Mini-manifesto; Parts 1-7 “Poetry and Politics; Poles Apart”

I apologize, to those who enjoy my past postings about sea-ice, for my failure to post very often, but various factors have ganged up on me like a bunch of bullies, and I retreated to a sort of Bastogne (See “Battle of the Bulge”) for the Christmas holidays. And there I have stayed. The redoubt seemed cozy. To give all the reasons for my retreat would be exceedingly boring, (except to my own ego), and therefore I will give a greatly simplified excuse for my undone homework. It boils down to two basic points.

1 .) My original reason for studying the sea-ice was poetic. I liked the beautiful ivory and azure views from the many cameras upon the ice. It allowed me to commune with nature without the bother of facing all the mosquitoes and ticks in the woods, and was especially refreshing in hot weather. Also I relished the fact that placing the cameras out on the arctic ice involved men who had the guts to put their lives on the line, facing the dangers of grinding floes and bitter cold and 1500 pound bears, pressing their limits to push forward the frontiers of Truth. Such scientists struck me as being more like Arctic Explorers such as the Vikings and first Eskimos, or Henry Hudson, or Fridtjof Nansen, who had fascinated me since my boyhood. They seemed unlike dweeby nerds who sit behind a computer screen (as I now do.) Sadly, this vanguard of Truth has gone unfunded, as have their cameras.  Therefore the very reason that attracted me to sea-ice in the first place no longer exists. What am I watching, with the pictures all gone?

2.) The secondary reason for studying sea-ice involves the pursuit of Truth.  Once I started to comment on the poetry of sea-ice, and to comment on the physical poetry of the gutsy arctic explorers who (for various reasons, across the centuries) risked death to form a vanguard and make history, I discovered I was facing a furious Alarmist counter-attack, though I myself never meant to attack anyone, and only to advance what I thought all desired, namely, Truth.

This involved me in the peculiar power-politics of Global Warming, which I have been uncomfortable with from the start, because I have never liked politics. I am possessed by the peculiar belief that poetry is more powerful than power. In fact I recall (as a teenager) being quite angry at the great English Poet, John Milton, for “wasting” his time and talent with the politics of Free Speech, and the politics of the Puritan Revolution against the Catholic monarchy in England, when I felt his time would have been better spent writing “pure” poetry. (Milton likely stirred slightly, in his grave.)  I vowed I would never waste my time in such a manner.

Well, that’s yet another vow I’ve gone and broken.  Or it seems that way, for, if you go  back to the summer of 2013 in the archives of this site, you can see where I was seduced by politics, and sea-ice stopped being a poetic fascination and became more of a battle between truth and propaganda.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/north-pole-ice-melt-watching-the-summer-thaw/

At this point I want to embark upon what the Alarmist-vs.-Skeptic political battle has been teaching me about the tension between Truth, in its rarefied, poetic, and pure form, and politics, in its low, crude, prosaic, and selfish form. (Those of you interested in sea-ice alone should skip this post.) The lessons I’ve been learning are every bit as interesting as the motions of ice floes in the arctic. Furthermore it involves me in a sort of psychic brawl, occurring between conservatives and socialists in my homeland, which stains all fabrics of society, and which you can’t even escape if you run away to the North Pole to look at sea-ice. (And a good intellectual brawl can be enjoyable, for an gray-haired man who has gotten to old for the barroom sort.)

***2***

The thing I don’t like about politics is that, despite all efforts to be broad-minded, it tends to result in the disintegration of spiritual unity; it cannot help but be one-sided. One hopes that the side one is siding-with is the side of Truth, but an open-minded person is always double-checking, and sincerely examining both their own thoughts, and also their so-called “opponent’s” thoughts, even when the other’s thoughts are contrary. Truth should be the lodestone. (Abraham Lincoln responded to a person who stated, during the Civil War, “I hope God (Truth) is on our side” with, “My hope is that we are on God’s (Truth’s) side.”)

Some then respond, “But what is Truth?” To me that has often seemed a sign of a person who has never taken the time to search their own soul for the bias and blindness bred by selfishness.  For example, (as lust has made fools of most of us, at least once in our lives), suppose an old person tells a lusty young person that the Truth is: Lust needs to be in some way checked, or at least channeled, and suppose it then happens that the young person is at that time enjoying the fun of lust and not seeing any consequences; the young person will nearly always reply, “That is your old-person truth; my truth is different.”  The elder seems a mere party-poop and spoil-sport. It is only later, after being taught by Professor Sorrow in The School Of Hard Knocks, that the young start to entertain the possibility that some truth (about lust, and many other topics), is more lasting other truths, and there may even be a truth with a capital “T”, “Truth”.

Though some think of art and science as opposites, I think both, at their best, aim at the same higher and universal Truth. Science (at its best) seeks to constantly test every theory for weakness, and tends to be based around physical laws that can be physically measured, while art involves things less easy to measure. For example, what does my life weigh? If I put my deathbed on the most sensitive scale, I doubt my body will be a jot lighter the moment my soul departs, (or a jot heavier, for that matter). Does that mean my life (and everyone’s life) has no weight? Is an unscientific thing? Not to be included in the subject of Truth? No; for life, (and art), simply deals with truths we haven’t learned to materially measure. The pen has a power, but we have no meter to measure it with (besides pentameter and hexameter).

The pen loses its power when it is wielded by a foppish poseur, who only is a copy-cat of fad, fashion and political-correctness. Such concerns seldom stop to focus on Truth, instead swaying to and fro like a pendulum, depending on who is in power, and on stances taken by other foppish poseurs who also scurry back and forth, always eager for acceptance and tidbits of acclaim, irregardless of Truth. The most clever of them do get their tidbits, (some acceptance-in-snobby-circles here, and some five-minutes-of-fame there), (and some money, which they see as a measure of honor), but their pens have no power. Nothing they blather will be long remembered, unless as an example of idiocy. For example, the fops of Rome mocked Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and laughed as they perished, and laughed again as Christians perished before lions in the Roman Colosseum. But now? Are such Roman frops remembered? No. Their names are dust in the wind. Even the name of the Roman emperor they worshiped as a god is seldom remembered. And in Rome? The laughed-at and soon-executed Peter and Paul now have vast structures erected in their name, while the Colosseum is but a ruin, and “Caesar” is but a name we give to our dogs.

The same fate awaits many who think they are now prancing in the glory of the spotlight. The power they seek is fad and fashion and forgotten. They will be forgotten because mistakes are best forgotten. Our modern mistakes will include many publishers and editors, who are “gatekeepers” who think they do good, making certain only a modern “Caesar” is praised. But they invite amnesia upon themselves because they care for power of a shallow sort, avoiding the true wellspring of power, which is Truth.

When I was young and studious I thought the people who would teach me about the real Wellspring of power would be teachers of art, and also history, but such classes usually disappointed me. A good teacher was like an oasis in a desert of dull ones. Most teachers seemed to feel their degree in art or history was pretty much useless in the Real World, and that the only way their education could make money was to hide out in a school and teach a watered-down and enfeebled and “safe” version of art or history. As there were only a limited number of such jobs available, teachers certainly didn’t want to create any competition. Rather than seeking to create proteges, teachers seemed to see their eager and curious students as potential threats.To some students (such as myself) it seemed that the only students they really encouraged were the ones they wanted to sleep with. These teachers failed to see the enormous power Truth holds, or that It was applicable outside of a classroom. Such teachers displayed little faith that the art and history they studied had any real value. Even if they stated their studies had value and power, they couldn’t see how to apply such hypothetical power outside a school in the Real World, (or they would have dared do so), nor even how to apply such hypothetical power to their own insular and rarefied academia. Therefore, when they talked about the Real World, it was usually with the drastic attitude that the Real World needed to be politically restructured so they could become applicable, (as if their ineptitude would vanish if they were promoted, and they became some sort of commissar). To me they seemed cowardly, hiding in musty hallways and clinging to tenure, avoiding their intense insecurity by donning a pretense of smug, intellectual superiority, and displaying their power by flunking students (such as myself) who questioned their wisdom.

