Showing posts with label war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label war. Show all posts

18 January 2018

Death by Fairytale

by Eve Fisher

A week ago, I posted this image on my Facebook page, and Paul Marks commented, "Eve, I think there's a SleuthSayers column in this":

No automatic alt text available.

And he's right, so here it is!

Traditional English folk songs can be history (a little mossy, a little mutated), myth retold (look, everyone really wants to go to Elfland, if they can just figure out a way to come out alive), news (remember when Alisoun got shot cause they thought she was a swan?), and the occasional unique idea (I'll let you know when I find one).  They're all sung in a minor key, and can be very haunting.  That's why they're still being sung.  And why I still listen to them.

But let's break down these categories a bit:

Most of English folk songs have people dying of a broken heart.  "Barbara Allan" is actually unusual, in that it's the lass that's hard-hearted (although she does die for her dead lover in the end:  "my true love died for me today, I'll die for him tomorrow").  Most of the time it's the lass that got knocked up on velvet green and was abandoned who dies of sorrow (and sometimes childbirth).  But there's a lot of broken hearts, and there still are.  For one thing, it's hard to get to a ripe old age and never have your heart broken once.  And sad songs are cathartic.  There's nothing like a good cry, especially when accompanied by alcohol and maybe a group sing-along in the bar...

The amazingly large number of deaths by drowning makes just as much sense.  Drowning was actually a major cause of death in the Middle Ages because:
(1) People drank a lot.  Beer in the morning, beer at midday, beer at night.  Granted, a lot of it was small beer, but there wasn't any caffeine in those days, and the water wasn't safe to drink and they knew it.  And even if it was, they were still going to drink beer.  Or wine.  And if anyone offered them some whiskey, well, they wouldn't turn it down.
(2) Almost every village and every city was built along water, because water was necessary for cooking, transportation (barges were the equivalent of modern semis), power (mills), and the occasional cleaning.  This meant there was lots of water to fall into while drinking, either from the banks, bridges, or well.  You combine drinking with darkness, and stumbling along home after a few pints at the pub could lead to serious injuries and more drownings.  And the Middle Ages were not known for their seating:  it was common to sit down on a bridge or the edge of a well and have a long pull at a noggin, and tip back, back, back...  Well, watch Oliver Reed in "The Three Musketeers" above...
(3) All that alcohol and water gave you a handy place to toss someone you were tired of, whether it was your spouse, your friend, or the occasional stranger.

Cruel wars...  Well, there's still, sadly, a lot of those.  Of course, back then men were often pressed into service at sea or land, against their will, or deliberately inebriated by recruiters and signed up, or ran off to join the wars, any wars.  Most of the sad songs are about peasant lads being pressed into service and never seen again by their own true love...   Sometimes the loved one goes off in search of her true love, but that rarely ends well, either.

NOTE:  The most amazing story is a real one:  "The Return of Martin Guerre" is about a peasant who went off to the wars, leaving his wife and family, and returned many years later and resumed his life as husband, father, peasant and all was well...  until the real Martin Guerre came back from the dead, years after that, and booted the imposter out and up onto the gallows.  The movie, starring a young Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye, is magnificent.

Execution...  not so often, and usually NOT for being a highwayman or a footpad.  Although there are lots of serial killers, then and now.  And there are songs about the victims of said serial killers, such as "Reynardine", in which the lass is led over the mountains by a serial killer werefox cannibal "whose teeth did brightly shine". 

But most are about escaping Bluebeard types in the folk songs, legends, stories, and fairy tales:  a man who marries successive wives and kills them all, except the last who somehow figures a way out of it.  My favorite version is Grimm's "The Robber Bride".  I was fascinated as a child by the three glasses of wine the Robber gave his victims (one white, one red, and one yellow, which knocked them out), grossed out by the dismemberment (read it yourself HERE), and cheering when the Bride cleverly exposes him at the wedding feast, and he and all his band are executed.

