This Month: Ad Men, Cat Nip, Elections & The Unrequited One
Ad Men, Cat Nip, Elections
Madison Avenue, the avenue of consumer dreams by the Ad Men, rolled into the political arena in a significant way in the 1964 Presidential election. There may have been some amateur attempts earlier, but they were not of the professional grade and may have been benign or more comical than effective. Barry Goldwater was the Republican candidate opposed by Pres.Lyndon Johnson, the incumbent. Goldwater was perceived as the hawkish candidate and that was an irony considering LBJ's recent excursion into Vietnam. The Democrats unleashed a devastating advertisement against Goldwater. The televised film showed a little girl picking daises in a field and a mushroom cloud enveloped the frame of the film. Pres. Johnson's somber voice announced that 'we must all love each other or die'. The message was clear. Vote for for Goldwater and face nuclear war. Goldwater was our Dr. Strangelove. It is not so much the question if that particular ad had an outcome on the the election since by any standard Goldwater was due to lose. More importantly, Madison Ave. was welcome in the political arena as a propagandist using raw emotion as a catalyst. That ad changed everything in political advertising. Raw emotion was the cat nip in political advertising.
A few days ago I saw a social media advertisement depicting the demise of Baltimore, Md. The ad was a general condemnation against Democratic party managed cities. To reinforce that claim it is often sited that twenty of the poorest (and most crime ridden) cities are run by Democrats. It is true that by some standards 17 of the 20 poorest cities have Democrat mayors. Baltimore is one of those cities. The narration and visual depiction of Baltimore as a deserted wasteland of abandoned stores, homes, and factories is compelling. Has Baltimore become the shadowy, grim city of its literary hero, Edgar Allen Poe? The person narrating the scene is Kim Klacik a Republican Party city council member, a black woman and supporter of D. Trump, "this is what happens when Democrats are in charge for thirty-five years", she announces. The ad was well produced, a good example of a political message. It was brief, singular in dimension, blunt, and intended to create an awakening and move voters to one side. Also, Kim is a good spokesperson: self-assured and bold. Additionally, she is black and a Republican and that can be a reinforcing element to the ad. Horrors if we vote for Democrats. Certainly all cities would fall into such ruin if we had Democrat rule. We can certainly appreciate the message as professional and although not necessarily produced by the Ad Men it is in that vein. We cannot be certain if the message converted any Democrat sinners, but that is not its only purpose since the ad can be a reinforcing message for Republicans or for those perched on the proverbial fence. This type of ad is not the sole skill of the Republican Party since the Democratic Party is also skilled at imaging their favorite savior to humanity. However, to delve further into the obvious, there are numerous reasons as to why Baltimore or any other city, Democrat or not, is treading water. To name a few causes for any city's downhill slide we can weigh the effects of Amazon, WalMart, Costco, Ikea, Sam's Club, Lowe's, Home Depot, the WTO, NAFTA, robotics, urban migration, the leveraged buy-out era, and the CDO and CDS housing collapse of 2008. Also the state of the cities in question bear some responsibility for the cities success or failure. A city is not entirely responsible for their economic malaise. The Baltimore video is meant to evolve into a conflated message so that voters should see it as an example of the failure of the Democratic Party, especially if it is accompanied with a dozen other reinforcing messages of that category. Many voters are aware of the actual causes as enumerated above but the whole picture of our social upheaval cannot be presented to any specific voter group to condemn or favor a particular party since the actual causes are numerous and cannot be redacted to thirty seconds to be laid at the feet of any one political category.
To look at the flip side of the Baltimore video message we could examine the Republican Party. Of the top ten most corrupt states seven have Republican Governors. Federal GOP administrators had thirty-eight times more criminal convictions than Democrats from 1961 through 2016. From 1963 to 2017 Federal Republican Administrations had sixty-eight corruption convictions while Federal Democratic Administrations had fifty corruption convictions. All of these statistics can be viewed with suspicion since there are subjective criteria for some of the classifications. The analysis of Federal corruption convictions is not in total agreement but never-the-less the Republicans seemed to have taken the lead. There is enough information in only three of these studies for an Ad Man to massage the data in a one dimensional message that the Republicans are corrupt and should be voted out of office. For the cynic, we are in the vice grip of incompetence and corruption by the two parties.