Though their names are largely forgotten, and though they never produced memorable art or essays, they felt highly qualified to sneer at those who did produce. For example, a teacher who never wrote a book (that anyone could read) would deem himself an authority on how to write an introductory paragraph, and he’d deride how a writer such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton began a book with, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Besides immediately challenging me (because I was in some ways a punk) to begin my next work with “Once upon a time”, such teachers made me wonder why those who don’t achieve are so critical of those who do, and also why the critisized are memorable while critics aren’t. After all, while the name “Edward Bulwar-Lytton” may not be well known, “It was a dark and stormy night” is known worldwide, as are some other phrases Bulwar-Lytton penned, such as “the almighty dollar”, “the great unwashed”, and my favorite, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

Does the pen really have such power? Much of my life has been spent doing what those cowering professors never attempted. To find out if the pen (and art, and history,) had any power at all out in the Real World.

I confess I held (and still hold) the (extremely debatable) view that a truly exalted poet like Shakespeare may have displayed an immeasurable power. To me it seems a power beyond the imagination of dreary English Literature professors, when you consider the possible effect he (like the Beatle’s) had on the English people, and upon all who speak English. We say, “He inspired people in the theaters,” as if people were only moved there, and went about their workaday existence the next day unaffected. I think audiences were deeply moved, and he may have empowered the English to rise, and to rise in a way no one expected a backwater island at the very edge of Europe to rise, around 1585, when the young poet came wandering into London, (to perhaps begin by parking horses at a theater). He exalted the language in a way that effects listeners to this day: After being forced, initially against their will and strong objections, to watch a Shakespearean play, I have witnessed schoolboys on a playground wave sticks as make-believe swords and adopt antiquated language and absurdly grandiose exhortations: “Forsooth thou varlet! I shalt not stand for thy knavish insults!”

The youngsters are not forced to do this. They catch it like the ‘flu. I then ask: Is it such a stretch to think the people of Shakespeare’s time were not also infected by the invisible fever of inspiration, in the same manner? I go so far as to suggest that Shakespeare effected the way an entire nation spoke, thought, and even the way they walked: A slouch became a strut, walking developed a swagger, and you can perhaps see his influence in the way Queen Elisabeth spoke to her troops as the Spanish Armada neared her coasts in 1588, and the way the King James Bible was written between 1604 and 1611, and even (perhaps) in the way Hindu speak English in Calcutta, and Chinese speak English in Hong Kong.

What gave this Stratford-Upon-Avon bumpkin’s pen such power?  I like to think it was it’s proximity-to and association-with Truth. A moral backbone runs through his plays, wherein even his most evil characters speak to God, in a sense, for they face a day of reckoning wherein their tragic flaw faces them with the bitterness of tragic consequences, and as these characters complain about their fate they are revealed as being so utterly human, and so like the rest of us, that we feel oddly sympathetic, even though we know they are getting what they deserve. Shakespeare uplifts us to an archangel-like level where we are almost eye-level to our Creator, who loves all even though all (except very rare saints) don’t deserve it.

Never for an instant does Shakespeare waver from a firm belief that the wicked will face a day of reckoning, but he also does not waver from a liberal belief that the wicked are human, and are not all that different from you and I. Therefore his wicked characters, his Macbeth, his Iago, his Claudius, are characters we can relate to, who felt emotions we feel, but who chose to go ahead where we (usually) choose to abstain. (We feel much better about abstaining when we see how they suffer). But we feel sorry for them, because we would have chosen as they chose, were we not wimps. (Sometimes, when we say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” we are in effect saying, “Thank you, Oh Creator, for making me a wimp.”)

In essence Shakespeare’s power rests in his ability to show morals and morality exist for a good reason: They are associated with Truth. This association gave the English (and also the English language) an astonishing ability to overpower other peoples (and languages.)  The English came close to ruling the entire world, in Queen Victoria’s time. Her grandchildren were to, in 1914, be king of England, be kaiser of Germany, and be wife of the czar of Russia. Outside of Europe they controlled vast areas of Africa, India and Pakistan, Indochina,  and Hong Kong. Also Canada and Australia and New Zealand were closely linked as part of the commonwealth, and the United States, as a recalcitrant rebel, was able to obtain commonwealth status if it ever wanted to, and had control over the Philippines and a de facto Monroe-Doctrine ephemeral-control over Central and South America. If sanity had prevailed, world peace and prosperity were possible. But sanity did not prevail. The association with Truth Shakespeare made so clear became clouded. A century of hell has resulted.

Now I am sure some are rolling their eyes when I assert a single poet could have such a huge effect on the history of the planet, but Bartlett’s Book Of Familiar Quotations demonstrates how we quote Shakespeare without even knowing it. Nor were the people of his time aware of the reverberations emanating from a theater in London; his plays were not published until after his death, and likely few outside of London knew much about them. In terms of what politicians of that time surmised influenced the masses, theater didn’t matter much; politicians would have pointed to kings, armies, and the preachers in the pulpits; and many preachers disapproved of plays and wanted the theaters shut down.  But few preachers could move people in the manner Shakespeare could; few swagger after hearing a sermon, (though they would, if the Truth was ever adequately explained.)

At this point I should confess that the power of the pen has not been scientifically established. Not that any has taken the time to attach electrodes to my pen, as I write.  (They ought at least try. They might be shocked.)

Though the might of the pen has not been established, evil men recognize the power the pen has, and seek to gain its power, without the bother of associating themselves with the morality and Truth involved. This never works. They always wind up a Macbeth, an Iago, a Claudius.  But they never stop trying. They who do not study Shakespeare are like those who do not study history: Doomed.

The problem with doomed people is they are like thrashing children throwing a tantrum: They break stuff and hurt innocent bystanders. I do not mean to sound flippant. Hitler’s doomed tantrum killed millions of innocent bystanders, as did Stalin’s. But both men were doomed from the start.

The question always asked by innocent bystanders is, “Why, God?  Why?”  Not being God, I cannot answer.  But I can share an answer I personally got, when I asked the eternal question.

***3***

As a very old-fashioned farmer, I prefer hand tools to bulldozers. It brings me closer to the land to cut down a small tree with an ax, rather than to just mush it with a backhoe’s scoop.  I prefer swinging a grub-hoe,  when I rip up a tree’s roots. Not that I can do it any more, and I will confess I do humble my fat ego, and allow my oldest son to show up in a backhoe and rip up a stump in five minutes that would have taken me five hours, back in the day, but I stubbornly prefer grub-hoes to backhoes.  I have my reasons. One is that an ax or grub-hoe is not hard to start on a sub-zero morning (and often work more quickly, when its cold). Another is that backhoes are not mentioned (that I can find) in the Bible, (or ancient scriptures of other lands.) But the ax is mentioned.

As an old-fashioned farmer I have the powers of a micro-creator. I love trees and I love grass, but I have to decide where the trees will grow and where the grass will grow. If you are grass, you call me a cruel creator when I grow a woodlot, but, if you are trees, you call me a cruel creator when I clear a pasture. But I am the boss, and my ax is just a tool.

Therefore my ears perked up with interest when I heard a mighty king described as a mere “ax”. The “ax” was a mighty Assyrian king called Sennacherib, and the fellow who dared call him a mere tool, a mere “ax”, was a poet of Judea called Isaiah. Please notice in the map below that, despite all the expansion of the Assyrian empire, culminating in the might of Sennacherib, Judea persisted as a unconquered land, (yellow in the map below.)  This time, when Jerusalem remained unconquered, was a sort of British “Finest Hour”  for the Jews.