Another version of nailing Bluebeard is a very old folk song called "The Outlandish Knight". Flora Thompson quoted hugely from this in her memoir "Lark Rise to Candleford", because she heard it almost every night from the local inn, as old David sang it to wind up the evening's drinking:



"He turned his back towards her  
   To view the leaves so green, 
And she took hold of his middle so small 
   And tumbled him into the stream.
And he sank high and he sank low 
   Until he came to the side. 
'Take hold of my hand, my pretty ladye, 
   And I will make you my bride.' '
Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man, 
   Lie there instead of me, 
For six pretty maids hast thou drowned here 
  And the seventh hath drowned thee.'


"The Outlandish Knight" is a variation of "Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight".  (See Steeleye Span's version.)  There's a lot of songs about Elf Knights, Elf Queens, and elves in general, and all I can say is, you don't want to go there.

Except you do.  Because it's an incredible place, full of mystery, beauty, glamour, and as long as you're there you'll never get old.  And who knows?  You may be as lucky as Thomas the Rhymer, who returns with the gift of prophecy and poetry...

Nonetheless, it can end badly, unless your true love comes to fetch you, like in Tam Lin ...  Otherwise...  I'd stay home.

And now we come to the last two:

"Wandered off, lost in the woods, and died".  One variant is the Babes in the Wood, a/k/a Hansel and Gretel, who were either murdered or driven out to starve to death in the woods... and do.  (The frequency of these tales can make you wonder about human nature.  Then again, having just seen this on the news, maybe not...)

The other variant is Rip Van Winkle, who drank the wrong wine / ale given to him by ghosts / elves / trolls, falls asleep, and awakens a hundred years later, which means that all his generation thought he died.  While Washington Irving based Rip Van Winkle on a Dutch story, "Peter Klaus", it's a very old legend.  The first go-round apparently was when, in the 3rd Century BC, the Greek historian Diogenes Laertius told the story of a shepherd, Epimenides of Knossos, who fell asleep in a cave and woke up decades later. But it might well be older than that.  There are tales of long sleepers in the Orkney Islands, where a drunken fiddler meets up with trolls, in Ireland, China, Japan, and India.  The Babylonian Talmud tells a version of it.  Who knows?  There are probably some in ancient Egypt and Sumer.  This is VERY old stuff.


Also (imho) old, old, old stuff is "being mistaken for a swan by a trigger-happy hunter."  I totally buy this one.  For one thing, swans used to be eaten, in ancient Rome, in Elizabeth times, and on.  They were apparently a delicacy.  Anyway, hunting them used to be common.  And God knows it still happens, although they're not taken for swans anymore.  Back in November, 2017, a Pennsylvania woman, out walking her dogs, was shot by a hunter who mistook her for a deer.  (Newsweek)  November was actually an interesting month for mistaken shootings:  another hunter in New York shot a brown pick-up that he mistook for a deer, still another up in Hebron, Maine killed a woman on the opening day of hunting season, and yet another hunter in Oxford, Maine shot a man in the arm.  Personally, I'm staying away from the Northeast during hunting season.

Anyway, as you can see, the "Causes of Death in Traditional English Folk Songs" can all still be used today by the modern mystery writer.  Our victims can die of a broken heart, accidents, drowning, drinking (or drugs), execution, serial killers, escaping serial killers, Elf land (think cults of all kinds), babes in the wood, and hunting accidents.  The technology may change, but the ways, and the motivations, stay pretty much the same.

Related image

And you could do worse than to start with folk songs...











02 March 2017

"L'Etat, C'est Moi"

by Eve Fisher

Louis XIV of France.jpg
Louis XIV, in his glory
Years ago, I used to teach a class on the Age of Louis XIV, which basically became a class on the man himself.  He may or may not have said "L'etat, c'est moi" ("I am the state), but he certainly lived it.  He was the first, and greatest, of the absolute monarchs of post-Reformation Europe, and during much of his 72 year reign, if someone - anywhere in Europe, not just France - said something about "the King", it was assumed they meant Louis.

