This Issue: Back In The USSR and The Fruit of Our Labor
Back in The USSR
In September 1983 Lt. Colonel Stanislav Petrov. a Soviet air defense officer, was on duty in a nuclear Command Center. The early warning system indicated that five missiles had been launched toward the USSR from the United States.
To set the stage for this story we can go back in time about six months and review the relationship between the U. S. and the USSR. It is the time of increasing tension between the U.S. (including NATO) and the Soviet Union. The tension existed shortly after WWII, but the situation made a significant turn in 1982. President Reagan delivered a speech at the U.N. and referred to the Soviet Union as a ruthless nation of atrocities; a tyrannical society. This was an unusual condemnation of the Soviet State by an American President. In March 1983 President Reagan gave a speech to an evangelical congregation in Florida and referred to the USSR as a evil empire and a godless society. He went to great lengths in this speech to refer to America as a country that was built on a firm belief in God and that belief was indivisible from democracy. Additionally, he made references to our founding fathers who expressed the recognition of God in their essays There were influential references to a nation on the guiding hand of God in our formation. He accused the Russians of being immoral because they rejected god and therefore they had dubious ethical standards. The following month President Reagan presented his proposal for the SDI, the strategic defense initiative which was the plan to launch satellites that would destroy incoming ICBM's from the USSR. The physics had yet to be developed but President Reagan made it clear that we were willing to begin work on the system. The SDI would render impotent any offensive or defensive nuclear action by the USSR.
What was Andropov the Soviet Premier thinking? Was President Reagan an avenging angel, a God inspired warrior, planning to destroy the USSR with The Bomb and defend America with a magical laser beam? Andropov felt compelled to warn that the U.S. was approaching the 'red line' of nuclear war when he met with U.S. diplomat Averell Harriman. Later, in the autumn of 1983, the U.S. and NATO launched a massive series of war game exercises of 40,000 troops. An additional 15,000 troops were airlifted from the U.S. across Europe which was conducted in complete radio silence. The games escalated to chemical and nuclear warfare drills. The internal records of that period indicated that the Russians were on edge and were convinced that the U.S. was preparing for a preemptive strike. It was only weeks earlier that a Korean airliner had accidentally entered Soviet air space and was shot down by an over anxious Soviet pilot.
Let's return to Lt. Colonel Petrov, only weeks after the massive NATO exercise, setting in front of that monitor with five missiles headed toward the USSR. He was aware of the tense relationship between the two countries. The missiles would arrive in nine minutes. Would he send the warning to the officer who could press the 'fire' button'? The clock was ticking. Lt. Col. Petrov disregarded the Soviet protocol for immediate retaliation. He knew the Soviet high command's belief that a nuclear launch from the U.S. would be total but the alarm indicated that only five missiles had been launched. Petrov also knew that the alarm system was new and that the warning had passed through numerous layers of verification much too quickly. It was later discovered that the detection system had erroneously picked up the reflection of the sun's rays on a high altitude cloud cover.
Soon thereafter Lt. Col. Petrov was transferred to a less sensitive position and retired from his position after a few years. The Soviet government made few comments about his actions on that eventful day but he was recognized for his role with several awards from around the world. A documentary was made that explained his reasoning not to pass on the false/positive alarm. The documentary was entitled The Man Who Saved the World. He remained modest about the role he played on that day.
note: Accounts of the NATO exercise and and records inside the former USSR comes from The Atlantic, May 2013 and The Guardian. All of Pres. Regan's speeches since 1964 are available on line.
The Fruit of Our Labor
By H C Wallace
The knotted rope reared its head/
from beyond the green hills/
weaving serpentine through our town/
The dust of a dry August rose/
and shuttered the noon sun/
and gave darkness another turn/
Colors fluttered on the rusted sky/
and they trudged on and on/
endless, further on/
in labored gait in time of drums/
Could there be so many/
stepping to the duties tune?/
They left us smothered in August dust/
and we heard singing over the hill/
their singing fell into the valley/
where the words were simply sound./
They were lined neatly on the field/
and less human there/
as toy soldiers in a store window I once saw/
Thunder echoed from the field/
with shattered lighting/
then the air rained with wailing/
They labored through the day/
past the dark, descended moaning/
so returned to our town cleaved by half/
and half wasted of their labor/
In seasons passing we went to that field/
tilled the crust through clumps of cloth/
flake of bone and dented brass/
and sowed in wheat/
In Autumn we swung our scythes/
reaped and bound in sheaves/
Mama baked a loaf for Sunday dinner/
and father gave a blessing/
to thank heaven for the fruit of our labor/
Then we partook of the gift of the host/
the rest we sold for a nickel a shock
The Cave, from The Republic of Plato
This allegorical tale told by Socrates and elaborated with variations by Plato has been retold and referenced a thousand times over. Possibly it is one of the most referenced works of Plato's Republic ranking in popularity with Gyges Ring. Both always fit comfortably in the culture that we are moving through to make it timeless.
