BLOG # 93 CHOOSING HISTORY

A subtle smile is forgivable in reaction to the oft-repeated concern that “History is being re-written.”  The underlying assumption in that naïve concern is that there is a single, universal and objectively accurate recounting of the past which is authoritatively unassailable.

In the distant past, it seems, events were orally recounted by a tribal elder or a shaman and in similar fashion transmitted over the succeeding generations. This morphed into the reliance upon recognized and celebrated historians such as, Josephus, Tacitus, Herodotus and much later, Gibbons and Toynbee. It may well be that, all in all, the need for a uniformly accepted narrative has always trumped precisely accurate history.

There would, inarguably, seem to be a need for mankind to have an identifiable and personally relatable past in order to acquire provenance and context for his unique existence and as an assurance of his continuity. As a practical and educative matter, past behavioral lessons and skills are successively learned and carried forward in the improvement and development of civilization.

It is somewhat disappointing, then, to be instructed that history is written (altered?) by the “victors” (winners of war or dominant society). Wouldn’t it be much more satisfying to know, by contrast, that “true” history is a non-biased, objective account of the past; but it seems, disappointingly, that history too, Is subjective.  As an example, an account of the Vietnam War, written by a Vietnamese historian would differ, significantly, from that authored by a French or American writer.

In addition to national, ethnic and religious bias, a true, academic recounting of history generally speaking, is diminished by inaccurate accounts of past events (intentional or not), memory, language translational disparities, all of which is capable of resulting in disparate understandings.

In newspapers, editorial boards necessarily select from the plethora of events, those that in its judgment are of major interest to its subscribers in an effort to increase circulation, and in consequence, advertising revenue. Other media create history in the same way and for identical reasons. In an ideal world, events would be selected and presented in the perceived order of their national and historic significance. Thus the media has its impact on the recounting of history. It may also be supposed that the celebrated academic “historians” were, and are, somewhat affected, as well, by various non-objective considerations.

In our individual lives, we are affected in varying degrees by prevalent popular judgment as to the hierarchical importance of events, if not their actual factual content. In the interest of preserving our personal integrity; we need to inform ourselves and develop our own insight and understanding.

It is suggested that in our personal lives, the recollection of past events and histories are, as a practical necessity, also determined by consensus.

-p.

Blog # 92 APOLOGIA

In his earlier blogs, Pliny held that virtue, as is the case with all significant human phenomena, self-esteem, self- worth, growth and understanding, perception of success or failure, are internal, and all-important in our life-long private conversation with ourselves; especially in the perception of our personal identity. Good and virtuous actions and exercises of judgment, as noted, add to our ever accumulating account balance of self- esteem, while negative or wrongful ones would seem to diminish that all-important balance.,

Our earlier writings extolled the priceless value of all life and chastised people who hunt and kill animals for sport and pleasure. There is no rational or cognizable justification for the killing of animals for sport under any and all circumstances.

A brief review of the evolutionary process or general anthropology would reveal that mankind has eaten meat since his debut on the planetary surface. His physiology, including his dental inventory and his digestive and metabolic systems reveal that his slow progress and development towards a sentient being, capable of reason and understanding, has not yet resulted in the declaration that those features have become vestigial, (like the appendix). It is clear that from his most primitive days, man has always considered the eating of meat and fish to be the major source of his sustenance and survival; fruits and vegetables, apparently less so. Our digestive and dental phenomena, however, do indicate the innate capacity to digest and assimilate vegetation.

Recently, Pliny was the guest at a July 4th celebration on a farm in Connecticut. He was engaged in an interesting and enjoyable conversation and was eating an excellent hamburger. In the course of the conversation, Pliny interrupted and said, “This is a great hamburger, maybe the best I have ever had.” In response, one of his hosts replied, “It should be, it is” Tiny.” (explaining that “Tiny” was a young, challenged cow, incapable of ever producing milk). Once made aware of the identity (by name too!) of the source of his lunch, Pliny suddenly stopped chewing, felt guilty and disappointed in himself. At that point (if not many times before) Pliny realized that he has always been hypocritical, in this respect, at least, in that he often eats meat, while, simultaneously shutting his mind to the source and the practical logistics of its being brought to table.

Such hypocrisy has been so finessed that the perception of a quarter of a cooked chicken and some rice, appearing on a plate, is “dinner” and not the end product of a butchered bird. Accordingly, Pliny shame-facedly apologizes for this inconsistency between his moral averments and his actions in such instances. Under no circumstances, however, could he, himself, ever kill an animal (nor will he refrain from the chastisement of those who hunt and kill animals for pleasure).

In all other aspects of life, Pliny continues to derive pleasure and self-esteem in his dedication to living his life virtuously and encouraging others to do so.

 

-p.

Blog # 91    HOW COULD THEY FORGET

Our nation has, of late, become unpredictably mono-focused on, and somehow mired in, the subject of immigrant policy, to the exclusion of far more vital and material issues such as, economic inequality and injustice, national security, health, environmental, criminal justice, voting rights and infinitely more.  In the present presidential contest it is no less than astounding to observe that these immensely important issues seem to have been relegated to the background and contention regarding immigrant policy, a far less significant subject, installed at the public forefront of our national concerns.

