Post # 437 ARMISTICE DAY IN BROOKLYN

Blogpost # 434, “Savors of the Past,” contained some nostalgic observations of the savory cuisine, and its singular redolence, of the 1940’s Brooklyn, Ashkenazic, immigrants. In it, we declared that such post, constituted the final installment in the multi-installment, series, dedicated to that specific ethnicity. Fortunately, a scholarly follower of this blogpost, himself, also a first generation American, noted, that we had omitted to comment on the reaction of such people, to the historic occasion of the Allied defeat of the Axis Powers, and the consequent end of World War 2, in 1945. We are profoundly grateful for this useful and necessary, critique, and dedicate this writing to the fulfillment of such omission.

Those old enough to remember, as well as students of that odious period, know, that the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and some smaller Nations, the “Allies,” were engaged in brutal and existential warfare, with the “Axis Powers,” principally, Germany, Japan and Italy.  The Axis Enemies, in the course of their psychopathic desire for world domination, killed millions of peaceful inhabitants in both hemispheres. The principle dedication, and major interest, of Germany, in this terrible war, the complete obliteration of the Jewish people, resulted in the murder of more than one-half of all Jews then resident in Europe.  The historic accounts of the program to eliminate the Jews, place the extent of their homicide, in death camps and elswhere, in excess of six million, justifying the appalling title, “the Holocaust.”

Americans celebrated the Armistice with great joy and a sense of existential relief, not the least of which, was our Nation’s population of Jewish Americans, specifically inclusive, of our chosen and described, immigrant population (escapees, from historic repression, pogroms and the genocidal war conducted by Adolph Hitler).  The defeat of Hitler, and the Axis, was, no doubt, gratefully perceived by them, as one more instance of the uncountable, historic divine deliverances.

This fortuitous survival, was,however, the mutual survival of all democratic nations, populated by Jew and Gentile, alike. Existential fear of survival, relief, and then, gratitude, quickly came to be realized and understood (by our immigrant population), to be events, not celebrated this time alone, by the vulnerable Jewish ethnos, but inclusively, by all Americans.

We will venture the considered opinion, that this epochal circumstance, and such unprecedented realization, was happily perceived, by many, as constituting, a long awaited determination, that the “Wandering Jew,” after so many centuries of hostile exodus, had found a home. The 1940’s Brooklyn immigrants, of which we write, and other like communities, saw a future, as accepted members of, and participants in, this most recently adopted Country, The United States of America.

The entire free world celebrated the glorious victory of the Allies, and the end of the War, joyous celebrations erupted all over America; Times Square was inundated with people, New Orleans took on the atmosphere and look of a Mardi Gras, but to our understanding, the modest, private celebration of our subject immigrants, and thousands like them, were as replete with tears, as with celebratory exuberance.  Since the 4th Century, the age of Constantine and the Holy Roman Empire, Hebrews were universally vulnerable to prosecution, everywhere, as “foreigners,” “outsiders,” “heretics,” or worse, and suffered from brutal prosecution, murder, privation and homelessness. The Brooklyn immigrants, of whom we have written, had, understandably, continued,in the 20th Century, internally, to maintain the persona of victims of official and private prosecution. Their emigration to America was an attempt to, at long last, secure a normal and peaceful life; yet, a timeless history of prosecution, as “outsiders,” manifested  visibly that they are, eternally, a vulnerable population with no safe harbor; thus, their unfortunate, and timeless designation as “The Wandering Jew.”

As observed in earlier writings, based on their history, many of the subject immigrants had continued to suffer their lifelong and persistent, feelings of insecurity, in the land of America. We have stated that this sense of historic vulnerability, which, in relation to the Great War, was visibly, shared, with others, and then, happily eliminated, in 1945, evinced an epiphany for them. This time, they, in common with others, are celebrating, mutually, the end of a shared suffering, ineluctably, leading to a uniquely comforting, and previously unknown, sense of acceptance, by those others.

The residents of the neighborhood, surrounding the few blocks of houses, in which our immigrants resided, announced, that they are convening a “block party,” to which everyone was invited. Most invitees brought their ethnic food, loud music was broadcast from radios, people met and happily interacted, sharing the happiness of the recent declaration of World Peace, and each other’s friendship, as fellow Americans and neighbors, and not as members of particular nationalities.

We begged our Mother for the $2.00 admission fee, and after consultation with our Father, she went to the emergency cash purse, extracted the fee, and joined us, with Dad, for a truly “American celebration. The warm, and neighborly interaction between all attendees, was more than celebratory; it was deeply, and profoundly, healing, and may well have been, the happiest recollected moment in our young life.

