Mini-manifesto; Parts 13-17 “Democracy In Three Steppes”

***13***

Psychobabble often operates using the premise that, under a thin veneer of civilization, we humans are all savage brutes: We are nothing but easily enraged gorillas controlled by animal appetites. This low opinion of humanity is quite contrary to the concept that God is in everyone. It also runs counter to the observation that small, cheerful children, while selfish, and while at times devious and dishonest when asked simple questions, are very honest about their frustration when desires are thwarted. Yet children are also quick to accept limits when such limits are presented as inflexible, and, after the initial tantrum, quite cheerfully adapt to such limits. Small children swear to hate you forever at nine o’clock, yet walk holding your hand five minutes later. It takes persistent lack of love, either blunt trauma or else cold neglect of some sort (including sparing the “rod”), to truly spoil a child. Even then God still lies within them, albeit God buried very deeply, in some cases.

Which returns me to the subject of Stalin, who, after coming to power, is purported to have asked his elderly mother, “Why did you beat me so hard?” to which she supposedly responded, “That is why you turned out so well.” His lack of compassion is legendary, and is often taken as a proof God does not exist in everyone, and even that God does not exist at all. To Stalin are attributed some amazingly chilling statements, including, “The death of one is a tragedy; the death of a million is a statistic” (called by Wikipedia a misattribution, but reported by both Churchill’s aid and Churchill’s daughter, albeit placed on differing occasions.) Most chilling of all (to me) is a statement of Stalin’s cold scorn of thanksgiving, “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.”

The very existence of such a hard-bitten and cruel man is a standing challenge to everything I have been claiming about the power of Truth. Stalin would likely deem me a naive chump, and he did wonder about the sanity of the English political system. In fact Churchill reported that Stalin inquired, during a moment of blunt honesty, why on earth the English put up with a troublemaker like Gandhi in their colony of India; why didn’t they just have Gandhi “liquidated?” Churchill states that he replied to Stalin in some lordly manner, such as, “That is not how the English conduct business”, but Churchill didn’t seem to properly pursue the matter, and explain to Stalin why bumping people off when they disagree with you is a bad idea. I feel this is a great pity, for Churchill seemed to glimpse what made the British Empire last so much longer than Hitler’s Third Reich or the Soviet Union. (It involves respecting those you oppose, and the wealthy respecting their servants, and basically attempts to enact the mystical, spiritual premise that you are expanding your consciousness when you love your enemies.) (Where in other lands an Untouchable could never aspire to be a Brahman, England somehow allowed a boatswain like Francis Drake to become an admiral and National Hero.) However when I have asked Englishmen what gave them their power, rather than speaking of meritocracy they seem to have little idea, and simply sing “The English Are Best.”

In some ways I think the only reason the English Empire lost its grip on power was because they forgot what made them great. While I have remarked earlier that the English king Edward VIII favored fascism, it should be noted that his grandfather, Edward VII, while touring India, stated, “Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute,” and that his criticism actually resulted in a high ranking official in India being replaced. Mind you, the official was not “purged”. He was merely subjected to critical analysis, and then a decision was made. Such genteel politics was something Stalin could not comprehend.

If I had lived in Russia during Stalin’s time, I do not doubt my life expectancy would have been very limited. But, because I truly believe that one should love their enemy, I have felt compelled to lovingly inquire of communists, (who are so obviously deeply dedicated to their ideas), what exactly they see as beautiful and poetic about their dogma. After all, when one states “The ends justify the means,” and “the means” involve some drastic, ugly and basically inhumane deeds, the “ends” must be some wonderful thing. So I asked a simple question, to understand my enemy. What exactly were the “ends”? What was the heaven-on-earth communism strove to make real?

Allow me to attempt explain the mad faith of communism, as I understand it. It revolves around the concept that, if you can destroy a certain sort of “capital”, you will see the dawn of a newer and better way. Unlike ordinary revolution, which involves the oppressed “Have-nots” becoming furious at the “Haves”, (when the “Haves” become especially ungrateful and oppressive to their own employees), communism seeks to solve all problems (and end all revolutions), by removing all “Haves” forever. “Haves” are theoretically to be removed irregardless of whether they are ungrateful or are grateful, and irregardless of whether they oppressively exploit or kindly assist their employees. The communist concept seems to be that, if nobody is a “Have”, everyone will be happy. If no one is a “Have”, the ugliness of greed will vanish from the human experience.

Elementary spirituality tends to agree generosity is superior to greed, and generosity leads to a more loving society. But what “means” shall reform society? I feel that the conversion to a “better way” involves persuasion rather than coercion; one is moved because one is touched; a poem works better than a club; you cannot legislate spirituality. Communists beg to differ. They feel we are midst a sort of social evolution, moving from serfdom through capitalism to communism, and that by forcibly removing vestiges of the “old” we will arrive at the “new”. Society as a whole must undergo a sort of boot camp, wherein a sort of drill sergeant kicks everyone into shape.

I feel I need to look at two major concepts when I hear this idea. The first is the concept of “social evolution” and the second is the concept of “boot camp.”

The concept of “social evolution” is debatable, as I personally like the old-fashioned farms more than modern agribusiness. I see much good in the past, and glimpse beautiful things in the rear-view-mirror which it seems sad that we left behind. But there also has been progress, and much good exists in the present. Rather than calling society “evolving” I think it is likely better to call it “ongoing”. Society shifts its position like a sleeping person in a bed, seeking comfort first one way and then another way. No particular position is more “evolved” than another.

To fully discuss “social evolution” would involve discussing each step: The good and bad of the medieval manors with serfs; the good and bad of capitalistic factories with sweating workers; and the good and bad of communism’s attempts to create so-called “collectives”. For the time being I’ll put those discussions aside, and focus on the concept of a “boot camp”, that will jerk society up by its bootstraps to achieve a better way.

