ON Friday 8th April, the ‘High Road to Culture – The Low Countries‘ site published in their Friday Verses slot, a poem by the Belgian poet Jens Meijen.

Jens Meijen is almost unknown in the English-speaking world, which is a great shame.
His poem Luxe/Luxury took me by surprise with its reach, its implications, and its assured style. And also by its humour.
Translated by Paul Vincent, I have now gained permission to share it here, and have also included their biographical support details.

www.the-low-countries.com

This week’s Friday Verses are written by Jens Meijen. We translated Luxe (Luxury). This poem first appeared in Dutch in Het Liegend Konijn, a magazine for contemporary Dutch-language poetry.

Jens Meijen (Beringen, b. 1996) holds Master’s degrees in Literature and European Studies and works as an assistant and postgraduate researcher in political science at the Catholic University of Leuven. His first poetry collection, Xenomorf, was published by De Bezige Bij in 2019, and in 2020 won the C. Buddingh’ Prize for the best debut in Dutch. His first novel, De Lichtjaren (The light Years, De Bezige Bij), will appear in August 2021. Besides pursuing his creative writing, he works as a journalist and literary reviewer for Humo, a freelance translator, and member of the central editorial committee of the literary magazine Dietse Warande en Belfort. He has published previously in literary periodicals such as De Revisor, Kluger Hans, deFusie, Hard//hoofd and Deus Ex Machina. In 2016 he was elected as the first young Belgian National Poet.

Luxury

the customer knows that the paris fashion store where the customer
buys clothes channels all its income
into tax havens: where the palm trees are green with
dollars
the sun a lump of gold, the moon a lump of gold, the nipples
little lumps of gold
the birds long opulent tails
waving in the wind
and tax-deductible balance-sheet items are unloaded
onto the windscreen of an azure Maserati

the customer puckers its lips
diverts the air currents to its mouth,
cash flows, tangling roots
the riparian motions
that flow along the seabeds of the mouth

the customer complains about the careless stitching on the hem
of the cut-price trousers
and hence complains about the lax child labourer who sewed it
out of shame the customer eats the chemical granules that
are supposed to remove damp from the trousers and so
unexpectedly finds damp after all in the crotch

the corporation selling clothes channels
the streets rot underfoot
as if the customer steps in hot chocolate
the cut-price moccasins get stuck
in the chocolate
now the customer has to continue barefoot
and travel along mountain trails, meandering
paths, bays overlooking the ocean
the sun squeezed under its armpits
the moon wrapped in a cloth and held close
like a baby

suckling, stroking, a sweet rough skull
and so on the way to the edge of the world
to undreamt-of secrets, hidden under blushing bushes
looking for jewels, salty shells with ribbed rims
the world a Rubik’s cube
the customer forgets it is a customer
and thinks a final thought: I could serve as
an ash tray-holder make a career of it 
build a life out of it would be cool
so fucking cool

Enjoy reading.

Further information:

https://www.jensmeijen.be

Mobile laundramat for the homeless


Excellent idea.

Shared blog:

Laverie mobile pour les sans-abris Rennes : elles lancent un projet de laverie mobile pour les sans-abris A Rennes, Camille et Alexine, deux étudiantes, lancent un projet de laverie mobile pour les sans-abris. Elles mettent au point un camion équipé de lave-linges et sèche-linges qui va au contact des SDF. Un projet sélectionné pour un…

Projet de laverie mobile pour les sans-abris — Le journal des Jum’s

The New Twenty Years’ Crisis, by Phillip Cunliffe. Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020.
ISBN 978 0 2280 0102 7

The subtitle is: A Critique of International Relations


This is not a comfortable read, mostly because of the polemical tone. But also because it calls into question how we are living.
This has been a long time coming – many of us pre-Covid were desperate for our present phase to end/move on – but change is never easy.