Consumer marketing is about happiness. If the product, the service or the message promises happiness then a sale can be made. Undoubtedly the message may coincide with some preconceived feelings about an issue. If a voter has felt that our country has faltered and has lost its place in the world then we can return to happiness via the candidate. The message may be like a magnet for any particular voter who has lost his decent job and now has a lower paying job. The other issues with the candidate may be ignored. If a voter sees a video of a corrupt city run by a particular party then it follows that the party is the cause of our problem. It is far easier to grab onto a single compelling issue, repeated constantly, than to examine several causes of a social problem or examine all of the issues in a candidate's platform.
It is often claimed that choosing a candidate or the entirety of the election process is an emotional event and studies seem to support this theory. The voter can be inundated with cat nip ads that are geared to elicit an emotional response. Also the emotional climax can be typified with the party nomination event: cascading balloons, placards, bull horns, drums, singing, dancing and funny hats plastered with bling. The nomination event takes on the emotional atmosphere of a rock concert. It can be a Hollywood event, a gold statue goes to the best actor. Who is the one with the best Madison Avenue advertising strategy?
We cannot eliminate the emotional factor in the political process. Certainly there are emotional issues involved such as the abortion argument. We cannot wield a scalpel and extract that from the voter. However, the environment can be manipulated. There could be greater deliberation, calm and rational thinking that plays a part in the election process. Would critical analysis stand a fighting chance if we could contract the time span of the electoral campaign? Perhaps we could copy the process of Great Britain. They have a limited time for a candidate to broadcast their position. Ours seems to drag on for an eternity. Possibly there could be moratorium on political promotions and cat nip ads for an extended period of time before the election. Surely the time was sufficient to present one's platform and conduct the debates. We could amend the circus of the presidential nomination. We could have a nomination without the fanfare as we had with the pandemic influenced nomination this year. That could be an appropriate start for a serious, less inflated, election cycle. There is a possibility that we can change the process to have a more austere environment. It would not be easy. It would require a citizen's movement.
The Unrequited One
By H C Wallace
Not brightest of suns could reveal a regret/
in witness of our comfort by spirit and flesh/
We surrender weak as sunk to passions habit/
a pair tempted deserving but not asking less/
to live by hours hiding all beyond this right./
But now suns eclipsed steals our moment/
those stubborn shadows disturb day on night/
to resurrect from love past a desire unspent./
Now I release one to ponder losing the other/
she rises in reunion but we resume incomplete./
Then in shadow and regret I will not recover/
and they unknown to another will compete/
not to know the tumult in this distorted love/
by the cruel seduction of the unrequited one/
The Sun Also Rises and when it did on that day in 1926 it revealed a new author who could illuminate a story with an unusually abbreviated yet forceful style. The author had captured the public's attention immediately. His narrative and style was fresh, stark and engaging. After reading one of Earnest Hemingway's novels you might think; 'yes that's the way it is alright and well said.' Hemingway had a unique talent for sparse composition that alluded to a mood laying between the words and sentences. It was nuance and choosing the right words to convey atmosphere and it was a work of simple beauty. Readers and critics have referred to his style as the iceberg method. The composition was of the modernist style, notably absent of adjectives, exhibited in earlier works by James Joyce. Hemingway could tell a story of parental grief in one six word sentence, "For sale, baby shoes, never worn"' from the novel A Farewell to Arms. Also, he could challenge the reader with hidden dialogue between deceiving lovers to focus attention on a taboo subject in the short story The Hills Are Like White Elephants. It is one of the finest examples of hidden dialogue to be written.
Hemingway had a partnership with Calliope, if you prefer a romanticized explanation of a muse, and for some reason, possibly for his honesty to the craft, she favored him for many years. In those years the public became especially enthralled with his novels in roman a clef narrative of a life lived large from zenith to abyss. I read three of his novels, the first three, and then his novella about the old man and his seafaring misadventure. Certainly a unique fish story and the struggle of a humble man and an epic duel about any person facing impending failure with resolve. I came to the next novel not by any preference or duty, A Moveable Feast, which was published posthumously and possibly written ten to twelve years earlier. After his death Hemingway's reputation had gained mythical status with tales of his big game hunting, fist fighting bouts with friends, hard drinking and warring with fascists. He was the hyper-masculine male of his era in the cloak of the persona we were anxious to embrace. Judging by the title of the novel and his reputation I imagined Ernest rafting down an African waterway sipping cocktails while shooting Rhinos. No, not to be. The first few chapters were an endearing narrative of his early days. It was a life of desperate means, but it was a life enjoyed by young artists as they pursued their dreams with their compatriots. To be appreciated was Hemingway's observation of the lost generation of that era: "Just who was calling who the lost generation?" Well said since who was really lost and who had found themselves in this unique period. Who was in charge of the lost and found department? The story was Hemingway's nostalgic voyage of Jeune redux. Then I sped through the next few chapters and I was unimpressed. The following chapters were a litany of petty gossip that would compete with Louella Parsons' account of a Hollywood tell all scandal. At best he remained partially true to his writing style but I didn't have the appetite to finish the feast. I am mystified as to why so many people enjoyed that novel. Well it was Hemingway and it was Papa with fond memories.