I see two immediate problems with this boot-camp concept. The first is that, as every soldier knows, boot camp’s discipline may whip one into shape, but it tends to be followed by a “leave” wherein one cuts loose, and is far less disciplined, and may to a degree “backslide” and do the exact sort of things that gets one “out-of-shape”. (In fact some addicts go through “detox” and “rehab” merely to get back-in-shape, so they can better enjoy the next binge.) But when a person truly changes, it involves a change of heart, more than being a matter of will.

The second problem is that (I believe) people do not excel because of greed. People excel because they are gifted. This is a huge distinction. Why? Because, if it is true a person does well because they are gifted, then when they succeed they are being generous and sharing their gift. Their success is not being greedy at all. Often, when sharing their gift, they are happily expressing themselves, and become absorbed and engrossed in the process of giving, and are quite self-forgetful, which is very different from being selfish.

When one fails to credit humanity with having this good side, one becomes too focused on what is low; it is like stating lust and only lust is the reason men and women marry. To say greed and only greed is the reason some are successful and become “Haves” is a denial of the Truth of gifted people, which is a denial of That which is lovely. And to then say that the byproduct of giving your gift, (which sometimes [but not always] includes wealth), is a byproduct that automatically make you a bad person, is unequivocally nuts.

But some ( perhaps enviously) say being gifted is evil. Why? Because, if your gift is song, and you sing well, you gain some form of applause, and some call this applause a form of “capital”, or “means of production”, which is a bad thing, in their eyes. If you sing well and people applaud you have gained “capital” and are a capitalist, and to be a capitalist is a step backwards in social evolution. Or so I understand one of the foundational premises of communism to be.

In a sense communism shames people for excelling. Doing so is as silly as scolding Mozart for making music, only the absurdity is less obvious when, rather than a non-physical thing like music, it involves the production of physical grain. (This involves me, as a small farmer of sorts.) Farming is hard work. To me, scolding a successful producer seems more like envy on the part of the critic, than greed on the part of the criticized producer.

I consider myself a successful farmer, for I figured out a way how to wrestle a living from hardscrabble dirt that hadn’t produced a profit since the 1950’s. Not that I made much money raising food; rather I turned the farm into a farm-Childcare, and raised children, while also raising crops and livestock, using my unprofitable farm to show children how things grow. However, because my farm, (without the Childcare), was not profitable, even when I worked my butt off to make it succeed and produce a profit, I demonstrated I do know a thing or two about how very hard it is to produce a bumper crop. (At best I’ve paid for the seeds and tools, and fed the labor, but lacked the money for property taxes.) I’ve been made painfully aware how often things go wrong, and that farming doesn’t involve much greed, (unless one includes being a glutton for punishment.)

Instead of greed it seems (to me) that farming involves a love of the land; not land in general, but a love of a particular plot of land one is in a sense married to. In my case it is a hardscrabble plot, but I wouldn’t trade it for better land. It is more than mere land. It is my homeland, just as my wife is “my” wife. It might make a sort of sense to the heartless, if I traded my wife in, for some ignorant, young and physically gorgeous floozy, and it might make sense to the hardhearted to call my love of a plot of hardscrabble dirt, and my refusal to abandon it, an example of my “greed” and “possessiveness.” To me this simply demonstrates that the hardhearted do not understand love.

The Bible is quite clear about greed being a bad thing and generosity being better, and some even state the first Christians were the first communists, for the Book of Acts describes how the first Christians shared every iota of their personal property to help the community as a whole. Some go so far as to state that the first “purge” involved Ananias and Sapphira, who only pretended to share their all, but kept a little “capital” back for themselves, and were instantly shocked dead for lying to God. However communists don’t believe in God, and can’t fully understand the electric “Spirit” that joined the early believers and made them “one in heart and mind” and able to perform some amazing (and, to communists, unbelievable) deeds.

Nor did the first Christians seem to lose ownership of their possessions; they simply did not call things “their own” selfishly, and freely shared what they “owned”. The concept of “ownership”, and of rewards for hard work, was never disparaged to the degree communism disparages. Saint Paul stated, “If you don’t work you don’t eat”, which seems very greedy and unfair to some young socialists, as it allows the unemployed to go hungry, (yet ambiguously Christianity feeds the hungry, but only after they “reap” the hunger they “sow”). Jesus himself seems to suggest “ownership” has value, when he states the hired man will run away when a wolf threatens the sheep, but the shepherd will lay his life down for his sheep. Why? It involves the mystery of love. When one truly loves another, one “owns” them in a way that greed cannot comprehend.

This somewhat simple reality concerning the power of love is never more obvious than among small farmers. Back when farming was more common (before farming became agribusiness) it was quite clear that hard work pays off, whereas laziness gets you in trouble. If two farmers lived side by side, on equally rich land, the hard-working farmer would wind up with more cows than the lazy farmer. However having six fat cows when your neighbor has only two skinny cows is a very evil thing, according to communist dogma, because the six cows are “capital”. “Capital” is a bad word, among communists. The six cows are “accumulated wealth”, and “means of production” and divorce you from the ordinary “proletariat”, and make you a member of the “petite bourgeois”. You need to be “reeducated” so that you can confess your success has nothing to do with really caring. The six cows should be forcibly taken from you and “shared”. Wealth should be “collective.” Once society removes rich and selfish farmers (like you) from the equation, the Age Of Greedy Capitalism will end, and a glorious new age will dawn.

I explain this to show you I have listened, while loving my enemy, and do comprehend the heaven-on-earth communists envision. It is poppycock, but I understand it. However I know why it will never work, because I have been a lazy farmer, in my time. Such things happen, when you don’t weed because you want to write a poem. Poets face a choice: If they weed they may be a good farmer but their poetry suffers, but if they write poetry they earn a crop of weeds. (It is no coincidence that good poets often go hungry.)