Assyeian Empire 1024px-Map_of_Assyria

(This story may seem to have little to do with arctic sea-ice, but give me time. I’ll show you the similarity).

I refer to Isaiah as a “poet” rather than a “prophet” because most of his writing, in the original Hebrew, is amazing poetry. He did not write the drab prose of a tedious historian, but rather employed all sorts of difficult forms, as hard or harder to master than the sonnet form. For example, Hebrew poetry utilizes a form called “Parallelism”, which can be roughly divided into various types, namely Climactic, Synonymous, Antithetic, Emblematic, Synthetic, Composite, and Chiasmus. As you read Isaiah you don’t really notice this highly structured thought (especially in the translation) but you do notice the writing “flows” and “sounds right.”

At this point I suppose a drab historian has every right to complain it is too hard to write history using all sorts of difficult poetic devises, and even to say poets are the tedious ones, with all their rules.

I assert complying with such rules is not difficult, to one gifted with poetic instincts. It may be as unintelligible to those not-gifted as the tug of a dowsing rod is to one who (like myself) is not gifted with the abilities of a dowser, but complying with difficult harmonies is easy, if you have the gift.  It is harder not to do it. It would like be asking Bach not to write harmony, and have all his music be in unison.

I furthermore assert the power is not in the poet, but in the Truth they are in touch with. When one is in proximity-to and association-with Truth, a sort of enchantment and rapture occurs, and one simply cannot help but sing.  Just as one can’t help but tap their toes to a lively tune, one is carried away by celestial rhythms.  One becomes intoxicated by a gigantic harmony and beauty, and, in Isaiah’s case, the proximity-to and association-with Truth extended to an awareness of cause-and-effect that made him a “prophet”. Why? Because Truth follows certain laws, which some call Karma and some call reaping-what-you-sow, and a prophetic poet is able to glimpse inevitable consequences more clearly than most. In a way Isaiah is much like Shakespeare: Never for an instant does he waver from a firm belief that the wicked will face a day of reckoning, but he also does not waver from a liberal belief that the wicked are human, and are not all that different from you and I, and Isaiah has compassion towards them, and wants to see even the evil rescued.

This made Isaiah appear naive to the politically-correct politicians of Judea, 2750 years ago. Isaiah had the simplistic belief that Truth is animate, and if you stand by the Truth then the Truth will stand by you, but the politicians didn’t think that highfalutin attitude was very smart, and instead trusted in all sorts of crafty and worldly alliances to oppose the growing Assyrian menace. All sorts of sneaky and devious arrangements were considered, when Assyria was smaller (the dark green in the above map), involving Syria, Babylonia, Israel, Egypt, Judea and other smaller kingdoms. There was even a plot that pitted Jew against Jew, as the ten tribes of Israel grew impatient with the two tribes of Judea, and thought the way to get Judea to comply was to conquer it with the help of Syria, and then (with Judea forced to be on-board), to turn as a united front to face Assyria. All this political trickery and back-stabbing seemed opposed to Truth, to Isaiah, and he blithely warned that Israel and Syria would come to a bad end, if they followed such a course. He stated they should trust Truth (God) and not their own crafty plots, and they thought he was a naive chump.  Isaiah stated that if they didn’t trust God then God would use Assyria as His “ax”, and chop them down, which was exactly what happened. Assyria rose in might and by the time of Sennacherib it seemed nothing could stand in the way of the Assyrian juggernaut.

Not that Judea’s politicians were inclined to abandon the sordid lowness of politics for some air-headed poet’s idealism. I often wonder what in the world Isaiah was doing, bopping around midst the politics of the palace. (My personal experience is that one is likely to get the old heave-ho, if one is too preachy with the politically pragmatic.)  But apparently the fellow was literate at a time when most were not, so perhaps he was a “scribe”, and schoolteacher, (and may have even been the Judean King Hezekiah’s tutor.) Also Isaiah might have been the court historian, (for the only non-poetic chapters of the Book of Isaiah are nearly word-for-word-identical to the official Judea history, in the Book of Kings.) Lastly, as a poet he was somewhat respected as possessing prophetic powers, though people were often dubious of the authenticity of such powers back then, (as they are now).  He was initially unpopular with the politically-correct, and was pressing his luck, and probably would have been done-away-with, had not a new king, Hezekiah, possessed a mystic streak. Hezekiah rediscovered the old Hebrew scriptures, (perhaps with Isaiah’s help), and was somewhat horrified by how far the Judean politically-correct had strayed from the established law. (Something like what a modern democrat might experience, if they ever bothered to read the US constitution.) He apparently underwent a sort of epiphany, and there is archaeological evidence Hezekiah didn’t just return to “the law” on paper, but tore down some houses of worship that were forbidden according to Jewish Law. In a sense he enacted a jeremiad before Jeremiah, but at the same time remained stuck in the pragmatism of politics.

The sixty-six chapters of The Book Of Isaiah are not arranged in chronological order, but rather are ordered for reasoning I don’t claim to understand. This apparently explains why we see Hezekiah stripping the gold off the temple doorposts to buy time, chapters before we see Hezekiah showing off all his temple’s gold to envoys from Babylonia. In attempting to put things in chronological order, my guess is that Hezekiah was co-regent with his father for a while, which makes their reigns overlap, and things then happened as follows:

Hezekiah became quite ill during the time when the threat was Israel and Syria to the north. Isaiah then came bopping in to the king’s bedroom and said it was wrong to stress politics before God, and that Hezekiah would be punished with death (the king was was in his sickbed at the time). Hezekiah was filled with remorse after Isaiah left, but Isaiah swiftly came bopping back into the king’s bedroom and said God had accepted the king’s apology, and the king wouldn’t die, and Jerusalem wouldn’t be plundered in his lifetime. The king was happy, but I imagine the politicians of the court thought both Hezekiah and Isaiah had both gone bonkers, and that Isaiah was a Rasputin-like bad-influence on their sovereign’s sanity, but they couldn’t say much because the king promptly regained his health.

Next some Babylonian envoys dropped by. After 2750 years the politics are unclear to me, for it seems Babylonia was already a tributary state to Assyria at this point, but from other sources it is apparent the Babylonians detested the Assyrians for wrecking their cities, especially their temples, so perhaps some political skulduggery was afoot. I imagine the politically-correct of Judea would have approved of fomenting some sort of rebellion within Babylonia towards Assyria, for if Assyrians were kept busy at home they wouldn’t bother with Jerusalem. In any case the Babylonians had heard about the king’s miraculous recovery from his death bed, and wanted to learn more about the power of the Hebrew Deity. King Hezekiah was only too glad to show off all the treasures God had blessed Judea with, whereupon Isaiah came bopping by to inform Hezekiah he was putting gold before God, and Jerusalem would be punished, as the Babylonians would remember the treasures, and come back to loot the city at a later date.

Isaiah’s prophesy must have seemed especially incorrect when Babylonia was further crushed, as Assyria began its blitzkrieg in earnest, but by that point the politically-correct were themselves starting to flip-out, for none of their crafty alliances and treaties seemed all that sane, either. Why? Because all the nations they held diplomatic talks with, (learned-diplomat scheming with learned-diplomat), one by one fell before the Assyrian onslaught. All their crafty wheeling and dealing came to naught, because the crafty people they were dealing with simply ceased to be.