Louis XIV (1638-1715) became king when he was five years old.  Of course, they didn't let him actually rule at that age - he had a minister, Cardinal Mazarin.  (Suspected by some of being his mother's lover and/or husband.  But not by me:  Anne of Austria was a true European aristocrat, who would sooner have eaten merde as have anything physical to do with a jumped-up Italian.)  Mazarin, according to Louis XIV, kept him living in poverty, barely educated.  It could be true.
NOTE:  Children, even royal children, weren't as prized back in the day as they are now. Classic example, Charles Maurice Talleyrand-Perigord, the eldest son of his house, who was put out to nurse in the countryside for his first few years.  He returned lame.  His parents then made his younger brother the heir, and put our boy into the Church, where he became the most dissolute, loose-living, atheistic Bishop of Autun since...  who knows when. (Eventually, he joined the French Revolution, managed to switch sides with such persistent effectiveness that he survived everything, from the Reign of Terror to Napoleon to the Bourbon Restoration...)  
SECOND NOTE:  Louis XIV's only sibling, his younger brother Philippe, who was universally called Monsieur, had a VERY interesting upbringing.  He was deliberately raised to be a homosexual, or at the very least a transvestite; his mother and her ladies encouraged him to dress up in women's clothing, make-up, jewelry and hairstyles.  He was deliberately kept from any formal education other than the 3 r's, and any knowledge of statecraft.  All of these were so that he'd never be a rival for his brother.  The result was a man who was bisexual, surprisingly martial, and through his two marriages, became the "grandfather of Europe", ancestor of every Roman Catholic royal house in Europe.  You never know...
Back to Louis, who would have been infuriated by that digression.  Louis' childhood influenced him in many ways, but it was the Fronde (1648-1653) that created his ruling style.  The Fronde was a multiplicity of rebellions that had no order, rhyme, or reason to any of it.  Of, by, and for the nobility, the Fronde's goal was to return to the good old days when a nobleman could rule his lands and provinces as a petty king, with absolute power.  And there had been no jumped-up clergymen (Richelieu and Mazarin) to try and make them knuckle under to some Bourbon king.
NOTE:  Part of the problem was that in class-ridden pre-modern Europe, the Bourbons weren't that old a family.  One of Louis' mistresses, Madame de Montespan, often bragged to his face that her family, the House of Rochechouart was MUCH older than his, and it was.  Hers went back to the 800s; his only to the 1200s.  
Episode of the Fronde at the Faubourg Saint-Antoine by the Walls of the Bastille.png
Episode of the Fronde at the Faubourg Saint-Antoine by the Walls of the Bastille
(i.e., when the royal family had to flee Paris.  See below)
The Fronde failed, because they really had no goal, no organization, no leadership, and kept bickering.  But Louis would never forget it.  At one point the Fronde made the whole royal family flee Paris, which was probably THE major humiliation of Louis' life.  He decided that the nobility was untrustworthy, Paris was rotten, and came up with the following maxims of government:
  • The nobility will have no role in government at all.
  • All non-military government roles, positions, and titles will be given to the bourgeoisie (that way, Louis can fire them whenever he wants).
  • Parlement's only role will be to rubber-stamp his decisions.
  • Paris can rot.
  • He, Louis XIV, will rule personally, absolutely, with no prime minister, all his life.
Nobody believed any of this.  For one thing, Louis, who was always a master of etiquette, waited politely until after Mazarin's death in 1661 to take the reins of power.  And by then there had been 50 years of Prime Ministers ruling France while the kings played.  Louis played, and he played hard - but he also did exactly what he said he would.

And the key to doing that, successfully, was:
  • to appoint good bourgeois officers (Jean-Baptist Colbert, Comptroller-General; Michel le Tellier, and his son, Louvois, both Ministers of War and Chancellor, among others).  
  • to personally work like a horse, non-stop, day in and day out
  • to distract the nobility with endless perks, entertainment, prizes, all dependent upon HIS favor. 
Welcome to Versailles.  


Versailles was the old hunting lodge of Louis XIII, 12 miles south of Paris.  Louis XIV loved it, despite the fact that it was in the middle of a swamp.  He had it remodeled - in fact, it was being remodeled for his entire reign, and some say that the construction is still on-going - and announced, early on, that Versailles was the seat of government.  If you wanted to be close to the king (and who didn't?) you went to Versailles.  And everyone who could went.