-p.

Post # 436   TURKEY, MARSHMALLOWS AND IMMIGRATION

On the 4th Thursday of each November, by Law, and perennial tradition, Americans pay tribute to the fall harvest, and give thanks for the exceptionally good fortune of being Americans, living in the land of plenty, and possessing an inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The special day, Thanksgiving, is celebrated with family feasting (usually on Turkey, and elective accessories), plus parades and T.V. football. Traditional accompaniments to the holiday feast do vary, but predictably include, gravy, baked sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Inventive food preparation, has varied the traditional sliced cranberry jell, with diced cranberry, mixed with other ingredients, such as coconut, raisins, nuts and orange bits. A common variation to the mandatory (baked or honey roasted) sweet potatoes, is a baked casserole of mashed sweet potato and marshmallows. It seems that the addition of the marshmallow, enhances the willingness of the young children, in attendance, to eat the healthy, sweet potatoes.

Thanksgiving, is a major greeting card holiday, and an especial day of profitable gratitude, for greeting card companies like the Hallmark Company. Holiday myths and folklore, of questionable verisimilitude, constitute the usual subjects portrayed on these holiday greetings. The cards, all seem to, in one version, or another, depict, Pilgrims and Native Americans, sitting down to a joint meal of roasted turkey, corn on the cobb and sweet potatoes (the latter, sans marshmallows), eternally in a beautiful out of doors setting.

The intention of this mini-essay, is not to reiterate the falsity of the “Hallmark” version of the Holiday. Most literate people are familiar with the virtual, holocaust, committed by the U.S. government, against the Native Americans, and their indigenous culture, in by the propagandist claptrap, known as “Manifest Destiny.” Pursuant to such sanctimonious and immorally, self-interested meme, it was believed that the Christian God, had granted to the European Settlers, the right to expand to the West Coast, and “missionize” (kill and displace) the indigenous Indian Tribes, who occupied and resided on land, outlined on the map, as the United States. The settlers determined, in their own interest, and, irrespective of North American history, that the valuable land and natural resources, were Biblically intended for the European settler, and not the “savages.”  It is assumed, that the average American citizen, is at least, somewhat aware, that Hallmark history, is not Natural History, but, it does sell greeting cards. We repeat, this writing is not intended to be an unnecessary sermon, on idealized American History.

Nor is it intended to detract from the traditional holiday occasion, for family and friends, to socialize and be thankful for the benefit of being an American, with, in most cases, adequate food and shelter, and in all cases, legal rights to live, speak and act, as desired, with the sole proviso that no one is hurt thereby. Family assemblies and family interaction, vital features of societal and independent infrastructure, can be rare, but, are unmistakably, invaluable.

The subject of immigration to the United States, seems to be a hotly contested one. Many individuals, prefer to discount the essentially existential meaning, of Emma Lazarus’ beautiful, and philosophical poetry, inscribed on America’s welcome beacon, the iconic and symbolic, Statue of Liberty. It has often necessary to remind people, that America is a Nation, composed entirely of immigrants and their progeny. Yet, it is too common, that two or three generations, after their own families emigrated to this county, many Americans have, selfishly, chosen to espouse anti-immigrant positions; how soon they forget!

A cogent thought presented itself to us this year, derived from a combination of the American Myth of Thanksgiving, and the hotly contested, issue of immigration, which may have some resonance, for detractors of immigration. Extending the scope of the above observation, “How soon they forget, is this, ponderable thought: Were not all of the European settlers, “immigrants” to America, and the Native Americans, the then, undisputed, residents? It is, further deserving of mention, that contemporaneous, applicants for admission, come to our shores, unarmed, and with families, seeking a decent life, and not with muskets, cannons and, ethnocentric, and, self-serving, missionary zeal.

A place should, eternally, be set, at the bountiful, American table, with Turkey, cranberry sauce and baked sweet potatoes with marshmallow, for all new immigrants who seek a better life. This is the historic American Dream and the moral, American way; ask Hallmark!

-p.

Post # 435     A COMIC BOOK OF ARROGANT SCOUNDRELS

Washington D.C. has continued its rapid, and relentless, deterioration, from the level of shamefully embarrassing, to that of sordid and degenerate. The current scene has become virtually indescribable, except, possibly, in the genre of a cheap comic book, or tasteless movie. The “revered” leaders of the current government, and many elected representatives, have so immorally and irresponsibly comported themselves, that its description in normal reportage, would necessarily, be far less adequate, than in the suggested genre, of a pedestrian comic strip. Such style might, indeed, be the appropriate medium, to portray the psychedelic mélange of the irrational whirlpool, continuously roiling, at the Potomac.