In spite of certain setbacks, including past immigration policy towards the Chinese, the refusal of entry of a ship carrying Jewish escapees from Nazi Germany, and very few others, Americans have always understood that our nation became great by virtue of liberal immigration, and the benefits ensuing from the admixture of diverse peoples, races, religions, languages and ancestry. The Great Seal (and many other applications) includes the proud, historic phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (From Many, One).

What we see as causative of this vexing dilemma, is the tactical (and historically, un-American) call to nativism by one of the current candidates for presidential office, which call, it appears, has historically had great appeal to those disappointed with their life, and those disgruntled folks of low information and insufficient education, seeking to identify an external cause for their dissatisfaction.

The great success of our relatively young nation which provides the motivation for so many people of foreign lands to desire to come here, is something to celebrate and share, not selfishly hoard .Strangely, many former immigrants to our country, after settling in, and a few generations of success, oppose the admission of others who identically are seeking a better life. How soon they forget! Gratitude aside, good fortune apparently, is not to be shared.

It might be useful to find other descriptions for the unregistered immigrant than “illegal alien”; these are people, not extra-terrestrials, whose” illegality” is confined to the absence of required paperwork and documentation, and not to criminal behavior.

It can be said no better than Emma Lazarus, whose words appear appropriately on a bronze plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

 

 

“… 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 breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, the tempest ‘tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden gate.”

p.

Blog # 90 (poesie) BENEATH THE BLUE AGERATUM

 

The soil curates small slips of man
His life, his work, his resume
Some petit detritus of his life
A library of tales again retold.

No need to search with system code
Items are best secured by chance
With lucky use of spade and rake
Close searched where man did live and die.

A rusty nail, a piece of tool
Both witnesses to man’s resolve,
To raise a shelter for repose.
A fragment of a printed page,
Reveals a ken that there’s yet more.
Old cans and jars and rusty spoons,
Betoken victory over want
And man’s resolve to live out life.

The grassy fields are seen as doors,
Enclosing bits of lives past lived-
Far better than the research “App,”
With cold results in digit code!

-p. (attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro, August, 2016)

Blog # 89   BEWARE  AGENT  ORANGE!   

From the time of its inception (less than 1 year ago) it had been our resolved intention to refrain from political or partisan comment.  Assuredly, there are sufficient deserving subjects for examination and thought, life and personality, growth and life enhancement, mortality, the environment and infinitely more. Pliny has, in this relatively short span of time, published 87 blogs, inclusive of his poetry.

However, an unprecedented and, potentially dangerous situation has emerged, one, it is submitted, that has the potential to lead to a societal regression to a modern version of the “Dark Ages.” This, it would seem, provides ample justification for this deviation from prior resolve.  To do otherwise might be to commit the “sin of silence,” which modern European history has shown, bears tragic results.

Thomas Jefferson famously observed that in order to maintain a successful democracy, what is needed is a well- informed and literate society. He, and many others, believed that free exchange of varying points of view would ensure the relevance, vitality and health of the Republic.

The first, and really jarring realization that our national population, by contrast, is inclusive of a vast number of semi-literate and ill- informed citizenry, most with simplistic ideation, was the selection of none other than Donald Trump (from a field of seventeen potential choices) to run as the nominee of one of our two major parties, for (no less than) the office of the Presidency of the United States.

Mr. Trump has consistently shown himself to be an egotistic, intemperate reductionist, a demagogue, remarkably unsuited for the office of the President; his sole talent seemingly is to be the possession of a phenome to attract those discontented with the government and the status quo. A good deal of such discontent is vague and non-specific is and Trump delivers visions of Valhalla, in a general and completely non-specific manner. What is specific is his assignment of specific scapegoats as responsible parties for all grievances such as, immigrants, minorities, government intellectuals {and especially, his opponent, Hillary R. Clinton, whose experience as a Senator and the U.S.  Secretary of State may well qualify her for the position of President). He campaigns by means of large rallies, policed by goons who are not reticent about employing physical force.

Sound familiar? A messianic demagogue, promising in a vague, non-specific manner, a Valhalla  with specification only as to selected scapegoats, in lieu of proposing improvements in policy and programs. Where have we heard this before?

In the 1930’s and 40’s, an arrogant, egotistical housepainter, one Adolph Shickelgruber, d/b/a, Adolph Hitler, seized the opportunity presented by a hugely discontented Germany, following the humiliation of its defeat in the First World War, the ensuing bad economic conditions, including high unemployment and  scarcity. He promised happiness, without specifying any new or ameliorative policy or new proposed programs, merely identifying selected scapegoats, allegedly responsible for Germany’s problems, especially the Jews. The lessons of recent European History are ignored at our peril. His campaign, incidentally, was conducted by means of huge rallies policed by strong armed goons.