I liked the example of Robert Frost, who was a poet and also a farmer (for a while), and seems proof one can do both things. One thing I have attempted to do in my life is to show that a poet doesn’t need to be a hapless and useless drone, incapable of raising crops or children. This involves a precarious balance between weeding and writing. It involves spending a lot of time being very defensive about how weedy your garden is, while at the same time having to defend yourself from other poets, who ask you why the heck you even bother with a garden (or family). Looking back, the struggle has been great fun; life would have been a drag if I hadn’t made it so difficult. Also it had an unexpected benefit: I know communism preaches poppycock, because I have made a scientific study of the absolute minimum of hard work you can get away with, and still grow broccoli.

It seems fairly obvious that if you punish society’s hard workers you will wind up with lazy workers, and fewer fat cows, and perhaps only skinny cows. If society punishes more successful farmers then society will end up promoting less successful farmers, and might even experience a scarcity of food. Yet, when communism was first being tried out, as an experiment, people who believed it would have glorious results had a mad faith that all that was needed, to end poverty, was to punish the successful. This faith seems to have been just as unshakable as the faith of Christians facing lions, but makes even the most irrational Christian seem sane. Where Saint Paul stated, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, communism stated that if you became an “activist”, busily dispossessing the hard-working farmers who succeeded, (never farming yourself because you were too busy with your “activism” to actually act), the poor would not go hungry.

How this played out under Stalin was a nightmare that in some ways makes Hitler look tame. It was the Russian equivalent of Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, and equally disastrous, and was a slight degree worse than Hitler because it didn’t hate a “differing” religion or nationality, but fostered hate and division between farmers of the “same” religion and nationality, in the same town, driving a wedge between farmers who were poor and farmers who were slightly better off, (but by no means rich). Where Hitler promoted hating “foreigners”, Stalin promoted hating neighbors, and even brothers.

The result was that the hard-working and successful farmers, (called “Kulaks”), were “liquidated”, and, rather than prosperity, famine was the consequence, (perhaps predictably.)

Before I go into the details of this horrific fiasco, I need to describe the situations it intended to “improve upon”. This will involve several long sidetracks into anecdotes of history, with a focus on the more interesting times, which catch my eye because they stand out either by being particularly hellish or particularly heavenly. Hopefully I will be forgiven if I dwell a lot on small farmers. This involve something a surprising number of modern youth don’t know: Without farmers we all starve. It also involves something all too many leaders forget: People will put up with a lot of excess and extravagance in their leaders, until they get hungry. Then, watch out.

***14***

The American “populist” Bryan stated, in a famous speech in 1896, “Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms, and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

In a sense this is a warning to the “elite” which occurs again and again, across the expanses of time. It basically warns the elite, “do not bite the hand that feeds you”. The average man is willing to put up with surprising disparities in wealth, as long as his own lot in life is happy, but once suffering enters his picture the foundations of wealth and privilege quake. The poor riot and the authorities react by oppressing, and the rot sets in.

There are all sorts of intellectual explanations for why disparities in wealth exist, and when I look through them all, I am reminded of children at my Childcare all whining, “He got more than me! It’s not fair!” The standard answer is, “Life isn’t fair.”

The spiritual answer is that everyone is blessed with gifts, some which are very obvious and some which are blessings in disguise. (Some who have employed me have suggested my blessings are very, very disguised.) (It can be dangerous to have a dreamy young poet operate a forklift in a warehouse containing great numbers of glass bottles.) Individuality involves gifts as varied as people’s fingerprints, and one gift is to be a motivator and leader of others. When one gazes back through the rises and falls of peoples, across the expanses of time called “history”, it is like looking across mountain ranges of many hues at sunset. Some mountains are ugly, blackened by the vomit of volcanic turmoil, while others are sweet like sunny uplands with patches of pines. A trait of the better societies is a respect people have for each other; a king or boss may be stern and demand respect, but he does not lord it over others in a haughty manner, and is actually respectful and always on the lookout for talent. Far, far back in history, even before the first farm, the massive, muscular chief of meat-eating Neanderthals might spot, in a skinny, nearsighted fellow who was useless on a hunt, a latent skill at making flint spear-points. Bingo! Useless hunter becomes a man whom hunters value.

The difference in how individuals are gifted leads quite naturally to what economists call the “division of labor”, and this process occurs because when you are good at something you tend to succeed at it. The cream rises to the top. This brings me back to the difference between the hard working farmer and the lazy farmer. The hard working farmer will tend to have wealth and acquire more land, as the lazy farmer loses his land and becomes a worker, or else loses ownership of his land and works the same farm as a tenant. Or I should say this process would occur in a time of peace. In a time of war even a hard working farmer can lose ownership of his land because his society loses a war. The Babylonians march into Jerusalem, or the Manchu into China, or the Rus into Russia, and, because the ability to conquer is also a “gift”, the conqueror gets all the stress, and all the care, and all the bother, of having to run all the farms of the all farmers they have conquered. (Yikes! As if running a single farm isn’t trouble enough! Conquest seems a fate worse than Solomon having 600 wives!)

Conquest was never as easy as it might seem. It might seem an invader only needs to yell, “Grow food and make it snappy, or I’ll lop off your head”, but that has been tried and it never works. Dispirited workers produce poorly. Terror is indeed a form of motivation, but fails to bring out the latent gifts people inwardly own, in the manner love does, and merciless conquerors soon discover the land isn’t producing the wealth they expected. Therefore, like it or not, they are faced with finding a better form of motivation.

It is actually quite fascinating to look back across time and see how some conquest resulted in kingdoms that endured, and some conquest (like Hitler’s) resulted in complete flops. There are plenty of examples to study, as our planet has not been known for its lack of wars.