I think it is at this is at this point we see Hezekiah stripping the gold off the temple doorposts in a desperate attempt to slow the Assyrian blitzkrieg and buy time. He seemed to want to use the time he bought to seek new allies, (perhaps even the Assyrians themselves). Also Hezekiah used the bought-time to engineer remarkable tunnels through solid stone, in order to channel springs outside Jerusalem to wells within its walls, so the city could withstand the siege Judea apparently knew was coming. Why should they plan for a siege even while making treaties with Sennacherib? Well, why did the British build spitfires, even as Chamberlain signed a treaty guaranteeing “Peace In Our Time” with Hitler? Let us just say that some peace is “uneasy”, and it was apparent to some Jews that Sennacherib, like most dictators, would not be sated by appeasement, and that, in the end, would demand Jerusalem obey his laws, and not their own laws [scriptures].)

Before Sennacherib arrived at the gates of Jerusalem he had kicked the butts of some mighty powerful people. He mocked all who claimed their “gods” could protect them. Babylonia prayed to their gods, and he kicked their butts. Egypt prayed to their gods, and he kicked their butts. Even the Jews of Israel had prayed, and he kicked their butts and sent those ten tribes of Jews off to captivity. Therefore he was feeling cocky when his forces arrived at the gates of Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s representative basically mocked the two remaining tribes of Jews, asking why they should think their God was any mightier than the gods of other nations. The Jewish king Hezekiah was scared right out of his socks, but the poet Isaiah came bopping forward and told the king to tell Sennacherib’s representative to back off, because the Jews of Judea were “not like the others”, and where others worshiped a false truth, Judea worshiped the plain Truth. And the plain Truth had a power you did not want to mess with.

Such confidence must have seemed too cocky, when the vast army of Assyrians arrived at Jerusalem and began to prepare to build ramps to overcome the walls. Although Hezekiah had seen the siege coming, and built amazing tunnels to supply the besieged city with water, things looked hopeless.

At this point history gets interesting, for we have more than one version of what happened next. Sennacherib arrived back at his capital and erected monuments to his own grandeur, bragging about how he trapped Hezekiah like “a bird in a cage,”  forced him to pay tribute, and how he seized, and gave away, the people, cattle and lands left outside of Jerusalem, to other kings. He doesn’t bother to mention he never conquered Jerusalem.

Assyrian Version Taylor_Prism-1

The Jewish version is different. According to the Hebrew account, an “angel of the Lord” struck down a huge number of Assyrian soldiers, (roughly 185,000),  overnight.  The invasion was called off. It was seen as proof of the power of God, that not a single Jewish soldier had to draw a sword to send Sennacherib packing.

There are other versions of this tale as well, for even after 2750 years it riles people up.  The statement that an “angel of the Lord” did the slaughtering of Assyrian troops does not sit well with the modern scientific psyche, so various attempts have been made to explain how a ‘flu or plague could have struck so swiftly. Some interesting theories have been put forth suggesting that, with the good springs diverted to within the walls of Jerusalem, the remaining springs were bad and perhaps even poisoned. And of course, there are those who dismiss the entire tale as a myth. (There is even an explanation, which may involve different Assyrian troops down in Egypt, which states a plague of field mice chewed all the Assyrian’s bowstrings.)  And some complain about what became of the 185,000 bodies; shouldn’t there be a huge pile of bones somewhere?

When I look through the various versions I cannot help but feel that some historians are betraying their prejudice, despite their best efforts to appear objective and dispassionate. I notice two factors: The first is that some people simply do not like Jews, and the second is that some feel Truth cannot be animate. When faced with the miraculous salvation of Jerusalem, whispered across vast prairies of time, some are irked, and feel a seemingly involuntary urge to disparage, discredit, doubt and deny.  They work very hard to either prove it never happened, or that it didn’t happen in the manner the amazed Jews of that time, who actually witnessed the miraculous event, reported.

I think this skepticism occurs because such people unconsciously know that they could be in big trouble, if Truth is not inanimate.  They need Truth to be as lifeless as stone, for if it is at all responsive then they are not in control of it. For this reason they tend to adopt a condescending attitude when a poet such as Isaiah utilizes “personification”, and states the moon will be dismayed, or the sun ashamed, or the wilderness rejoice, or the mountains burst into song, or the trees “clap their hands.” They are prone to utilizing psychobabble to dismiss such ecstasy as being hallucination and madness. But, if it is true that a fundamental quality of Truth is that It is Love, then Truth must be animate, and indeed must respond; this may be a bit unnerving to the mindset of a mathematician,  seeking a correct answer on the bottom line, for it suggests the Answer might answer them, (and even correct them, if their answer is wrong.)

In the end there seems to be two opposing responses to Truth. The inspired poets get swept up in ecstasy, and utilize rhyme and rhythm in an automatic and involuntary manner,  harmonizing with harmony. The cynics, on the other hand, tends to disparage that which is exalted, and in some ways are hateful, or at least bitter, towards Truth.

***4***

This at long last returns me to the political struggle between Alarmists and Skeptics, in the debate about Global Warming, (especially as to how it concerns arctic sea-ice).

Initially I felt that Skeptics would be more prone to be cynical, but soon I became aware most Skeptics held Truth in high regard. It was the Alarmists who seemed more prone to resort to propaganda, and to think Truth didn’t matter, because some sort of Socialist “ends” justified the “means”, even if the “means” involved dishonesty.

This dishonesty became apparent because the Skeptics approached the scientific debate in good faith, and, over the last twenty years, have, one by one, defeated most of the Alarmist “Global Warming” arguments.

I was most personally involved in the idea of a so-called “Arctic Death Spiral”, which hypothesized less ice at the Pole would result in less sunlight being reflected away by the high “albedo” of sea-ice, and more sunlight being absorbed by the low “albedo” of dark-blue open water. This idea didn’t work because the open water didn’t appear, each summer, until the sun was sinking back down to the horizon, at which point open water reflected glancing sunlight even if it was dark blue, and could even have a higher albedo than dirty ice. Then, once the sun set, open water lost far more heat than ice-covered water. Also, as year followed year, the sea-ice failed to diminish in an escalating manner, as the “Death Spiral” predicted, and sea-ice actually increased a little. Lastly, it turned out the albedo calculations didn’t include the white snow-cover on land, which was increasing (in the short-term), in the autumn.

The Death Spiral was definitely debunked, but Alarmists refused to admit their ideas had shortcomings. It became increasingly obvious they were not interested in the Truth of science, but rather the politics, and they resorted to some pathetic political ploys to stand their ground.  For example, when confronted with the facts, they put on a haughty air that seemed to suggest they didn’t need no stinkin’ facts, for a “consensus” involving “97% of all climate scientists” agreed with them. Nor did it matter that this so-called “consensus” of “97%” was exposed as statistical trickery. They insisted the “debate was over” because “the science was settled”, and no amount of further debate could dissuade them from their obstinate error.

At some point a poet like me slumps in dejection, and understands it is useless being patient and kind with people who argue in such a manner. Such arguing is not true debate, but rather is a ploy. Such Alarmists have no interest in what I am saying.  No true conversation is occurring. They have no interest in sharing, and in fact they are only pretending to have a conversation, for they are utterly committed to a forgone conclusion.

It occurred to me that, while certain socialists state religion is “the opiate of the masses”, Alarmists are snorting poppies all their own.  Where socialists like to point out historical examples of church intolerance, such as the Spanish Inquisition, Christians freely confess that such intolerance is in violation of Christian commandments to “love thy neighbor”. The Spanish Inquisition was in violation of Christian scriptures, whereas socialist intolerance is written down in their playbook, and intolerance is, in fact, the Marxist “scripture” they follow. Some socialist dogma might as well state, “Be deaf to your neighbor”. While it may sound intolerant to say so, comparing the words of Christ with stated Marxist procedures gives one the distinct impression they oppose Christ, and therefore are an anti-Christ.