In-between those novels I heard of a story between Hemingway and his uncle. The story takes place on Mt Kilimanjaro. Hemingway (in character) is hiking up the mountain, makes a turn in the path, and lying in the path is a dead leopard. The leopard apparently died very recently, perhaps only a day or so ago, did not show any signs of starvation, sickness, predatory attack, and it was not cold enough to die of exposure. Hemingway claimed the leopard had lost its scent and could not find its way to return to its den, became confused and resigned itself to a final end. The tale does require some imagination but then reading fiction require the suspension of disbelief. The story relates to his novel The Snows of Kilimanjaro. I did see the movie and it seemed to be a mess of a story and that spoiled the novel for me. I doubt that the novel was a bad as the movie. However, I did remember that story of the leopard.
Hemingway's writing style began to change in later years. Something had thrown him off course in his literary journey and his personal life. Suddenly he began writing in very long sentences, lacking the former style. He converted to a stream of consciousness method that was at times convoluted. His recent novel Across the River and Into The Trees was not well received by the critics or the general public. He had penned a couple of clunkers in his career. Also, there were medical complications from a couple of plane crashes in Africa, war injuries, and a serious car accident. His drinking had increased considerably. Troubles were mounting.
Friends know. They can tell when a wheel is straining on level ground, when a three quarter step replaces a full step, or when something formerly joyous becomes laborious. Friends and associates know the signs. They took him to the hospital. Doctors stuffed a bit in his mouth and ran high voltage currents through his cranium. In general terms it is a procedure used to reroute bad messages that become log jammed in neural pathways. When he emerged from the torture chamber he commented that the procedure was a success for the doctors but not for the patient. He couldn't continue writing and day to day living was a struggle. He took his shotgun into his office and wrote his last chapter, an irony of demise that was the leopard's story. He had lost his scent, his center, his purpose.
Most of us might claim that we haven't learned anything about the human condition from a Hemingway novel or any novel of literary fiction. A perceptive literary critic once claimed that we already know what is illustrated in the novel. So true I believe. What is essential about a good novel is the context and writing style in which people are characterized in given circumstances. It is written with such dynamic force that the story crystallizes. We already knew about the center to one's life but to put it in the raw structure of a leopard losing its scent makes it metaphorical and that creates a stronger impression. And the leopard's death....that forced it front and center as a truism. Hemingway was a wonderful illuminator.
By H.C. Wallace
By Vesuvius sagging shoulders/
they are cradled in the balance/
of the flame and the water/
The ancient kettle smolders/
while sea tongues whisper an omen/
A witness speaks of their delusion/
for living in the creation's caldron/
Surely they tease cremation/
as their nostrils will spew steam/
and bones crumble bitter to ash/
The witness they will not deny/
yet not omit their pleasures/
They sing, rejoice in shadow flames/
then dance at the mouth of the oven/
while a rumbling augur tells of ruin/
Children have their wicked rhymes/
that came with the first of days/
and recite poems of mystic rune/
The little ones who will not obey/
will be devoured by the angry mother/
Harpies gulp from a devil's ladle/
and swim in the molten metal/
They have their devious schemes/
and are envious of those laughing/
then belch sulfur from their kettle/
Desire runs to lava in longing arms/
and headboards tap the ancient walls/
Lulled in the music of amorous sighs/
they sleep deep on the vespers of evening/
rocked in the arms of Vulcan's vapor/
Tomorrow is shuttered deep in hope/
where the stoked furnace spews/
with the furious flame and smoke/
La vita is this moment/
the furnace may burn tomorrow/
Miles of Racism
it was 1959 and Miles Davis had just recorded and released his seminal jazz album Kind of Blue. It was only two years earlier that he had released his album Birth of The Cool to great acclaim among jazz aficionados.