To return to the example of Genghis Khan, we are faced with a paradox, for he was undoubtedly brutal, but created an empire that endured. The explanation is that he used brutality as one of several forms of motivation. If you resisted him, and you killed his beloved soldiers, he would show you little mercy. He slaughtered not just every soldier, but every person in entire cities, and tore those cities down, even to the degree some cities ceased to be, and are only heaps of rubble in the steppes to this day. While it is to a degree unwise to put too much stock in quotes that are 700 years old, when leading the population of one of the first cities he vanquished outside the gates to all be beheaded, he is purported to have informed them, “I am the flail of God. Had you not created great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”

If this quote is true, it would indicate Genghis had some sense that he was an “ax” of God. If you wonder what joy could be found in such a gift, so do I. However he did experience pleasure, if the the following statement, that he is said to have made, is also true: “The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.”

It does make a sort of sense to utterly exterminate a foe who has had the courage to stand up to you, because otherwise you are in the shoes of a hunter who has not shot to kill, and has a wounded beast on his hands. (Jefferson described slavery as “having the wolf by the ear”.) The lick-spittle of vengeance has an amazingly long memory; and history shows many conquered people who arose from ashes to burn the capitals of their conquerors, as the Babylonians did to the Assyrians.  The Mongols themselves were a people who arose from ashes all their own.

(Before Christians get too haughty about such behavior being ungodly, they should look at the Book of Joshua, and read how it was not merely the soldiers of Jericho who were slaughtered, but also the women and children and even the livestock, Christians should read how anything that could be burned was burned. Only metal was allowed to be saved from Jericho, and not as loot, but to be put in the temple treasury, for God. Any infractions to this decree were severely punished, yet, of course, people did covet certain objects, and did show mercy to particularly beautiful women, and trouble always came of it. One example was: Mercy was shown to the Agagites. Then these people, rather than gratitude, bore a lick-spittle grudge across centuries. Eventually, when the Jews were captives in Babylonia, an Agagite named Haman came up with the solution many have come up with over the millennium: The total extermination of the Jews. Read The Book of Esther for the exciting climax. [Spoiler alert: The Jews weren’t exterminated.])

In conclusion, mercy has not been a strong suit among conquerors. In the case of Genghis Khan his reputation for being merciless did motivate some strongholds to open their gates and offer no resistance, and such cities tended to fare better, receiving what could be called “mercy”, considering the alternative. They then had a chance of witnessing Genghis’s ability to see talent. For example, Mongols, as a people on horseback, had no idea how to conduct a siege and storm a castle’s walls. Genghis learned such things from Chinese, and later Persian, captives. Even in cases where populations were slaughtered he made exceptions for people who had gifts, men who made actual things that could be used, blacksmiths and potters and other artisans, who tended to be shipped home as useful slaves. He seemingly governed by principles of meritocracy, and appreciated people who were not cowed by his power and answered him honestly. He lacked much of the megalomania often seen in tyrants: While he might confidently call himself the “flail” of God, he didn’t allow statues and portraits of himself to be made. In fact the more I study the man, the more I realize there were reasons his influence endured.

Not that he doesn’t qualify as a mass murderer. When he invaded northern China the local northern population plunged from something like 40 million to 5 million, (from the last Chinese census to the first Mongol census). (There may have been a mass exodus of refugees, as well as slaughter.) (Also the Medieval Warm Period crashed into the Little Ice Age.) But, to get back to my original point, it was not an easy thing to be a small farmer, minding your own business, in those times.

***15***

Looking back, it seems that because even peace-loving farmers were subject to invaders, (outlaws, if not armies) they came to desire protection (sheriffs, if not dictators with armies). Society became divided between protectors and the protected. Some worked as farmers as some worked as soldier-protectors. Farmers tended to be smaller men and soldiers be bigger men. In societies where this division became hereditary, the size-difference could be surprising. Why? Because the same child, fed only grain, may grow to be a foot shorter than the same child would be, if fed beef. (This is trivia, but when the meat-eating Americans occupied rice-eating Japan after World War Two, the children of Japan became significantly taller than their parents.) The divisions in ancient societies trended towards big knights and small serfs. But this was a division all agreed upon, and, in societies where people cared for each other, it worked surprisingly well. (Of course, because this system involved soldiers, it also tended to perpetuate war).

In the Bible there is an interesting story regarding farmers needing a defender, (found in the eighth chapter of the first Book of Samuel.) Basically the farmers want a defender, and God tells them He is their defender, but they insist God isn’t good enough; they want a big, strong, human king. Then God (through Samuel) tells them what to expect, if they have a human king. It makes good reading, three millennium later:

This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “Nay; but we will have a king over us;20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles”.

In other words, the Jews of that time could have stood for Truth and seen that Truth stood by them, but would rather be slaves to big government. They should have known better, because they were “God’s Chosen” and got good advice most of us never get, (such as the prophet Samuel’s), but perhaps there is a bit of the lazy farmer in all of us, that wants to shrug responsibility off to someone else. We desire to sit at home and write lovely poems, as someone else bleeds and dies fighting the enemy. According to the ancient prophet Samuel, this choice will not give us the freedom to write poems, but rather will make us slaves.

I have seen this true in my own life, (where I have been the slave of many bosses who couldn’t care less for my poetry), (or anyone else’s), but in terms of World History some bosses redeemed the tyranny of power, likely because they felt the influence of love, as displayed by the Christ. In the social structure called the “medieval manor system”, the primitive society could be hell, but could also sometimes be very loving and wonderful. On such rare occasions the “Medieval Manor System” was heavenly Christianity in a worldly form, for it was a “body” with all the “parts” working in harmony, and an individual’s “gifts” were allowed free expression.

