". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ammunition -- Surely They Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank - HBO Confederates

     . . . . Even on the ASOIAF forum HBO's announced next project with D&D alternate history in which the southern antebellum slaveocracy successfully seceded has set off a sh*t storm, on the order of "Bad Idea or Worst Idea?" with loads of people weighing in with all the cliched, stereotypical expected responses, which basically say --
Woo! slavery's so haut!
It's just entertainment what's your problem?
How can you condemn something that hasn't even been written yet?
The Civil War wasn't about slavery.
Antebellum slavery couldn't industrialize because it was a feudal system not a capitalist system.
The north didn't care about slavery.
There were very few abolitionists (and evidently, judging by these comments, not a single person of color -- or white woman -- was in favor of abolition or against slavery, and this was wholly a white man's war).
Why not just have let 'em have their part of the country and all would have been fine.
Slavery would have just withered away.
To be able to combat these idiocies coolly and effectively, one needs to be armed -- and trust me, those thoughtlessly regurgitating these cliches are not.  One must point out particularly what the slavocracy's objectives were (number 1: expansion of slavery) there are a few books one can read to make one competent. One should read them too,  because what most people think they know about antebellum slavery, "the underground railroad," abolition and the roots of the War of Southern Aggression are at best out-dated (such as slavery was a feudal system), and at worst,  just wrong (the north didn't give a damn about slavery).

For example, Eugene Genovese's thesis that slavery was feudal not capitalist, has been dismantled by vast scholarship in the last twenty - thirty years. Enormous amounts of scholarship has gone into the history of antebellum slavery in all its aspects since the Civil Rights Movement, and historians everywhere have been reaping the benefits of this in the last 2 - 3 decades.  The same is true for the war effort itself.

Here is a very short list of books than anyone who wants to speak of the system of antebellum slavery and The War of the Rebellion should read:

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Written by Himself;
Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House by Elizabeth Keckley (Keckley was the US's first African American 
couturier -- right before secession she dressed both Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Davis. She became socially isolated Mary Todd Lincoln's White House confidant. the book is a mixture of authentic memoir and fiction;
Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee--The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged  by William C. Davis;
General Lee's Army: From Victory to Defeat by Joseph Glatthaar;
This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy by Matt Karp;
The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned and Constance Sublette -- which runs down in a chronological, fast-reading narrative the latest scholarship about slavery in North America from the earlier colonial era to Emancipation, including the influence and effects the system within the larger European and hemispheric historical context, but the focus is on the economics of the enslaved bodies themselves -- without which the South had no wealth;
Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement by Fergus M. Bordewich;
Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South by Christopher Dickey -- an interesting contrast to how the Union State Department was seeing the situation with England in particular through the experiences of the US minister's mission to Saint James;
Mary Chesnut's Civil War; the carefully edited after-the-fact diary of a the wife of the South Carolina senator James Chestnut Jr., until secession, after which he served as an aide to Jeff Davis and a brigadier general in charge of South Carolina's reserves (though not seeing action, of course, being such a slavocracy nabob);
The Free State of Jones by by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer -- Mississippians (the state with largest number of millionaires in the country prior to Emancipation) who were neither segregationists nor secessionist, nor were they nabobs -- they suffered and they resisted and fought back.
The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams.  He writes of his first hand experiences at the highest levels of England's and France's government during the first years of the war, as private secretary to his father, Francis Adams, as minister to Saint James.
Two things we must never forget about antebellum slavery and the War of Southern Aggression /K/ A it's official name in the records of the United States, The War of Rebellion: African Americans played an immense role in abolition and emancipation.  Escaped slaves and free people of color founded newspapers, wrote books, spoke at endless meetings, organized a relief and assistance for those who managed to escape.  They labored endlessly to keep the issues of the Fugitive Slave Act and Dred Scott in the forefront of progressive minds.  Here we see the first nexus of authentic cooperative action -- not just words! -- of black and white, male and female. Never underestimate the power of people with god-given mission for moral improvement (look at how the evangelicals etc. have managed to just about disappear not only abortion, but any woman's reproductive health care from so many places in this nation, even though it is all legal).