As you can see from the title, it references E H Carr’s classic and seminal The Twenty Years’ Crisis, of 1939, covering the interbellum period 1919 to 1939.
This book purports to cover the period 1999 to 2019. I write ‘purports’ since for some, the argument covers the period 1919 to 2019 in reality, because, it is argued, that crisis has remained with us.
It is the crisis of Liberalism.
It is still with us, they argue, because its failings have not been addressed.

It is also a crisis of the discipline of International Relations.
E H Carr was the head of International Relations at its first chair with Aberystwyth University, Wales.

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/new-twenty-years-crisis-critique-international-relations-1999-2019

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Liberalism had never resolved its realism-utopianism fracturing. For Phillip Cuncliffe these transform into Neo-Liberalism – Eutopianism (he likes these coinings of phrases).
Yes, there is a lot of this positioning of argument. And, yes, it is best not to get bogged down in argument-structures, language-images, or games… or generalisations.
I was a little dismayed at the generalising going on: so, ALL Liberalism and Neo-Liberalism has been at fault, and at all times?
The arguments of the book are metonym-heavy, too. There is a lot of bandying-about of propositions and terms, like ‘unipolarity’. Some phrases are even more baroque.

Agreed, Neo-Liberalism carries its weight of colonialism, its Westernisation, its Eurocentrism.
How do we understand the term, now? How was it understood, earlier? And which earlier?
Do we understand it through its effects? On its propositional stance?

Also on this list is Globalisation.
How foreseeable were the tragic outcomes of Globalisation? Is this all hindsight?
And so, by implication, did global traders intentionally only trade with outlets who exploited workers? Where do domestic policies and issues, processing checks, come in, and how do they connect with with global traders and tradees?
I would like to see some breakdown into what and why, rather than this generalised statement.

Is it part of the job of International Relations to make predictions on outcomes? Or is it to analyse current and past relations? To extrapolate from those, though, there has to be strict methodology.
So much depends on predictions: trade especially, and internal security, international cooperation….

There does not seem to be any recognition of process. The long, slow, working out of operations over time, and responding to all the foreseeable and unforeseeable, the ad-hoc, and the planned.

Take the crisis within the discipline.
Take the analogy – and remember it is only an analogy; there are no perfect fits, no patterns, except where imposed – of 19thCentury Physics, where all was considered practically done. Until Einstein.
History was thought almost dead by 1900, until the French Annalles School, Marxist history, Social and Economic history, broke open the stifling towers.

International Relations, as a discipline, is just over 100 year’s old. A youngster, then… and thinking itself finished.

It could well be that this book is part of the process of discipline-growth.

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In his Conclusion he writes:
How many wars against fascism have been fought since 1945? and then answers himself in true rhetorical fashion:

Soviets refighting Nazis in the Berlin uprising of 1953… crushing Hungarian fascism in 1956… failed British attempt to crush Egyptian fascism in 1956… wars against Serbian fascism in 1995 and again in 1999… permanent war against Islamofacism… Iraqi fascism … Syrian fascism… Georgian fascism… Ukrainian fascism etc etc

Which leads him to conclude:

Anti-fascism has launched more wars than fascism ever did.

Then we get another list of instances, this time of where the term ‘fascism’ was used against others. Followed by:
Such is the intellectual debasement wrought by anti-fascism.

And you think… What?
He bases all this argument on what is basically tabloid-level definitions?
Each of those listed conflicts had its own identity, nature, and operation, that changed, melded, and was effected by all the methods of conflict-management that had developed by that time. Added to this were, or were being tried-out, new methods for future conflicts.
Leaders may have used these ‘fascism’ arguments in order to back up their claims, to fight; but what a Leader may claim, and what actually is, are very different.

No, the intellectual debasement, surely, is this kind of argument,
where historical events are used to score points in academic discipline wrangles, where competition for funding and credibility has become critical, where publication and attention-engendering become the sole end.

There is much of true value here, but the presentation of the arguments, the tone, the academy-centred stance, do not help.