Many of the Medieval Manor System’s concepts seem loathsome to us, and we are repelled from the very idea of their servitude, which approached slavery’s. But apparently the master of the manor could sometimes prefer to oversee happy serfs. (Such oddness even occurred in America, midst the undeniable horrors of American slavery: Rare, scattered plantations allowed slaves to plant their own gardens and even own rifles to hunt with, to create their own churches and schools, with some slave-owners even granting their best slaves their freedom, as a reward.)

Not that I would ever want to be a slave, or a serf. Serfs were not allowed to marry without their lord’s permission, and were bound to the soil they worked. Rather than own their land, their land owned them. They had to stay in town, and were denied freedom of movement, but the benefit to this limitation was that they also could not be thrown off their land. If their lord went bankrupt and lost his land, they went along with the land to the new owner. Also, though they didn’t own their land, they were allowed to keep some of what it produced. (In some ways that is not all that different from my own government, which allows me to keep some of my paycheck.) Serfs were slaves, in that they had to work for the lord, in “his” fields and fixing “his” roads, but, though I smugly think I own “my” land, I do pay property taxes, which in a sense means I am renting my farm from the government. When I struggle to make the money to pay those taxes I am in a sense a serf, (though my taxes pay others to fix the roads, and I don’t have to [thank God] fix them myself).

In some places the lord of the manor found the serfs were quite productive during their free time, both as farmers and as artisans, and that the wealth of the manor as a whole increased the more free time serfs got. If you consider the time serfs had to work for the manor was a sort of “tax”, the tax was reduced, but rather than less income, the lord of the manor strangely got richer, for the consequence of asking serfs for less was that they became more productive. In some way I don’t understand, [when Satan wasn’t looking], a sort of golden age occurred in Central Europe.

I long to know more. How the exposure to an apparent mass murderer like Genghis Khan, and the nightmarish pandemic called The Black Death, could have had such unexpected positive consequences makes me wonder. But the history startles, and states this: In parts of Poland around the year 1370, some serfs were only required to work for their lord two days a year. That is a very small tax. When I total up all my taxes, I see I spend half my time working for the government, or 130 days a year (subtracting weekends.) So who is the slave? Me, or those long-ago Polish serfs, who only worked for their government 2 days a year?

***16***

One effect of the plague called the “Black Death” may have been to make a serf more valuable. There was just as much land, but in places only half as many people. Unless depopulated fields were abandoned (which did happen), you, as a surviving lord, had to make the best use of your remaining servants and, unless you could afford seeing your income cut in half, you had to ask them to work twice as hard. Meanwhile, in the next manor over, your neighbor was facing the same problem, and might be tempted to lure some of your more footloose serfs to break their bond with your soil and come to his land (offering higher pay, or perhaps lower “taxes”). Your serfs gained power. But this is just a guess on my part, with me plopping modern concepts of “supply and demand” onto a situation I only dimly glimpse through mists of time.

One problem with trying to see into the mists of medieval Central Europe is that the landscape was constantly overrun by invaders. Genghis Khan was proceeded by Attila the Hun, and by Rus and Visgoths and Magyars and Saxons and others, and followed by further churnings of the landscape, culminating in the mind-boggling tank-battles between Hitler and Stalin. Not only did these invasions tend to burn down existing libraries, but each conqueror tended to rewrite history, with the revisionist-version portraying the new conqueror as the hero, and his foes as barely human.

A brutal way to erase the past was to simply burn parchments, but parchment (basically carefully-prepared animal hides) was valuable and scarce, so another approach was to scrape the ink off the parchment and start over. A recent development has been for historians to radiocarbon-date parchments and also their ink, and if the parchment is significantly older than the ink, to scrutinize the parchment for traces of what was written before, (able to be brought-out by modern science using x-rays or ultraviolet light or some such magic). This has brought back writings that were thought destroyed. However, to the north, parchment is more likely to rot. Much we have to go on is legend and lore, handed down largely by word of mouth, and only written down centuries later. For example, it is possible to get a glimpse of where Genghis Khan was most brutal by where he is, (to this day), most hated, (parts of China, and Persia [modern Iran]), whereas he appears surprisingly beneficent in the lore of other lands, and is a hero in Mongolia. We also have bits of history in libraries far from the steppes, (often not original documents but handwritten copies, or copies of copies), which have escaped such ravages. However much of my sense of there being a golden period in Central Europe I glean through inference, which arises from incidental behavior which seems out-of-character for the time, in comparison to the brutality elsewhere.

For example, I recall reading of a princess of Central Europe whose father was king of one land and whose uncle was king of another land, who, because her uncle died childless the same year as her father died, became queen of both lands. This created an immediate crisis, as the the two nationalities did not get along. (Hungarians and Poles?) Anywhere else there would have inevitably been a war, but the queen did the sane and smart thing, which was to give up her claim to one of the lands, and simply hand the bother of ruling that land off to some relative.

The fact there may have been a golden age and renaissance in Central Europe is inconvenient to those who prefer to rewrite history to show a “societal evolution”. The concept of “evolution” tends to be linear, and tends to succumb to the temptation to make oneself the pinnacle and to reduce those who came before oneself to the status of less-evolved Neanderthals. Even when a golden past is honored, one sees oneself as that golden past’s progressive heir. (Hence some Romanians see themselves as improved Romans.)

The communist version of “societal evolution” tends to focus on material byproducts of Truth, such as power (“Church versus State”) and money (“Guns versus Butter”) and is blind to factors outside the box it creates for itself; a cramping crate it disciplines itself to adhere to being boxed-in by. This blindness fails to see what moves humanity is often a politically-incorrect discipline that comes from outside-the-box. Communism itself was originally outside-the-box, in its dismissal of religion as an “opiate”, yet communism fails to see that Christianity also was originally outside-the-box, and not at all associated with the rich, powerful, and politically-correct people of its time.