And we must never forget that while the north for the most part, as well as the Union, when the time came, though deeply white supremacist, was also deeply antagonistic to slave labor, for it undercut wages across the board for everyone (as keeping the wages of Haitians at a few cents an hour is the benchmark for wages throughout the hemisphere currently)-- as well as threatening having work at all.  With this half of the 19th century receiving boatloads of immigrants every day, the competition for jobs was fierce.

Having slavery forced upon free soil states was not in their interests -- just as the Fugitive Slave Act was antithetical to their interests, economically, politically, and socially.  Anyone could point to your daughter and son, declare her, him a runaway slave and there was no legal recourse -- and you were supposed to help them.

Don't forget by now there was a large percentage of legally enslaved who had white skin, blue eyes and blonde hair, thanks to generations of white men raping African American women for both fun and profit -- every slave child born provided the slave owner with at least another $50 of credit, in a culture that didn't have money per se, only credit, vastly based in the bodies of their slaves.

So skin color was not a final defense by any means -- nor was an accused runaway allowed to have or speak a defense!  People in the north did not like this.  This brought more people into the anti-slavery factions than anything else, and did it so fast the south couldn't believe it was happening.

You have to know all this and much more besides, and know it inside and out, viscerally, before you can write successfully about anything to do with the history of the war, slavery, and what happened. And the more one knows -- seeing from the benefit of hindsight-- the more one knows it couldn't have happened any other way.

What cannot be white washed away in any kind of entertainment is that slavery = rape and every kind of violence perpetrated on people who have no legal right to object or fight back. Which is why so many can't seem to let it go (see above -- slavery's haut! How dare you object to what turns us on?).  They want and revel in with all their being, the joy of feeling dominant, doing whatever they wish (or their fantasy surrogates do to women and others whatever they wish), to deliberately make people suffer both physical abuse and emotional abuse.

We see this particularly in the many stories or program that involves artificial intelligence / androids. There is no fun in hurting and degrading a sentience that doesn't feel abused and degraded, that in really has no free will or feeling. Thus all the plot lines is giving the androids a/is actual humanity or having them develop it -- so they can feel humiliated and degraded. (A rare exception to this is Ex Machina, an adroid who does feel outrage, but is also entirely sociopathic, lacking all the human feelings and values -- just like slave owner.  She gets hers, and is now unleashed upon the world of poor unsuspecting male victims. O noes!)

We say, for the sake of the story, so people can have identification with the characters we have to give them human feelings.  I.e. we need that dominance from built in abuse.  Which is why this will not help and will make things worse.  D&D have a track record, and that track record is out there for all to see and read.

Entertainments have civic, ethical, social, political and historical responsibilities too.  To say "it's only for fun," -- just think about what that fun consists of.

Then there's this, that so many of us find the entire concept sickening on so many levels, delights the ilks that are D&D -- it means they won, which is supremely depressing.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shame on HBO -- Morally and Historically Reprehensible

     . . . . The same untalented, ethically, socially and historically ignorant sexist and racist team that brought you limitless gratuitous graphic scenes of female nudity, rape and torture to HBO via Got, now presume to bring the the same, now set in an 'alternate' historical time line in which slavery remains legal because the CSA successfully seceded.

Just for that latter, a "successful" secession has Andrew Jackson spinning in his monument.  He didn't squash Calhoun, South Carolina and Nullification in 1832 for morally bankrupt 21st century media to make it entertainment.  See the Nullification Proclamation By Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, to South Carolina, here.

