Friday, July 22, 2016

Notes on Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell

_A Paradise Built in Hell:  The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster_ by Rebecca Solnit
NY:  Viking, 2009
ISBN 978-0-670-02107-9

(17)  Just as her [Amelia Holshouser's Mizpah Café after SF 1906 quake] kitchen was one of many spontaneously launched community centers and relief projects, so her resilient resourcefulness represents the ordinary response in many disasters.  In them, strangers become friends and collaborators, goods are shared freely, people improvise new roles for themselves.  Imagine a society where money plays little or no role, where people rescue each other and then care for each other, where food is given away, where life is mostly out of doors in public, where the old divides between people seem to have fallen away, and the fate that faces them, no matter how grim, is far less so for being shared, where much once considered impossible, both good and bad, is now possible or present, and where the moment is so pressing that old complaints and worries fall away, where people feel important, purposeful, at the center of the world.  It is by its very nature unsustainable and evanescent, but like a lightning flash it illuminates ordinary life, and like lightning it sometimes shatters the old forms.  It is utopia itself for many people, though it is only a brief moment during terrible times.  And at the time they manage to hold both irreconcilable experiences, the joy and the grief.

(18)  The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding.  It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities.  These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, so human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful, and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do.  The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.

The two most basic goals of social utopias are to eliminate deprivation - hunger, ignorance, homelessness - and to forge a society in which no one is an outsider, no one is alienated.  By this standard, Holshouser's free food and warm social atmosphere achieved both, on however tiny a scale, and versions of the Mizpah Café sprung up all over the ruined city.
NB:  Popular(ist) Compassion and Elite Panic:  Big Carnival of Disaster (Ace in the Hole) (Billy Wilder film)

(37)  Many would not consider property crimes significant when lives are at stake - and the term _looting_ conflates the emergency requisitioning of supplies in a crisis without a cash economy with opportunistic stealing.  Disaster scholars now call this fear-driven overreaction elite panic.

(56)  [William] James's investigation [after the SF earthquake] concluded that human beings respond with initiative, orderliness, and helpfulness;  they remain calm, and suffering and loss are transformed when they are shared experiences.
NB:  Just as post traumatic stress is lessened with more open family and community support.

(60)  "While the crisis lasted, people loved each other."  Dorothy Day, remembering the SF earthquake that happened when she was 8 years old, living in Oakland
NB:  use of crisis

(64-65)  It was moving to see this idealistic joy on so many thousands of faces [2003 anti-war marches] , disconcerting to realize how uncommon the experience seemed to be - this experience, which was essentially that of citizenship itself, of playing a role in public life, of being connected to strangers around you and thereby to that abstraction we call society.  An even more powerful and pervasive form of it came during the election of Barack Obama, when people around the nation and the world wept, suddenly able to feel the pain of centuries as it was in some way lifted and a hope that seemed out of reach before.  The global wave of emotion was about a deep and too often dormant passion for justice, for meaning, for the well-being of others, and the fate of nations.  We should feel like that regularly, routinely, in a democracy, but the experience is rare in too many societies and nations.
NB:  Marches, petitions, and electoral politics can't maintain that charge because both the need and the action are not immediate and direct enough.  Community gardening, food coops, and local food systems can supply some of it.  Weatherization and solar barnraisings can supply some more.

(86-87)  Mutual aid means that every participant is both giver and recipient in acts of care that bind them together, as distinct from the one-way street of charity.  In this sense it is reciprocity, a network of people cooperating to meet each others' wants and shared each others' wealth.  When the Mission District residents in earthquake-torn San Francisco refused to let institutional kitchens replace their community kitchens, they were refusing to let mutual aid give way to charity, which would define them as the needy with nothing to give rather than the community with everything to give each other.  When Dorothy Day established the Catholic Worker, she endeavored to make the aid mutual by making the people they served active participants in the work projects.  In flood-ravaged New Orleans, the radical group Common Ground Relief's slogan is "Solidarity, Not Charity."  In Halifax, [Samuel Henry] Prince noted, "the preference upon the part of the refugee for plural leadership and decision" and "the resentment which succeeds the intrusion of strangers in relief leadership."  People preferred to care for each other rather than to be cared for by strangers or governed by others.
NB:  Kropotkin's voluntary association

(90)  It is often the few in power rather than the many without who behave viciously in disaster, and those few do so oftern exactly because they subscribe to the fearful beliefs of Huxley, Le Bon, and others.
NB:  No mention of Canetti's _Crowds and Power_ nor _Extraordinary Delusions and the Madness of Crowds_

(91)  This is why what happens in disasters matters for political philosophy:  the hierarchies, administrations, and institutions - the social structure - tend to fall apart, but what results tends to be anarchy in Kropotkin's sense of people coming together in freely chosen cooperation rather than the media's sense of disorderly savagery.
NB:  Default state?

(92)  Three hundred and fifty years after Hobbes, the biobehavioral scientists Shelley E. Taylor and Laura Cousino Klein concluded that contrary tot he longtime assumption about how human beings respond to danger, women in particular often gather together to share concerns and abilities.  They concludes that "this 'tend-and-befriend' pattern is a sharp contrast to the 'fight-or-flight' behavior pattern that has long been considered the principal responses to stress by both men and women.  For women, that didn't quite make any sense from an evolutionary standpoint.  It's a rare female of any species that would leave her baby to fend for itself while she physically takes on an aggressor.  Females are more likely to protect their children and bond with other females who can help provide protection in the process."  In other words, crises and stresses often strengthen social bonds rather than breed competition and isolation...

Gerald Winstanley, Digger spokesperson
Gerald Winstanley et al, True Leveller's Standard Advanced:  or, The State of Community Opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men at http://www.bilderberg.org/land.diggers.htm#True    

(94)  The radical economists J. K. Gibson-Graham (two women writing under one name) portray our society as an iceberg, with competitive capitalist practices visible above the waterline and below all kinds of relations of aid and cooperation by families, friends, neighbors, churches, cooperatives, volunteers, and voluntary organizations from softball leagues to labor unions, along with activities outside the market, under the table, bartered labor and goods, and more, a bustling network of uncommercial enterprise.
NB:  Time Banking and Skills Exchanges, Maker culture, barnraising

(96-97)  [Viktor] Frankl concluded that it is "a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, 'homeostasis,' i. e., a tensionless state.  What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.  What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him...  If architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together."

(100)  [Mark] Connelly says, "The people's role in their own defense and destiny was downplayed in order to stress an old-fashioned division of leaders and led." [London Blitz]  [Mark Connelly _We can Take It!:  Britain and the Memory of the Second World War_ (Harlow, England:  Pearson, Longman, 2004)

(107-108)  [Charles] Fritz's first radical premise is that everyday life is already a disaster of sorts, one from which actual disaster liberates us.  He points out that people suffer and die daily, though in ordinary times, they do so privately, separately.  And he writes, "The traditional contrast between 'normal' and 'disaster' almost always ignores or minimizes these recurrent stresses of everyday life and their personal and social effects.  It also ignores a historically consistent and continually growing body of political and social analyses that points to the failure of modern societies to fulfill an individual's basic human needs for community identity."  

Later he describes more specifically how this community identity is fed during disaster:  "The widespread sharing of danger, loss, and deprivation produces an intimate, primarily group solidarity among the survivors, which overcomes social isolation, provides a channel for intimate communication and expression, and provides a major source of physical and emotional support and reassurance...  The 'outsider' becomes an 'insider,' the 'marginal man' a 'central man.'  People are thus able to perceive, with a clarity never before possible, a set of underlying basic values to which all people subscribe.  They realize that collective action is necessary for these values to be maintained and that individual and group goals are inextricably merged.  This merging of individual and societal needs provides a feeling of belonging and a sense of unity rarely achieved under normal circumstances."