From the moment the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and became a “defender of the faith”, political power threatened to turn spirituality into a box, limiting the human spirit. With power comes the temptation to abuse it. Not that reform cannot originate from the throne, but (turning to Tolkien’s fantasy) often only a humble hobbit like Bilbo or Frodo can resist the evil of the “Ring of Power”. Power tends to increasingly be something clung to, rather than a thing used wisely, and then it ceases to be something that comes from Truth outside-the-box, and exists in growing mustiness, in which case the fresh, outside-the-box breezes tend to take the form of invaders. Once Christianity began to stultify, challenges shocked it from its torpor, pagan Visgoths sacking Rome and pagan Huns flooding Europe, Vikings from the north and Islam from the south and Genghis Khan from the east.

People have an unease regarding bright times of good fortune, and tend to worry the light will be taken away. Even a most glorious party must come to an end. A sunny dawn gives way to evening’s long shadows. Life leads to death. Perhaps this vague sense of shadow, lurking in even the best and happiest life, sometimes creates a defensiveness, even a paranoia, and people build structures hoping to wall out shade, but the walls become prisons in and of themselves. One cannot defeat a shadow with a wall; it takes a light.

There is much talk about how, to be free, one must stay on their toes and must not slack off. “The condition upon which God has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance”, (John Philpot Curran; 1790); “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few,” (Wendell Phillips; 1854); [perhaps even, “Rust never sleeps”, (Neil Young; 1979)]). However one of the most fascinating qualities of liberty is that it cannot be grasped. Attempt to grab it, and it slips away. Try to pen it with laws and rules, and it immediately manifests as “the exception to the rule.” Perhaps this is what Saint Paul was attempting to describe in Galatians, 2000 years ago, when he stated, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

In terms of simplistic “societal evolution” the “medieval manor system” atrophied into a stratified society, partly because the cream rises to the top, and partly because the conquerors ruled the conquered (for example, in Russia a Rus nobility ruled Slav serfs.) In this system the serfs grew the food, protected by the lord of the manor, and groups of manors were protected by a duke, and groups of dukes were protected by the king, and kings were under the jurisdiction of the Pope. When serfs had squabbles they brought them to the lord; when lords had squabbles they brought them to the duke; when dukes had squabbles they brought them to the king, and when kings had squabbles they brought them to the Pope, and because everyone was a good Christian, meek and mild, everything worked out. This occurred during the mild winter of the year 926, in the dead of night, between the hours of 2:52 and 3:09 AM. The rest of the time things weren’t quite so peaceful. Even in the Vatican problems occurred, involving a schism that resulted in there being three Popes at the same time.

I would not like to be in the shoes of any Pope dealing with all the quarrelsome kings of Christendom. (Not that the College of Cardinals is considering me. “If elected I will not serve.”) However I do have many of the skills required of a Pope. After all, I run a Childcare. And I have some powers Popes never dreamed of having, for I’m more than twice as tall and weigh more than four times as much as my subjects. One quarrel I always find myself dealing with is expressed by the words, “He started it!”

The “start of war” is an interesting thing to study, for it seems to me that, without a “start” there would be no need for soldier-protectors, and farmers could farm in peace. Soldier-protectors would be out of a job, and would have to go back to farming. Looking back in time, few seemed to really desire that. The problem seemed to be that hoeing corn got a bit boring, after the first decade or two.

It is all well and good to adopt some hippy slogan such as, “Wars will cease when men refuse to fight,” but that simply doesn’t deal with the fact that, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Life simply gets boring without something to battle. Therefore it seems to me that the problem a Pope is faced with is: Getting people to realize the fiercest and most interesting battle there is to fight is not with people over the border, but within one’s self. That would mean Popes would have to first look hard in the mirror, and, as Pope of a Childcare, I understand that is the last thing one is prone to do, when things are getting out of hand and spiraling out of control.

One thing I’ve noticed at my Childcare is that children seem to spend half of every ballgame arguing. I often don’t step in and interfere, (unless things get drastic), for I understand this is how we mortals learn the art of diplomacy.

One mistake students of “societal evolution” tend to make is to over-emphasis the domineering, and ignore the quieter peacemakers. An interesting example of this involves the etymology of the word “slave”. It comes from the word “Slav”, who were a people constantly overrun by outsiders, farmers who fed their masters and often only earned scorn for it. But what does the word “Slav” actually mean? Apparently it is an ancient word with deep Indo-European roots, and has a somewhat ambiguous meaning, as it seems to mean both “listen” and “speak the truth.” Perhaps the best translation is “heed.” (Definitely not a blabbermouth, especially when the lord has a sharp sword, but “silent waters run deep.”) And one thing about the Slavs is that they have endured where their masters have not. Who speaks of the Scythians in a modern context? Not that the Slavs didn’t learn a great deal from their masters, but in the end their masters were the ones who converted.

Gazing back into the mists of time I am always interested in seeing how missionaries converted fierce, pagan warriors to Christianity. They often couldn’t convert with the sword, for often the pagans were better warriors, and had superior weapons. When the English had a huge advantage in Western Europe because their longbows could shoot farthest, in Eastern Europe the Mongol bows of horn and wood could shoot even further, and pierce armor even better than English arrows. And long before the Mongols, the Scythians in a sense had the first RVs, and it was difficult to counterattack their villages, as they were basically covered wagons on wheels, and hard to locate. Nor were such nomadic people stupid and without skill. Here is a Scythian necklace from 400 BC:

In a sense it seems crazy to leave a secure castle and head out as a missionary into dangerous steppes, yet people did it. I wish I could wiretap time and listen-in on the conversations between Christians and Pagans. They did not always end well.