How can I say such an intolerant thing? It is because when you really love another you are very interested in their views. But, if you only want to screw another, you only pretend to be interested.  You can charm, but it is only to get your way. You are basically a sly rapist; it doesn’t matter if you drape your lust in roses. You are hell-bent to achieve your goal. You can even copy the speech of poets, but a carnal flush burns on your cheeks and glints in your eyes, and, even if such a look only flashes momentarily, a person who truly loves immediately recognizes it, and takes a step back. They understand you are the slave of a forgone conclusion. You are the victim of an infatuation. You are set on a certain goal, and other people are merely what the communists called “useful idiots”, or else an enemy that must be “purged”, (which means killed), or sent away to a “reeducation”, (which is tantamount to mental murder). Opponents are but foolish innocents (“useful idiots”) you exploit, (and you exploit worse than the capitalists you sneer-at do). You are set on your “ends” like a myopic rapist is, and your “means” are nothing but trickery.

The greater poets recognize a distinct difference between love and infatuation. Love is the active and ongoing appreciation of another, whereas infatuation already knows the forgone conclusion. Love has true compassion for another, (even a Macbeth, even an Iago, even a Claudius). Infatuation only pretends to care, while calculating how much they stand to gain from the pretense. When people who love give to charity their wallets become thinner. When infatuation gives to charity their wallets grow plump. The people effected know the difference. When you have been loved you feel uplifted. When you feel screwed, even raped, something different than love is involved. (Ask the people of Haiti how they felt about the United Nations and the Clintons “helping” them. Did they feel uplifted, or feel befouled?)

Love reaches out to understand others, whereas infatuation grasps others to use them. Therefore, if you take the advice of Christ seriously,  and humbly serve others to a degree wherein you even “love thy enemy”, you are interested in those who debate you. The Antichrist has no such interest, nor such care for a foe. Even when anti-Christ socialists pretend to be part of a two-party-system, they intend to bump off all opposition as swiftly as possible.

In my youth I was friends with some radical communists. Fifty years ago, (as now), they liked to have a 1930’s communist propaganda-poster on their dorm’s wall. I carefully listened to all their explanations about why they had to murder and maim, “fighting fire with fire” (as they explained it), and learned all of their jargon. I had to do a lot of listening, because they talked so much, but I was a good listener, (while they felt “listening” was “too great a compromise”).  One failure in their logic always amazed me.

They seemed to fail to see that, because we mortals are each as different as our fingerprints, a day must come when we will disagree with even our closest friend. On that day, if we don’t own a philosophy that promotes listening, and instead follow a dogma which sees disagreement as opposition, then even our best friend will need to be “purged”, or they will “purge” us.  Either they, or we, will require “reeducation”. One of us will be called “counter revolutionary,” and it will not matter a bit how many times we called them “comrade” and embraced them. One of us will need to be erased from the picture.

It doesn’t matter, in such a sinister society, how close and valuable you think you are to your comrade. You can be a dictator’s bosom-buddy, the trusted head of his secret police, but you too can vanish.

As a lover of Truth, I was always perplexed by the effort made by such Antichrists to vanish the fact they fired an employee. Why not just say the employee failed to do the job as you expected, and as you required it be done? I could only suppose they couldn’t face the Truth. They didn’t like being reminded that they had killed a comrade. Truth hurts, and they couldn’t face the pain. Also, people might ask questions, and, if the reason for questions was not in the picture, perhaps no questions would be asked and no honest answer would be required. (As if Truth was not watching!) In conclusion, it was (and is) an attitude based upon the false notion that Truth is an inanimate thing, and instead is made of a malleable material like modeling clay, which you control.

One thing such people do not control, and that is the inevitability of death. They may control the life expectancy of others, but not of themselves.  We all must eventually face death, and it is very sad to see a dictator face what he has mocked, flaunted, and postponed. It is then he becomes the Macbeth, the Iago, the Claudius. There is a huge pathos in the ends of those who clutched power with white knuckles, but finally must see it slip away. In the case of the mighty Sennacherib of Assyria, after appointing his younger son heir, he looked up as he worshiped at his place-of-worship and saw his eldest son approaching with a drawn sword and murder in his eye. In the case of the mighty Joseph Stalin, his final days were filled with dread he might see the ones closest to him with murder in their eyes.

Therefore Stalin took precautions. He noted that when older communists died, doctors always seemed to be involved, so he had doctors jailed and interrogated. This was standard communist procedure. After internment, and interrogation including, if necessary, torture, the suspect would “confess” at a soviet “show trial.” The Russian public would be spoon-fed a pablum stating that Stalin was “Uncle Joe”, a lovable character, who evil people (often Jews) were out to betray. Many of Russia’s better doctors ( of whom many were Jewish), found themselves hauled in for questioning for no earthly reason they could think of, as Stalin faced old-age, and death.

Stalin also went out of his way to make sure he could keep his eye on the communist equivalent of “heirs to the throne.” Rather than going about their business, all Russia’s most important leaders had to hang around Stalin’s old-age-home (resort) and endure daily cross-examinations, far from where business was being enacted. One of these individuals may have dared to attempt to hurry Stalin’s demise.  It has been suggested that a large dose of blood-thinner was added to to Stalin’s bedtime toddy of watered wine. The hope was that it would cause a stroke that would kill him. Stalin did suffer a stroke that night, but it didn’t kill him.

The main reason to suspect that Stalin’s stroke wasn’t natural is because his servants did not behave naturally, the next morning. Ordinarily, if their master overslept, they would enter the room and raise the curtains in a respectful manner.  However not a single servant dared enter the room, on that particular morning. It was as if they somehow knew “something was up.” When someone finally went in, they found Stalin stretched out on the floor, as if the stroke incapacitated him as he left his bed to reach for a water bottle on the dresser. But he wasn’t dead.

At this point a Jewish doctor, an expert in the treatment of strokes, was under the duress of merciless cross-examination in the jails of the secret police. He was being interrogated for some conspiracy Stalin imagined existed, but which the doctor in fact knew nothing about. As these interrogations continued, day after dreary day, the doctor abruptly noticed a bewildering change in the questions he was being asked. They went from, “Do not your Jewish scriptures state that…” to, “When a person has suffered a stroke, is it wise to…”  The shift in the questioning was so unexpected the fellow couldn’t help but laugh about it, (though only to himself). Then he was abruptly plucked from jail and whisked to Stalin’s side, and asked to save his oppressor’s life.

If he could have, he didn’t. Stalin’s death was slow and tortuous and took over ten days; he basically slowly turned purple and strangled to death, all the while looking around with bulging eyes at eyes that feared him, but did not much love him (and some eyes were the eyes of those who might have actually poisoned him).

Despite the fact Stalin was portrayed by the state-controlled Russian media as a jovial and huggy “Uncle Joe”, so many millions had died under his despotism, and so many had been sent off to “reeducation” in Siberia, that I can’t help but think Russia breathed a sigh of relief, to have him gone. The following spring must have been hopeful. It seems to show in the May Day propaganda poster for the next “five year plan”, likely painted just after he died.

This poster happens to be one that was on the wall of a hip, radical friend’s dorm, back around 1969, when I was just a teenager. And I must admit it is full of springtime optimism. Nor do I believe it is wrong to propose a five-year-plan that will enrich society, nor to vow to make such a plan a reality. However, even as teen, I knew a vast gulf separated a dream from reality, and a vow from fruition. (My own parents had vowed to be true until death parted them, but the reality was they divorced.)  Despite all my youthful idealism and optimism, I had a cynical streak, and tended to poke fun at commercials on TV. Therefore I was not going to join any communist five-year-plan, until I had a few questions answered by my radical friends.

Because I was so young, my questions were rude and irreverent. My young and radical friends were extremely annoyed at my disrespect.