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Liberalism and its… cousin?… Neo-Liberalism.
What were the workable alternatives on offer at the times? Any form of socialism was too deeply interpenetrated by Stalinism.
Liberalism was re-instated as a response to the authoritarian regimes of WW2, rather than superseded as a model. And re-instated as a vehicle for revival of economies, after WW2, through opening wider markets. Once again, rather than superseded. The market had to be strengthened against the Soviet sphere.

Then it all starts to eat itself, because it is poisoned from within – its wanton destruction of cultures and smaller states. Backlash, and there is always backlash.
And Western perpetrators thought they were untouchable by this? Short-term thinking, always.

Can there be blame when there are no workable alternatives? And there does seem to be blame here, especially in E H Carr’s analysis.

Ok, so what are our alternatives now?
– Western states the new distant end of the telescope (an image he uses) of a new Asian-Pacific market and economic centre?
Would this just be continuation of a bad model by different forces?

Is there a new model?
Is what we are now experiencing, its birth pains?

Let’s hope so. It has to be for something.
Or has it?
Realism as opposed to utopianism, again:
– to build something from the ruins;
– to expect our down-turns to have purpose, future value.

And using the same building blocks for each?
Always?

Casa Guidi Windows, A Poem in Two Parts. By Elizabeth Barrett Browning. ISBN: 9781517563943
https://www.abebooks.co.uk/products/isbn/9781517563943

We may now, and at long last, be arriving at the time for the proper appraisal and appreciation of the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

She was a phenomenal writer, astute, very knowledgable, and very much her own person. The writing is consummate. At one point she was under consideration as the new Poet Laureate, upon the death of William Wordsworth.

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The Casa Guidi Windows is a long two-part poem, set in Florence in 1848/9 to 50, at the time of the Risorgimento.
The work begins with hearing a child’s voice singing outside her window.
What does he sing, because it would have to be a he?
He sings O bella liberta. O bella!
And instantly the writer is caught up in the tumulus moment of the outpouring of hope and enthusiasm for the future that spread through Florence and parts of Italy at the time.
The writer is transported by the reunification spirit, and takes the reader on a reeling ride through the passionate cause and its expressions, the carnival atmosphere.

It continues ‘...on notes he went in search
So high for, you concluded the upspringing
Of such a nimble bird...’
Firstly we have here the little child fore-fronting the work, figuring the innocent rightness of the cause. There is also the deeper image of a that of a choir boy here, innocent and yet fervent.

I wrote above, it would have to be a he. But not necessarily. Conventions of the time would make the figure male – and so when Robert Browning published Pippa Passes (1841) he was indeed breaking the mould. Here was another child, singing beneath windows. And this child’s innocence revealed the iniquities of time and place as she passed from dwelling to dwelling on New Year’s Day.
(What also is interesting here is that this poem was set in Asolo, Veneta. This is where their son Edward. ‘Pen’, later retired to, and was buried.)

There is also in this child under the windows the Rousseau-esque child of nature.
And also the traditional image of the skylark rising into the sky, its passion and song transporting it into higher realms. Is this Shelley’s Blithe Spirit?

It is as though this great movement of the people was ‘ordained’, or if not that, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning had far too much respect for intelligence to fall for that, it was that a spirit was moving the people beyond and out i.e. they are transported, of their ordinary lives.
The abstractions of ‘liberty,’ ‘freedom’, though, how realisable in human terms were they then?
Are they now?

Then comes the writer’s martialling of Florence’s luminaries, from Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, to Renaissance painters, sculptors, thinkers, writers, the Medici down to Savonarola, to Galileo and on.

If you search out her apartment at the time: Casa Guide, in Florence – and I urge that you do so –
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Casa+Guidi+Firenze/@43.7649241,11.2456479,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x132a51546a37a4eb:0x300cb57880079df2!8m2!3d43.7649241!4d11.2478366

you will see her first floor apartment is at a meeting of ways: Piazza de’ Pitti, Via Maggio, Via Mazzetta, Via Romana. And how very narrow all those roads and streets are!
She writes of both herself and Robert Browning watching the marches from their window, the banners, the ordered processions.
If you do use the map, the Casa Guidi is not as shown, but in the Piazza S Felice, next door to Mesticheria Ferramenta Casalinghi: the domed doorway with their names over the top.