People are not always welcoming when you arrive at their front door like a salesman and tell them you have a deal they can’t refuse. One of my favorite stories about such a “deal” involves the English arriving in Bombay harbor in the early 1600’s, and telling the Indian king they could supply really wonderful goods, if he allowed them to build a trading post in his harbor, protected by cannons. The king asked the English if he also would be allowed to build a trading post, on the river Thames in London, protected by his cannons. The English left and didn’t return for 200 years.

While peering about in the mists of the past, looking for sunny uplands, I chanced upon some dark deeds. Apparently the East Saxons (who “evolved” into the Prussians) didn’t like the deal missionaries were offering. A pagan priest had the missionary bishop Alderbert of Prague murdered on the Baltic coast of Poland in 997, and the missionary archbishop Bruno of Querfurt was beheaded by Saxons (and most of his 18 followers hung) in 1006. Yet midst these black shadows are strange ghosts of gray; the martyred missionaries were so venerated that their corpses were bought: Bruno’s by a Duke of Poland, Boleslaw the Great, and Alderbert’s, (for its weight in gold), by the king of Poland, Boleslaus I. And then, as I poke through the strange, dark fog further, some of the ghosts resolve into beams of light.

Some of this history is found in a copy of a history written in the early 1000’s called the “Annals of Quedlinburg”, which quirked my eyebrow as it was likely written by a woman, at a sort of college for women within the abbey of St. Servatius Church. This immediately piqued my interest, as it suggested women had a status I didn’t imagine existed in medieval times. Poking further, I discovered this school was founded by Matilda of Ringelheim in 932.

Matlda is a person who strikes me as a crossroads of many forks, or perhaps a star of many rays, for whichever which way one turns one sees a fascinating avenue one can wander down and become lost upon. For example, (don’t get lost), her great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was Widukind, a fierce, pagan Saxon king at the time the Frankish Charlemagne was attempting to convert Saxons to Christianity with his sword. Around the year 772 Charlemagne cut down a sacred-to-pagans grove of trees, which did not bring about peace, but rather nearly two decades of warfare. Around 785 Widukind converted, not due to losing a battle, but rather due to a vision. It was a rather interesting vision, but if I go any farther down this avenue we’ll get lost. So let’s back up to Matilda.

All five of her children gained great power. Her eldest daughter was married to the count of Paris and became the mother of Hugh Capet, first king of the West Franks. Her oldest son became Holy Roman Emperor in 962. Her second daughter eventually became the queen of King Louis IV of France. Her second son became Duke of Bavaria. And her third son became both an Archbishop and a Duke, and his court was the intellectual center of Germany.

I suppose communists would suggest this shows how the bourgeois intrigue and plot to hog all the power to themselves, but this fails to consider what is done with such power. Matilda was the sort of person who would slip from her husband’s bed in the dead of night to go to the castle chapel and pray. She apparently dismayed the court accountants by spending far too much of her husband’s money on charity. These are not the deeds of a hog. The simple act of starting a school to educate women is more of an act that spreads the wealth of knowledge, even if the women who attended the school were all upper class. Women in other lands were not writing histories, which brings me back to the “Annals of Quedinburg.”

In this history we find the first mention of a Baltic tribe called the “Lithuanians”, (midst describing when the martyred Bruno was beheaded in 1009). There was little indication at the time that these pagan people would someday challenge communist dogma, concerning “societal evolution”.

***17***

Lithuania was luckily located, just northeast of the maximum Mongol expansion, (but close enough for contact), and just east of the worst Saxon warfare and west of the various Viking wars that led to the beginnings of Russia. It’s lowlands were a bit swampy and highlands a bit sandy, so the land wasn’t coveted by outsiders, but it was fertile enough, especially in the warmth of the Medieval Warm Period. It was one of those places out on the fringe of civilization which happily escapes notice. It gradually prospered, and after a couple centuries became the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, an entity that persisted five hundred more years, and at one point reached from the Black Sea to the Baltic and was the largest nation in Europe. But what is most upsetting to the communist dogma about “societal evolution” was that Lithuania didn’t concentrate wealth and “the means of production” in the hands of a king, but rather developed democracy.

 

In all its long history, Lithuania only had a single “king”. Back in its beginnings, it was basically a conglomeration of tribal chieftains, (although they are called “dukes” in the old histories). Rome saw them as “pagans”, as did Constantinople, and Orthodox missionaries from the east and Catholic missionaries from the west aimed to convert them. The missionaries from Rome reached the levels of a crusade, involving armed knights and groups such as the Teutonic Knights, (centered in Jerusalem but with a branch in the Baltic), converting with such zeal that they threatened to erase the cultures they converted. It was at this point one chieftain, named Mindaugas, grins out from the mists of history as a particularly crafty guy. Despite the fact the chiefs of his own land, often his own relatives, restlessly kept his land in a state of civil war, he manipulated circumstances to an advantage where Lithuania not only wasn’t erased, but expanded. At one point he converted to Christianity, and there was joy in Rome, and Lithuania was marked down as a victory for Christ, but apparently Mindaugus only did this to get the Teutonic Knights working for him. Later, when circumstances changed, he caused frowning in Rome, as it looked to them like he went back to his pagan ways, though he may have renounced Rome more than he renounced Christ. But most interesting to me is something which appears, in the written history of the steppes, not in Lithuania but in what became Belarus, during the time Mindaugus ruled. This fragment states Belarus became part of Lithuania, but not, according to the Belorussians, because Lithuanians marched in and sacked their small cities; but rather because the Lithuanians were “invited” in. Details are lacking, but the very idea of Lithuania expanding, not due to invasion, but through invitation, hints at a reality not much discussed, in tomes about “societal evolution.”

