been economic, and I think people are desperate and scared. And when you’re desperate and scared you scapegoat people. It exacerbates latent tendencies toward – well, toward racism or homophobia or anti-Semitism.” – Henry Louis Gates    

 

The New Colossus

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles, From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

                            – Emma Lazarus

 

Imagine the poem she would have written had she foreseen the cages crammed with humanity seeking asylum. Her vision of America and her words do not reflect its reality. The golden door has been slammed shut in the faces of the homeless, tempest-tost and many others. Yet the welcome mat is out for criminals who can afford to line the pockets of the government. Perhaps some of you will be inspired to write what might be more realistic given the current climate in America? 

 

Bisous,

Léa

Wednesday’s Words to Ponder…

HARRIET TUBMAN  1820 – MARCH 10, 1913

 

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop, keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going”.  – Harriet Tubman

“There was one of two things I had a right to Liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would take the other, no man should take me alive. I should fight for liberty as long as my strength lasted”.  – Harriet Tubman

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”  – Harriet Tubman

“I had crossed the line. I was free, but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.”  – Harriet Tubman

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”  – Harriet Tubman  

Born a slave and named, by her parents, Araminta “Minty” Ross, around the year 1820, she became the most well known of the conductors on The Underground Railroad.ty

She served as a conductor for a decade. The abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison gave her the nickname, “Moses”. It was through her own efforts that she accumulated the funds she would need to continue her mission. Over time, she built a reputation for her deeds and thus supporters helped by providing both shelter and funds for her trips to the south.

Harriet served as a cook, nurse, laundress, spy and scout during the Civil War. She returned to her home in Auburn after the Emancipation Proclamation where she remained for the rest of her life. Her doors remained open to those in need and her earnings from her vegetable garden she added to the funds raised to create schools for the purpose of educating African Americans. She gave speeches on Women’s Rights. While not a leader in the movement, she was a strong supporter and the women who were leaders had supported her efforts in The Underground Railroad. Tubman believed in the equality of all people, black or white, male or female.

Personally, I find it appalling that the sitting President has gone back on the plan of the previous administration to honor Harriet Tubman with her face on the front of the twenty dollar bill and former President Andrew Jackson moved to the back. Trump is determined to undo as many good works from the Obama administration as possible. Unfortunately, it is hardly a surprise that such a racist, misogynistic individual would carry through with the plan. He doesn’t even keep his own promises to the people of the country.

Bisous,

Léa

Pre-election or pre-selection post…

With only a week before elections, I hope each of you will reach deep into your heart and address what you are about and what you are willing to do about it.

Here is a small offering of quotes to ponder and it is my sincere hope that when you do go to vote, your conscience goes with you. Do you listen to all the hype or can you still think for yourself?  It is often the one pointing the finger at others that has the most to hide. There are agendas and there are hidden agendas that you will not be apprised of until the opportunity to have your say is gone. The country has not been so divided since the Civil War and as things continue in the current regime, that seems to be the direction that the country is heading toward. Of course, another possible outcome could be another war. If so, who would be your allies? As things stand now, the administration and conservative media, have alienated allies of the past and left the nation most vulnerable.  They have declared war on the environment. Pushed to the brink, the planet will survive, but will humanity? Yet the administration has trampled every protection for the environment and done all that it could to escalate global warming. I could go on, but I would rather just get to the quotes and hope you take some time, soul-searching.  What kind of world and what kind of life are you bequeathing your progeny? 

 

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”               – Edmund Burke

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.”          – Socrates 

“The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”  – James Monroe

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein

“Indifference, to me is the epitome of all evil.” – Elie Wiesel 

“The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”       – William Shakespeare

 “Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.” – Jerry Garcia

“Moral evil is the immorality and pain and suffering and tragedy that come because we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive.” – Lee Strobel

“Shall I tell you what the real evil is? To cringe to the things that are called evils, to surrender to them our freedom, in defiance of which we ought to face any suffering.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“The secret to happiness is freedom… and the secret to freedom is courage.’ – Thucydides

“Hypocrisy is the mother of all evil and racial prejudice is still her favorite child.”     – Don King

“Apathy is the overrated protection of that rock you’re hiding under.”                            – Laura J.W. Ryan

“Live simply so that others may simply live.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

While this is merely a minuscule sampling of applicable quotes, I do hope you take time to ponder and search your values. What are you about and what kind of world do you wish to leave to your children, grandchildren, and subsequent generations?