So let’s look at that term Risorgimento. The whole work is suffused with references, both old and contemporary. And very few of them are now part of our general knowledge. At her time, how informed her readership was!
No internet, no social media, TV, radio, records… just journals and news paper reports. And schooling.
And here is one area of interest with both Robert and Elizabeth Moulton-Barret (her full unmarried name): both were tutor-taught. That, and with their own voracious reading. That reading could be wayward at times, but it was wide, and deep into character and subject.
We read here, in mid 1800s, a revealed thirst for psychological knowledge, for the conditions and means of what it is and demands, being human in their time.

There is a huge area of knowledge she references here that few readers of our time could possibly access. We are in need of a good research, and notes to the poems. We, with Google at our finger-tips.
What? You mean it is not infallible?
The earlier Wordsworth edition (1994) of the Collected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning does seem a fuller, more complete collection, and includes the Casa Guidi Windows. The latter, 2015 edition, with introduction by Dr Sally Minogue, does not; though it does does carry notes to the poems, and has a good and useful Introduction.

So, where were we with the poem? Part One is full of the enthusiasm of the events, refracted through meditations on happenings, characters, and assessments of their qualities.
Historically it was the period that Pope Pius’ constitution for the Papal States added to the weakened position of the French King Louis Phillipe. In the poem we see and hear the great crowds, orders of society, pass the windows to cheer his eminence, Pope Pius.

In Part Two she deals with the failure of the movement, for an Italy still only part free of Austrian claim. In Part Two we come to her contemporary Duke of Tuscany, Grand Duke Leopold: the buck stopped there, and with King Louis Phillipe. Even Pope Pius is under scrutiny; he was no longer the reformer, and his concerns for his flock found wanting.

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The great strength in the piece, I find, is her ability to express that hope and enthusiasm as fully as her position allowed: invalid, foreigner, comparatively affluent, educated, but also a mother, with newborn baby.
And also to be able to examine and also express the feelings of loss in its failure.
To explore that hope and the ramifications of the hope for Italy of the time, and then also to take on the failure of the venture, the failure of those hopes. To express that, also – the passion and the sorrow.
Do not get me wrong, this is not a heart-wrench work, it is considered, factual at times, meditative, enthusiastic… it ranges over so many emotions and states of mind.

It is also a very literary piece.
Many contemporaries will find this not to their taste. It is not written for the voice, but for the silent reading. This allows its language greater scope.
The whole poem is structured carefully in iambic pentameter, with all the iambic licences of catalepsis etc. The poem is rigorously rhymed, but this does not read as external ornament because she positions her end rhymes just so that the rhymes express the salient terms used to rhyme.
Writing this way entails occasional juggling of line structure; and the period’s writing mores allow the ‘thee’s’ and ‘thou’s’, archaisms we now draw a breath at. The writing structure entails concentrated expression; at times it requires re-reading to get the meaning.
For myself, I love the slight changing of writing positions this produces. It gives a greater richness to the writing. It appears many-facetted.

It is end-rhymed throughout, ABABACDCDCD etc. Writing for rhyme like this allows the writer to tweak a line, a thought, and so we find that instead of following through descriptions we explore qualities.

She writes of,
… all images
Men set between themselves and the actual wrong,
To catch the weight of pity, meet the stress
Of conscience, – since ‘t is easier to gaze long
On sad masks and mournful effigies
Than on real, live, weak creatures crushed by strong.

In a TV interview Seamus Heaney commented on his own rhyme-use, saying that writing to rhyme ‘develops the thought‘.

So, what really went wrong with the great surge of the Risorgimento? She writes:


Record that gain, Mazzini – Yes, but first
Set down thy people’s faults; set down the want
Of soul-conviction; set down aims dispersed.
And incoherent means, and valour scant
Because of scanty faith, and schisms accursed
That wrench the brother-hearts from covenant
With freedom and each other.