(108)  Disasters, unlike everyday troubles but quite a bit like wars, pose straightforward problems to which solutions can be taken in the form of straightforward actions:  "An essential failure of disaster is that the threats and dangers to the society come from outside the system and their causes can usually be clearly perceived and specified.  This contrasts with many other crises where the threats arise within the system and it is difficult to isolate and identify a widely agreed-upon cause."
NB:  Contradictions become obvious.

(116)  Forest fire around Tassjara Zen Center:  "What was most compelling during these hours, and which in reflection remains the most satisfying, is the constant vigilance and effort that the fire required.  It was... a demanding schedule of pure presence in which one utterly let go of a known outcome.  There were undeniable moments of fear and anxiety, especially when we understood the reality that the fire was descending into Tassajara fast and from all sides, rather than creeping down one slope at a time as had initially been suggested by several professional firefighters.  But there was little time to entertain fear, so fear quickly gave way to our effort to fully meet our belated guest and the tasks at hand."  Dave Zimmerman, the center's director, concluded a few days alter, "And finally, deep bows to the fire, whose undeniable dharma teaching of impermanence has earned our awed respect and attention."  The abbot, Stephen Stucky, later said in a lecture that this encounter with the fire gave force to the idea of "being prepared to meet whatever arises."  Tassajara survived as an island of green in an ocean of blackened mountainsides and burned forests.

(117)  The language of religion might best explain that sudden joy in disaster.  It's anarchic, a joy that the ordinary arrangements have fallen to pieces - but anarchic in that the ordinary arrangements structure and contain our lives and minds;  when they cease to do so we are free to improvise, discover, change, evolve.
NB:  Life and death concentrate the mind, with raised stakes come raised attention.

(123)  Charles Fritz's colleague Enrico Quarantelli recalls that in 1954, "I wrote a master's thesis on panic, expecting to find a lot of it, and after a while I said, 'My God, I'm trying to write a thesis about panic and I can't find any instances of it.'  That's an overstatement but... it took a little while to learn that, wait a second, the situation is much better here" than anyone had thought.  He defines panic as extreme and unreasonable fear and flight behavior.  Flight behavior, however, is not necessarily panic:  He points out that what can look chaotic from outside - people moving as fast as they can in all directions - is often the most reasonable response to an urgent threat.  The thesis was another landmark in the study of human reaction to disaster, another piece of the news that chipped away at the old myths.

(125)  [Enrico] Quarantelli remarks that the organizations rather than individuals are most prone to create problems during a natural disaster.  "Bureaucracy depends on routine and schedules and paperwork and etc.  If done right - in fact, the modern world could not exist without bureaucracy.  The only trouble with that is that the bureaucratic framework is one of the worst things to have at the time of disasters when you need innovations and doing things differently.  In fact the better they operate during nondisaster times, the less likely they are to operate well.  They can't maneuver, they can't integrate, etc.  On the other hand, human beings, and this cuts across all societies... rise to the occasion.  Again, not everyone does, just like not all organizations react badly.  But in terms of human beings they rise to the occasion whereas organizations, in a sense, fall down.
NB:  Resilience and flexibility [note the difference]

(127)  Kathleen Tierney:  "Elites fear disruption of the social order, challenges to their legitimacy."  She reversed the image of a panicking public and a heroic minority to describe what she called "elite panic."  She itemized its ingredients as "fear of social disorder, fear of poor, minorities and immigrants;  obsession with looting and property crime;  willingness to resort to deadly force;  and actions taken on the basis of rumor."  In other words, it is the few who behave badly and many who rise to the occasion.  And those few behave badly not because of facts but of beliefs:  they believe the rest of us are about to panic or become a mob or upend property relations, and in their fear they act out to prevent something that may have only existed in their imaginations.  Thus the myth of malevolent disaster behavior becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Elsewhere she adds, "The media emphasis on lawlessness and the need for strict social control both reflects and reinforces political discourse calling for a greater role for the military in disaster management.  Such policy positions are indicators of the strength of militarism as an ideology in the United States."

(130)  Praising [Kathleen] Tierney's work, [Lee] Clarke wrote, "Disaster myths are not politically neutral, but rather work systematically to the advantage of elites.  Elites cling to the panic myth because to acknowledge the truth of the situation would lead to very different policy prescriptions than the ones currently in vogue.  The chief prescription is, she notes, that the best way to prepare for disasters is by following the command and control model, the embodiment of which is the federal Department of Homeland Security.  Thus do panic myths reinforce particular institutional interests.  But it is not bureaucrats who will be the first-responders when the next disaster, whether brought by terrorists or some other agent, comes.  It won't even be the police of firefighters.  It will be our neighbors, it will be the strangers in the next car, it will be our family members.  The effectiveness of disaster response is thus diminished to the degree that we overrely on command and control.  This is another case where political ideology trumps good scientific knowledge about how the world works."

(145-146)  Former playwright, political prisoner, and then president Václav Havel, who was instrumental in the 1989 liberation of Czechoslovakia by a carefully cultivated independent civil society, defines _civil society_ as "a society in which citizens participate - in many parallel, mutually complementary ways - in public life, in the administration of public goods, and in public decisions...  The functions of the state and of the structures in such a society are limited only to that which cannot be performed by anyone else, such as legislation, national defense and security, the enforcement of justice, etc."  You could say that civil society is what unimpaired mutual aid creates;  or that civil society is the condition and mutual aid the activity that produces it.  In Mexico City in 1985, mutual aid is what people first set out to provide as they rescued and aided each other;  as the tasks became less urgent and more politically engaged, civil society is what they built up.
NB:  "You could say that civil society is what unimpaired mutual aid creates;  or that civil society is the condition and mutual aid the activity that produces it."

(149-150) [Chicago heat wave]   ...The adjoining Latino neighborhood with low death rates had "busy streets, heavy commercial activity, residential concentration... and relatively low crime."

He [Eric Klinenberg] concluded that these factors "promote social contact, collective life, and public engagement in general and provide particular benefits for the elderly, who are more likely to leave home when they are drawn out by nearby amenities."  Those who left their overheated homes for open space or air-conditioned shops, diners, or fast food restaurants or who sought and received help from neighbors were more likely to survive.  That is, heat was only one factor in determining who died.  Fear and isolations were others, keeping people in their homes even when there homes were unbearable.  This too was far from a natural disaster.  People lived or died because of the level of social amenities and social space in their neighborhoods - by whether or not the neighborhood itself was also home.  "Residents of the most impoverished, abandoned, and dangerous places in Chicago died alone because they lived in social environments that discouraged departures from the safe houses where they had burrowed, and created obstacles to social protection that are absent from more tranquil and prosperous areas."
NB:  Pattern language of disaster survival is the pattern language of conviviality (Ivan Ilich)

(159)  In 2006, the man who had been head of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, reflected, "The nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl twenty years ago this month, even more than my launch of perestroika, was perhaps the real cause of the collapse fo the Soviet Union five years later.  Indeed, the Chernobyl catastrophe was a historic turning point:  there was the era before the disaster, and there is the very different era that has followed.