NY Time pay wall so the url rather than a link is provided:

     . . . . In any case, the south couldn't have successfully seceded because Lincoln and many coalitions behind  him wouldn't allow it. As Jackson knew, neither division would have stood long before England and France picked both of them off. As it was during the first three years of the War of Southern Aggression a faction in both England and France did their best to help this along.  Also because the whole point of secession was to provoke a war with the non-slavery forces so the slaveocracy could then take over the entire nation -- they didn't want to be left alone with their peculiar institution.  Their objective was to aggressively force their peculiar institution upon all by the force of arms.  There is a reason that the U.S. Civil War's official name in the government records is "The War of Southern Aggression."

So Grant whipped Lee's army, and the CSA melted because it was essentially nothing but the Army of Northern Virginia, never a functioning nation. If you don't believe me, read some contemporary

military histories of the Virginia campaign by military historians, such Crucible of Command, and Lee's Army. Among the reasons the CSA was never a nation is that the CSA power elites didn't believe in government in the first place, and couldn't work together any better or effectively than the people in the White House right now do. 

Killing black people at whim with impunity, raping black women anywhere anytime at whim without repercussion, raping black children without even being socially ostracized, torturing and incarcerating at will, using as unpaid labor black people who are prisoners of the entire slavery system, in an what has to be (speaking from historical evidence), an all white country, since slave labor makes immigration unattractive if not downright impossible, since color-coded slave labor fills all the labor slots from housekeeping, to hair stylist to mechanic, to street cleaner, miner, etc . -- in our current climate in which lynch nooses and random, arbitrary of killing of African Americans and threats to do so happen all the time -- can anyone with any sense of artistic talent and social conscience really think this thing which didn't happen and couldn't have happened is a good thing for popular entertainment and the nation? 

This is the height of irresponsibility, as a member of our civic, economic, social and political polity. Media and entertainment does shape all these matters.  Historical accuracy, even in entertainment, is civic responsibility. Ask the  historic slaveocracy that blamed Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin for the Civil War.

Shame HBO and everyone involved, shame, shame, shame.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Reading In the 18th Century - Public and Participatory

     . . . . In 18th century England and Europe, with the technological innovations in what was still the rather new-fangled printing press technology books became available commercially to anyone who could afford them.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, self-taught scholar and poet of New Spain (Mexico).

No longer was reading for pleasure, inspiration or information limited to  academics and churchmen with access to archives and libraries, or exceedingly wealthy individuals who could patronize poets, scholars and historians, and buy expensive hand-written manuscripts and the finely crafted tomes.

Though the price remained out of reach for poor people, the rapidly expandng middle-class could easily afford books. Even those who served the middle-classes were able to acquire reading materials for fun and instruction.

Still, candles remained expensive, and so did fuel for fires.  Many people's vision was too poor to read for themselves in such dim light -- and it would be only at night they could find an hour for themselves.  So it was the most natural thing in the world that along with the flood of commercial reading materials came the practice of reading aloud in groups.

Abigail Williams has presented us with a lively account of the vastly popular activity of reading aloud in The Social Life of Books.  
Williams, who teaches at Oxford University, explains that from the vantage of our own age, saturated as it is with entertainment and information, “it is hard to imagine the excitement felt by previous readers at the possibility of gaining access to a new book.” 
.... In the pages of his magazine, the Spectator, Joseph Addison commanded that culture come “out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables, and in Coffee-Houses,” and it did. 
Review of The Social Life of Books here.
She explains how reading became something of a “spectator sport.” Of course, as with any type of performance, one had to be properly prepared, and this led to a surge of instructional manuals, further fueling what Williams designates “the great age of elocution,” in which Britons of all backgrounds were gripped with “a near obsession with learning to read out loud.” Tradesmen formed what were rather memorably known as “spouting clubs” for aspiring public speakers, relying on such handbooks as “The New Spouter’s Companion” and “The Sentimental Spouter.” Women, who very often found themselves omitted from public performances, quickly took to them in the home, entertaining friends and family with tales and poems while they knitted or otherwise busied themselves around the hearth.