This might just as well be every political cause.
The People.
Yes, but the Leaders never really know what The People want, because what they want is so diverse (witness the reasoning of the gilet jaunes, for one), and what the Leaders want so narrow that none can live there.
Some have called this a Political Poem, with all the dubious connotations of that description. But it is more than that, and she aimed for more than that.
She aimed for a poem about humanity.

3

In her Advertisement To The First Edition, she wrote that she, the writer, takes shame upon herself for having believed, like a woman, some royal oaths, and lost sight of the probable consequences of some obvious popular defects.
To be fallible, get things wrong sometimes, to not be afraid to show one’s vulnerabilities, is to be human, complex, inconsistent-but-hoping-for-consistency, is to aspire to wholeness.

The like a woman is there to disarm, and as such is a considered proto-marketing device. She was wholly aware of her readership.

Wiki (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning) writes:

In the correspondence Barrett Browning kept with the Reverend William Merry from 1843 to 1844 on predestination and salvation by works, she identifies herself as a Congregationalist: “I am not a Baptist — but a Congregational Christian, — in the holding of my private opinions.” 

The Congretationalists of her time held very interesting views on self improvement:

the picture of the philistine Dissenters drawn by the poet and critic Matthew Arnold in Culture and Anarchy (1869) contains a measure of truth, it underestimates the zeal for self-improvement and the desire for a richer life that existed in Victorian Congregationalism.
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Congregationalism

That ‘richer life‘ is written out here in Casa Guidi Windows, in the developments of her thoughts and ideas.

In her publication history the Casa Guidi Windows follows her Sonnets From The Portuguese, and is followed by the masterpiece, monumental, Aurora Leigh.

And yet, reading the Sonnets From The Portuguese, now, we get a sense, especially in those early sonnets, that she had come to some kind of dark place with no way out: leaning on her gravestone, waiting; could see no future.
The meeting with Robert Browning stirred her, helped break the dead-lock.
She was a woman of great integrity.

Read generously, I say; read to appreciate, explore, understand.
Read slowly; savour her language, her sensibility.
Read to tune-in to the writing, to her concerns, the emotional and intellectual landscapes she opens to us.
Meet with her here, in her work.

That is really the best gift she has for us, and we, in our turn and time, for her.

You may also like:
Two-Way Mirror: The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, by Fiona Sampson. Publisher : Profile Books; Main edition.
ISBN-10 : 1788162072

Lockdown reading has incorporated a very interesting book, Napoleon, Life, Legacy and Image, by Alan Forrest.

I admit Napoleon Bonaparte does come over as a very intriguing character.
But what went so horribly wrong?

I was comparing maps of Europe before and after Napoleon’s period and was amazed at how he had changed the face of Europe with his campaigns.
Ok, but look at the maps, with fingers in ears, and very dark glasses, to blot out the cries of abandoned, mutilated, and dying from his campaigns.

There is an area of open ground near where I live, away from the town, where troops from the Napoleonic wars were later housed. Those it was thought the public should not see.
What was there for those people of support, help?

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It was so easy to escape Elba. So, after The Hundred Days, when it was proven yet again he could still wield his magic and get the French governors to grant him men, munitions, arms and uniforms for a very foolhardy attempt on the combined forces of Europe and England, after the last great battle of Waterloo (a shambles for the un-trained new French recruits), what then could be done with The Emperor?

How wise was the choice of the distant old-volcanic island of St Helena?
In remoteness, Wiki tells us that St Helena island lies some 1,950 kilometres (1,210 mi) west of the coast of southwestern Africa, and 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) east of Rio de Janeiro on the South American coast. 