(161)  On December 19, 20, and 21 of 2001, Argentines launched an unprecedented uprising in response to that country's financial crisis and growing political disgust.  In the election that October of 2001, citizens were so disgusted that nearly half did not show up or cast blank or spoiled ballots - putting pictures of Osama bin Laden in the ballot envelopes was one popular response.
NB:  _Seeing_ by José Saramago

(163)  The 2001 meltdown created something akin to disaster's sense of community.  It was a revolution in spirit as well as in practical things  In fifty years of bad government, including a few murderous military regimes, Argentines had become deeply distrustful of politicians and state power, and most had abandoned public life.  This time, they sought to withdraw from and reduce government's sphere, turning not to left-wing movements but to each other, relaunching a vital civil society.  What they created was so new it required new worlds - _horizontalidad_, or horizontalism, to describe the nonhierarchical way many communities made decisions;  _protagonism_ to describe the new agency many found;  _politica afectiva_ to describe the politics of affection.  The examples of Argentina in the earthquake of 1944 and the financial crash of 2001 demonstrate again that disasters are ultimately enigmas:  it is not the disaster but the struggle to give it meaning and to take the opportunity to redirect the society that matters, and these are always struggles with competing interests.

These moments in which revolution resemble disaster utopias are strange.  On the one hand, the revolution seems to have already, instantly, fulfilled its promise:  all men are brothers, everything is possible, anyone can speak, hearts are full, solidarity is strong.  The formation of a new government historically reallocates much of this potency to the state rather than civil society.  On the other hand, much of this moment's glory is often regarded as a side effect, an incidental, and the revolution moves on to set up better education or economies but loses this fellowship and openness.  Something trickles away.

The real revolution may be the period between regimes, not the new regime (and Jonathan Schell points out that, contrary to what we usually believe, the French and Russian revolutions terminated the old regimes without significant bloodshed;  it was establishing the new one that was so violent.

(172)  Disaster's message that anything could happen is not so far away from revolution's exhortation that everything is possible.
NB:  Situationist slogan of 1968:  Be reasonable, demand the impossible.

(173)  The jubilee described in Leviticus is supposed to happen every fifty years and "proclaim liberty throughout all the land," free the slaves, cancel debts, return the land to the original owner (who might be God or no one), let the fields lie fallow, and bring about a long reprieve from work.  Slaves sang of jubilee;  early-nineteenth-century revolutionaries embraced it as a great redistribution of wealth, a starting over even;  and the British group Jubilee Research (formerly Jubilee 2000) seeks the cancellation of third-world debt as jubilee's contemporary equivalent.  The idea of jubilee is a revolution that recurs as a festival.

(175)  Mexico:  When politicians cut ribbons or staged other public events they hoped would reflect well on them, Super Barrio would show up and pressure them to do better by the poor.  He confronted landlords;  showed up at evictions, meetings, and demonstrations;  inspired the strugglers to feel more powerful and confident.  He became famous as a sort of latter-day Robin Hood of the urban poor, and he lives on more than two decades after he first appeared.  He is credited with stopping ten thousand evictions, and when he appeared on camera in a recent documentary he spoke about his politics in such phrases as, "We have asserted that the city belongs to everyone" and "The credit goes to the people.  Who is behind the mask matters least" and "Super Barrio is all of us."  Though the only one in costume, he placed everyone around him in carnival mode and opened up the possibilities.
NB:  the mask and Guy Fawkes

(177)  For the past twenty years, U. S. radicals have been speaking of "the politics of prefiguration":  of the idea that you can and must embody whatever liberty, justice, democracy you aspire to, and in doing so in your self, your community, or your movement you achieve a degree of victory, whatever you do beyond that.

(180)  If the Zapatistas arose from many long disasters, the society they created in their autonomous regions of Chiapas and that they propose in their globally circulated slogans and writings greatly resembles disaster communities.  There is an emphasis on improvisation.  "Caminando preguntamos," they say, or "We walk asking questions."  Rather than dogma, they have inquiry as a core principle.  There is an intense critique of hierarchy and mandar obediencia, or "govern by obeying," is also a recurrent theme, imperfectly realized.  At the entrance to one of their communities is a sign that could be at any of them:  "Here the people govern and the government obeys."  It is in many ways the society of mutual aid and self-government Kropotkin, among many others, dreamed of.  It attempts to render permanent what disaster fleetingly provides:  a realm in which people care for each other in the absence of entrenched and alienated authority and the presence of mutual aid, altruism, and love.
NB:  V for Vendetta:  The people shouldn't be afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of the people. (It is.  That's usually one of the uses of a police force.)

(188-189)  New Yorkers were well served by their everyday practices of walking the city, mingling with strangers, and feeling at home in public.  It is hard to imagine many of the more suburbanized and privatized American cities responding with such resilience, resourcefulness, and public-spiritedness, and so the everyday qualities of true urbanism may too be survival skills in crisis.  The denizens of many other cities may have even had difficulty imagining that a mass evacuation could be conducted on foot, that the human body that seemed so frail under attack could nevertheless cover several miles or more to safety and to home.

(189)  Adam Mayblum email:  "They failed in terrorizing us.  We were calm.  If you want to kill us, leave us alone because we will do it by ourselves.  If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite.  This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against the United States.  The very moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won."
NB:  Same reaction to bombing of civilians - in England, in Germany, in Vietnam...

(194)  Astra Taylor:  "There was camaraderie, no hysterics, no panic, you felt that people would come together.  That's obviously what happened in the towers, there was a lot of heroism that day.  But then suddenly you're back in your apartment and you're isolated and you're watching the news and it's this hysterical... they were so overwrought and they're just showing the image again and again of the plane hitting the tower and the tower collapsing.  The experience on television was so different than the experience on the street."

(195)  Charles Fritz had identified the phenomenon of convergence in 1957, writing, "Movement toward the disaster area usually is both quantitatively and qualitatively more significant than flight or evacuation from the scene of destruction.  Within minutes following most domestic disasters, thousands of people begin to converge on the disaster area and on first-aid stations, hospitals, relief, and communications centers in the disaster environs.  Shortly following, tons of unsolicited equipment and supplies of clothing, food, bedding, and other materials begin arriving in the disaster area."

(197)  In her book on altruism and democracy, _The Samaritan's Dilemma_, Deborah Stone writes, "From the voice of altruists, a more remarkable paradox emerges:  Most people don't experience altruism as self-sacrifice.  They experience it as a two-way street, as giving and receiving at the same time.  When they help others, they gain a sense of connection with other people.  Giving and helping make them feel a part of something larger than themselves.  Helping others makes them feel needed and valuable and that their time on earth is well spent.  Helping others gives them a sense of purpose."
NB:  research on buying happiness by giving money away

(207)  Tricia Wachtendorf, a disaster sociologist who spent considerable time in New York during the aftermath of September 11 comments that convergent volunteers often irk officials because "the appearance of these groups suggests the inadequacy of official response efforts."  She describes how goods managed by groups like Mueller's and Smith's were called "rebel food" and "renegade supplies."  The improvisational skills of volunteers and emergent groups often outstrips that of institutions, she notes, and so they almost always function well first and are then eclipsed by the official relief agencies and established volunteer groups. which have resources and continuity on their side.  The initially guerrilla effort became increasingly managed and professionalized as time went on, though a number of volunteers stayed on in their original roles or in salaried positions developed later.