He was performing at the jazz club Bird Land and at the conclusion of a set he walked outside to take a break. He accompanied a white woman to a waiting cab a few steps away and then returned to stand by the marquee. There were several people standing around and under the marquee. An NYC policeman approached Miles and told him to move along since he was loitering. Miles explained that he was working at the club and was taking a break. He pointed at the marquee; "That's me, Miles Davis." The officer ordered Miles to move along. The newspaper account claims that a scuffle ensued around Miles, the nature of which we don't know. A plain clothes officer rushed past the uniform policeman and struck Miles on the head with a billy club. Miles was taken to the hospital and received five stitches and the wound was bandaged. He was taken to the police station and charged with disturbing the peace. He was released on a $10,000 bond.
Why was Miles Davis singled out of the crowd? Further, how could he be loitering if he worked there? While most people in America did not know him outside of the jazz scene, people in NYC knew the name if they were jazz fans or not. Many people in NYC could recognize him from a photograph. Certainly the police of that precinct knew who he was. Who was this bespoke black man, a black man escorting a white woman, this man of immense talent who could perform for $400 for four hours hours of work? A policeman's salary was $100 a week. Was it envy because this black man rose above a status to which a white policeman thought he did not deserve?
The head wound, since not serious, was simply emblematic of that evening. The following day someone wrote a blurb in a neighborhood newspaper: "crazed jazz musician falls headlong into a policeman's billy club." A bit of satire on the jazz music form and a poke at what was certain to be a laughable narrative from the police department. The event can be characterized as a personal racist action of an agent of the government. The policeman's personal animosity become the law that evening in lieu of respecting the freedom of a private citizen. The crimes committed were the false accusation by the NYC police department of disturbing the peace and assault. Dorothy Kilgallen the NYC columnist and a friend of Miles who was at the club witnessed in part the event. Her column the following day exposed the truth of that evening. She rightly pilloried the NYC police department for their abusive treatment of a black person. The charge of disturbing the peace against Miles was dropped...precipitated by the newsprint? Probably it had some influence.
In 1949 Miles Davis and his quintet accepted a tour invitation to Paris. The quintet was booked to play at the first Paris international jazz festival since the war. Nothing could have prepared Davis for the reception he would receive in Paris. "It changed the way I looked at things forever. I loved the way I was treated. Paris was where I understood that all white people are not the same."
The quintet performed at the Salle Pleyel concert hall to enthusiastic crowds and it become obvious to Miles that the French considered jazz to be very important music. Davis was soon introduced to Boris Vian, the polymath. Boris introduced Davis to Picasso and Jean Paul Sartre. The group would sit together in hotels, cafes and clubs in the Saint Germain district and discuss the topic of the day, music, the art scene and philosophy (I'm sure Sartre captured his attention). It wasn't long before Miles took up with the French actress Juliette Greco and they soon fell in love. They would explore Paris together and the sight of a white woman and a black man did not cause a second glance, unless they recognized Miles and waved to him.
Miles was stunned at the freedom he had in Paris. The country he left behind was still segregated, discrimination was common and most US states enforced anti-miscegenation laws. Miles said that when he was in France he felt as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders, he had lost that tense feeling, he could walk around day or night without being on guard, he could stay in any hotel, eat in any restaurant, and walk into any cafe. He returned to Paris again through his career and it must have been a haven, a respite for him to be treated as an equal. I can imagine that on that dark evening at Bird Land in 1959 Miles thoughts returned to Paris, freedom, and equality.
Miles bought a Lamborghini after he achieved international acclaim and the wealth that went with that. In a magazine interview he said he expected that any day a policeman would pull him over and ask him if he had permission to drive his master's car. Black humor. But the truth of the statement is evident. He was not driving that Lamborghini in Paris.