Rudy Giuliani, purported “America’s Mayor,” (so honored, for, the serendipitous event, of being the Mayor of New York on 9/12), has flashed his showy, “Cheshire Cat,” toothy, grin, just once too often, for us to remain adherent to our, resolved silence, regarding the depiction of the “Comic Book World,” of contemporary Washington. In that arrogant, aesthetically, off-putting, grin, Rudy, a “Joker” look-alike, seems to be egotistically crowing, over some delusional notion, that he, alone, possesses the singular capability [despite the plethora of incontrovertible and demonstrable, evidence of Presidential guilt], to hoodwink the Nation into a pretension of his client’s [Trump’s] rectitude. His irrational presumption and unbounded feeling of self- confidence are, no doubt, neurotically, assured, by a questionable history of personal enrichment, in the domestic and international, public relations scene.

The American citizen, who resides in the real world, is obliged to confront an unprecedented, caricaturist-evil, President, together with the support of a loyal confederation, of iconic comic book villains, made up of profit- seeking sycophants and a sizable number of cynically, political, U.S. Senators. This malevolent gang is inclusive, incredibly, of Trump’s own, appointed, U.S. Attorney General, [The Penguin?”] and the distortedly grinning Giuliani, [“The “Joker”]; the latter, noticeably, ecstatic in his assumption of the role of consigliore, to such gang of comic strip bad guys, in the bizarre, Washington, D.C. Batman Movie.

In the formulaic movie, the Dark Knight, Batman, predictably triumphs, Gotham City is, once more, saved, and Bruce Wayne, re-emerges, from his Super-Hero, alter- ego, to timidly, flirt with Vicki Vale. The disgracefully tragic and extremely perilous problems, presently extant in America, in reality, as markedly contrasted with the comic book, Municipality of “Gotham,” are not so, predictably, solved.

It seems to us that, in the world of reality, the American Nation’s, detour to success, is to be found in the contrasting difference, between the overall rapport, of the citizens of the fictional, Gotham, and the extent of the divisive character, of our nonfictional Nation. In the fictional world of Gotham, the, observably, united population, together with the aid of a seemingly, hapless, but well intentioned, Police Chief, and of course, Batman, himself, set about to, mutually, defeat the evil presented by The Joker, The Penguin, or any of the other fanciful villains.  In the non-fictional world, we are generously supplied, with real life villains, most especially, our contemporary President and his entourage, but, to the point, not in the desirable context of the unity of a population, dedicated to the elimination the evil-doer and the reestablishment of rectitude.

The plain evidence of wrongdoing, on the part of our Orange Evil-Doer, has already been publicly proven, and empirically demonstrated, by multiple credible witnesses, substantial items of admissible evidence, and actual admissions by the wrongdoer, himself, as well as his evil henchmen. Indeed, there has been a veritable, redundancy of consistent evidence, testimonial, real and circumstantial, to clearly prove [in unnecessary and consistent multiplicity], the actual guilt and wrongful actions of the accused President. Why then, does the Nation still continue under the insufferable and intolerable rule, of this egotistic and malevolent, Nero?

Movie-goers, as well as those, avid and “erudite” readers, of the comic book, are, also, unified, and of one mind, in the defeat of the colorful villain du jour, and the establishment of peace and justice in Gotham. This is brought about, by the intercession of the uber-human, Batman, often, with the assistance of his youthful, confederate, “Robin.”

In reality, life in America, does not evince a people with a comparable unity of purpose, largely because there is no unity of perception and commonality, among a people, divided by extreme differences in education and knowledge, by inherited or “tribal” preconceptions, by religious dogma, by old and tired, aphoristic and  reductive thinking, by bigotry, (overt or subtle),  self-interested perceptions, by reductive assumptions on issues of progress and enlightenment, and, perhaps, above all, by the paranoid supposition that “the people” are subjugated to the power of the “elite” (a neurotic, self-conscious, perception of university educated Americans), or some, East-West Coast, cabal of declared, uber-menschen.

Such reductionist, over-sensitized American citizens, have given our unscrupulous Chief Executive, a free pass or” carte blanche”, to violate every rule of propriety, provision of law, and even the modest criteria of human decency. This is due to their neurotic perception that, he is “one of them”, and at battle with the elites, and those who would, if permitted, impose standards by which they would be publicly ridiculed and critically exposed. By Trump’s unashamed ignorance and bigotry, he gives such flat-earth, insufficiently educated reductionists, cover, recognition and raison d’etre.