(220)  A less well known psychological concept is "post-traumatic growth," a phenomenon that applies to personal as well as collective experience.  One of the major books on the subject explains, "Inherent in these traumatic experiences are losses such as the loss of loved ones, of cherished roles or capabilities, or of fundamental, accepted ways of understanding life.  In the face of these losses and the confusion they cause, some people rebuild a way of life that they experience as superior to their old one in important ways.  For them, the devastation of loss provides an opportunity to build a new, superior life structure almost from scratch.  They establish new psychological constructs that incorporate the possibility of such traumas, and better ways to to cope with them.  They appreciate their newly found strength and the strength of their neighbors and their community.  And because of their efforts, individuals may value both what they now have, and the process of creating it although the process involved loss and distress.  Groups and societies may go through a similar transformation, producing new norms for behavior and better ways to care for individuals within the group."  Trauma is real.  It isn't ubiquitous.  And what people do with trauma varies.  As Viktor Frankl remarked, "often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself."
NB:  _Posttraumatic Growth:  Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis_ by Richard Tedeschi, Crystal Park, and Lawrence Calhoun, eds (Mahwah, NJ:  Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998)

(235)  When Tierney was speaking about elite panic - "fear of social disorder;  fear of poor, minorities, and immigrants;  obsession with looting and property crime;  willingness to resort to deadly force;  and actions taken on the basis of rumor" - she was talking shortly after Katrina, perhaps the worst case of elite panic in the history of the United States.  New Orleans had long been a high-crime city, but the mythic city of monsters the media and authorities invented in the wake of Katrina never existed, except in their imagination.  That belief ravaged the lives of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable.

(259)  LIke elites when they panic, racists imagine again and again that without them utter savagery would break out, so that their own homicidal violence is in defense of civilization and the preservation of order. 

(265)  A Jamaican writing about the devastating Caribbean hurricanes of 2008 commented:  "Cuba is organised as a mutual aid society in which every citizen has his repsonsibilities, his duties and his place.  When hurricanes threaten Cuba, people move out of the way guided by the neighbourhood Committees for the Defence of the Revolution - CDR.  They move the old and the young, the sick and the healthy and their cats, dogs, parrots, their goats, donkeys and cows, to safe places.  Here is a truly incredible fact.  Last week the Cubans moved 2,615,000 people - a number nearly equivalent to the entire population of Jamaica - to safety.  Four people died in the storm, the first fatalities for years.  It is a remarkable statistic.  Three years ago when Texas tried to evacuate a million or so ahead of hurricane Rita, more than 100 people died in the evacuation."

(279)  The most optimistic of all disaster scholars, Charles Fritz, had ascribed his positive disaster experiences only to those who are "permitted to interact freely and to make an unimpeded social adjustment."

(283)  I stopped by Camp Casey the day that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf and found a big camp and an extraordinary community akin in many ways to disaster communities.

(285)  Every activist movement begins by uniting its participants in important ways, giving them a sense of purpose drawn from the wrongs they seek to right and the shared vision of a better world.  In 1957, King wrote that the ultimate aim of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a key player in the movement, was "to foster and create the 'beloved community' in American where brotherhood is a reality...  Our ultimate goal is genuine intergroup and interpersonal living - integration."  Integration was no longer merely a practical matter of buses, schools, lunch counters, and workplaces.  It was a metaphysic of solidarity and affinity, a condition of hearts rather than laws and facilities.  The same year he declared that the nonviolent activist in this movement "realizes that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves...  The end is redemption and reconciliation.  The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community."

...What begins as opposition coalesces again and again into social invention, a revolution of everyday life rather than a revolt against the system.
NB:  Gandhian economics, commercial trusteeship and citizenship

(286)  The affinities with disaster communities are obvious:  activist communities come into being in response to what is perceived as a disaster - discrimination, destruction, deprivation - and sometimes generate a moment or fragment of a better world.  As Temma Kaplan, a New Yorker who had been part of that movement in the American South, said, "For a short time, during the first few days after 9/11 I felt that Beloved Community that we talked about in the Civil Rights Movement."

(291)  The year of its founding, 1966, the [Black Panther] Party had come up with a "ten-point program" whose last point was, "We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace, and people's community control of modern technology."

(293)  Common Ground of New Orleans' Malik Rahim:  "We work with solidarity.  That means that if you work here, you going to have to stay here.  You going to have to keep your presence in the community, and it breached those gaps.  We was the first organization to reach out to the Native American community in Houma, we was the first organization to reach out to the Vietnamese community here."  Common Ground's motto is Solidarity, Not Charity, an emphasis on working with rather than for that sets it apart from many national relief groups, however messy its realization of its goals.  Project begat projects.

(295)  Aislyn Colgan, New Orleans:  "I was a never a person who cried about happy things, but I find that I cry more often.  I feel like I have a much stronger sense of the harshness of life and also the beauty.  It's like they're one and the same."

[Tent cities after the 1906 SF earthquake]  It resembles the campouts that have become a major part of counterculture gathering since the 1960s, notably the biggest and longest-lived of them all, the Rainbow Gatherings held annually since the early 1970s.

(296)  Rainbow Gatherings, which now bring together about thirty thousand people to a different national forest location each year, build a functioning temporary society quite literally from the ground up.  Each site is chosen for access to potable water, and an often elaborate piping system brings waters from source to camp.  A group arrives early to set up, laying out the grounds and digging latrines, hugely important in  preventing disease from spreading and fulfilling the commitment to leave behind an undamaged landscape.  Another group stays behind to do cleanup.  There is no formal structure or hierarchy, but a great deal of informal organizing - all decisions are by consensus, anyone may participate, and volunteer groups perform all tasks.  (Those who have been around a long time and done a lot of the work accrue power, but it is hard to call this hierarchy.)  In addition to the national gathering in the United States each July (with a day of prayer and meditation on the Fourth), regional gatherings, a worldwide gathering, and gatherings in Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia are now established.  I have been to a regional Rainbow Gathering, and my response was mixed - I'm not big on clouds of pot smoke, hugs from strangers, hybridized religious appropriations, and grubby personal style - but I saw the desire and partial realization of a goal of creating a mutual-aid gift-economy society and an impressive and moving atmosphere of sweetness, openness, and generosity.

A crucial aspect of Rainbow Gatherings that was not true of Woodstock in 1969 or Burning Man now is that it truly exists as far outside the monetary economy as possible.  Burning Man, the huge annual desert gathering charges a steep admission, patrols to keep the nonpaying out, hires a company to supply and maintain hundreds of chemical toilets, contracts a local hospital to set up a clinic on-site, and leaves all major decisions to the staff of the limited-liability corporation it has become.
NB:  This year's tickets, whose sale just closed in the first week of February 2012, was controversial.

(297)  When Katrina hit the Gulf region, the 2005 national gathering in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest had been over for more than a month.  But many participants kept in touch and some converged on the disaster zone.  One named Jawker wrote on September 22 of that year, "As the magnitude of the disaster began to sink in I started receiving phone calls from around the country from my Rainbow friends suggesting we go down and feed folks.  What a great idea I thought,  If anyone knew about keeping people healthy in a primitive setting and dealing with creating refugee camps it was Rainbow.  Add to that that we knew each other already and we seemed like a natural."  His group settled in Waveland, Mississippi.

(300)  So in December of 2005, Weiner created a registered nonprofit called Emergency Communities.  The name "was our third choice, and the other two were taken by bands.  It has various meanings, it could be a noun in the sense that we are building an emergency community, each site is an emergency community.  Or it can be the creation of a community from an emergency.  But the idea is to blur the lines between those that are helping and those that need help into a single community."

(303)  But there was a more dramatic conflict between those who believe in civil society and the possibility of a beloved community and those who, along with Hobbes, Le Bon, and a lot of elites who panic, believed that their own selfishness was justified by a selfish world.

(305)  One reason that disasters are threatening to elites is that power devolves to the people on the ground in many ways:  it is the neighbors who are the first responders and who assemble the impromptu kitchens and networks to rebuild.  And it demonstrates the viability of a dispersed, decentralized system of decision making.  Citizens themselves in these moments constitute the government - the acting decision-making body - as democracy has always promise and rarely delivered.  Thus disasters often unfold as though a revolution has already taken place.

