Saturday, December 3, 2011


It's been an unquiet month, or two, here south of Lake Wobegon. I won't inflict the list on you; just understand that Murphy with his infinitely expandable laws has been operating here daily.

Leaving everyone exhausted, of course. So, I read. I read anyway, all the time, as a way to distract my upper brain levels from the dire stuff all around. Typically I'll read for a half an hour before dropping off to sleep; if the book is engrossing, maybe an hour. Every once in a while I'll hit a book which is a disaster- I'll look up and discover it's 3 AM - and my sleep-wake cycle will be well and truly screwed for days. Last time that happened, it was Daughter of the Forest; in case you're looking. Wow, can that lady tell a story.

I love a good escape. But I also read stuff that is "good for me", on a regular basis. You know what? It's always good for me. Recently I picked up, purely by chance, The Hornet's Nest, by Jimmy Carter. I picked it up at the Salvation Army- because- it's a novel, by Jimmy Carter. He's an interesting, and certainly intelligent, man.

Ok; no danger of finding myself at 3 AM. But. It's an extraordinary book- with a perspective on history, and the paths of power, that likely could only come from someone who has served at the pinnacle. I see further now, I think. And that's something.

It impressed me to the extent that I made this comment today, over on The Automatic Earth, in response to a number of posts decrying the multiple vast injustices of the current world. Thinking it over, I decided to share it here, too.


It's a bit of a surprise to me, but reading Jimmy Carter's novel of the American Revolution, "The Hornet's Nest" has truly given me a clearer perspective.

I recommend it to students of human cultural evolution. Remember that his writing comes after his time serving at the top of the American power system, which certainly exposed him to as much reality as anyone can grasp.

His stories are based on autobiographies, journals, and contemporary sources, accumulated and filtered over 7 years; it's more a work of scholarship than fiction.

His description of the British economic power structure is, to me, literally identical to the structure we now have; with identical results. He also describes in detail the specific strategy of the financial elites of the time- to entice the native Americans into debt- to the point where the only way they could pay the debt was with their land. The entire trading operation was set up with this intention.

Corruption and incompetence were widespread. One of the early Rebel Governors of Georgia could easily have been the incarnation of Newt Gingrich. He documents civil chaos; atrocities committed by all sides, justice existing nowhere. I find myself pondering how he would have described the identical historical events if he'd been writing BEFORE his time as President. I suspect he might have glossed over the "rough spots", as partisan historians tend to do.

My point- the horrors we are seeing revealed world wide right now- are far, far, from new. Rather- we've been living in the fog of empire; willfully accepting the myths handed to us as children, and refusing to see and believe the worst. But the worst was always the reality; and has been- certainly since Rome- Greece- Egypt. And I have to fear, literally since Sumer was one mud hut and one tent. The probability is high that the hut owner held a mortgage on the tent- one he knew was unpayable.

If anyone has any desire to CHANGE this situation- you'll need the age-long perspective, to comprehend how deeply embedded it is in what we call "humanity".

It's not easy to contemplate. It's ugly to see. But. If you want to live in this world; Reality, however much of it you can grasp, is your only - only - friend.


Now- I did know, before reading The Hornet's Nest, that the patterns of power and wealth abuse were ancient. The phrase I've been promulgating, in fact, is "since Sumer was one mud hut and a tent." That evolved from my original "Since Babylon was two mud huts." What Jimmy Carter's book allowed me to see more clearly was that the culture of abuse we now suffer from - is literally unchanged from the abusive manipulations that incited the American Revolution. And the various English Civil Wars, and the French Revolution- and on, and on.

Historically those are always analyzed and taught as "political power struggles" - but in fact, they have all had underlying causes of land and wealth grabs by "The Owners", which increasingly left the common people with less and less. And the grabs have always been intentional, and brought about by- easy debt.

The fact that this is not new- but truly ancient, with the full force of that word- should change your thinking about what; if anything; should/can be done about it.


Sal from SRF said...

Hi Greenpa, having been a reader of your blog for some time I'm guessing the melancholy tone of your post has to do more with "Murphy" than any argument of yours.

You say, "the horrors we are seeing revealed worldwide are- far, far from new." Well, sure. Also, "Reality, how much of it you can grasp, is your only- only- friend."

But reality- and history- is a many faceted jewel and if you study history as, say, the evolution of agricultural tools and techniques, (instead of power struggles), a new reality emerges. We tend to look at the present through the eyes of the media which focuses almost totally on crises and economics. One can argue that THIS is reality, but there is a whole lot of really wonderful things happening every day-- every second-- all over the planet.

That life as struggle is "truly ancient", and "what,if anything, can/should be done about it" are a road to despair.

Life is what you make of it. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to read that book. Looks intriguing.

Anonymous said...

In response to your suggestion about reality:

Yeah, but that's what everybody wants you to do--look at all the "good" stuff and ignore that Rome is burning all around you.

That probably sounds pretty bad (and I'm really, honestly not a pessimist--more of an idealist, actually), but there really are a lot of things messed up, and I think (part of) what Greenpa's trying to get through is the point that all this stuff that's going on right now isn't new. It's greed at its finest and it's still doing the same thing it does best that it's been doing since the beginning of time: robbing people of their humanity (e.g., compassion for one's fellow man gets overlooked because there's an opportunity for gain, etc.).

Life is what you make of it, and I thoroughly enjoy it (even on "bad" days), but it's good to know even the bad part of reality for what it is, I think.

P.S. new Anonymous here--hi, Greenpa! I will be putting that book on my list to read at some point hopefully soon; it sounds good and similar to some other stuff I've been reading (besides the occasional L'Amour I've been recently enjoying for a bit of lighter material).

knutty knitter said...

I saw that a very long time ago and just go with the flow mostly. Do the right things as far as possible (or what I think are the right things) and hope for the best and plan for the worst on Murphy days :)

viv in nz

Greenpa said...

Viv - you KNEW? And you didn't TELL me?? :-)

everybody; I get the feeling we're all mostly on the same page, but suffering slightly from the inevitable cracks in this communication medium- it's so very easy to take this comment, or that, just 5° off where it was supposed to be going-

Sal- No, despair is pointless, why would I do that? :-) Apart from all the various horrors. If there was a melancholy tone there, it was probably due to my epiphany that the American Revolution, which I have long considered an anomaly in history, and a good one, where "progress" for humanity was actually achieved - had in fact completely failed to address several major causes of human misery; failed apparently even to perceive them.

So we still have that work to do. Not going to be easy, at all. But the first thing to do- is to see the problem clearly. Or as clearly as possible, anyway.

Sal from SRF said...

To Anon,

Greenpa is right, that we are probably closer to being on the same page than not. What I wanted to suggest (but failed) is that it is good to have a balanced view of things.

Anonymous said...

Yup. Sounds good. I'd say we're all on pretty much the same page, give or take a couple degrees. :)

E said...

This might be worth reading:

"In “The Better Angels of Our Nature” (Viking), he investigates one of the most primal aspects of life: violence.

Over the course of 802 pages, he argues that violence has fallen drastically over thousands of years — whether one considers homicide rates, war casualties as a percentage of national populations, or other measures."

Anonymous said...

I'm going to check if our library has this book. Thanks for the review!