A group of prisoners who represent the majority of mankind have lived chained to the wall of a cave facing a blank wall. They are positioned so they are facing away from the light of the cave opening. There is a low wall directly behind them and behind that there is a fire. The prisoners watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of the fire behind them and give names to those shadows. They cannot see the objects directly. The objects are statues, sketches and ornamental objects. The shadows are the prisoners' reality but are not accurate representations of the real world. The only see shadows of reality and hear only echoes of the truth. Their worldview is warped by passions and prejudices.
If one of the prisoners escapes from the chains and exits the cave and becomes accustomed to the light outside he would be able to see objects which he previously knew as shadows. Yet he has not yet ascended to the world of pure reality. With more perseverance the prisoner will come into the sunlight. He will then see the world as it is including clear objects and lastly the sun itself which represents the idea of the good. For Plato the good is the highest and most valuable form. When the prisoner returns from the light to the cave after absorbing the new knowledge he would fail to recognize the objects along the wall. He would no longer have a frame of reference for the falsehoods. The other prisoners seeing that the escaped prisoner was confused with the old symbols would they think the returning prisoner was insane and it was the outer world that caused the insanity? For this reason the chained prisoners would never take the journey outside the cave and further they would harm anyone who tried to take them out of the cave. Why would they wish to go into a realm that caused insanity?
Plato believed the purpose of education is to help people see absolute truths and values and save them from living their lives in the world of falsehood and prejudice. This form of education is particularly important to leaders. If they are blind and dwell in the darkness they will wreck the entire city which is far worse than the average individual remaining ignorant. Rather than being valued and appreciated by the rest of society those in chains do not listen to the philosophers. In fact they actively reject their teachings.
A simplistic allegory easily understood. We can take fault with any allegory and claim that allegories are false since they are not the truth. Additionally the ancients had the habit of elevating those allegories to an idealistic plateau. The Cave is a typical allegory since it is a one dimensional construct. There are no exogenous elements or analysis on the human psyche. Given its constraints the Cave story can maintain its laser focus to encourage argument or discussion in any society at any time. We can cast the Cave story into a dimension of reality based on the observation of current events and popular discussion among citizens in our political system. We may imagine that one of Plato's chained prisoners rises to leadership. Any society may have leaders who have not been educated properly and they will have an appeal to others in society who have been likewise uneducated and if exposed to the truth would reject it as an inconvenience or something so strange as to be a lie. Those leaders could profess falsehoods of myth and prejudice that will appeal to citizens of the same beliefs. The parents of children, leaders of the family, can hold myths and prejudices as truths and will influence their children accordingly. As the child begins school they may start with falsehoods and prejudices as they continue with basic skills. The leaders of society can promote others to influential positions in government and they, while not qualified by either experience or education, will in turn hire those who are likeminded. They may all or in part lack the skills or the lack the simple moral codes that society expects. These leaders may promise unwise programs or harmful policies that appeal to their followers. They may also subtly promote prejudices and bigotry and if not educated in moral codes will indulge in self dealing. In time, in theory, the leaders will wreck the city (as in city state) and create chaos.
Returning to the allegory of the cave and Plato's principle, it is preferable to have the ignorant remain in chains than to have uneducated leaders wreck the city. Once the city state is wrecked there is no going back since there is little possibility that capable leaders can be had in such a ruined state. We know that the USSR (Russia) has not recovered from its incompetent leadership. They went from monarchy to Bolshevism to communism then flirted with democracy for a few minutes and then transitioned to fascism. Germany recovered from Nazism to democracy in a few years and Japan recovered from a city state religion and fascism to a democracy. Many lives were lost or ruined in these political transitions. The price of poor leadership is extraordinary. Other than the purely political aspects we may take The Cave into the modern classroom and examine an aspect of teaching science. Although the issue is not ubiquitous, there are those that insist that creationism (aka creation science) be taught alongside Darwinian evolution. It should be obvious that creationism is not a science and as such does not compete remotely on any level with science. It could be common in an American History course to depict historical icons as heroes as opposed to being fallible people. Thus we insert a shadow between the supposed hero and the student to let the student live with a myth. That subject can be explored further to the current day of political heroes who should be appraised otherwise with the facts. Undeniably the education and leadership subject runs deep and wide. The parents, extended family members, leaders and teachers promote historical and cultural misinformation unintentionally or with bias and disinformation intertwined with valid argument and information.