(306)  After 9/11, New Yorker Marshall Berman cited Nietszche:  "Man, the bravest animal and the one most inured to trouble, does not deny suffering per se:  he wants it, he even seeks it out, provided it can be given a meaning."  Frankl quotes another version of Nietzsche's pronouncement:  "He who has a _why_ to live for can bear almost any _how_."  When Dorothy Day gave up her lover, she gave up an intensely tangible private affection for another, broader love, of God, but also of purposefulness, meaning, involvement, and community, without which she had been miserable even in her ménage.  She gave up her _how_ for a _why_.  The joy in disaster comes, when it comes, from that purposefulness, the immersion in service and survival, and from an affection that is not private and personal but civic:  the love of strangers for each other, of a citizen for his or her city, of belonging to a greater whole, of doing the work that matters.

These loves remain largely dormant and unacknowledged in contemporary postindustrial society:  this is the way in which everyday life is a disaster.  For acted upon, given a role, this is a love that builds society, resilience, community, purpose, and meaning.
NB:  Charles Olson's polis

(309)  Surviving and maybe even turning back the tide of this pervasive ongoing disaster [climate change] will require more ability to improvise together, stronger societies, more confidence in each other. It will require a world in which we are each other's wealth and have each other's trust...

But not everyone behaves well.  Elite panic in disaster, as identified by contemporary disaster scholars, is shaped by belief, belief that since human beings at large are bestial and dangerous, the believer must himself or herself act with savagery to ensure individual safety or the safety of his or her interests.  The elites that panic are, in times of crisis, the minority, and understanding that could marginalize or even disarm them, literally and psychologically, as well as the media that magnify their message.  This would help open the way to create a world more like the brief utopias that flash up in disaster.

(310)  Lee Clarke, the coauthor of the definitive essay on elite panic, told me that after 9/11 he found himself at a lot of conferences sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.  There he tried to tell the bureaucrats what actually works in disasters.  "In a chaotic situation command and control is bound to fail," he'd say of the top-down management system many organizations deploy in crisis.  He told the disaster administrators who wanted to know what message to give people in disaster that it is the people who might have some messages to give them on what's actually going on and what's actually needed.  Clarke concluded, "they don't have a way to fold civil society into their official conceptions."

(311)  SF:  In the aftermath, the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) program was created to train volunteers to take care of their neighborhoods and city in disaster.  The fire department runs the program, which has trained more than seventeen thousand citizens.  The city used the centennial of the 1906 quake to urge, via bus placards, billboards, and more, disaster preparedness in every home - not only the stockpiling of supplies but also the creation of emergency plans....

The firefighters amazed me by saying, "In a disaster, property no longer matters.  Only people matter.  We had come a long way from San Francisco in 1906.

(323)  Gladys Hansen and Emmet Condon, _Denial of Disaster_ (SF:  Cameron and Co, 1989)

(325)  William James' "The Moral Equivalent of War at http://www.constitution.org/wj/meow.htm/  

(328)  Samuel Henry Prince, _Catastrophe and Social Change:  Based Upon a Sociological Study of the Halifax Disaster_

(329)  Gerald Winstanley et al, True Leveller's Standard Advanced:  or, The State of Community Opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men at http://www.bilderberg.org/land.diggers.htm#True    

(333)  Lee Clarke, _Introduction to Terrorism and Disaster, Vol 11:  New Threats, New Ideas_ (JAI Press, 2003)  "Disaster myths are not politically neutral"

(334)  _Resilient Cities:  How Modern Cities Recover from Disaster_ by Lawrence Vale and Thomas Campanella (Oxford Univ Press, 2005)

(336)  _T. A. Z.:  The Temporary Autonomous Zone_ by Hakim Bey (Autonomedia, 2003)

(341)  Eaine Scarry, "Citizenship in Emergency:  Can Democracy Protect Us Against Terrorism?" at http://www.bostonreview.net/BR27.5/scarry.html

Charles Fritz, _Disasters and Mental Health:  Therapeutic Principles Drawn from Disaster Studies_ (Univ of DE, 1996)

(344)  Oxfam America 2004 Report Cuba:  Weathering the Storm, Lessons in Risk Reduction from Cuba at http://www.oxfamamerica.org/cuba           

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman went to West Point in 1836 and graduated in 1840, 43rd in his class, 4th academically.  He served in Florida, South Carolina, and California, and was at Sutter's Mill as the Gold Rush began.  He resigned his commission in 1853 and was a banker in San Francisco and later a lawyer in St Louis before becoming a professor of engineering at the Louisiana Seminary of Learning and Military Academy in 1860, resigning in January 1861 from that post to accept a commission in the US Army in May.

After his memoirs were first published, he included a long appendix in the second edition consisting of letters from interested parties correcting mistakes and offering different recollections of the events he covered.

---------------- 

Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
NY:  The Library of America, 1990
ISBN 0-940450-65-8

(34)  We used to discuss these things at our own mess tables [when he was stationed in Charleston, SC], vehemently and sometimes quite angrily;  but I am sure that I never feared it would go further than it had already gone in the winter of 1832-’33, when the attempt at “nullification” was promptly suppressed by President Jackson’s famous declaration, “The Union must and shall be preserved!” and by the judicious management of General Scott.

Still, civil war was to be;  and, now that it has come and gone, we can rest secure in the knowledge that as the chief cause, slavery, has been eradicated forever, it is not likely to come again.

(172)  The Legislature of Louisiana met on the 10th of December , and passed an act calling a convention of delegates from the people, to meet at Baton Rouge, on the 8th of January, to take into consideration the state of the Union;  and, although it was universally admitted that a large majority of the voters of the State were opposed to secession, disunion, and all the steps of the South Carolinians, yet we saw that they were powerless, and that the politicians would sweep them along rapidly to the end, prearranged by their leaders in Washington.

(204)  This report, which I had not read probably since its date till now, recalls to me vividly the whole scene of the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, when for the first time in my life I saw cannonballs strike men and crash through the trees and saplings above and around us, and realized the always sickening confusion as one approaches a fight from the rear;  then the night-march from Centreville, on the Warrenton road, standing for hours wondering what was meant;  the deployment along the edge of the field that sloped down to Bull Run, and waiting for Hunter’s approach on the other side from the direction of Sudley Springs, away off to our right;  the terrible scare of a poor negro who was caught between our lines;  the crossing of Bull Run, and the fear lest we shoudl be fired on by our own men;  the killing of Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, which occurred in plain sight;  and the first scenes of a field strewed with dead men and horses.

(219)  I asserted that volunteer colonels raising regiments in various part of the State had come to Lousiana for arms, and when they saw what I had to offer had scorned to receive them - to confirm the truth of which I appealed to Mr. Guthrie, who said that every word I had spoken was true, and he repeated what I had often heard him say, that no man who owned a slave or a mule in Kentucky could be trusted.

(222)  October 22, 1861 to General Thomas:  I again repeat that our force here is out of all proportion to the importance of the position.  Our defeat would be disastrous to the nation;  and to expect of new men, who never bore arms, to do miracles, is not right.

(266)  He [Grant] ordered me to be ready to assume the offensive in the morning, saying that, as he had observed at Fort Donelson at the crisis of the battle, both sides seemed defeaed, and whoever assumed the offensive was sure to win.
NB:  Grant’s ground truth

(301)  Again, armies in motion or stationary must commit some waste.  Flankers must let down fences and cross fields;  and, when an attack is contemplated or apprehended, a command will naturally clear the ground of houses, fences, and trees.  This is waste, but is the natural consequence of war, chargeable on those who caused the war.  So in fortifying a place, dwelling-houses must be taken, materials used, even wasted, and great damage done, which in the end may prove useless.  This, too, is an expense not chargeable to us, but to those who made the war;  and generally war is destruction and nothing else.