Because I had sex on the brain at that age, I immediately and rudely pointed out the spotlight of light on the blond girl’s left nipple. I wondered, why focus there? And shouldn’t such a star of light be above the forehead of the recently-departed Stalin, now part of a “beloved” quartet-of-lore in the background?

Next I wondered if the artist had paid too much attention to the blond girl’s left breast, for her head was some four inches higher than it should be. Michelangelo would never make a mistake like that.

Then I wondered why the young man in the picture was such a dork. His hair was too short. He was obviously a “square”.

Then I pondered what they were looking up at, so joyously. It wasn’t Stalin, because he was dead, and it couldn’t be God, for communists believed God was also dead. Was it a big copy of the five-year-plan? And shouldn’t you wait until a plan was completed before celebrating? And didn’t their joy now look stupid, (in 1969), because we (in 1969) now knew Russia had failed to achieve their goals, (of 1953), while we Americans looked likely to beat them to the moon?

Carefully examining the eyes of the young man and young woman in the propaganda poster, I stated they were not even looking at the same thing. Whatever it was they were so happy about, it was not something they agreed about.

Around about that time my radical friends would tell me to get the heck out of their dorm, while informing me I was hopelessly brainwashed by capitalist propaganda, and that Russians were richer than Americans, their cities had no slums, and that a Russian and not Thomas Edison had actually invented the light bulb.

As a young cynic I was equally critical of the American dream of a-house-in-the-suburbs. I had watched my own home town turn from a beautiful small town where neighbors knew each other into a sort of ugly suburban sterility where they didn’t, and I had no illusions about money buying happiness. Norman Rockwell painted life as we wanted it to be, more than he painted what actually was, and as a teen I found his work “square” (and even “propaganda”), but it is interesting to compare a work of his from a spring six years before the above poster was painted, with the above poster:

 

It is striking to me how much humbler the glorification is, and how clear and definite the subject is, though (as with the propaganda poster) much is occurring outside the picture. (It is also interesting to see Stalin’s mortality was discussed six years before he actually died.)

When I think about the difference between the two paintings, I see they both speak of spring and of hope, but the American painting is closer to Truth. Stalinists denied problems under the gloss of propaganda, whereas Norman Rockwell could make us smile (and even feel a mysterious joy), without hiding a problem.

Here’s another example: Builders often neglect to include space for children to play, when rushing to engineer a new neighborhood, whether the housing is part of a five-year-plan or a new suburb popping up in a post-war boom.  To criticize a five-year-plan could be death, in Stalin’s Russia, but Rockwell could tell the truth with a picture, in America, during the post-war building boom.

If I imagine Rockwell had been born in Stalinist Russia, I’m tempted to ask myself a few questions: First, would the Commissar Of Daubed Rectangles have issued him any permits for canvas or paint? Second, would Rockwell have dared paint such a picture? Third, would any Russian magazine have dared use it for a cover? Fourth, would Rockwell and the magazine have been punished for the above picture? Lastly, if his picture had somehow been seen by Stalin and Stalin had been moved, or at least amused, would the grim man then have made it mandatory for every Russian neighborhood to include a baseball field, whether people wanted it or not, and whether people even played baseball, or were instead a community of retired stamp collectors?

The problem with any sort of autocratic mortal is that their dislike of opposition causes them to cease to be truly responsive, (if they ever were). Their efforts (if made at all) are clumsy, and once their desire to dominate takes over, they cease to be loving, which cuts them off from a wellspring of benefits. Beautiful benefits. The benefits we call, “Joy”.

The thing that strikes me about a painter like Rockwell is that he is not taking orders from a worldly commissar; he often doesn’t know what his next week’s subject will be; he is waiting to see “what comes to him”, and what his response will be. In other words a good artist tends to be responsive whereas an autocrat is primarily interested in power, and is domineering. It is a difference like the difference between night and day, and can be seen in the results.

The joke of it all is that the autocrat thinks he controls the world, but the world controls him.  Conversely the best artists often are poor, powerless, and have little more than a gift; a genius like Bach wore the same humble servant’s garb as a butler. Yet the genius of an artist’s powerlessness opens heaven’s gates, and their influence stretches out across centuries. People still hum Mozart’s melodies. People quote Shakespeare without knowing it. Isaiah’s words uplift even after 2750 years. Yet they wore no crowns on earth; nor did they command armies.

In the end, the power is derived from Truth. And Truth is Love. And Love is responsive.

***5***

The dictators of the world like to issue their personal little-red-book rules, motivated by the idea the “masses” (you and me), are better off controlled by rules written on stone. This may have been the case when God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with burning brilliance for Moses, but that was only because the people Moses led had hearts hardened like stone, by 400 years of cruel slavery in Egypt. Elsewhere the Bible states the ten commandments are already written, on the hearts of every man, when hearts are created soft and innocent and childlike and new, in the newborn.

In other words we know, deep down, how to behave. We own a thing called a “conscience.” We need no tyrant. We need no big government. We need no welfare and government “benefits”. We need no so-called “charity” which makes the wallets of the so-called “giver” get fatter. All we need is the Truth.

The Truth is different every day. It is something we need to respond to. In order to respond correctly we need to love. Because we have the ten commandments etched on our God-given hearts, we don’t need some Chairman Mao demanding we obey his personal interpretation of a Marxist manifesto based upon distrust, and sadly founded on hate.

The things that upset me about Chairman Mao, and his “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution”, are almost too numerous to mention. The man seemed possessed by a odd belief that the way to be Avant-garde was to absolutely destroy the Status-quo. It was as if, when you chop down a forest, you instantly can harvest a crop of wheat in the wasteland you have created, or as if, when you tear down a slum, there are instantly new buildings for the homeless you have created. He failed to consult farmers, which was odd because he was country boy, and failed to consult builders, which was odd because he so badly wished to build a new China. The results were predictably disastrous. The “Great Leap Forward” may have resulted in the death in as many as 40 million by starvation, (although as many as two million may have had their starvation hastened by being badly beaten for daring to suggest Mao’s five-year-plan had shortcomings.)

The inner circles doing Mao’s “central planning” seem to have imagined they had divine powers, and that, by the wave of a hand, they could make things healed, like Jesus touching a crippled hand and the withered flesh healing and becoming strong right before onlooker’s startled eyes. However they had no such powers, and some of their decisions appear like complete madness. To jerk China into the twentieth century they decided to sharply increase the production of steel, and they ordered entire rural districts to produce steel, and nothing but steel. The picture below was taken out in a rural area at night, as people, desperate to obey, produced not steel, but pig-iron.

With such enormous manpower redirected to making steel others had to grow the food, but farmers were ordered, under penalty of death, to ignore their own wisdom and instead to follow the advise of Trofim Lysenko, a Russian pseudo-scientist who had already contributed to a terrible famine in Russia, and now contributed to a worse famine in China.

ilysenk001p1

In order to hide the resultant crop failures ridiculous propaganda pictures were created. The picture below (from 1959) shows “the wheat was so thick youth could stand on it”.

The absurdity of the above picture is not only that the youths are standing on a hidden bench, but that the wheat was transplanted from where it grew sparsely to create the illusion it grew far more densely than it in fact was growing. It was a lie, justified by the need to “boost morale”.

The problem with this dishonesty was that the central planners were not receiving honest reports. This is a problem created by governments, when the honest are punished for telling the Truth. It was worsened by the fact Mao apparently desired adulation, and was susceptible to flattery. He was taken to see examples of how successful his policies were, in the same manner foreign reporters were taken to see settings that were basically a sham, and nothing like the horrors actually experienced by the poor, starving Chinese people. In order to foster the illusion of bumper crops warehouses brimming with grain were kept locked, because it was important to have warehouses brimming. And sometimes, (because the grain sometimes had to be shipped away for economic and political reasons), the very people who grew the food received none. Mao had the heartlessness of English Lords during the Irish Potato Famine: Despite the starving people dying outside, crying for Mao to save them, the brimming warehouses were not opened for the people who grew the food.