(the day of reminding)
by H C Wallace
The flags remain furled, the tin trumpets rest mute/
no granite statue has risen, history will not share/
a golden crepuscule will sigh and sink indifferent/
while the busy clanging of everyday pierces the air/
A world plays in frenzied pace chooses not to confirm/
but we in this mourning will interrupt for our moment/
for a humble recalling of their brevity holding our turn/
when we were drawn with devotion into their orbit/
We recount their years lived to this day of sleep/
and dispose to the quick of shadowed rhymes writ/
for we compose ours inked on their spirit to keep/
bitter and sweet depart, to the winds they submit/
we whisper our elegies on this minor departing/
and know the wind will consume our dust swiftly/
Julian, by Gore Vidal
The Roman Emperor Julian, 361 A.D. was given the title The Apostate by the Christians. The title is not undeserving but he could as well have been given the title The Resurgent. Julian proved to be a man of letters through his life into his days as the emperor. That was atypical for a Roman Emperor. Julian bequeathed three journals of his brief life for posterity. Gore Vidal has used these journals as the enormous palette of this period of Roman history to tell the story of an emperor of the post Hellenist period who stubbornly defended the old gods and culture of Hellenism against the wave of Christianity. Vidal colors in the history with the imaginative prose of dialogue, court intrigue, treason, and character conflict. In doing so, he stays within the margins of the accepted Roman history that is familiar to us. The brief history of Julian is a significant revivalist movement and Vidal has followed the critical sign posts of this period in his work of historical fiction.
Christianity had taken a foothold in the Roman Empire before the birth of Julian. His Uncle Constantine was the first emperor to adopt the new religion and decreed Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. He was a professional soldier with ambitions who had appreciation for political power and he wisely detected the emerging popularity of the new religion. Possibly, he saw this as a means to an end. At an early age the orphan Julian was assigned a tutor, Mardonius. Mardonius schooled Julian in the principles of Hellenism to include sophistry, rhetoric, virtue, aesthetics, the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and the ancient stories of Homer. Julian also studied the bible and remained a Christian through his youth. In adulthood he came to embrace the principles of Hellenism as more sensible for a harmonious and meaningful life than the new religion referred to as Galilean.
Julian maintained a lengthy period of celibacy in adulthood and adopted the lifestyle of a priest. On his journey as a priest throughout the Roman Empire he meets others who have sharp opinions of the new religion. Why are Christians slandering and destroying those of other religions because they did not share similar beliefs? Aren't we tolerant of the Egyptians who believe in other gods? This is something new to us. How can the father, the son and the holy spirit be one and the same if the son is of mortal blood? The Jews of the Old Testament were monotheists and the Galileans have professed the triple god of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. The Galileans must be atheists. Why are these Christians so preoccupied with death, the life afterward, as opposed to the Hellenists who appreciate life and question their existence and practice the aesthetics of life? Are we to believe there was no god until the appearance of a rabble rousing carpenter three hundred years ago? Hellenists professed that Jesus was crucified for sedition . Was the first god, the god of the Jews and the lawgiver, die then replaced by another god of the Gospels? These are critical questions from the viewpoint of the Hellenists who believed that humans cannot die as gods but confer with gods through mysticism or magic (after death, Elysium, in Homer's original view, was a place only for heroes and then apart from the gods). Did not the philosophers of Greece explain more logically and completely the fall of man through the tales of Prometheus? Did not Homer explain in explicit detail the creation of man and nature through his stories? The bible is full of ambiguities, contradictions, and absurdities. Our gods are not confused since they are immutable and constant. These are not disingenuous questions or mere sophistry. Hellenism was ingrained in the culture of humanity for hundreds of years. The stories of Homer were taken as answers to the spirit and life of man. How could a religion be new? What would follow our gods would have to be false. However, in the undercurrent of these dismissive opinions of Christianity unease brewed in the Hellenist ranks. Diocletian had issued a decree years previously that all boys would follow in their father's vocation. The rule was intended to insure that skills would not be abandoned or forgotten in their society. Additionally, reading and writing were neither required or endorsed. The Christians gave their children the freedom to pursue their vocations. Most importantly the Christians promoted literacy in their homes and private schools. Christians had become interpreters, secretaries to senators, worked for libraries, and held jobs in commerce. The new faith had also spread through the military ranks.
During Julian's travels his half brother Gallus was made Caesar in the east. Gallus proved to be an able warrior but proved to be reckless with his authority and was found guilty of treason, the catch all crime of that era, and was executed. Julian went into hiding since it was a dangerous time for him. Would he be assassinated as a possible usurper to the throne? He could be under suspicion since he was in the lineage of Constantius II. It was decided that he should be sent to Gaul as a general. In Gaul he became famous as a leader capable of subduing the marauding Franks. Gaul was safe and secure. The legions were enamored of his skills and conferred upon him the title Caesar. He accepted.... in feigned gratitude. Julian had adopted Hellenism to include the old gods during his time in Gaul. Julian advances to the title Augustus while in Paris and Constantius II proclaims that Julian will succeed him as Emperor. Shortly thereafter Constantius II dies.