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Saint+Helena,+STHL+1ZZ,+St+Helena,+Ascension+and+Tristan+da+Cunha/

 It is one of the most isolated islands in the world and was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 : Wiki again.
Between January and May 1673, the Dutch East India Company seized the island, but English reinforcements restored East India Company control. The company experienced difficulty attracting new immigrants, and there was unrest and rebellion among the inhabitants. Ecological problems, such as deforestationsoil erosion, vermin and drought, led Governor Isaac Pyke to suggest in 1715 that the population be moved to Mauritius, but that was not acted upon and the company continued to subsidise the community because of the island’s strategic location. A census in 1723 recorded 1,110 inhabitants, including 610 slaves.

Alan Forrest describes the place: an impoverished and windswept outpost… Battered by Atlantic storms … a bleak and inhospitable island – especially during the long winter months -.
But then, this: it was an important staging post for ships for the East India Company and sustained a population of up to five thousand, including a British garrison, a large number of slaves from Madagascar, and Chinese indentured labourers (page 141)

The importation of slaves to Saint Helena was banned in 1792, and the phased emancipation of over 800 resident slaves took place in 1827, some six years before the British parliament passed legislation to abolish slavery in the colonies. Wiki again

This is very sobering.
So much for the greatness of those times.
Napoleon promoted himself and his Empire as a great moderniser, and sold himself and his aims as liberalising, especially in his last appeals for recruits. After the Ancien Regime, yes, he certainly was.
Alan Forrest carefully brings our attention to the matter of Toussaint Louverture, and his fight for Saint-Dominingue, modern day Haiti.
Those who espouse Liberalism usually hide many such shadows, as does modern Neoliberalism. As does every regime. The victims are always with us.

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And so, when we look at that map of St Helena now, among the new township, its fast-food outlets, its Jehovah’s Witness church, is a Boer Cemetery.
When not the victims of dum-dum bullets, used to cause greatest wound-damage, others were shipped off to this distant place.
Who knows what the toll on hope and survival must have been.
In 1900 and 1901, over 6,000 Boer prisoners were held on the island, notably Piet Cronjé and his wife after their defeat at Battle of Paardeberg.[30][31] The resulting population reached an all-time high of 9,850 in 1901. Wiki
Yes, you did read that right: 9,850
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Helena
Are such places of commemoration for those un-named people from Madagascar, and elsewhere? People probably like you and me, but in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is with a sense of relief that at least Napoleon’s body was exhumed, burned on the spot, and his ashes returned to France in 1840/1, twenty years after his death.

Ok, from all this I admit to a longing for that ‘uninhabited island’, pre 1502.

What is you lock-down passion/vice/activity that keeps you sane?
We bought-in beaucoup des plantes de maison. It was around Christmas time (ok, a little before, but who’s counting?)
And so we live in a jungle, now. Well, no. But we bought:

Norfolk Pine

Araucaria heterophylla

Currently 10 weeks old.
Their place of origin – sole place of origin, now – we are informed, is a tiny island between New Zealand and Fiji: Norfolk Island. We were also informed that it is a species that predate the dinosaurs. Whatever you say.

I actually looked up Norfolk Island, and, yes, Google Maps have photos. I found them a little dismaying. How populated the place is now, with roads, even a cathedral, and all those people!

We were also informed this little fellas can grow up to 200 foot, in their normal outdoor, southern-hemisphere climates. Continually misted by sea spray – they never like the sea-bit of that, but do need daily misting…
with tepid, filtered, water.

That’s when you begin to wonder what you’ve taken on.

Among our goody-bag of house plants we also bought some Areca Palms:

Not a particularly good snap shot, but… you get the ‘picture’. Oo.

Prayer Plant

Now this is an odd one – lovely plant. At night its leaves all cluster together, almost palm to palm, as in prayer.
Except for the very top leaf.
The very top leaf: as we turn around each night – the plant stands to our backs, near the window – has always turned around 180 degrees, and is facing us! Keeping an eye on, taking notes, ‘observing our species at work and play, for use later.’

But most probably because nightly we face a source of light, the TV.

One of our favourite buys were several successive collections of Hyacinth bulbs. The blue variety scented the room every evening. And it was glorious to come down in the morning to their perfume.