Tribal cohesiveness, evincing support for Trump, is also found in various cohorts with their own, nefarious, agenda, such as, anti-regulation industrialists, who have elevated the priority of profit, above that of the health of human beings and the planet, the Evangelical Christians, in the face of Trump’s boasts of sexual immorality, for their own imaginary and irrational motivations, and white nationalists and anti-immigration people, who suffer “night sweats,” contemplating the increasing coloration of America.

Educated and informed American citizens, in the averred context, of a Nation, of “one man, one vote”, abide such cynical self-interest and reductive ignorance, at their own personal, and that of their Nation’s, peril. Perhaps we should summon the assistance of Batman and Robin.

-p.

Post # 434     A SAVORING OF THE PAST

In some past mini-essays, we indulged ourselves in a nostalgic time excursion to the 1940’s, in East New York, Brooklyn, to revisit the lifestyle and atmosphere, of that era, then largely populated, by recently arrived, Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants, (accurately put, “refugees”) from Eastern Europe. Our writings attempted to convey a brief, but, essentially, accurate and colorful, picture of these new Americans, recently transplanted from the Old World Russia and Poland, (Czar Alexander had just had outlawed Serfdom), to a new and exotic venue, with an unknown language, illuminated and powered by electric, featuring street cars, (“trolleys”), traffic signals, radios, movies, telephones, steam heated apartments, running hot and cold water, and the Brooklyn Dodgers, just to mention, a partial list of their astounding discoveries.

In past writings, we attempted to convey, their systemic fear and insecurity, historically accumulated, from Europe’s universal history of atrocities and pogroms, practiced against Jews, and were, eternally grateful, but still psychologically, and empirically, hesitant, to celebrate at last, a new and unfamiliar, perception of safety, and general acceptance in a new land.

We, in such prior writings, made reference to their premature, but sincere, attempts to quickly, Americanize, by their brave, but unsuccessful attempts to install the English language, in place of their Yiddish, resulting in a comical, but charmingly compelling, hybrid, we can permissibly call, “Yinglish.” We also referred to the young boys’ Street patois, to the arcane metamorphosis of their street names, the latter, often a mélange of their new American name, with their traditional Yiddish one, to the neighborhood “Olympic games,” the outdoor sport of marbles, to the less than luxurious lifestyle, in the aged Brooklyn apartment houses, to Trolley cars, to Ebbet’s Field, then, home of the American heroes, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to their cooperative and patriotic collection of metal, in aid of the war effort, and to other selected recollections deemed necessary, to re-create some sense of the unique, now, long extinct, amphitheater of this warm, iconic immigrant experience.

Sometime subsequent to the most recent installment, on the subject, which was intended to be the final return to the period, we realized, with great dismay, that a virtual world of significant cultural experience and ambiance, was thoughtlessly omitted: food; particularly, the redolence and savory atmosphere of the traditional immigrant kitchen, and additionally, the existence of the outdoor traditional food vendors. We are literally, mortified at the realization we, who purported to paint a portrait of these exotic, newly arrived American citizens, were remiss, in this most colorful and uniquely nostalgic subject. The subject of food, in this context, and milieu, is truly a mammoth, but an existentially, necessary undertaking. We will, (in addition to, again, humbly begging the reader’s apology, for our previous irresponsible omission) try, and, nevertheless, to be brief.

Even in the humblest, poorest and dankest apartments, where paint on the walls may have been chipping, the plumbing, commencing the slow but, determined, path of ancient rust, and the linoleum on the floor showing fatigue, the kitchen was, without question, the secular, Holy of Holy’s; and the person who (authoritatively) did the cooking, was its presiding High Priest. The eldest female, in this respect, was the Alpha (or should we say, Aleph) “male,” and, as in the case of a Pride of Lions in the Serengeti, suffered no vain challenge. Discord sometimes was a possibility, if there were two sisters of mature age, in the family group. But usually, Mama or Grandma, was the uncontested, revered and absolute, tribal monarch of the kitchen. The cooking was performed in the traditional Eastern European genre, and the selection of menu, the Biblical Rules of Kashrut, old Eastern European folkways, and limited financial resources.

We will refrain from the recitation of the traditional meals, relevant to ethnic or religious holidays, the demanding standards of the cook, in generally, buying food for the house, involving intricate negotiations with food vendors, and the entire outmoded procedure in mixing and matching food, and its preparation, (in order to comply with ancient rules of dietary compliance). The latter, would require a writing, comparable, in size and detail, to the (OED), Old English Oxford Dictionary. However, the Aleph female, possessed the knowledge, tactics and learned expertise, akin an old Algonquin Witchdoctor, in their strict observance.