Julian's first objective as emperor was to reform the government of the Roman Empire. He eliminated hundreds of bureaucratic positions in the central government and ceded considerable power to the individual local governments. Government stipends to the Christian community were eliminated. Was the empowerment of the cities an attempt to emulate the city states of Greece?Julian attempts to restore the old gods to their rightful place and restore the temples which have fallen into disrepair. The attempt proves difficult since many of the old Hellenist priests have long since died. Julian tells his friend that he will fight the Galileans with reason and by example and he will not despair the effort. He feels that in time he will be able to restore the temples and recruit young priests.
After a brief period in Antioch, Julian devised a plan to secure his eastern border from occasional raids by Persian operatives by laying siege to the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon. The full motivations were unclear at the time but it quickly became obvious that he had deeper ambitions. It was claimed by those in his circle that he longed for revenge against Persia. Julian reflects on Alexander the Great and his exploits as emperor. Could he follow the example of Alexander? Is there a twofold ambition? Alexander was a follower of the old gods and his teacher in youth was Aristotle. He was an apt model for Julian as a king and conqueror. Shouldn't the Roman Empire extend itself to lay claim to that old enemy Persia as did Alexander? It was Xerxes who burned Athens the name sake of Athena and a center of Hellenism. Could the old gods and culture of Hellenism be restored fully after its dissolution. Julian readies his army of 90,000 soldiers and begins the Persian campaign.
Julian's army wins a few minor battles and after several weeks of progress into the heart of Persia lays siege to major cities. Persian cities are burnt, some officials are executed, treasure and slaves taken. Three months into the campaign Julian wins a major battle along the Tigris nearer the city of Ctiesphon. Sapor, the Emperor of Persia, continues retreating with his army and remains secure in the capitol city. Sapor sues for peace and considerations are extended to Julian. Sapor offers Julian a large fortune in gold and a province in the empire of Persia in exchange for peace and a Roman retreat from Persia. Julian does not answer Sapor and continues his progress. In the next battle Julian is mortally wounded with a spear and dies in a few days.... age thirty-three. The Roman army retreats.
Sapor's offer to Julian does not comport with most annals of the Persian Campaign and the cause of Julian's death is generally referred to as unknown circumstances. There were several stories circulating at the time and in later years. It is here that Vidal takes the podium with his version to express his severe appraisal; a rebuke of Christianity. Julian's doctor removes the spear from Julian and identifies it as a Roman spear. It must have been Callistus, a Christian convert and the personal protector of Julian who delivered the fatal wound to Julian. It must have happened in the confusing torrent of battle. There were no witnesses to the killing. How fitting that a Christian would dispatch the aspiring emperor of resurgent Hellenism in an act of violence. And ironic that Julian was to die as a flawed hero as it would have played in a Greek (Hellenism) tragedy.
What was to follow the rise of Christianity but a thousand years of religious pogroms, crucifixions, gruesome crusades, and raw bigotry. Then in that journey they abandoned their dedication to literacy. What came with Christianity was the loss of tolerance. The Christians were intolerant and absorbed with a self-righteous doctrine; convert or burn at the stake. It bore the face of fascism since they strove to force their ideas to become your ideas.
Over a thousand years after Julian's death Spinoza arrived to proclaim that the bible was a fantasy story and that god existed in the laws of nature.
It would not be fair to label the novel as a podium for Vidal to crucify the Christians (although Vidal does bring some heavy artillery to the fore). Vidal breaths life into the Roman past and explores Julian's maturation, his relationships, and conflicts in a way to carve a personality from a Roman statue. Buried therein, Vidal, subtly via his characters, poses critical ethical and religious concepts of the day. Neither would it be fair for the reader to claim that Julian was simply hungry for power. Every political or religious figure wants power. Power can be judged by motive, means, and results. A serious student of the tolerance of Hellenism would not have unjust motives nor employ murderous means. One may be tempted to label Julian as a quixotic character but that would be in error since what he fought was an actual threat and what he pursued was a cultural ideal. The more plausible explanation is that Julian was a religious romantic who dreamed of the golden age of Hellenism that through his studies and influences held a deeper devotion. It was a sentiment of something in the past that held greater glory and promise than the present day.