Those irresponsible people who consider this animated caricature of demagogue, to be an entertaining reality show diversion from politics as usual, by his “sticking it to the establishment” as perhaps they would fantasize their “sticking it “to their employer, are dangerously toying with a hazmat, possibly more lethal, enduring and debilitating than the Agent Orange of nightmarish recollection from the shameful Viet Nam war.

It has been observed, in our previous blogs that the experienced combination of ignorance with arrogant self-confidence is a dangerous admixture, a hazardous material which has terrifying potential. For humanity, it should be avoided at all costs..

It is painful and frustrating to observe the damage Trump has already caused to our society and democratic system of election and governance.

 

-p.

 

Blog # 88 (poesie) A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC*

 

The velvet cloak of Night descends,
But slower now in solstice times.
Day describes a respectful bow,
Since Dark’s far older than the Light.
Night tucks Day into its bed,
With softness and with loving care.

As if responsive to a cue,
The insect choirs take up their song
The bullfrogs croak their hoarse refrain.
Warm vapors from the day before,
Exude from all the plants and trees.

The Moon, far weaker than the sun,
Salutes the rocks with its pale rays.
Critters mostly sleep when dark,
Yet some set out in search for food.
Predators begin a nocturnal stalk;
Tall grasses dance the rhythmic breeze.

As vital is the Day to most,
I often do prefer the night
Its then I cry out to the skies,
Please, do now turn on the dark!

-p. (attributable to Leonard N. Shapiro, August, 2016)
*( title attributable to W.A. Mozart, 18th Century)

Blog # 87 AMERICAN CABARET

The 1980’s hit musical, “Cabaret” not only was excellent entertainment; but in addition, possessed great significance as a telling statement, a sermon on the subject of an important flaw in the human character. In the presentation, the cabaret patrons, evidently symbolizing the Berlin population, which in the 1930’s, mesmerized by the exotic entertainment,  hosted by a demonic master of ceremonies (brilliantly played by Joel Grey) were able to irresponsibly turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the horrific Nazi atrocities( particularly against the Jews) then concurrently taking place in the streets. The flaw exemplified was the unfortunate human tendency to avoid dealing with unpleasant occurrences by looking the other way.

To come at once to the main point, it is frustrating and painful to observe that over the great many decades we have all been patrons in attendance at a real-life cabaret, averting our eyes and attention from the cruel, atavistic and barbaric atrocity that is the sport of boxing.

America was rightfully outraged and disgusted at news that a certain NFL player was engaged in the business of the public staging of brutal dogfights. He was found out, fined and suspended from play (at least for a period of time to allow our dog loving public to cool off). Cock fighting, a traditional Latino event, as well as all bloody animal contests are illegal; a federal statute makes it no less than a felony, punishable up to five years in prison plus a fine of $250,000. It is well known that there are several agencies and foundations established to prevent cruelty to animals, such as the ASPCA, PETA and, WWF. (See: Blog # 37) .Movies that use animal actors uniformly display a notice, together with the film credits, that no animal was mistreated in the production of the film as an assurance to the moviegoer.

The controversial subject of school sport injuries, especially concussions, is gaining ever increasing attention. Concussions, we are advised, are incurred either by a significant blow to the head or by the cumulative repetition of lesser blows. Customized helmets are being developed in an attempt to lessen the occurrence of concussions in football and other contact sports. In some jurisdictions, the wearing of a protective helmet is mandatory for motorcycle and bicycle riders. It should be noted that there is a great deal of ongoing and heated debate concerning the issue of eliminating football and other contact sports altogether from school, notably, high school.

In fairness, it must be noted that football is not a “blood sport.”  The theme of the sport is to earn goals and not to cause injury.  However, the all too frequent collateral injuries during football play, provide  many a cogent rationalization for the banning of the sport.

In this context, what does the legally approved activity of boxing (and even worse, cage fighting) reveal about the nature of our civilized society? In ancient Rome, considered a brutish society, unfortunate gladiators (often slaves or prisoners) engaged in deadly combat for their life, for the primitive amusement of the bloodthirsty spectators. This barbaric travesty went so far as to feature, historians reveal, deadly combat between dwarfs and women for public entertainment.

Unlike football, where injuries are unintended and are collateral to the play, the express, sole theme of boxing is the causation of disabling injury to the opponent. The more lethal the punch, the more points are awarded by referees, avid and enthusiastic experts in discerning high scoring serious injury. Ultimate success is attained by rendering the opponent unconscious, the ultimate act of victory; usually met with howls of approval from a highly stimulated audience. We are not professionally competent to diagnose the mental and physical health of professional boxers over the course of their career, but it is safe to expect that it is not salutary.

For some time, and presumably, for the foreseeable future, we all seem to be patrons of our American cabaret and look the other way. Perhaps the contrasting interest in school sport injuries may be explainable by the fact that the young players are identifiable, often our own children.

What quality of compassion, sanity and wisdom do we evince by expressly and properly outlawing cruelty to roosters and dogs and simultaneously providing  legal status and societal permission to this immoral travesty regarding humans?

Willkommen zum Kabaret

-p.