Look, Stranger

Look, stranger, on this island now
The leaping light for your delight discovers,
Stand stable here
And silent be,
That through the channels of the ear
May wander like a river
The swaying sound of the sea.
Here at a small field’s ending pause
Where the chalk wall falls to the foam and its tall ledges
Oppose the pluck
And knock of the tide,
And the shingle scrambles after the suck-
-ing surf, and a gull lodges
A moment on its sheer side.

Far off like floating seeds the ships
Diverge on urgent voluntary errands,
And this full view
Indeed may enter
And move in memory as now these clouds do,
That pass the harbour mirror
And all the summer through the water saunter.

— W. H. Auden


Howard Zinn on the American Revolution

The traditional view that we are all taught in school is that a handful of noble heroes gathered in Philadelphia and magnanimously gave to “The People” control of the reins of government—“If you can keep it,” added BF.

In Zinn’s perspective there was a genuine populist uprising brewing all through the colonies.  90 years before the publication of Das Kapital, people of the American colonies self-organized to throw off the economic shackles with which England was sapping their productive work.  But a handful of aristocratic connivers arranged to co-opt the  people’s energies, and divert the revolution toward a limited transfer of power—from British elites to American elites. — JJM

“In 1776, certain people in the English colonies made a discovery: they found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits and political power from the British Empire. In the process they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership. When we look at the American Revolution in this way, it was a work of genius.”

“The Revolutionary leadership distrusted the mobs of poor. But they knew the Revolution had no appeal to slaves and Indians. They would have to woo the armed white population.”

“It seemed that the majority of white colonists, who had a bit of land, or no property at all, were still better off than slaves or indentured servants or Indians, and could be wooed into the coalition of the Revolution.”

“Here was the traditional device by which those in charge of any social order mobilise and discipline a recalcitrant population, offering the adventure and rewards of military service to get poor people to fight for a cause they may not see clearly as their own.”

“[It was] a wonderfully useful device, the language of liberty and equality which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution, without ending either slavery or inequality.”

“Inspirational language is still used, in our time, to cover up serious conflicts of interest in an apparent consensus and to cover up, also, the omission of large parts of the human race.”

“It seems that the rebellion against British rule allowed a certain group of the colonial elite to replace those loyal to England, give some benefits to small landholders, and leave poor white working people and tenant farmers in very much their old situation.”

“One would look, in examining the Revolution’s effect on class relations, at what happened to land confiscated from fleeing Loyalists. It was distributed in such a way as to give a double opportunity to the Revolutionary leaders: to enrich themselves and their friends, and to parcel out some land to small farmers to create a broad base of support for the new government”

“The new constitutions that were drawn up in all states from 1776 to 1780 were not much different from the old ones. Although property qualifications for voting and holding office were lowered in some instances, in Massachusetts they were increased. Only Pennsylvania abolished them totally.”

“The inferior position of blacks, the exclusion of Indians from the new society, the establishment of supremacy for the rich and powerful in the new nation — all this was already settled in the colonies by the time of the Revolution. With the English out of the way, it could now be put on paper, solidified, regularised, made legitimate, by the Constitution of the United States.”

“At the Constitutional Convention, [Alexander] Hamilton suggested a President and Senate chosen for life. The Convention did not take his suggestion. But neither did it provide for popular elections, except in the case of the House of Representatives, where the qualifications were set by the state legislatures (which required property holding for voting in almost all states), and excluded women, Indians and slaves.”

“The Constitution serves the interest of a wealthy elite — it enables the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law all made possible by the fanfare of patriotism.”

“The problem of democracy in post-revolutionary society was not the constitutional limitations on voting. It lay deeper, beyond the Constitution, in the division of society into rich and poor. For if some people had great wealth and great influence — if they had the land, the money, the newspapers, the church, the educational system — how could voting, however broad, cut into such power?”

— from A People’s History, by Howard Zinn

The REAL Left

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
— Mark Twain

The left is caught in the same hermetic universe as the corporate press, blithely denying the enormous state crimes that have undermined and perverted American democracy. These are, principally, the corruption of our voting system, the assassination of key progressive leaders, and the infiltration and neutering of the press itself.

We see very little in the press about the obscene chasm between the super-rich and all the rest of us, or the promiscuous warfare waged by an enormous rogue state that is the USA today.

The American security state has undertaken a protracted, strategic Balkanization of the left that has obviated any possibility of any common action, and turned the Left away from working class interests.

We on the authentic left have to stop thinking in terms of left and right, stop regarding ourselves as members of the Left Tribe, and make common cause with people all over the political spectrum who are willing to question state power and who entertain the possibility of working together to pull this country and the world back from the brink.

— Mark Crispin Miller

Anabaptist Utopia

It was a religious movement, a reaction against corruption in the church, and a call for return to the values of Jesus. And it was also an appeal to radical egalitarianism, sharing of wealth, defiance of the prevailing feudal social order.

The Anabaptist rebellion was led originally by a baker from Haarlem in the Netherlands, named Jan Matthys. Matthys identified the German city of Münster as the New Jerusalem.  He was murdered viciously and his body displayed as an example to future rebels.  But the people of Münster were not to be deterred, and they elected the Anabaptist Bernhard Knipperdolling as mayor in 1534.

There was a year of chaos and freedom and rejoicing and suffering, as the Anabaptist experiment unfolded under Knipperdolling.  On this day in 1535, the Anabaptist rule was brutally crushed by the church authorities.


Is this the moment?

Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.  Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity, and love.

— Thomas Merton

Blaise Pascal

[Dieu a] tempéré sa connaissance en sorte qu’il a donné des marques de soi visibles à ceux qui le cherchent et non à ceux qui ne le cherchent pas.  Il y a assez de lumière pour ceux qui ne désirent que de voir et assez d’obscurité pour ceux qui ont une disposition contraire.  — Blaise Pascal, né cette journée en 1623

[God has] arranged his visibility for those who seek him, but not for those who don’t.  There is enough light for those who want to see, and enough shadow to deter those who have the opposite disposition.
— Blaise Pascal was born this day in 1623, and never lived to see his 40th birthday.

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
J’ai dit souvent que tout le malheur des hommes vient d’une seule chose,
qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre. (Pensées)