Louis de Rouvroy duc de Saint-Simon.jpg
The Duc de Saint-Simon
It was a desperately uncomfortable place to live.  It was so huge that people could and did get lost in it; only the extremely important people - Louis, his Queen, his mistresses, his endless children, and Monsieur and his wife and children - had beautiful apartments.  Most people were crammed into very small rooms, often without windows.  The Duc de Saint-Simon, the most celebrated diarist of the period, had three small rooms, one looking out the stables (which stank), the other two of which were the size of walk-in closets without have windows.  And these were considered the best suite in Versailles.

But things were different then.  Comfort, so important to us today, was held in contempt.  The mark of a man of quality was "indifference to heat, cold, hunger and thirst."  Magnificence was the order of the day. The nobility lived in chateaus that were drafty, cold, smoky, and reeked of human and animal waste (there was no indoor plumbing).  But the rooms looked beautiful.  The nobility wore velvets and satins and brocades in summer as well as winter, and the clothes always stank because they couldn't be washed, and people generally stank because they didn't bathe, just kept pouring on the perfume.  Louis himself just got rubbed down with scented alcohol every day.  But by God they looked marvelous.

Versailles almost bankrupted Paris.  Louis never went there.  He frowned on any nobility who went there.  When the court needed a change of air, they went to Fontainebleau and Marly.  Paris was ignored.  For decades.  But their revenge would come in 1789...

Versailles almost bankrupted Louis (although he never admitted it, and burned the receipts)...

Versailles bankrupted the nobility.
  • Living at Versailles meant, for one thing, that the country estates (and in France, being noble meant you had a large country estate that supplied you with an income) were managed by someone else, who certainly wasn't going to send you all the money.  
  • The King expected his nobles to be well-dressed, and the velvets, silks, and satins, with gold and silver embroidery did not come cheap.  And he expected to see new outfits for weddings, births, Feast Days, parties, etc.  The Duc de Saint-Simon spent 800 louis d'or for new outfits for himself and his wife for the Duc de Bourgogne's wedding - that was equivalent of $96,000.00 in today's money.  
  • While much of the constant entertainment at Versailles was free (watching Louis was the major entertainment, from his morning rub to his official coucher with the Queen), including hunting, music, plays, concerts, dances, and the usual amount of drink, drugs, and sex (all right, sometimes more than the usual amount) there was also gambling almost every night.  They played vingt-et-un, which is blackjack, as well as roulette and dice.  (The King preferred billiards.  He generally won.) The stakes could run exceedingly high:  Madame de Montespan (of the excellent bloodline) lost 3 million francs in one evening.  
  • You have to have servants, sedans, dogs, horses, hunting equipment, stable rent, bribes, and... let's put it this way, books of the day said that a single man of wealth and nobility should have at least 36 servants, 30 horses, etc....  Of course, if you married, expenses doubled, and if you had children...  
So how did the nobility afford all this?  They went into debt.  And when they were broke, they ran to Louis, who was usually happy to help them out with a little something, enough to keep them in Versailles.  He kept them poor and completely dependent on him and his favor.  And his favor wasn't given to anyone who wasn't regularly at Versailles, waiting on him, watching him, being present.

And Louis was always present.  How he lived his life I do not know.  Louis spent his entire day, from 7:45 a.m. to midnight, in public.  (We know where he was every second of every day, because he followed a time-table as rigid as that of a German railroad.)  He had an iron constitution, an iron will, an iron work ethic, and he was always on stage.  He was never alone, even when he was sleeping, using the toilet or having sex. Not only was someone there, there were a lot of people there, perhaps discreetly looking away. (Probably not.)  This was rule by King as rock star, the first total celebrity, the first reality TV show. To see him, to be seen by him, to watch him eat, drink, dress, dance, walk, ride, hunt, etc., was everyone's obsession.  And it was considered as much of an honor, if not more, to attend him while he was using the bathroom as when he was holding full court.
NOTE:  To show how great the obsession with Louis was - and how tough a bird he was - in 1686, he underwent an operation, without anesthesia, on an anal fistula.  In public.  Amazingly, he survived. Even more amazingly, a huge number of nobles went to the doctor to be checked to see if they had an anal fistula, and those who did boasted about it!  Now THAT's toadying.  
Portrait sculpture of 18th  C.
French peasants, by
artist George S. Stuart
Museum of Ventura County
Louis had a few weaknesses.  Women.  Food.  (He ate like a horse.)  But his chief weakness was the pursuit of personal glory (la gloire) through building (Versailles, Marly), personal magnificence (clothing, furniture, jewels, etc.), his court's constant magnificence, and on war.  Endless war.