It can be said, with empirical authenticity, that this genre of cuisine was uniquely such, that all of the basic menu items, prepared, can legally and aesthetically qualify, for the contemporary designation of “comfort food.”

The kitchen was redolent, all day, and often at night, with delectable food aromas. Since the choices of menu were somewhat limited, by law and custom, often, in many households, people ate similar dishes. We remember, occasions when returning home, from school, or from a friend, noticing that the entire block of tenements, (old, multiple residences) had the pleasant ambiance of roast chicken, and soup. It would not be a practical possibility to describe the wide array of foods, except to make the following few generalizations. Dishes made with chicken, lamb or fish, were usually enjoyable; beef or steak dishes, due to the process, felt required by dietary law for their preparation, were (mandatorily) eatable, but, often, taste-challenged.

The culinary enterprise, in which these traditional cooks, truly excelled, was in their unforgettable soups. It is our unsupported supposition, that in the “Old Country” the availability of protein was limited, and, when obtained, had to go a long way; that soups, containing what limited quantities of meat or chicken, was available, were universally prepared and developed, over time, into a true specialty. Mushroom and Barley Soup, Chicken Soup with dumplings, Cabbage Borscht (sweet and sour), served hot, with, or without meat, Hot beet Borscht with meat, or Cold Beet Borscht with sour cream (dairy), Potato Soups of various kinds, Vegetable Soups, Lentil or bean based Soups, and others were superb, but, sadly, are contemporaneously unavailable. Dark Russian Bread, was always a welcome addition, to any soup, and legitimized, as well as complemented, the meal.  Certain dishes were unique and absolutely marvelous, respecting which, decades of vain attempts to replicate, have been appalling; these include: gefilte fish (blended varieties of fish, eaten cold in its natural fish gel), chopped liver pate (chicken livers, sautéed, with onion and small dose of hard- boiled egg), chicken soup with dumplings, few can now, to our experience, properly replicate the dumplings (“knadlech”), and many succulent others. As stated, these dishes were sensually productive of memorable smells, which were distinctive, mouth- watering and, unfortunately, often, enduring; some children came to class, noticeably bearing the spicy redolence of Mama’s most current, “piece de resistance.”

Before we leave our kitchen, it is a mandatory obligation, to aver, that food was not simply sustenance, nor, merely, a sensually, enjoyable experience, it was, for these people, a primary, cultural, albeit inarticulate, social interaction. Well cooked, difficult to prepare, specialties, indicated the respect and familial affection for the guest, or, perhaps the important circumstance of an ethnic holiday. Social conversation, as such, was conducted before the meal, and, after the dessert and tea.  The communal act of eating, itself, constituted the conversation, accompanied by respectful, approving sighs, or other, overt articulations of dining pleasure. Mama, the eternally confident, chef, would never deign to respond to such [unnecessarily] expressed approbation, no doubt, because, she knew that excellence was necessarily implicit, in her aesthetic cooking. Regardless of the financial circumstances of the family, meals, consisting of foods that were generally desirable, and, also, affordable, were always prepared with familial expertise, and rarely disappointing.

We would not have offered a complete representative snapshot of the subject scenario, were we to omit the element of neighborhood food vendors, located, in the streets and neighborhood. Nearby, there was an area, consisting of approximately three city blocks of food markets, truly reminiscent of an Arabic Souk, with several small stores containing, baked breads, smoked fish, cheeses, delicatessen, vegetables and condiments, in front of which, on the sidewalks, were large barrels containing pickled herrings, sour pickles, sour tomatoes, and sauerkraut, plus push carts, containing fresh vegetables and dry fruits. It was a memorable experience, to see the herring vendor, reach a bare arm into his huge cold barrel, and extract a fat herring, from the cold brine, for display and sale to an eternally knowledgeable and demanding purchaser. The purchased herring would then be wrapped in (a Jewish language) newspaper, and then bagged for the customer. We were never able to solve the intriguing question, as to why the herring seller, without fail, wrapped each purchased herring in the newspaper on an angle, and not parallel to the newspaper page.