Our other buys were a Yucca, many Parlour Palms, an Aloe Vera, and several other mysterious ones I have not come across before.
Quite a few of these need moist environments, and we have taken great trouble to banish moist from our rooms. So they now dry out quickly; no big deal, just a bit more watering.
Many of these plants were common in Victorian homes – even Queen Victoria was particularly fond of Parlour Palms. This is some indication of just how continually damp their houses – even palaces – must have been. And the chill that’d go with the damp. Hence the need for big roaring fires.

The coal fires I remember from childhood – forget all the cleaning of grates, of spilling ash, and the continual ash-scatter over everything – was how they warmed to too hot our fire-facing parts, while our backs kept almost cold.
Ah, but the smogs, fogs, the bronchitis, childhood asthma, and chest problems.

Where is the best place for old statues of the famous?

First of all, what does ‘best’ mean?
Secondly, what does ‘old statues’ imply?

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One of the first casualties of commemorative statuary is its significance. Its meaning, if you will. And this is usually lost in a matter of a few years, not decades.
No one questions the right of a siting, once placed. And no one questions the statue’s right to be, once the first newsworthiness has been dampened down.
Is this so?
It is all about suitable platforms for concerns: there are ways of stifling ‘voices off,’ for ‘the greater good’.
What was the mind-set in erecting them in the first place? To celebrate benevolence? In a few, mostly much later, cases.
What is greatness? How celebrations of it override all other considerations, the horrors of its means, its chequered achievements.

What then follows a long period of comparative amnesia. In this period all significance, meaning, becomes lost, and what takes over is familiarity. Its good friend contempt tags along, but is usually on the whole well behaved.

It is only a great many years later, several generations, that a new generation of fresh-eyed people are prompted, or are very, very rarely home-grown, to question the validity and probity of these commemorative items.

The only way to keep the more questionable statues ‘active’ is within context, as in a museum. The Colston statue in Bristol https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-56250697 is one currently in question.
A way towards resolution has been suggested by exhibiting the slave-trader ‘s statue in a museum along with Black Lives Matter banners.
It is still within the city his questionable wealth did so much for, but it is kept within contemporary concerns.

The take this:
Canterbury Cathedral has decided not to remove its troubling statues, but has enclosed them within contextual displays:

I have often wondered about statues of Oliver Cromwell.
The one near me is now was taken away from the city centre, and is now tucked away in a suburban park. His name is still a curse-word in Ireland. I should not think Scotland views him well either.:

This graffiti targets his Irish campaigns.
Amongst his horrors, though, he did invite Jewish people to return to England, after a shameful 400 years.
The commission and erection of these statues is an odd case, a regicide commemorated in the midst of Queen Victoria’s imperialist and expansionist reign, at the same time as the burgeoning of the Irish Home Rule political movement.
Cromwell himself oversaw the first wave of colonial transportation to the Caribbean. Writing to parliament after leading the slaughter at Drogheda in September 1649, the general reported that the ‘officers were knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers killed, and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes’: https://www.historyireland.com/volume-25/issue-4-julyaugust-2017/features-issue-4-julyaugust-2017/curse-cromwell-revisiting-irish-slavery-debate/

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There is always a backlash to the backlash.
Will the media smother that? Keep it out of the public eye and mind? That is one way to ‘control’ these things, to use the methods used against you against your detractors. The ‘oxygen of publicity’ (- is that to feed a fire, or to enliven the blood? Language has its own codes).
But is it legit to do this? Or are you tying yourself down/in with dubious systems?

You can also take something as everyday as language.
What often started as a metaphor, either a clever coining, or even a euphuism skirting around some iniquitous doing, in no time at all loses its double nature, and the image used becomes the unquestioned, acceptable, tool of communication.
Terms either lose their meanings, or are used for skewed rather than straight meaning. It is the way time, usage, in other words, people, affect and are affected.