One of the reasons this reader particular enjoyed Abigail Williams study of books as a popular social activity is because it brought back vividly my first ideas of reading aloud, entertainment, instruction and novels went together naturally.  It was an illustration, of a servant girl by the kitchen fire, reading aloud to the rest of the household staff, the latest installment of Samuel Richardson's Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded.

In the Book of Knowledge's history of literature section, it was carefully explained to the young reader how important reading and novels were in instructing the poorer, less educated classes in morality and social behavior. Pamela was the paragon of virtue that all young women should model themselves on.  The most important lesson of all that Pamela taught poor young girls who served in more prosperous homes that at all costs she must preserve her chastity from the household men who all would set siege to corrupt her from the paths of virtue.  But if she followed Pamela's example she would not only preserve her all important good reputation -- she may well marry the son of the house and become the lady of the house, no longer a servant.

I have looked and looked in vain for an 18th century illustration that shows a young servant girl reading aloud by kitchen fire light to her gathered sister - fellow servants, but have not found one. That illustration must have been commissioned by The Book of Knowledge staff for that section.

It seems that in the 18th century when servants congregated together below stairs, out of the view of their employers, the lower household orders did nothing that interested the popular press illustrator other than drinking and generally roistering upon their masters' substance.  Which reveals even more about the popularity among servants for reading aloud together 'improving' literature.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

International Kissing Day, YAY!


      . . . .  July 6th is officially International Kissing Day -- or -- as it is also known, World Kiss Day.

You know what to do, so, you know, hop to it!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Reading Wednesday: Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth

Born In the USA On The Fourth Of July

     . . . .  In some ways, the 4th here was anything but pleasant.  That yesterday's reading during the birthday of the nation, July 4th, started with the late 19th century Red River Valley, * switched to Springsteen's autobiography, Born to Run, then moved on Holger Hoock's Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth, likely contributed to the disquiet.

What is so disturbing when contemplating the initiation of our national independence from Britain, isn't so much what happened between the two opposing armies and what they did to each other, as what took place on the ground, among our own civilians: those who were determined to break away from the Crown, those who wished to stay with England, and those who really had no skin in the game at all and didn't give a damn either way.  Those who were not for it were harassed at best, tortured and murdered at worst, and in very terrible ways.  Their families lost everything including loved husbands, fathers, siblings, mothers and sons and daughters

Then, today, a New Mexico amigo forwarded this, which exacerbated my unrest:
"Albuquerque’s hot summer of angst, decay and politics"
As the administration of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry enters its final months, histories of critical times are being recorded.
Moving to Albuquerque way way way back in the day was my initiation into the public violence * * that is this nation from the beginning. I'd been shielded from that previously because where I had been living, violence for people like me was confined to the home, at the hands of the family, not in the public realm.

Reading this piece brought back those first years in New Mexico where all the public realm violence I've ever experienced, from break-ins to beatings and rape, happened to me. Just about woman I knew had been a victim of rape, break-ins, thefts, street harassment, etc. And the women I knew who had been fortunate enough to not have been victims of this violence had dedicated their lives to trying to stop it, and to help victims heals.

I've never forgotten the 1980 New Mexico State Penitentiary Riot.  (A BBC history of the Penitentiary Riot can be watched here on Youtube.)  This inhuman horror remains probably the most violent and terrible prison riot in the history of the US. Recalling the accounts of that terrible event still make me literally ill. It's astounding-- or not, this being the USA, about which history I know intimately now in detail, breadth and scope that I didn't then -- that it hasn't changed in all these years, just intensified.

Boston Patriots destroy Governor Hutchinson's home; The family just barely escaped with their lives.  The history of Massachusetts that Governor Hutchinson had been working on much his life, drawing on primary documents in his family's possession, was destroyed, along with all the family papers, that dated from the founding of the Massachusetts colony.