 

Bisous and Peace,

Léa

 

Wednesday’s Words to Ponder… Phillis Wheatley

This post is dedicated to Hamba Kahle* uMama Agnes “Aunty Aggie” Msimang. Rest peacefully dear Aunty Aggie.   https://afzalmoolla.wordpress.com/2018/10/19/hamba-kahle-umama-agnes-aunty-aggie-msimang/comment-page-1/#comment-12598

 

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”  –  William Wilberforce 

 

Phillis Wheatly

PHILLIS WHEATLEY – 

 

On Imagination

 

Thy various works, imperial queen, we see,

How bright their forms! How deck’d with pomp

By thee!

Thy wond’rous acts in beauteous order stand,

And all attest how potent is thine hand.

From Helicon’s refulgent heights attend,

Ye sacred choir and my attempts befriend:

To tell her glories with a faithful tongue,

Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song.

Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,

Till some lov’d object strikes her wand’ring eyes

Whose silken fetters all the senses bind,

And soft captivity involves the mind.

Imagination! Who can sing thy force?

Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?

Soaring through air to find the bright abode,

Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,

We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,

And leave the rolling universe behind:

From star to star the mental optics rove,

Measure the skies, and range the realms above.

There in one view, we grasp the mighty whole,

Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.

Though winter frowns to Fancy’s raptur’d eyes

The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise;

The frozen deeps may break their iron bands,

And bid their waters murmur o’er the sands.

Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign,

And with her flow’ry riches deck the plain;

Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round,

And all the forest may with leaves be crown’d:

Show’rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose,

And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose.

Such is thy pow’r, nor are thine orders vain,

O thou the leader of the mental train:

In full perfection, all thy works are wrought,

And thine the scepter o’er the realms of thought.

Before thy throne the subject-passions bow,

Of subject-passions sov’reign ruler thou;

At thy command joy rushes on the heart,

And through the glowing veins the spirits dart.

Fancy might now her silken pinions try

To rise from earth, and sweep th’ expanse on high:

From Tithon’s bed now might Aurora rise,

Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies,

While a pure stream of light o’erflows the skies.

The monarch of the day I might behold,

And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold,

But I reluctant leave the pleasing views,

Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse;

Winter austere forbids me to aspire

And northern tempests damp the rising fire;

They chill the tides of Fancy’s flowing sea,

Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

                                                                             –

Born in the Gambia and sold as a slave at age seven, Phillis Wheatley was the first published African-American woman. Her writing was one which helped create the African-American genre of literature. Purchased by the Wheatley family, she was taught to read and write. Furthermore, they encouraged her poetry.

Her first collection of poems was published in 1773. With her subjects of Morality and Religion, she became well know and was praised by prominent figures including George Washington and fellow African-American poet, Jupiter Hammon. She toured England and was emancipated by her owners after her poetic success. In March 1776, she appeared before General George Washington. A strong supporter of independence is reflected in her poetry and in plays, she wrote during the Revolutionary War.

Miss Wheatley married a free black grocer, John Peters, and bore him two children who died in infancy. Mr. Peters abandoned her leaving her penniless and pregnant. In an effort to support herself, she completed the second volume of poems. Alas, she could not find a publisher who was interested.

She died of complications in childbirth at the age of 31. The child died shortly afterward. She had been living in poverty in a boarding house.

Miss Wheatley wrote “To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty” in honor of George III repealing the Stamp Act. During the American Revolution, her sympathies and her work turned to the view of the colonists.

Phillis Wheatley’s grave lies unmarked. Few of her poems refer to slavery.

At that time, for the most part, white Americans thought it unlikely that a woman from Africa, and a former slave, could write poetry and Miss Wheatley was forced to defend herself in court in 1772. The men assembled to judge her included John Hancock, John Erving, Reverend Charles Chauncey, Thomas Hutchinson,  the governor of Massachusettes, and his lieutenant governor, Andrew Oliver. She was adjudged to be the author of the works ascribed to her and the resulting attestation was published and included in the preface to her book. Due to the prejudice of American publishers, the book was published in London with the aid of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and the Earl of Dartmouth.

Miss Wheatley’s works are credited with helping to found African-American literature.

The highly regarded poet, Jupiter Hammon wrote an ode to Miss Wheatley in 1778.

Bisous,

Léa