Correction can only be advantageous when done within contemporary parameters, that is, with the understandings and acceptances of current methods.
To revert solely to original meanings would make them redundant for contemporary concerns.
Original meanings coupled with contemporary meanings are essential for the fuller understanding.

The Cure binge!

Posted: February 26, 2021 in Chat

Ok, I admit, I’ve been quiet for a little while.
But then I turned on the TV, and there were The Cure at their 40th Anniversary concert, from 2018.

I’ve not really paid them much attention before now.
And so, it’s binge-time!

It’s the tangle and range of emotions they navigated, from early work to later, that caught me: here was something beyond the usual gamut of anger, or schmaltz.
Something to play again, and again, and again.

Kohima

Posted: February 17, 2021 in John Stammers Page
Tags: , , , ,

I have never been one wowed by military campaigns, or an avid devotee of battles, wars, the armed forces. I hope I never will.
Every so often, though, something strikes home, and the cost of the courage of people makes an impact.
Here’s one example.

The date; March – May 1944
The place: Kohima, Nagaland, India
The event: WW 2 battle between Indian-British troops and a Japanese regiment
Importance: turning point on Japanese front
People:  men from modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Japanese forces

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-55625447Robin Rowland (seated, centre) with members of the Punjab regiment, pictured in Bangkok in 1945I was astonished to read this account, of how Indian-British soldiers held off a far superior number of Japanese soldiers for three months.
The impact was to be tumultuous: … by June 1944, with more than 7,000 casualties and almost no food supplies left, the Japanese division retreated and returned to Burma.
This was the first time the imperial Japanese forces had been defeated. The impact on everyone’s morale was huge.

No matter what you think of war, combat, but what these men went through – yes, I am aware of how little choice played in the matter – has to be honoured. 1500 Indian’British troops went through sheer living hell for three months defending Garrison Hill’s strategic entry point to Manipur and Assam, against more than 15,000 so-far invincible, Japanese troops. There was aerial bombardment, and ending in hand-t0-hand fighting.
The relief Punjab regiment-British troops arrived in May. I should think they expected to find a massacre. The scene had that about it, but troops survived, held out, and had held off. The Indian sub-continent was saved.

The relief troops were ordered to pursue the retreating Japanese troops. Cholera and malaria cut down many in retreat, but the main killer was starvation.
These are shocking details. This is the reality of war, fighting. There was no honour in death, here. Were any remembered, except by grieving families who never knew what had happened, or where?

This is very different, however, from the forced Death Marches of concentration camp internees.

Commemoration? Partition swept away a lot of commitment to such memorials. And the new India, Pakistan, later Bangladesh, saw it all as clouded in colonialism.
For whatever reason, the Indian regiment fought and died courageously.

The special bond between deadly enemies is also a thing of surprise, wonder: “When the Japanese and the British veterans of Kohima met, they hugged each other and started crying,” he said. “These were the soldiers who had fired at each other, but still they showed a special bond. It was spontaneous and we didn’t expect it.”
Many from the Nagaland region helped with intelligence and ground knowledge, as well as fighting with the troops. They were hoping for British help in establishing their own Nagaland independence. They felt very aggrieved when in the aftermath of the war this was not even a consideration.
This, also, is a consequences of war – when nations fight, and territory becomes re-ordered, the concerns of smaller bodies become lost, destroyed. No matter what they gave.

Wiki tells us:
In 1944 during World War II the Battle of Kohima along with the simultaneous Battle of Imphal was the turning point in the Burma Campaign. For the first time in South-East Asia, the Japanese lost the initiative to the Allies, which the Allies then retained, until the end of the war. This hand-to-hand battle and slaughter, prevented the Japanese from gaining a base from which they might have easily gone into the plains of India.

Kohima has a large cemetery known as the War Cemetery in Kohima for the Allied war dead maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The cemetery lies on the slopes of Garrison Hill, in what was once the Deputy Commissioner’s tennis court which was the scene of intense fighting, the Battle of the Tennis Court
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohima


A song from the 1990s, by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

I thought… title, at least, appropriate.