Initially Lithuanians formed more than 80% of the population of their homeland on the coast of the Baltic, but as they expanded over the steppes to the Black Sea, including Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine, they became a minority of the duchy, only 12% of the total population. The simple fact a people can be so outnumbered and yet never be slaughtered, not for only a few decades but for five hundred years, suggests a level of civilization rarely seen in Europe. However what is most fascinating to me is the democracy they developed. After Mindaugas they had no “king”, but rather had a sort of gathering of chieftains, which became a parliament which decided policy through discussions and by vote. They did not seem to feel the slightest bit compelled, as the rest of Europe did, to concentrate the “means of production” in the personage of a single, absolute monarch, but rather went merrily on their way, defying “societal evolution”, (which likely would have annoyed the heck out Marxists, had any existed). Instead they delighted in freedom. Apparently they could do this without asking outsiders for permission. Of course their democracy’s “voters” were only the “royalty”, but membership in the “royalty” expanded until it involved more than 10% of the population.

When I gaze across the landscape of history, seeking a cause for such a growth of liberty, I think to myself one factor might have been the sheer enormity of the steppes. The steppes have a vastness approaching the ocean’s, which may have been what attracted the Vikings, however the freedom which the steppes encourage is very different from what the fenceless sea encourages.

The sea knows no walls, but sailors are confined within the gunnels of a ship, which tends to develop character-traits that keep men from going for each other’s throats, (which is what you feel like doing, when you are confined with someone aboard a ship for a long period of time.) Not that mutiny never happened on ships, but among sailors it was seen as the worsts of sins. Out of this came loyalty seldom seen in other cultures. While a Viking could be heartless and deadly if you didn’t know him, if he gave you “his word” and you clasped hands, you could be sure he felt “honor bound” to “keep his word”. Meanwhile in Constantinople the measure of manhood was not loyalty, but rather Byzantine slyness. Therefore the Byzantine emperor did not trust his palace guard to Byzantines, but instead chose Vikings from Russia, called Varangians.

The steppes, however, knew no gunnels, and, where a mortal cannot walk on water, the steppes were dry land, and if a man truly couldn’t stand his master he could just take a hike towards the endless horizons. This vastness even imprinted steppe laws: While Slavs were tied to their Manor and not suppose to leave town, the law stated that, if a runaway remained free for more than a year, the lord had to give up and stop trying to recapture him. Therefore at the edge of the civilized parts of the steppes there tended to be a fringe of free Slavs, in some senses like American pioneers at the edge of the wilderness. Rather than Indians they faced Tartars.

The “Tartar” were what the Mongols became after they intermarried with the local Turkic populations. Initially tolerant of all religions, they eventually became Muslim. Their primary weakness was fighting among themselves, and divided they fell, but only after a long and illustrious time controlling the steppes all the way to China. Among the Tartar slavery was legal, but one Tartar leader was disgusted when he saw his poor paying bills by selling their children, so he made slavery illegal among his own people, which was very bad news for the Slavs. The Tartar developed the bad habit of paying their bills by raiding westward into Slav villages, killing the elders and scooping up the young and strong, herding them south, and selling them to Arabs and the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that an average raid captured between one and two thousand Slavs, but one raid apparently herded 20,000 Slavs south. It was at this time the word “Slav” became synonymous with “slave”.

It was nearly impossible to stop these raids, for the Tartar could ride faster than word-of-mouth could spread (and the internet hadn’t been invented). Some raids didn’t merely cross borders, but crossed entire nations into adjoining nations. Also the raiding parties succeeded because they were much larger than the meager militia of Slav villages. Lastly the Tartar would raid new areas each time, allowing enough time between raids for the local population to recover, (which was also just enough time [one generation] for the local population to become careless). However the success of such slave-raids weakened Tartar society, I think, because it was easier to make money raiding, than by developing Tartar farms or Tartar industry, and slowly the Russians came to have more advanced weapons.

These Tartar raids went on not for a short time, but for centuries, and I’ve seen the total given, for the number of Slavs captured, enslaved, and shipped south by the Tartar, as being between a half million and three million. And looking south, to where the slaves wound up, one sees that at one point there were over a million white slaves in predominately Muslim lands in Europe. (It would be interesting to do genetic studies of Arab lands now; they may have more Slav blood than they care to admit, [added to Visgoth blood in North Africa.]) (Also, if America must pay reparations for once having black slaves as employees, must oil-rich Islam pay reparations to Belarus, Poland, and the Ukraine ?)

In any case, it can be seen why Slavs preferred Lithuanians to the Tartar. It also can be seen it took a lot of guts to be a free Slav, at the edge of the wilderness. Lastly, it can be seen why the steppes remained so depopulated.

Because it was dangerous, due to the Tartar, to settle and farm on the steppes, some of the free Slavs lived elusive, nomadic lives hunting and fishing. They also studied their oppressors, and learned to form their own bands of fierce men on horseback. These became the Cossack, who enacted a sort of Karmic revenge on the Tartar lands as Russia expanded east as the United States expanded west, in an uncanny way preforming the role the US cavalry played against the American Indians. (The Cossack also happened to be a people who practiced a basically democratic form of government).

When I gaze out over the steppes in my mind’s eye I am in awe of the enormity, both in terms of time and of space. It seems a landscape where our Creator used his broadest brush. Yet it barely seems noticed, in discussions of human liberty and “societal evolution”, beyond a paragraph or two written in fine-point. In fact the Slavs were considered “backwards”, at an early stage of “societal evolution”, by the early thinkers of the Enlightenment. Yet Slavs had a fascinating government that worked quietly out on the farms, (without the Lord of the manor needing to pay it much mind), called the “commune”. For centuries, perhaps even millenniums, they did very successfully what American hippies attempted very poorly, and what Marx and Engels felt was a new idea, and what Stalin and Mao utterly botched.

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.