Nor were the streets and avenues, in the neighborhood, free from the ambience of food. In season, hot chestnuts, baked potato knishes, cooked, salted chick peas (“arbis”), baked sweet potato, or in warm weather, Mello Rolls (sideway ice cream rolls) eaten on a rectangular topped cone, and Charlotte Ruisses (light, filigreed cardboard wrapped, small cakes, topped with whip cream and a red cherry, were among the popular items. Frozen, fruit flavored, ices, were desirable, in season, but was an item, culturally, and exclusively, reserved for sale by neighborhood, Italian immigrants.

It is no less than truly remarkable, despite the realization that this recreated scenario, was substantially more than one-half century ago, that any salty, crunch of a good sour pickle, the exotic taste of a salted fat herring appetizer, or the the majestic taste of authentic mushroom and barley soup, like the known dynamics of hypnotic suggestion, returns us to the entire, savory, and colorful panorama, of these loving, lovable and admirable new Americans.

-p.

Post # 433    MARIJUANA, BIGOTRY’S HANDMAIDEN (Editorial)

In an, earlier writing, we expressed our profound objection to the criminalization of [the distribution and use of] cannabis (marijuana). Our main point was, to the effect that, in a Nation, where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, was inherent, and inaliable, such prohibition was invalid and unconstitutinal, unless some basis, founded in the safety or health of society, were the justification. Previous explanations, such as, it is a “gateway drug” to more serious indulgences, in harder drugs and the possibility of addiction,  have all been, empirically, debunked. Any health argument, is certainly belied by the legal use and sale of tobacco products, which have been officially proven, to be dangerous to health, and, demonstrably, lethal. We declared, that we have never  smoked anything, and have no desire to do so; but do have an objection to all unwarranted limitations on liberty.

We persisted in our frustrating search for the rationalization and historic foundation for the criminalization of cannabis, and actually succeede,d in ascertaining the answer. The historic and legal (purported) justification was profoundly shocking, and morally reprehensible. Prior to our current recommendations, we would like to recite such shameful history, as discovered.

In the early 1900’s, following the termination of the Mexican War, apparently, there was a substantial influx of Mexicans, into the United States, most particularly, to Southern States, like Texas and Louisiana. The incoming Mexicans, naturally, brought with them, their National language, culture and customs. One custom was the use of cannabis, for medical reasons, and for relaxation. The denigration of marijuana use was part of the populist denigration of the Mexican immigrant (as appears to be eternally, the case). The prohibition of use of the substance, was, in reality, an excuse, to “control,” and deport, newly arrived Mexicans.

San Francisco, perniciously, created such a law, to “control” the large, sudden, immigration of Chinese people. It provided the spurious and obnoxious grounds to detain, search and prosecute the immigrant, found, in possession, or using opium.

The prohibition of marijuana, became a popular rationale, for the control of the population, especially immigrants, placing them, by such strategy, under the watchful and legal eye of the authorities. Congressional Acts were attempted to ameliorate the situation, in 1931, and thereafter, but were unsuccessful, or repealed. In 1970, The Controlled Substances Law, was passed, making all “drug” use criminal. Efforts to downgrade cannabis, listed with the hard drugs like heroin and opium, were defeated by the Nixon Administration.

It is the (unverified) opinion, of this blogpost, that marijuana criminalization was also a useful (and, improper) stratagem for the prosecution, by authorities, of protesters against the Viet Nam War, and also, for similarly improper methods of control, or prosecution of selected individuals,  pubicly protesting for Civil Rights.

Beto O’Rourke, one of the contenders for the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination, has observed, that there are no less than2.3 million of our fellow Americans behind bars, (the largest prison population, on the planet) and that many have been incarcerated for drug crimes, including, the mere possession of marijuana, at a time when more than one-half of the States have legalized or decriminalized it.

If we are a Nation guided by the basic principles of law and justice for all, it appears that it is about time that the unfounded laws criminalizing marijuana be repealed; and that all non-violent people, incarcerated, solely on “marijuana offenses”, be immediately, freed, (perhaps with an overdue apology). -p.

 

 

Post # 432    WHO INVITED ALEXA?

We appear to continuously experience advancements, in a never-ending [and, especially commercial], mission, to provide new convenience, for the enhancement of every- day living. Many marvelous developments, [ most especially, in the area of digital electronics], empower the individual with newly developed capabilities, many of which were delighted in, at their innovative arrival, and novel employment, but thereafter, regretted, following their experiential use.

Readers of plinyblog.com, will be familiar with our unshakeable view, concerning the substitution, of natural human conversation, in person, or by traditional telephone, for absentee, hand-held electronics. We have enumerated, the felt, accumulated losses to humanity, effected by the substitution of impersonal, data-like images, transmitted to small, lighted, screens, of the hand- held appliance, for the natural assurance and personal pleasure of the familiar voice and spontaneous, nuanced response. The general public, especially, its younger population, are, gradually, becoming unfamiliar with the benefits of warm, interpersonal exchanges of nuanced feelings and opinions, between recognizable parties, and, the many pleasures of spontaneously, experienced conversation.