In case you're wondering, this was an age in which it was assumed, by everyone, that government had nothing to do with and no obligations towards the common people (peasants and artisans, who made up 95% of the population, along with a smattering of merchants), other than to collect taxes from them.  The wealthy paid no taxes at all.  Neither did the Church.  The peasants paid for everything.  They got nothing.  Any improvements, in roads, bridges, canals, etc., were paid for either by the goodness of the local lord or a whim on the part of the king.  There were no social services, no pensions, no health care, nothing.  Peasants worked until they dropped, and then died. Government was there to support the king, the nobility, the Church, and to wage war.

William of Orange defeating
Louis XIV at Naarden
And war was expensive, then as now.  Louis XIV fought many wars because everyone knew that that was what powerful kings did:  fight and win wars.  The trouble is, none of them were winnable, none of them mattered, and Louis himself was a lousy general.  He didn't get anything out of them except a tremendous load of debt, a couple of minor victories, and a lot of dead soldiers.  He fought three wars alone trying to conquer the Netherlands.  He lost every time, and only succeeded in making William of Orange, the prince of the Netherlands, his enemy for life. When William became king of England in 1689 (William was married to Mary, daughter of James II of England, who was booted out during the Glorious Revolution to make room for her - history is so messy...)  Anyway, when William became King of England, it meant that England and France would be at almost perpetual war (simmering or boiling) for the next 150 years.  Including a couple that involved the American Colonies, The Nine Years War a/k/a King Williams' War (1689-1697), and the War of the Spanish Succession a/k/a Queen Anne's War (1701-1714).

Louis succeeded in what he wanted to do.  He kept the nobility powerless and he kept himself absolute monarch for 72 years.  But he almost destroyed France in the process.  He came to the throne of the most powerful, most populous, most wealthy country in Europe, and left it in debt, surrounded by enemies, crippled by a tax system that, depending as it did entirely on the poor, was so bad that in, 70 years, it would spark a revolution.

Much the same results came from all the absolute monarchs of the 17th and 18th centuries - endless wars, fighting over and over and over again over the same territories, bankrupting entire countries, and leading, finally, to the almost constant revolutions of the late 18th and 19th centuries.  The pursuit of war and glory - by leaders who cannot be told "No" - and its results can be summed up by Thomas Gray:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
                - Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, 1751