It is a possibility that Julian could have won the day in Persia. Would Hellenism in full have been restored? There was confusion among Romans concerning the behavior of this intellectual Emperor. Roman citizens and senators were accustomed to having an emperor who was above them. The emperor should sit on a throne above the people, should not give long winded lectures to the senate as would a politician, and above all should not walk among the citizens. Julian had these unsettling habits. Romans wanted a hero who rose above them, not to be one of them. Was this Apostate too democratic? How would the common citizens and senators accommodate themselves to Julian's idiosyncratic political methods? What would a shift in this cultural paradigm mean for the future?
Notes: I have used the term Hellenists to specifically describe those in the novel who professed the Hellenism culture well past the ending of the Hellenistic era. Alternately, there were those who embraced the Greek culture of Hellenism but rejected polytheism and accepted Christianity in this same period. Those are briefly referred to in the bible.
Our call to arms worldwide today is Man Made Climate Change and our response is Declare War on Climate Change. The answer has become a tidal wave of political action to reset the natural order of the climate for planet earth. Alas, we are late with our enthusiasm. It was a prediction and warning of scientists forty years ago. However, while the empirical modeling was generally accepted as accurate there were few anomalies within the range of our senses to grab our attention. If we could not see the results of our carbon based life style then it must not be urgent. The climate was not changing before our eyes and consequently we continued to casually listen and not act.
In the not so distant past we dealt with two critical environmental issues. One was related to the climate and the other was related to our health. CFCs were being dispersed into the atmosphere with deleterious effects on the ozone layer. CFCs were eventually banned over a ten year period. Lead molecules were belching from our automobiles and our health was at risk. It took about fifteen years to reduce lead in gasoline. These two issues were relatively easy to tackle since they were one dimensional environmental problems and the solutions did not interrupt our daily life style to any serious extent. The problems could have been accomplished in a couple of years if it were not for political and corporate resistance. We can rally to relatively simple problems quickly and scientists can provide solutions. The immediate problem captures our attention and the problem that is distant avoids immediate attention. The flu shot that you need next week is on your mind today, your annual physical in six months is only on your iphone calendar.
Today man made climate change is accepted as fact by the scientific community and the populace has fallen in line with their predictions. Plans for resetting the climate are being promoted by politicians and it has become an election issue. The youth around the world are speaking up, demonstrating, and demanding action. These are the usual criteria for a movement. Not only is the climate changing, but it is progressing with a rapidity not previously predicted. In the past five years we have increased fuel mileage for cars and trucks,sold electric cars and built an untold number of solar panels and windmills. During this period the carbon emission count has increased and by the year it has increased exponentially (exponentially as a numeric expression to be raised as opposed to a verbal expression). The remedial influences that have been introduced have undoubtedly had some positive effect but scientists calculate that there is an increasing carbon foot print each year. Carbon usage increased or accumulated beyond what was implemented to offset emissions. There are compelling reasons for the exponential factor. The worldwide population continues to increase and for the past ten years the economy around the world has been in an expansion phase. With economic expansion came increased production since more durable and consumer goods are sold and with the expansion phase we use more energy in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas. It appears that we cannot reach the break even point with our current efforts. This problem is not about using paper straws. The solution requires a 180 degree turn in our life style.
Given the trend analysis we can expect severe changes in the climate which will bring more severe tornadoes, hurricanes and forest fires with greater frequency and accelerated polar melting leading to rising ocean levels. The day has arrived when we can see these effects and many have personal experiences with recurring heat waves, frequent flooding and hurricanes. The damage is apparent with decreasing fishing harvests , wildlife fleeing their natural habitats and dying coral reefs. The solutions are wise and well intended. The current movement demands more solar panels, electric batteries for cars and trains, thermal energy, wind and wave power, and biomass all of which are currently a minor portion of our total energy production. However, we are using carbon based resources to manufacture solar panels, windmills, and equipment for natural gas wells so as we produce carbon free products we are burning carbon to reduce our carbon foot print. A better trade off assuredly, but we can see the unavoidable effect of adding more carbon to emit less carbon. The law of physics holds true that one consumes a source of energy to produce energy. An additional problem arises from our inability to find a method to store energy produced from wind power, wave power, and solar.