Man’s lifestyle has, to our perception, become, noticeably, technical, rather than aesthetic, and more impersonal, rather than fulfilling, by reason of this regrettable mechanization of basic, human interaction. At a time when sincere intimacy, is, both, prized, and desperately needed, it has, mechanically diluted the valuable essence of the naturally needed, interactive experience, by the substitution of electronic, data-like symbols, for spoken words and personal interaction.  The social and cultural progress of humanity, has been hobbled, and has been, steadily, tending toward a solitary experience, as opposed to a mutually, shared enterprise. Those who persistently, choose to praise the ease and convenience of electronic transmission of thoughts and feelings, may not have a clear recollection, or accurate appreciation, of their devastating loss. We are, instinctively, troubled by the phenomenon of impersonality, inherent in the use of human electronic, social interaction; and are, disturbed, by the new appearance of a non-human, robot-like electronic, “echo” technology, (“ALEXA”), dealt with below.

This age of purported, “life enhancing” (yet poorly conceived), scientific “breakthroughs”, has long predated electrical communication by way of “smartphones.” The development, and wide-spread commercialization of a miraculous, heat, electricity and fire resistant, product, called, “asbestos,” was so innovative and successful, that it was ubiquitously used, from 1930 to 1977, in all building construction, tools and general equipment, paint and household kitchen utensils. Asbestos was later found to be a carcinogenic substance, capable and empirically responsible, for the causing of mesothelioma. Since such discovery, in the late 70’s, all human society has, not only proscribed its use, but has been, legally and futilely, attempting, yet unable, to eliminate it completely, from the environment. An identically tragic, dilemma, is found in the current, desperate, attempt to eliminate lead; once thought to be a miraculous addition to paint (for the acceleration of drying, maintenance of “fresh” appearance and resistance to moisture), and which is now been shown to cause illness and mental retardation.

A truly illustrative example, of an asserted, miraculous, scientific, break-through, which, at the time of its initial development, in the 1940’s, was universally hailed, as an epochal advance, in the important world of American agriculture. The invention and liberal use of “DDT,” was the scientifically proclaimed, fool-proof, 100% effective, pest control savior, of the country’s crops and produce. The use of DDT, not very long thereafter, was officially, declared to be legally, banned due to its wide spectrum of deleterious effects upon human life and health. It was revealed, that this highly poisonous substance, actually accumulated, as a latent ingredient, in farm products, and as well, in human beings.

So, we are again, troubled, about a new and societally altering, “advance,” called “echo technology;” one of the Amazon family of profitable, life intrusive, electronic products. Indeed, we have just recently, experienced a recent, and astonishing practical demonstration of its [questionable] use and unwavering, robotic efficiency.

Please note, that we are not, eternally, in opposition, to all elective developments, which assist the consumer in his desire to reduce his physical activity. We have never, for example, castigated the couch-potato-inducing, “remote”, for changing channels, or the volume, on television; this, despite the fact that some health benefits might be seen to accrue, in the exercise involved, in, actually standing up from the viewer’s soft- padded perch, and taking a few steps to terminate, or change the presenting program.

Initially, we would caution all parents against naming their newborn daughter the (attractive) name, “ALEXA.” It seems that this newest miraculous advance, requires, for its initiation, the mere recitation of that name, before a command, to cause things electronic, to happen. Almost every gadget, clock, television set, radio, alarm clock and alarm system, lock, telephone, electric appliance, music system, electric utensil, weather instrument, oven and cooking apparatus, toaster, house lights, vacuum cleaner, digital reader, computer, watering device, and anything in the known world, containing an electronic “on” and “off,” facility, can be started, halted, or adjusted, with the recitation of the sound, “ALEXA,” as the first word of a chosen command. “ALEXA” also answers questions, selects the genre of music, on request, advises the name of the musical selection, the orchestra, and if so commanded, ALEXA will advise the identities of the conductor and the performing artist. ALEXA can play any requested genre of music, and when driving, can report on the weather, and check on the security of your home. Alexa can remind you of forgotten shopping needs, and, answer most reasonable questions; except, about “ALEXA”. Any inexperienced person, calling out to someone, perhaps, a child, by that distinctive name, is liable to experience a sudden groundswell of active response, from a vacuum cleaner, eggbeater, fire alarm or electric razor.