The subject of leadership, ignorance and cohabitating comfortably with myth and falsehood has been with humanity well before the age of Socrates. We have the benefit of three thousand years of human history to know that the Cave story can be referenced ad infinitum in detail by examples in our past. Now, as information, misinformation and disinformation travel through our society at the speed of light it becomes more at issue. There are no simple solutions. As we continue to recognize its presence, preach against it and attack it we will in some intermittent frequencies stand a chance at success.
The Portable Soren Kierkegaard
So portable that it fits in your shirt pocket. Soren Kierkegaard is considered the father of existentialism. Undoubtedly he had great influence on John Paul Sartre and its widespread movement into the twentieth century.
Kierkegaard professed that we should define ourselves outside of society and the political realm. That is not to the exclusion of participation with society or the political arena, but it is that we do not take influence from those two realms to identify ourselves. Once you have been seduced by politics or society you have lost yourself, your meaning, your individual purpose. In current culture we see evidence that some people have become personally invested with a political movement or a particular politician. Have they failed to define themselves or have they redefined themselves? Kierkegaard claims that one should have a set of values, beliefs and moral code and if those elements are firmly intact then you would be less likely to fall victim to dogma, falsehoods, prejudices and cultish behavior. It is then that one can be their own person as opposed to being owned by another.
Pres. Biden Needs An Optometrist
We waited with anticipation for the words of wisdom from Pres. Joe Biden on January 20th. It would mark the day that would be a relief from the confused rhetoric and misanthropic behavior of the former president. Perhaps more critical is how our new president would address the rebellion of January 6th. We would have a new beginning and we would right the ship of state and we would sail with purpose into the future. Quackery and encouragement to the cabals of fringe movements would no longer be encouraged via the crypto or direct influence of our former president. His speech would map the future contrasted to the previous chaotic and corrupt four years.
Thus the speech began: "We look ahead in our uniquely American way....restless, bold, optimistic and set our sights of the nation"....etc. The words that followed were neither bold and neither did he look ahead past the immediate horizon. It is unfortunate that the remainder of the speech was filled with platitudes: "bring America together, right the wrongs, good jobs, much to heal, much to gain". Interspersed with the platitudes he used the verb unite or some form thereof eleven or twelve times. We do know that 'united we stand' in its historical context means one republic indivisible dedicated to democracy and simultaneously we must accept that we will forever be politically and culturally divided. He was at his best when he used the phrase to refer to racism and nativism. However, a sure way to kill a speech is to continuously hammer the audience with one phrase. To say that oratory is moribund and has been since the days of FDR, and Lincoln is an admission of our comfortable attachment to political homily. Though admittedly, Pres. Kennedy and Pres. Obama at times could reach that plateau. Little can be said of the president's reference to hope and a time of healing. Those are vague terms that are better addressed by physicians and clergymen but when offered by a politician act as an over-the-counter soothing balm that has an active life of five minutes.
There is little doubt that our president will partially correct, amend or end most of the unfortunate deconstructive actions by the former administration. Some of these issues are quite simple. It will be relatively easy for him to ensure that the FEC will maintain a quorum so they can investigate illegal campaign contributions or election miscues. Some issues may prove to be nearly impossible. Reclaiming the hundreds of individual oil leases granted by the previous president on federally protected lands will be an enormous task. Similarly difficult is establishing and enforcing protocols for the pandemic.
Vision is missing in his speech and many other of the inaugural speeches before him. We the people need a vision of our future, something to believe in and hold on to firmly for our journey. Pres. FDR had a vision of our future with the economic bill of rights, Pres. Woodrow Wilson had a global vision of our future with the League of Nations, Pres. Kennedy had a bold vision that we would launch men into space, land on the moon and explore the cosmos, Pres. T. Roosevelt had a grand vision of a nation committed to conservation of our natural resources and a national park system. Some may claim climate change was Biden's vision but the subject matter has been advanced by politicians, scientists and conservation groups for many years. He can be lauded for his continued commitment.
Do we need a constitution for the new age? Pres. Jefferson was a visionary when he proposed that we have a constitutional convention every few decades. He knew that a suit made for a young man would not fit the older man and it must be altered to fit the growing form. He knew the future would bring new inventions, new ideas, unpredictable problems and scientific discoveries. While not exciting in substance, a new constitution can map a direction for a more frictionless democracy.
1. Term limits: limits for congress and senate. We are stuck with entrenched politicians. They eventually wield entirely too much power and suffocate the opinions of their constituents and fellow congressmen. We need to pave the way for new ideas and opinions.
2. Campaign contributions, no corporation, company or citizen voting block shall be allowed to contribute to a federal campaign. Personal contributions will have a limit. Limiting campaign contributions is the most critical issue of our society. Money has corrupted our political system. The most money will buy the most air time and can muzzle the best and brightest.
3. Eliminate the electoral college. Results are determined by popular vote.
4. Presidential pardon restrictions: . No pardons for those who had a personal business relationship with the president. No pardons in the last thirty days in office. The president may not pardon family members .