(359)  The value of the capture of Vicksburg, however, was not measured by the list of prisoners, guns, and small-arms, but by the fact that its possession secured the navigation of the great cnetral river of the continent, besected fatally the Soutehrn Confederacy, and set the armies which had been used in its conquest for for other purposes;  and it so happened that the event coincided as to time with another great victory which crowned our arms far away, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  That was a defensive battle, whereas ours was offensive in the highest acceptation of the term, and the two, occurring at the same moment of time, should have ended the war;  but the reble leaders were man , and semed determined that their people should drink of the very lowest dregs of the cup of war, which they themselves had prepared.

(427)  March 4, 1864 private letter from US Grant:
While I have been eminently successful in this war, in at least gaining the confidence of the public, no one feels more than I how much of this success is due to the energy, skill, and the harmonious putting forth of that energy and skill, of those whom it has been my good fortune to have occupying subordinate positions under me.

There are many officers to whom these remarks are applicable to a greater or less degree, proportionate to their ability as soldiers;  but what I want is to express my thanks to you and [General James B] McPherson, as _the men_ to whom, above all others, I feel indebted for whatever I have had of success.  How far your advice and suggestions have been of assistance, you know.  How far your exectuion of whatever has been given you to do entitles you to the reward I am receiving, you can not know as well as I do.  I feel all the gratitude this letter would express, giving it the most flattering construction.

The word _you_ I use in the plural, intending it for McPherson also.  I should write to him, and will some day, but, starting in the morning, I do not know that I will find time just now.
Your friend,
U. S. Grant, Major-General
NB:  McPherson was killed in July 1864 as Sherman took Atlanta

(600-602)  September 12, 1864 letter to the mayor and city council of Atlanta:
Gentlemen:  I have your letter of the 11th, in the nature of a petition ot revoke my orders removing all the inhabitants from Atlanta.  I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statement of the distress that will be occasioned, and yet shall not revoke my orders, because they were not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest.  We must have peace, not only at Atlanta, but in all America.  To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country.  To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies which are arrayed against the laws and Constitution that all must respect and obey.  To defeat those armies, we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses, provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose.  Now, I know the vindictive nature of our enemy, that we may have many years of military operations from this quarter;  and, therefore, deem it wise and prudent to prepare in time.  The use of Atlanta for warlike purposes is inconsistent with its character as a home for families.  There will be no manufactures, commerce, or agriculture here, for the maintenance of families, and sooner of later that will compel the inhabitants to go.  Why not go now, when all the arrangements are completed for the transfer, instead of waiting till the plunging shot of contending armies will renew the scenes of the past month?  Of course, I do not apprehend any such thing at this moment, but you do not suppose this army will be here until the war is over.  I cannot discuss this subject with you fairly, because I cannot impart to you what we propose to do, but I assert that our military plans make it necessary for the inhabitants to go away, and I can only renew my offer of services to make their exodus in any direction as easy and comfortable as possible.

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will.  War is cruel, and you cannot refine it:  and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.  I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.  But you cannot have peace and a division of our country.  If the United States submits to division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war.  The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power;  for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feelling.  This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union.  Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the national Government, and, instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your protectors and supporters, sheilding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may.  I know that a few individuals cannot resist a torrent of error and passion, such as swept the South into rebellion, but you can point out, so that we may know those who desire a government, and those who insist on war and its desolation.

You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war.  They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in price.

We don’t want your negroes, or your horses, or your houses, or your lands, or any thing you have, but we do want and will have a just obedience to the laws of the United States.  That we will have, and, if it involves the destruction of your improvements, we cannot help it.

You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better,  I repeat then that, by the original compact of Government, the United States had certain rights in Georgia, which have never been relinquished and never will be;  that the South began war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., etc., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or tittle of porvocation.  I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet.  In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi, we fed thousands upon thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands, and whom we could not see starve.  Now that war comes home ot you, you feel very different.  You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance.  But these comparisons are idle.  I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success.

But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing.  Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter.

Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them, and build for them, in more quiet places, proper habitations to child them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down, and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta.  Yours in haste, W. T. Sherman, Major-Genreal commanding

(644)  As we rode on toward Atlanta that night, I remember the railroad-trains going to the rear with a furious speed;  the engineers and the few men about the trains waving us an affectionate adieu.  It surely was a strange event - two hostile armies marching in opposite directions, each in the full belief that it was achieving a final and conclusive result in a great war;  and I was strongly inspired with the feeling that the movement on our part was a direct attack upon the rebel army and the rebel capital at Richmond, though a full thousand miles of hostile country intervened, and that, for better or worse, it would end the war.

(655)  About 7 A. M. of November 16th we rode out of Atlanta by the Decatur road, filled by the marching troops and wagons of the Fourteenth Corps;  and reaching the hill just outside of the old rebel works, we naturally paused to look back upon the scenes of our past battles.  We stood upon the very ground whereon was fought the bloody battle of July 22nd, and could see the copse of wood where McPherson fell.  Behind us lay Atlanta, smouldering and in ruins, the black smoke rising high in air, and hanging like a pall over the ruined city.  Away off in the distance, on the McDonough road, was the rear of [General O O] Howard’s column, the gun-barrels glistening in the sun, the white-topped wagons stretching away to the south;  and right before us the Fourteenth Corps, marching steadily and rapidly, with a cheery look and swinging pace, that made light of the thousand miles that lay between us and Richmond.  Some band, by accident, struck up the anthem of “John Brown’s soul goes marching on;” the men caught up the strain, and never before or since have I heard the chord of “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” done with more spirit, or in better harmony of time and place.

(705)  December 24, 1864 to Major-General Halleck, Chief of Staff, Washington DC
I attach more importance to these deep incisions in the the enemy’s country, because this war differs from European wars in this particular;  we are not fighting hostile armines, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.  I know that this recent movement of mine through Georgia has had a wonderful effect in this respect.  Thousands who had been deceived by their lying newspapers to believe that we were being whipped all the time now realize the truth, and have no appetite for a repetition of the same experience.  To be sure, Jeff Davis has his people under pretty good discipline, but I think fiath in him is much shaken in Georgia, and before we have done with her South Carolina will not be quite so tempestuous….

Many and many a person in Georgia asked me why we did not go to South Carolina;  and, when I answered that we were en route for that State, the invariable reply was, “Well, if you will make those people feel the utmost severities of war, we will pardon you for your desolation of Georgia."

(725)  General Jeff. C. Davis [Union officer] was strictly a soldier, and doubtless hated to have his wagons and columns encumbered by these poor negroes, for whom we all felt sympathy, but a sympathy of a different sort from that of Mr. Stanton, which was not of pure humanity, but of _politics_.  The negro question was beginning to loom up among the political eventualities of the day, and many foresaw that not only would the slaves secure their freedom, but that they would also have votes.  I did not dream of such a result then, but knew that slavery, as such, was dead forever, and did not suppose that the former slaves would be suddenly, without preparation, manufactured into voters, equal to all others, politically and socially.

(837)  As soon as we were alone together I showed him [Confederate General Joseph Johnston] the dispatch announcing Mr. Lincoln’s assassination, and watched him closely.  The perspiration came out in large drops on his forehead, and he did not attempt to conceal his distress.  He denounced the act as a disgrace to the age, and hope I did not charge it to the Confederate Government.  I told him I could not believe that he or General Lee, or the officers of the Confederate army, could possibly be privy to acts of assassination;  but I would not say as much for Jeff. Davis, George Sanders, and men of that stripe.