What will happen around the world while we strain to get past the exponential increase factor and then how many years will it take to actually reduce the carbon emissions by a significant amount? The more ingenious solutions may be years away from fruition. There are numerous designs for smaller, safer nuclear power units that could take considerable time for development. What is the possible cost? Water to hydrogen is an intensive process that consumes energy and the distribution of hydrogen is problematic for safety reasons. The challenges are enormous and the effects on civilization in the interim phase of reducing carbon emissions significantly will be devastating. There will be massive migrations out of already desperate countries. Where will they locate? There could be food shortages as extreme weather ravages farm land and fishing areas, there could be serious relocation issues in shoreline cities, taxes could rise to support energy efficient projects, there could be revolutions, riots, and people might be thrown out of work as resources contract and jobs in the old technologies evaporate. All of these disasters are conceivable if the trend analysis is marginally accurate. We will be racing to a continuously moving finish line.
In spite of the odds we will continue the efforts for reduced carbon emissions as we should. Our best efforts may only lead us to a bleak future of a mere existence but it will be an existence. It will be a dystopia of severely compromised living conditions with lower life expectancy, intermittent riots, rampant disease and little hope for future generations . If our best efforts fail our planet will
become a sister to Venus; burned out and uninhabitable. The last tribe that survived will have left a tome behind for another species in the universe. It will be a story of a voracious animal that consumed everything within easy reach without consideration for future generations. They were capable of great accomplishments and great ideas but they created a problem that they could not solve. In their desperate journey of self-destruction they disproved a favorite human adage that was: it's never too late. If the trend analysis holds true.
I watched a program on NatGeo about two or three years ago that narrated the most arid places on earth. Naturally most arid places are the deserts, but also included was the Antarctic region which receives less snowfall/moisture than some deserts. Included in this program was an item describing the Atacama desert of Chile. There is an observatory in the Atacama that was chosen for its extreme altitude and scarce cloud cover. More or less this is a recent criteria for the location of observatories. I was curious about the observatory and I down loaded a few photographs from the internet. Was I amazed. The celestial view with the naked eye was extraordinary. There it was; a panoply of bright stars from horizon to horizon. There was absolutely no obstruction in the view.
As a youngster I vividly recall standing in the open pasture of our farm late in the evening gazing at the stars. The stars stretched from horizon to horizon and fueled my youthful imagination. Would we ever set foot on the moon and what would we find there? Were there other worlds populated with strange beings and would they descend someday to visit us? It was not only in the distant farm lands where the view was unobstructed. You could find a location in the suburbs where the starry horizon met the ground and a person could have the same inspiring view of the night sky.
The brightly lit universe from our eyesight has dimmed considerably over time. The shimmering canopy has become a smudge obscured by flood lights, headlights of cars, street lights,security lights, twenty four hour stores fully lit from sundown to sunrise. Adding to the obscurity are the particles of progress which are emissions from industry, autos, buses, and trucks. Seldom can one have a clear view of the stars since the sky has become an opaque blur of commercial, industrial and residential man made light. The night sky has become a soup speckled in faded white dots cleaved by shafts of a yellowish blur. It is difficult to be aware of a degradation that evolves over an extended period of time. The eye becomes accustomed to the changes. We certainly are not spending our idle time star gazing on a daily basis unless you are an astronomer. Additionally, whose who are younger did not have a frame of reference for what the heavenly view was in the past. The evolution occurred without our daily observations and the clarity faded without fanfare.
Later I noticed the change when I drove past our former family farm. It was a cloudless spring night, about nine o 'clock. I pulled my car to the side of the road and walked to the barbed wire fence. I looked in the direction of the creek which was the rear boundary line of the farm and I witnessed a broad band of light behind the tree line stretching over the entire horizon. The horizon and part of the sky above had become blurred. Since the days of my youth another community had sprung up beyond the tree line and their lights had captured the horizon and held the stars hostage. The stars of my youth had vanished and I left there thinking of the former brilliance of my youthful starry nights that were similar to that photograph of the Atacama. I thought of mankind taking a step forward with an eraser and sacrificing something wondrous from the past. When we rush to the future it is possible that we may lose something of worth. It does not have to be a destruction or burial of an artifact, but it can be something as simple as a natural wonder beyond our touch.