When the nature of the famine became undeniable, rather than the central planners accepting responsibility for the mess they had made, they blamed the weather (which actually was bad at that time). However there was some murmuring among the leaders that Mao’s leadership was not bringing about the prosperity he had promised. Mao felt such murmuring was counter-revolutionary, and represented back-sliding from the true answer to all problems, which was a total break from the past. This was his excuse for what he deemed a “Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, which was essentially mob rule.

Mao felt that what was holding China back was “Old culture, old customs, old habits, and old beliefs.” His solution was to close the schools, and to set the students lose to attack the “revisionist” and “imperialistic” counterrevolutionary forces who would attempt to once again enslave the Chinese. As the civil war between the Communists and Nationalists had been brutal, and memories were relatively recent, (1949 was only 17 years in the past), it was possible to pick scabs and reawaken traumatic memories (focusing on Nationalist atrocities and ignoring Communist atrocities, or describing Communist cruelty as “justified” and “revolutionary”), and to utilize mob violence in an attempt to “cleanse” China of evil and make it sparkling clean.

It didn’t happen. Instead the students, who beyond doubt had experienced oppression under dictatorial rule, unleashed their resentment towards all figures of authority and all symbols of tradition and all fashions that were remotely “western”. They were given the power to accuse teachers, principles and parents, and to interrogate them. They had the power to break into households and conduct searches for evidence of counterrevolutionary thought. Having an old dusty suit of a western fashion in a back closet, or an old keepsake from a grandmother made of gold, or a statue of Buddha or Confucius or a crucifix, or even a haircut deemed too “western”, could result in an interrogation and beating and exile to a place of “reeducation”. National landmarks, old temples hundreds of years old, were trashed. As this chaos descended upon China various units of the Red Guard accused each other of infractions, and gang warfare developed, echoing the warlords of China’s civil war. Industrial production dropped 12% between 1966 and 1968. Rather than sparkling purity and progress, the revolution resembled the Terror of the French Revolution, until even Mao himself felt some sense of threat.

Mao then used the policy of “rustication”, which he had originally begun as a sort of Utopian vision (with the statement, “The countryside is a vast expanse of heaven and earth where we can flourish”), as a way to get the Red Guard off the streets, with his statement, “The intellectual youth must go to the country, and will be educated from living in rural poverty.” A minimum of 16 million youths were sent off to a sort of penal labor, though getting many to give up their power as mini-warlords, and marching them off, wasn’t all that easy. During the Cultural Revolution the Red Guard was responsible for a half million deaths, while the army was responsible for twice as many, many of them members of the Red Guard who resisted army control. In the end the military ruled and China became a police state.

Mao’s claim, (that revolution was beneficial in and of itself), was refuted. If anything he caused China to conclude the exact opposite was true: Power should never be given to the people, especially to the young. But what his tragic example actually proves is that power corrupts leaders, and absolute power corrupts leaders absolutely. His so-called “philosophy” seems partly an old man’s yearning back towards simpler days, when revolution was easier, and the “bad guys” were obvious, (during his “Long March” across China), and it partly seems a desperate grasping to cling to power after the debacle of his “Great Leap Forward.” Above all his vision seems blurred by a dislike for Truth.

What has this to do with sea-ice? It is because, just as Mao had a deep dislike for what Truth was making self-evident, Alarmists have a deep dislike for what Truth is making self-evident, concerning the so-called arctic sea-ice “Death Spiral.” And it is when people see their relationship with Truth sour, that one either becomes humble, or the rot sets in.

***6***

Some may call it laughable to call a quibble about the fluctuations in the amount of sea-ice anything like the cruelty enacted by tyrants like Mao, Stalin and Hitler, but it is only a matter of degree. (Nor is it all that small a quibble, when one considers the billions of dollars involved, [dollars I think are wasted, if not completely corrupted into being mere “kick-backs”], in “Global Warming”), (not to mention the possible complete derangement of economies in the future.) Mighty weeds can grow from tiny seeds.

The entire twentieth century involved China in so much calamity it beggars the imagination. Even the death of hundreds of thousands in a terrible flood becomes, through comparison, a “small” event. But among all of China’s misfortunes Mao takes the cake, for the calamity he’s associated with was not nature’s floods, earthquakes or drought-caused famines, nor an invading foreign power, but rather a hell caused by a man who was native-born. Mao had some degree of love for his homeland and his people. How could his leadership go so terribly astray? Why, God, why?

Call me simplistic if you will, but I see Mao as a tragic character like Macbeth, or Iago, or Claudius, who faced the same moral choices we all face, and dared make the wrong choices we all are tempted to make, but seldom dare make, (or seldom make to the incredible degree Mao made them).

He murdered. He deceived on a regular basis, as a matter of political principle, and advocated that others deceive. (“Propaganda”) Much of his emphasis was based on hatred rather than love. (Hatred of the bourgeois, the petite bourgeois, landlords, royalty, wealthy people, western civilization, “revisionists”, “imperialists”, and, (by his end), basically anyone who differed from his warped idealism.) But to me his worst wrong-choice was to terribly misguide the hope of China, which was its youth. To direct the freshness, energy, enthusiasm and optimism of youth into the Red Guard’s atrocities was a child-abuse of unprecedented scale and ugliness, (which is envied and admired by wicked people even to this day).

One of Mao’s greatest hypocrisies was to loath people (other than himself) gifted with power (“bourgeois”) [irregardless if wealth came from privilege and parents, or through hard work], and instead to praise the peasant, (“proletariat”),[irregardless if the peasant worked hard or was slothful], while at the same time redefining himself as an all-powerful demigod, and his personal thoughts as a sort of Chinese Bible. His “little red book” was a sort of gospel of class warfare, based on hatred. It is also an example of a man so overly-proud of his own opinions he cannot hear the cries of others, even of the proletariat he claims to care for. He turned his arrogance into a sort of personality cult, and his “little red book” into a cudgel he used to crush people who dared disagree. Despite all the physical evidence that his policy was causing China harm, both in capitalistic terms and in terms of the physical and spiritual welfare of the Chinese people, he insisted the problem lay in any who dared disagree with him. By his end, it “was all about me”. Of what use were others? In his eighties, ravaged by strokes, an old, drooling, and in many ways demented man, he clung to his insistence that if it wasn’t good for Mao it couldn’t be good for China. Talk about vanity! Talk about a failure to appreciate others! Talk about hate and egotism triumphing over love and selflessness!

Talk about an Antichrist! Where Christ took a minuscule amount of bread and fish to feed 5000 Jews on one occasion and 4000 non-Jews on another, Mao took all the wisdom of China’s farmers and, with the “help” of Lysenko, caused the starvation of millions upon millions of good Chinese people.

It will be hard for China to ever admit how ignorant Mao was. It is hard, when you are brought up to treat “the little red book” as a Bible, to admit the writer wasn’t a Christ, and in fact was in many ways an Antichrist. But China is coming to its senses, (very slowly, it sometimes seems), and confessing that their worship of the “little red book” was as least as stupid as, and perhaps more stupid than, the screaming worship of western imperialist, capitalist, petite-bourgeoisie woman, at the same time, of the Beatles. (Mao was “more stupid”, because, at least, in 1967, the Beatles didn’t murder, and talked a lot about love.) In 1967, in China, the “Beatles”, that the teenage girls went wild about, looked like this:

It is interesting to compare the Maoist propaganda pictures with the Stalinist poster I showed above. Notice how no one smiles in the Chinese propaganda?