(873)  That civil war, by reason of the existence of slavery, was apprehended by most of the leading statesmen of the half-century preceding its outbreak, is a matter of notoriety.  General Scott told me on my arrival at New York, as early as 1850, that the country was on the eve of civil war;  and the Southern politicans openly asserted that it was their purpose to accept as a casus belli the election of General Fremont in 1856;  but, fortunately or unfortunately, he was beaten by Mr. Buchanan, which simply postponed its occurrence for four years.

(886-887)  All men naturally shrink from pain and danger, and only incur their risk from some higher motive, or from habit, so that I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to incur it, rather than that insensibility to danger of which I have heard far more than I have see.  The most courageous men are generally unconscious of possessing the quality;  therefore, when one professes it too openly, by words or bearing, there is reason to mistrust it.  I would further illustrate my meaning by describing a man of true courage to be one who possess all his faculties and senses perfectly when serious danger is actually present.

(889)  So on the field a thin insulated wire [for telegraphy] may be run on improvised stakes or from tree to tree for six or more miles in a couple of hours, and I have seen operators so skillful, that by cutting the wire they would receive a message with their tongues from a distant station.

(898)  Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.

(1010)  As showing General Sherman’s estimate of General McPherson, I will say that, as we rode to our quarters from the battlefield late that night, General Sherman said:  “The army and the country have sustained a great loss by the death of McPherson.  I had expected him to finish the war.  Grant and I are likely to be killed, or set aside after some failure to meet popular expectation, and McPherson would have come into chief command at the right time to end the war.  He had no enemies.”



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be

_Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be_ by Simone Signoret
NY: Penguin Books, 1978
ISBN 0-14-00.5181-3

(31)  At about that time [1933-34], she noticed one day that a toothbrush she had just bought herself said “made in Japan.”  We returned to the store and there faced the owner, who wore a Basque beret and was probably a Croix de Feu militant [French neo-fascist movement].  Very politely, my mother said, “I would like to exchange this toothbrush.  You see, it’s made in Japan.”  “So?”  “Well, you see, monsieur, the Japanese have just signed an agreement with the Germans and Italians so any Japanese merchandise, even a little toothbrush, becomes armaments for Japan, Italy, and Germany.  Fascist countries.”  I wished the ground would open and swallow me up.  The man replied, “So you want a French toothbrush, is that it?”  “No, I’m not a chauvinist.  No, all I want is a toothbrush that is not German, Italian or Japanese.’  We went home with a toothbrush that was made in England.  My mother considered her day to have been well spent, and today I agree with her.  But at twelve or thirteen one gets terribly embarrassed.

(94)  So that was the end of that. It has taken a long time to tell it all, 1940-44.  It seemed like twenty years.

That was the end of it for us.  But it wasn’t finished for those who were in the camps.  And it wasn’t finished for the soldiers.  And it was just beginning for the collaborators.  And it had been finished a long time for those who had died.

(141)  Autheuil was bought with the sous earned by an artisan who exploits himself by producing only the things he likes.

(151)  [Instead of reading Ethel Rosenberg’s Deathhouse Letters at a movement gala] I would go and read a very beautiful letter by Émile Zola, which Roger Pigaud suggested to me.  It was called Lettre á la Jeunesse, and it has been enormously useful to me every time I get invovled in this sort of event.

(165)  … as Gramschi had written, “Only the truth is revolutionary…”

(204)  Montand on following their consciences:  “From now on we’re going to be on bad terms with everybody - but on what good terms we’ll be with ourselves!”

(245)  She had something to tell us.  She said it very fast and very low.  Did we know [Louis] Aragon?  Would we be seeing him?  And how!  Well we must give him a message.  A friend of his, a young Hungarian poet, was in prison along with a number of other writers, since January.  Neither she, who was his ex-wife, nor his present wife had been able to obtain the slightest information concerning his fate.  A letter had already been sent to Aragon a month and a half ago.  Aragon knew Tibor very well.  Elsa did too.  Tibor had joined the banned French Communist party during the war, in 1942, in France, where had been a political refugee since 1938.  Aragon must do somethign to help;  he knew that Tibor had never been a fascist.  I promised her I would deliver the message.  I did not promise her that Aragon would do anything.  She gave me a long look, in silence, and then she took both my hands and said, “Well, then, ask him not to sleep for one night.”  I wrote down the name Tibor Tardos.

(316)  One never really knows anything about the true guilt or innocence of the people whose part one takes.  Most of the time, one takes a stand against people who think they have a right to take a stand against the accused.  And they have none.

(337)  She [Marilyn Monroe] made me tell her my stories, which were neither more nor less original, comic, or emotional than any actress’s stories in any country in the world.  Basically they’re stories of marvelous complicity, the kind childen have in their early school years.

(353)  The people I worked with never ate in a restaurant where there wasn’t a portrait of Kennedy.  However, one day I strayed into a pseudo cheap dive;  there on the table stood a minute porcelain bust of Kennedy.  It was a salt cellar, with holes in the precise spots where the bullets - fired by whom? - had penetrated his head.

(373)  Does one act better after one has aged?

Well, one doesn’t act better:  One doesn’t act anymore.  One is.  The compliments you get from people who speak about “the courage to show oneself in an unflattering aspect”  are just pious remarks.  It isn’t courage;  it’s a form of pride, possibly vanity, to show yourself as you really are in order to better serve the character that has been offered to you as a gift.

(442)  I’ve never thought that any couple was safe from a possible separation.  I’ve never had that kind of certainty.  I’ve always been wildly astonished, every day, that things go on.

We’re just the same age, Montand and I.  He’s lived beside me while I aged, and I’ve lived beside him while he matured.  That’s one of the differences between men and women.  _They_ mature;  their white hair is called “silvery temples,” the lines on their faces are “chiseled,”….

(449-450)  But one’s recollections are never entirely shared.  When one puts them to the test of a confrontation, it’s often as helpless as a witness for the defense who says in all good faith that the dress was blue when it was green.

It was green for me.

It was colorless for another.

It was blue for a third person.

All of us liked one another.  We didn’t see the same things.  Or rather we saw the same things together at the same moment, and we saw them differently.

When one tells a story one usurps the memory of others.  Because of the simple fact that they were there, one has stolen their memories, their recollections, their nostalgia, their truths.

When I said “we,” I took possession.  But that was to tell the tale.  My memory or my nostalgia have made me weave threads.  Not forge chains.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Ecology of Freedom

_The Ecology of Freedom_ by Murray Bookchin
Palo Alto, Ca:  Cheshire Books, 1982
ISBN 0-917352-09-2

(32)  Wholeness, in fact, is completeness.  The dynamic stability of the whole derives from a visible level of completeness in human communities as in climax ecosystems.  What unites these modes of wholeness and completeness, however different they are in their specificity and their qualitative distinctness, is the logic of deveopment itself.  A climax forest is whole and complete as a result of the same unifying process - the same _dialectic_ - that a particular social form is whole and complete.

(44)  Dorothy Lee, _Freedom and Culture_ (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 1959)

(48)  Indeed, far from dealing with nature as an “it” or a “thou” (to use Martin Buber’s terms), the ceremonial validates nature as _kin_, a blooded, all-important estate that words like _citizen_ can never attain.  Nature is _named_ even before it is deified;  it is personified as part of the community before it is raised above it as “super nature.”  To the pygmies of the Ituri forest, it is “Ndura” and to the settled Bantu villagers the same word strictly designates the forest that the pygmies regard as a veritable entity in itself, active and formative in all its functions.