Mobs attack a Tory 1775
 A "kingsman', tarred and feathered.
This was a very popular, and gruesome form of public humiliation . The naked body of the victim was scalded from head to toe with hot tar, then rolled in bird feathers.  The victim was usually further shoved upon a rail and paraded throughout the town for hours, and then expelled, still naked and covered in tar and feathers.

Throughout the career of the Sons of Liberty the organization enjoyed the quiet blessing of the well-to-do and politically active that backed separation from Britain. In essence, the Sons of Liberty became the extralegal enforcement arm of the American cause against Parliament.  Support us or this and worse will (and did) happen to you!
Though smaller in scale, many of the many violent actions, i.e. criminal acts,  with which the Patriots, Sons of Liberty and other well organized mobs forced everyone living in the 13 colonies to war with Britain were as sickeningly vicious as the New Mexico State Penitentiary Riot of 1980.

By now, I thought, reading again accounts of these actions, it seems the nation as a whole has caught up with Albuquerque, and many other towns in places like Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, etc., all of which have been following in the footsteps of the start of Independence.

Yes, the nation has actually gone to hell.

Funny. I don't think I mean by the country's gone to hell what my relatives have meant, as they've repeated for decades that 'this country's gone to hell' in that special tone of flat fury. I'm sure they're now pleased as punch that they've made a paranoid, deranged, ignorant, lazy, greedy, lying, arrogant, vengeful, obsessive, cowardly, racist, woman-hating, narcissist bully, who hates everyone who isn't him, asshole in chief of the USA.  He's just like us!

Yah, looking over the news today, July 4th, 2017 was a Greeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat Day in the USA.

Just look at these asshole minions' response to the NPR tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence every July 4th on Morning Edition. when this year NPR's twitter feed put the Declaration of Independence up:

Ay-up this country's gone to hell and the minions have driven it there with every breath they take.

We now even have our own national religious patriotism totalitarian bloviating hymn to national violence.  (It can be seen and heard here, on Youtube.  I'm only putting the link here, as I cannot bear putting a grab of the video itself on my blog.  How many words does this travesty have? 20? Come on guys, you surely are smart enough to know that one teeny tweak and 'great again can be white again. Come on, you know you want to!

Ask Jared Yates Sexton. America's violent spirit is alive and kicking, especially kicking anyone it perceives as Not It.

Burning black Tulsa, June, 1921

Chicago, Red Summer 1919, race riots -- meaning white people rioted, black people were murdered.

These people are just waiting -- itching -- for Someone to give them the signal to start the killing -- again.


Lest one think that the Red River Valley in North Dakota back in 1888 was free of racial and other violence, my reading yesterday included accounts of killing Sioux who lived a bit further north in Pembina Cty.,  an  Italian immigrant discovered dead -- and robbed of his wages from working all spring, summer and fall on a Bonanza farm -- in a granary of wheat, and offhand remarks about Jews, and how often men got drunk and beat their wives and children -- particularly on the holiday of the 4th of July.

**  For me, public violence = crime, concentration camps, genocides, prisons, riots.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Alexandra Silber's Upcoming Novel Tells of Life 'After Anatevka'

     . . . .  This novel, which tells the story of Fiddler on the Roof's Hodel, Tevye's daughter who chooses to follow her the radical socialist lover, Perchik, to a work camp in Siberia instead of immigrating out of Russia with her family. It's one of the most heartbreaking moments in theater history, or so it is to me, who let us not forget, doesn't know much about theater, and is generally uninterested in musicals.  But Fiddler on the Roof is one of those exceptions.

Information about Alexandra Silber and her need to write this novel here -- in her acting career she has played the roles of both of Teyva's daughters.

Silber picks up  Hodel' story when she arrives at the work camp.  It's brutal, as these things were.

This is a novel I wish to read, even though Kirkus, among others, have been fairly snooty about it.

The New York Times wrote about this last year (pay wall, so here's the full url)