I can never look at these propaganda posters without considering the artist who painted them. What pressure was he under, and what was he thinking?

No artist can completely free themselves from Truth, even when they intentionally gird their loins and attempt to mold it into a half-truth. At times Truth leaks into their art in ways they do not intend It to (and which they may even be horrified by.) Sometimes such leakage is completely subconscious, and sometimes it is purposeful and involves daring. It occurs in political art, commercial art, and even when one is simply painting a portrait for an arrogant, paying customer. As hard as one tries to paint a fool looking intelligent, the truth may sometimes leak in around the edges. (If you do it well, the fool cannot see it, and you still get paid.)

For example, (putting on the cynical hat I wore as a teenager), in the above poster the youth holding the little-red-book has his arm in the unnaturally stiff “heil Hitler” salute of a Nazi. (As does the youth below seemingly reaching towards a bayonet.) Accident? Subconscious? We do not know what the painter of this picture underwent, but we do know that students at art schools saw their teachers humiliated and hauled off, and never saw them again. The copies of statues from other lands, including a careful facsimile of Michelangelo’s statue of David, were dragged outside and pulverized with sledge hammers. Who knows what secret feelings lurked in the heart of the painter of the above poster?

Wearing my hat (of a cynical teenager with sex-on-the-brain), I notice the artist certainly didn’t aim to make the women in the poster all that attractive. There is no spotlight on the left nipple. (The left nipple is in fact in shadow, but there is a faint trace of a right nipple, which Sigmund Freud would suggest may indicate the artist still had faint, youthful hopes.) Of course, any sort of mascara or face-powder or eye-shadow was deemed western and decadent, or else, if applied in an oriental manner, was deemed “traditional” and therefore equally decadent, so perhaps the artist was merely painting the truth he witnessed; however make-up is supposed to mimic natural attractiveness, and the artist saw little of that. The women he portrays are not exactly the sort whom a teenager would veer from his ordinary path to chat with.

But what seems oddest to me is at the bottom of the poster, and involves the positioning of the open palm and the bayonet. It may be that, with the art-teacher “liquidated”, the placement of hand and bayonet was merely a matter of poor, uneducated composition, but you could not ask for two more opposite symbols than an open palm (peace) and a bayonet (war), and, even if the bayonet is suppose to be behind the palm, the palm does appear to be reaching towards it. It seems a strange sort of juxtaposition, perhaps hinting at a desire for peace midst Red Guard violence, and, if I was a zealot of the Red Guard, I would have had the artist hauled off for immediate interrogation. (Just as a Freudian psychiatrist sees sexual symbolism everywhere, the Red Guard could see counterrevolution everywhere.)

***7***

Even when there isn’t a bullying politician or boss demanding that the artist portray certain things in a certain, inaccurate way, an artist is always struggling with Truth, especially when the artist is young. This occurs because an artist has a preconception of what they want to portray, but an artist also has an inner ear or eye or nose that can tell if the work “looks right” or “sounds right” or “smells right”, and these different factors are seldom in complete agreement. This battle in an artist is the same battle, (a battle between infatuation and love, between a foregone conclusion and ongoing appreciation), that one sees enacted on the bigger stage of world politics.

I first became aware of this battle when I was a young artist, for I had high hopes, and, because art is “self expression”, my high hopes appeared on the page. I would be sketching a boy-meets-girl plot and trying to get it to the boy-gets-girl climax, (the plot of both romance and pornography), and worked hard to write my story to the happy-ever-after ending I craved, but problems would unexpectedly appear. The lovely Susie Creamcheese in my tale would unexpectedly develop an IQ of 160, and become a high-maintenance individual. The story that had seemed so easy to write would grind to a halt, as I suffered what is called “writer’s block”.

In this microcosm I myself was the Mao, attempting to inflict my preconceived five-year-plan, but, within my creation, (far smaller than China), counterrevolutionary forces appeared. Unlike Mao, I stopped in my tracks. I knew intuitively that what I was attempting didn’t “look right” or “sound right” or “smell right”. So I would cross things out, and rewrite. At times I rewrote over, and over, and over, and over again.

Who was the editor that made me rewrite? It wasn’t a fellow mortal. At that time I longed for a worldly editor or agent to give me free advice, (as I had no money), but none were to be found. Instead I faced an editor available to all, who does not charge a penny for good advice, called Truth.

In order to access the free advice of this invaluable Editor all one needs to do be honest. When something doesn’t “sound right” one needs to confess. This confession doesn’t require a Catholic “confessional booth”, or any sort of ritual. All one needs to do is say, “my last effort seems to suck.” This admission of failure is the same for the scientist as it is for the artist. It opens the doors to improvement, and my experience has always been that a sweet breeze immediately refreshes, and also that stubbornly refusing to open the door results in stultifying mustiness.

Any success in life is built on the shoulders of many failures. In fact, when you look at the lives of fellow mortals we admire and call “great”, it is often startling to see what losers they were before they shone. Churchill in many ways was selected to be the individual that saved the world from Hitler, Stalin and even Mao, but what made him the perfect man for the job was a lot of failure beforehand. He was such a loser that the politically-correct called him “finished” in 1938, but a year later he was thrilling all who love freedom with his defiance of despots, leading ordinary people to fight the good fight against evil.

At this point, if you love a good debate, it is useful to point out Hitler was also a longtime-loser, who used failure as a fuel for meteoric (albeit short-term) success. The difference between the two men seems to be that Churchill knew the meaning of “magnanimous”, whereas the frustration of failure was, for Hitler, an excuse for white-hot rage and burning vengeance. (Being thrown-out of power was, for Churchill, a good excuse for champagne during breakfast.) (For Hitler, Stalin and Mao even the suggestion they relinquish power was an excuse to kill.)

Obviously, though it sounds ambiguous, there is great power in being a failure. It has nothing to do with being a quitter, (as Churchill was not a man known for accepting surrender). Rather it is a matter of learning from your mistakes, which is very hard to do if you insist you are correct. It doesn’t matter if your insistence takes the murderous form of a Hitler, Stalin or Mao, or is the merely offensive snobbery of the “politically correct”. If you insist on being called correct, and on being seen with the right people in the right places and never being seen as wrong, then you are a total fool, for you are denying yourself the advice of the Master, the King of kings and Emperor of emperors, called Truth.

Truth has no interest in shaming us, when It corrects us. It only wants to improve our quality of life. Truth wants to help. Shame makes no sense. Shame is the invention of the same idiot who invented war, rage, vengeance, and a lot of other stupid things.

Truth wants to stop the stupidity. In the end, Truth will succeed, because Truth is the stuff we are made of, and Truth is the Creator who made us. To resent the Truth that made us is like resenting the air that we breathe. Only silly people do it.

Why call yourself “correct” when it should be obvious none of us are? Not fully.

Because we are mortal we are imperfect, and because we are imperfect Truth is a standing challenge to our very existence; to our precious egos which are perhaps necessary, but are a necessary evil, for they are shells that make us lumber like a tortoise when we were born to bound like frogs. Truth wants us to shed our shells. Because Truth is Love it does not shame us, but rather wants us to compare our current state with what we might be, to compare our current art with what Truth is. Truth wants us to leave the rough draft behind, and to move on to the second, third, and fourth draft. Is that such a shameful thing?

What has this to do with Arctic Sea Ice? It is because, besides the actual science involved, I see some imbeciles employing Maoist tactics. It is as if the world learned nothing from China’s agony, or Russia’s agony under Stalinism, or Germany’s agony under Hitler. Just as Mao ignored the evidence under his own nose, a half century later certain college professors are blind. The Truth does not matter to such snobs; they think their vainglorious ideology makes them righteous.

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