There are issues specific to third party (blind trusts) relating to investments and assets of elected officials that must be addressed, No, your brother-in law Goober may not manage a portfolio of your assets. An issue best settled through legislation.
The Zombie Invasion
Beginning with Shay's Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion we have had numerous riots and rebellions in our country that typically had a common element. The leaders had a manifesto or list of grievances that translated into action, agree or not with their politics. Today we have a multitude of cabals that are reactionary but do not have a manifesto or a list of grievances to support their actions. They cannot coherently explain the purpose for the existence of their formation to wit: QAnon & The Proud Boys. If they attempt an explanation it is expressed in convoluted verbiage swirling in a dust cloud of flying monkeys; a corruption of nature. This makes for a dangerous climate and more so than we experienced in the past. The rebels of the aforementioned Shay's Rebellion and The Whiskey Rebellion had a rational cause that the government eventually addressed with a solution in their favor. Other extremely violent causes, through understood in principle, called for revolution that lay beyond our tolerance. They rightly met their demise. The Weather Underground movement would be an example. We do not have a counter point to lunacy conspiracy theories since any objections will be parried with another dose of lunacy. All we can do is recommend psychiatric help.
Generally we understand the effects of social media and warped broadcast news, social media, and internet bulletin boards and how it can subordinate the traditional fourth estate for information and accuracy . The cogent comments of politicians, journalists and the general public can be washed out by the megaphone blare of incoherent fantasies of these cabals. The viewer experiences via the conspiratorial broadcast media is a constant, abundant bombardment of disinformation enhanced with the visuals of explosions, weapons, doomsday storm clouds or Nancy Pelosi with droopy eyelids or Donald Trump in a superman costume. The visuals create an atmosphere of angst, fear, unease and anxious concern. The cognitive process is manipulated and the narrative is a simple explanation for complexities that become comfortable. To immerse oneself in that atmosphere and adopt its simple explanation is comfortable since it does not require critical thinking. The conspiracies have a seductive affect. Those who adopt the conspiracies have a secret that others don't.....they are privy to the truth hidden from the mainstream news and the populace. This movement gave rise to a tribal culture. The tribe formed quickly since there were numerous outlets of the disinformation broadcast news stations, social media platforms, internet bulletin boards and radio talk shows. The growth of these single lane broadcast units have created a traffic jam of disinformation to become the ubiquitous jargon of our society. These myths are forever woven into the fabric of American history. Future generations will be convinced that we were on an extended cocaine infused holiday. However, we may be optimistic. It is not with certainty, but it is conceivable that these zombies may turn and eat their own.
The disinformation cabals grew in numbers to such a level that they attracted the attention of politicians. The cabals were tailor made for the GOP and the GOP listened with interest since the disinformation industry favored Trump. Since the cabals have the power of the vote they are tolerated by a political party in congress. By not denying the disinformation and lunacy the politicians become proxies or avatars for the lunatic fringe. Unfortunately the tolerance has evolved into direct influence since a few members of the conspiracy sect have been elected to congress. Reaching deeper in influence, it is obvious by now D. Trump and the zombies have developed a symbiotic relationship.
This influence is so seductive and entrenched that our political culture has been compromised. Many people may have voted a straight ticket for the Democratic Party and ignored a qualified state Republican candidate. Would that candidate become a proxy for a fringe group in the near future? Perhaps best not to take the chance the voter thinks. In post election 2020 61 lawsuits objecting to the election results were filed in federal or state courts and the vast majority of these suits were dismissed outright for lack of standing. Others were rejected on merit. Our court system was suffocated with these nonsense motions. These specious legal motions were an insult to our judicial system and accordingly were an insult to the citizenry. Then our streets were filled with the 'stop the steal' (even their grammar is twisted) movement instigated by D. Trump. Although the cabals were partially defeated through the courts they managed to seize the day for more attention and probably gained adherents to the cause. A congress woman who is an avid promoter of lunacy theories, disinformation and is the personification of a flying monkey was ejected from two committee positions by congress. That was an easy compromise. The proper punishment would be expulsion from congress. It would have been impossible to expel her since congress lacked a sufficient number of votes to do so. There were too many proxies or avatars waiting to be rewarded by the cabals of lunacy theories and disinformation. So there we have it. A congress woman who stated that Nancy Pelosi should be shot represents our country.
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 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 short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro. I did see the movie and it seemed to be a mess of a story and that spoiled the story for me. I doubt that the short story was as 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.
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 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.
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? And can we expect countries as China, India and Russia to take this threat more seriously? It does take full participation to solve the planetary problem. 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, those 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 loss of an artifact, but it can be something as simple as a natural wonder beyond our touch.