(56)  Paul Radin, summing up decades of anthropological experience, research, and fieldwork, once observed:
If I were asked to state briefly and succinctly what are the outstanding features of aboriginal civilizations, I, for one, would have no hesitation in answering that there are three:  the respect for the individual, irrespective of age or sex;  the amazing degree of social and political integration achieved by them;  and the existence of a concept of personal security which transcends all governmental forms and all tribal and group interests and conflicts.

Thes features can be summarized as:  complete parity or equality between individuals, age-groups and sexes;  usufruct and later reciprocity;  the avoidance of coercion in dealing with internal affairs;  and finally, what Radin calls the “irreducible minimum” - the “inalienable right” (in Radin’s words) of every individual in the community “to food, shelter and clothing”  irrespective of the amount of work contributed by the individual to the acquisition of the means of life.  “To deny anyone this irreducible minimum was equivalent to saying that a man no longer existed, that he was dead” - in short, to cut across the grain of the world conceived as a universe of life.

(131)  The practice of direct democracy was an affirmation of citizenship as a process of direct action.  Athens was institutionally organized to convert its potentially monadic citizenry from free-floating atoms into a cohesive body politic.  Its regular citizen assemblies (Ecclesia), its rotating Council of Five Hundred (Boule), and its court juries that replicated in the hundreds the polis in miniature, were the _conscious_ creations of a public realm that had largely been fostered intuitively in tribal societies and were rarely to rise to the level of rational practice in the centuries to follow.  The entire Athenian system was oranized to obstruct political professionalism, to prevent the emergence of bureaucracy, and to perpetuate an active citizenry _as a matter of design_.

(142)  Not until the Middle Ages did this Teutonic word (as we know it) [freedom] begin to include such metaphysical niceties as freedom from the realm of necessity or freedom from the fortunes of fate, the Ananke and Moira that the Greeks added to its elucidation.

(168)  The word “freedom” initially appears in a Sumerian cuneiform tablet that gives an account of a successful popular revolt against a highly oppressive regal tyranny, thousands of years ago.  In _The Sumerians_, Samuel Noah Kramer tells us that “in this document… we find the word ‘freedom’ used for the first time in man’s recorded history;  the word is _amargi_ which… means literally ‘return to the mother.’”  Alas, Kramer wonders, “we still do not know why this figure of speech cane to be used for ‘freedom.’”  Thereafter, “freedom” retains its features as a longing to “return to the mother,” whether to organic society’s matricentric ambience or to nature perceived as a bountiful mother.

(204)  Gerrard Winstanley is best known as the leader and theorist of the Diggers, a minuscule group of agrarian communists who in 1649 tried to cultivate the “free” or waste land on St. George’s Hill near London….

As Rexroth accurately emphasizes, “All the tendencies of the radical Reformation” - and, we may add, the most important millenarian movements of earlier times - “seem to flow together in Winstanley, to be blended and secularized, and become an ideology rather a theology.”  Winstanley was not a military communist like the Taborites;  he was a committed pacifist, and so far as we know, he remained one throughout his life.

(244-245)  The real powers of the Asian village to resist technical invasions or to assimilate them to their social forms lay not in a fixed “systemic division of labor,” as Marx believed.  Its powers of resistance lay in the intensity of Indian family life, in the high degree of care, mutualism, courtesy, and human amenities that villagers shared as cultural norms, in the rituals that surrounded personal and social life, in the profound sense of rootedness in a communal group, and in the deep sense of meaning these cultural elaborations imparted to the community.

(250-251)  But a new technics had supplanted the old:  the technics of supervision, with its heartless intensification of the labor-process, its conscienceless introduction of fear and insecurity, and its debasing forms of supervisory behavior.  Where the “factors” had bought products, not people, the factory bought people, not products.   This reduction of labor from embodiment in products into a capacity of people was decisive;  it turned fairly autonomous individuals into totally administered products and gave products an autonomy that made them seem like people.  The animate quality that things acquired - qualities which Marx aptly called the “fetishism of commodities” - was purchased at the expense of the animate qualities of people.

(260)  For the present, however, I must emphasize again that terms like “small,” “soft,” “intermediate,” “convivial,” and “appropriate” remain utterly vacuous adjectives unless  they are radically integrated with emancipatory social structures and communitarian goals.  Technology and freedom do not “coexist” with each other as two separate “realms” of life.  Either technics is used to reinforce the larger social tendencies that render human consociation technocratic and authoritarian, or else a libertarian society must be created that can absorb technics into a constellation of emancipatory human and ecological relationships.

(261)  Post-scarcity, as I have emphasized in earlier works, does not mean mindless affluence;  rather, it means a sufficiency of technical development that leaves individuals free to select their needs autonomously and to obtain the means to satisfy them.

… Richard J Barnett, _The Lean Years_:  But his data reveal that we are faced not with an absolute shortage of materials but with an irrational society.

(263)  The Hellenic ideal of freedom - an ideal confined to the citizen - was different.  Freedom existed _for_ activity, not _from_ activity.  It was not a realm but a practice - the practice of being free by participating in free institutions, by daily recreating, elaborating, and _fostering_ the activity of being free.  One was not merely “free” in the passive sense of freedom from constraint, but in the active sense of “free_ing_,” both of oneself and one’s fellow citizens.  An authentic community is not merely a structural constellation of human beings but rather the practice of _communizing_.  Hence, freedom in the _polis_ was a constellation of relationships that was continual in the process of reproduction.

(265)  No less important than the ensemble is the technical imagination that assembles it.  To think ecologically for design purposes is to think of technics as an _ecosystem_, not merely as cost effective devices based on “renewable resources.”  Indeed, to think ecologically is to include “nature’s_ “amor” in the technical process, not only humanity’s.

(292)  Production, in effect, implied not only reproduction as Eliade has observed for metallurgy, but also animation - not as “raw material” bathed in the “fire of labor,” but as nature actively imbuing its own substance with a “vital spark.”  The spirited nature of technics is reflected in a highly suggestive body of possibilities that only recently have entered into our accounts of the history of technology.

(318)  I have chronicled the commitment of traditional socieities to usufruct, complementarity, and the irreducible minimum against class society’s claims to property, the sanctity of contract, and its adherence to the rule of equivalence.  In short, I have tried to rescue the legacy of freedom that the legacy of domination has sought to extirpate from the memory of humanity.

(333)  The present does not disappear, it persists and acquires externality at the expense of the future.  Futurism, in effect, does not enlarge the future but annihilates it by absorbing it into the present.  What makes this trend so insidious is that it also annihilates the imagination itself by constraining it to the present, thereby reducing our vision - even our prophetic abilities - to mere extrapolation.

(339)  To exercise one’s powers of sovereignty - by sit-ins, strikes, nuclear-plant occupations - is not merely a “tactic” in bypassing authoritarian institutions.  It is a sensibility, a vision of citizenship and selfhood that assumes the free individual has the capacity to manage social affairs in a direct, ethical, and rational manner.  This dimension of the self in self-management is a persistent call to personal sovereignty, to roundedness of ego and intellectual perception, which such conjoined terms like “management” and “activity” often overshadow.  The continual exercise of this self - its very formation by one’s direct intervention in social issues - asserting its moral claim and right to empowerment stands on a higher level conceptually than Marx’s image of self-identity through labor.  For direct action is literally a form of ethical character-building in the most important social role that the individual can undertake:  active citizenship.

(346)  For social “paradigms” one can turn to such memorable events as the May-June upheaval in France during 1968, or to Portugal a decade later, and possibly to Spain a generation earlier.  What should always count in analyzing such events is not why they failed - for they were never expected to occur at all - but how they managed to erupt and persist against massive odds.