We can presently, see little of redeeming, practical value in this robotic command service, nor, as eternally, is the case, foresee what downsides may later, be revealed. But, what possible feeling, of majesty or august power, can be derived from turning on the electric broom, from across the room, remotely, turning out the light in the bathroom, or activating the electric toothbrush from the dining room? The acts of activating the coffee maker, turning on the dishwasher, or, switching on the reading light, do not, require Herculean strength or courage. In any case, we will, again, candidly, confess to our general, empirical distaste, for all non-human, electronic communications, targeted to humans, presently, inclusive of our new, but, definitely, uninvited, electronic, guest, “ALEXA.”

We do, however, choose to reserve one, single, exception: If stating “ALEXA,” had the facility to affirmatively bring about an effective response, to the specific, command, “Impeach Trump”, we might find our way, to ascertaining some redeeming value, to this nonsensical exercise.

-p.

Post # 431     AMERICA’S COLD WAR

We would, request reader permission, to suggest two relevant definitions:

  • “Democracy,” is a system of governance, by which the eligible members of a population, determine governmental policy and action, as expressed by their vote.
  • “Cold War,” is a relationship of significant hostility, between parties (most often, Nation- States), characterized by threats, propaganda and other methods, but short of actual warfare.

The theme of this mini-essay, is best introduced, by a wry quote from the brilliant and witty, H.L. Menken: “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” America’s past election results may lend a good measure of empirical wisdom, to Mr. Menken’s observation.

We ask forgiveness, for our repetitive indulgence, in referring to the wisdom and prescience, of Thomas Jefferson, in his famous declaration that, in order for a Democratic Republic to be successful, one must have an informed and educated citizenry. The empirical observation, that this is a standard, yet to be realized, has eternally, galled the relative minority, of those of us, who do see ourselves, as, educated and informed.

It boggles the mind that authoritative studies, demonstrate, that there are many people who cannot name, even one, of our three branches of government, that less than 25% know who their U.S. Senators are, and, remarkably, only 50% are aware that their State has two of them.

Sir Winston Churchill, is famously known to have said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other forms that have been tried, from time to time.”

The eternal issue, is how to organize a community of 180 million people, where needed, so that it sufficiently comprehends, and is sensitive to the Nation’s needs. Solutions, such as extra ballots for the well- educated, literacy tests, the “University Vote” and others, have been contemplated, but history shows these programs, to be uniformly, perverted instead, to the tactical disenfranchisement of certain groups of people (example: “literacy tests” in the South).

It so appears to us, that it was at the end of the (nation- unifying), Cold War, that America began to experience, deep divisions, which appear to have become visibly defined and permanent. The use of the new nouns, “tribe” and “tribal,” came then to designate, groups of like- thinking people, who predictably vote, in accordance with their group, irrespective of their (possibly, divergent) independent belief. Representative examples of such phenomena are: left versus right -wing oriented groups, supporters or detractors of religious, geographical, ethnic and religious or partisan identification, supporters, or opponents, of gun control, the woman’s right to abortion, same sex marriage, tax policy and the death penalty. These insular cohorts of common belief, view as the enemy, all other groups and individuals, who do not espouse views similar to theirs.

To us, the most disagreeable, and perilous to the welfare and existence of established society, are the many millions of Americans, who see themselves, and their lives, as being subservient to, and dominated by, perceived and hated, “elites,” defined: as Americans with College, or higher education. The latter, is the most divisive, reductionist, and dangerous delusion, and constitutes the fundamental basis, for our expressed sentiment, and the title of this mini-essay, “America’s Cold War.” This neurotic conception, may serve as a sufficient reason, for some, for not casting, a “meaningless and futile” vote.

Statistical records of the 2016 election, indicate that 102.7 million, “no-shows, vastly outnumbered the 63 million that voted for Donald Trump. An educational program, is vitally needed, to increase the motivation to vote, so that the results of elections, better match the will of the people. Courses must be designed and dedicated, to educate (particularly, the young people) in civics and political engagement. To increase the rate of citizen voting, our educational programs, for the young, (as well as adults) must stress, moral reasoning, the evaluation of historical experience and the educational and social skills employed in building political positions. We must, in such educational programs, in addition to such subjects, responsibly, foster, the development of a more humane and empathic citizen and voter.

With all that said, we are very pleased and thankful, to be able to honestly aver, that our system, such as it, unfortunately is, has, nevertheless, been persistently successful in the continuing pursuit of the Nation’s vital goal, of full civil rights for all.

-p.