23 June 2016

Gods and Demi-Gods

by Eve Fisher

Ever since the Orlando shooting, I've seen a lot more memes about how America doesn't need more laws, it needs to turn back to God.  But America has turned completely to its gods, which are money and power.  We sacrifice human beings on their altars every day, and guns are one of the ways we do it.  We swallow the deaths of 20 children, 50 people, a mass shooting every day, without a qualm because we know our gods are righteous and just and POWERFUL.  Money and power require these (and other) human sacrifices, because otherwise we would not realize how powerful - and false - these gods are.  Their worship is mediated through their denominations, (the modern, international corporations), their priesthood (lobbyists and politicians), and their demi-gods (celebrities and millionaires/billionaires).
  • The first thing to understand is that when money and power are gods, ALL corporations must make constant profits:  the latest economic doctrine - "maximizing shareholder value" - says that a corporation has no purpose but to make profits for its shareholders.  This means that employer/employee loyalty and customer service/satisfaction are both irrelevant.  Pensions and/or health benefits can and must be cut whenever it's expedient to the bottom line.  Jobs must be outsourced to the lowest bidder, taxes must be avoided by offshoring whenever possible, nationalism/patriotism is a 20th century concept (i.e., ridiculous) and the fact that unemployed people do not buy much is ignored.  The honest truth is the United States is no longer the preferred customer of most corporations, including Coca-Cola:  China is king.  
  • When money and power are gods, everything must be privatized, i.e., put into the hands of corporations.  At the same time, the corporations are no longer national, they are global, in order to maximize shareholder value (see above).  Government - on any level - is an impediment to profit, so it must be made as small and neutralized as possible, except when needed to help the corporations (see below).  
    • NOTE:  I am constantly amazed at how, in one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in history, our government (a democracy, where the government is "we, the people") has become more dangerous in many people's eyes than corporations such as Monsanto, R. J. Reynolds, Dow Chemical, and Smith & Wesson.  At least with government, I can vote the bastards out: corporations, can't even be sued any more (see Legal Restrictions below).
        President Eisenhower Portrait 1959.tif
    • Corporate profits must be maintained, at all costs, including military.  Eisenhower recognized the beginnings of this in his Military Industrial Complex Speech.  Since the end of the Cold War, there has almost always been an economic rather than political reason why troops are sent where they are, why outrage is expressed over certain international incidents and not over others.  (This is why, for example, the entire international community joined the United States to invade Iraq in 1990-91's First Gulf War, a/k/a the 710 War, but everyone stood on the sidelines and watched as 800,000 people were slaughtered in the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.)  And many aspects of war - supplies, security, etc. - are now routinely privatized to corporations which make a hefty profit with almost no oversight, including Bechtel (which was accused of  war profiteering), Halliburton, and Blackwater (which was brought before Congress in 2007 for "employee misdeeds," among other things).  
        • NOTE: In the run-up to the Iraq war, Halliburton was awarded a $7 billion contract for which 'unusually' only Halliburton was allowed to bid (Wikipedia - Halliburton)  It might not have hurt that Dick Cheney had been Chairman and CEO from 1995-2000.    
    • The gun manufacturers and armament industries must make constant profits, which means sales must be constant, and so the NRA preaches the complete and total ownership of any firearm of any kind by anyone at any time.  (Soon coming to your neighborhood:  personal flamethrowers!  Sadly, I'm not kidding.)  That's why each new shooting must be propagandized in whatever way that will increase sales:
    1. there are crazy people out there with guns, buy more guns now;
    2. the terrorists are coming to kill you, buy more guns now;
    3. the government is coming to take away your guns, buy more on guns now.
    • Also, to ensure constant profits for the weapons industry, our entertainment and news media must be saturated with ever-increasing levels of threats and violence both to keep the fear and anxiety at suitable levels and - very important, very underestimated - product placement. (Remember that every prop / weapon / outfit / drink you see on Criminal Minds, James Bond, the Bourne Identities, etc., is there in order to sell one to you.)  

    • NOTE 1:  If you don't believe that violence in media has any effect on people's behavior, then why do corporations spend billions on advertising?  If the constant barrage of news feeds, hour-long TV show, binge-watching television shows, and movies, or unlimited video games has no effect on our minds and behavior, then why should corporations pay billions for a 30-second ad spot?  Why do politicians and super-PACs do the same?  Are they all stupid?  
    • NOTE 2:  If you don't believe that violence in media has increased, watch an episode of Gunsmoke on RetroTV some time, and note how seldom Matt Dillon (or even the bad guys) used a gun.  Some day count the number of weapons on display in previews during the morning news.  (The average child will see 8,000 murders on television before finishing elementary school:  Link).  
    • NOTE 3:  The quantity of violence not only has increased, but, as the public becomes more jaded, it has become more and more perverse.  On the news, "When it bleeds, it leads!"  Literally.  As for entertainment, in the 1980s, Law and Order SVU was considered fairly hard-core, with story-lines of children being abused and murdered, women and children being raped, tortured, etc.  Not any more. Criminal Minds, Dexter, Hannibal, and other shows upped the ante with on-screen cannibalism, eye-gougings, etc.  On "Game of Thrones" human beings are being castrated and flayed alive.  Live, to-the-death gladiatorial contests cannot be far behind.  (But it's all in jest, they but do poison in jest, no harm in the world...)
    When money and power are gods, and corporations are their high priests, it has real world consequences.  And one of those is that the poor - collectively and individually - are sinners, and must be punished by any means at the disposal of the powerful.  The results are:

    Propaganda:  The poor are "losers", "moochers", "lazy", "worthless", "stupid".  Social Security and Medicare - both fully taxpayer funded, i.e., paid by us - are called "entitlements", which implies that they haven't been earned, but are something we moochers wrongly feel "entitled" to. (Damn straight I feel "entitled" to Social Security - I paid into it for 40 years!)

    Political restrictions:  Between gerrymandering, voting restrictions, and Citizens United, the powerful have done an excellent job of ensuring that the votes/interests/representation of the working class and poor are rendered irrelevant to the political process.  My own congresspeople - John Thune, Mike Rounds, and Kristi Noem - respond to my e-mails and letters with form letters.  I don't have the money to make them hear me.

    Legal restrictions:
    • Our right to sue corporations is being stripped away from us by "mandatory arbitration clauses" put in place by most health insurance plans, dealership or franchise agreements, billing agreements (think credit cards), and many, many, many other corporate contracts.  These deny the right of the consumer, employee, or contractee to sue in favor of arbitration before an arbiter of the corporation's choosing, at your expense (think $200-$300 an hour).  See Public Citizen Access - Mandatory Arbitration Clauses.    
    • Gag orders have become common as part of settlements with large corporations.  See Fracking gag order.  
    • If you are poor and arrested, even if you are found innocent, in many states and counties, you will be charged with court costs, fines, and fees for your (hopefully short) stay in jail.  In some counties, you will be charged for a public defender, despite the Miranda Law's assurance that one will be provided for you.  
    • The prison system - which has been privatized in many states - must make constant profits, and their contracts require full prisons, no matter what the level of crime actually is.  Therefore any laws which decriminalize any drugs must be fought.  Also, addiction, mental illness, and mental disability have been unofficially criminalized, because there's not enough money for state or federal mental health facilities and private mental health facilities are only for those with excellent health insurance.  
    When money and power are gods, human life has no meaning and really doesn't matter other than as just another sound bite to convince us that we are righteous, we are the best, we are exceptional, and everything's fine. But the real purpose of life under these gods is to make money and consume goods, nothing else. Allegiance must be mindless, generated by carefully crafted sound-bites.  Mental processes must be carefully controlled, so that no one ever considers that there might more to life than making money, shopping, sports, and/or the latest entertainment craze.

    1984first.jpgBut fear counts above all.  No one must ever question why - living in the richest, most privileged, most free society on earth, the "home of the free and the brave" - why they are so afraid, all the time, everywhere.  And, why is the object of fear constantly changing?  In Orwell's "1984" Oceania always at war, but the enemy kept switching from Eurasia to Eastasia.  In my lifetime I have watched the enemy - the one who will destroy us at all costs - change from Communism to the Evil Empire (Soviet Russia)/China to Japan to the Axis of Evil (Iran/Iraq/North Korea) to Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden to Radical Islamic Terrorism, with a few stops along the way at black ghettos, hippies, drugs, black gangs, urban thugs, illegal immigrants, illegal immigrant children, legal refugees, and anyone wearing a turban.  Not to mention polio, HIV, SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and Zika viruses.
    • NOTE:  So far, we're still here.  
    But let's not think about that.  Above all, let's not think about either of the following facts:
    • Money and power are abstractions, fictions, a belief system rather than a reality, to which we sacrifice real human beings, not to mention real air, real water, real food, real life, daily.  
    • No matter how much money and power is worshiped, acquired, accumulated, fought for, praised, and sacrificed to, life will never be 100% safe, and 100% of all people will all still die naked and alone.  Including the wealthiest of the 1%.  The gods of money and power, the church of the corporation, the priests of politicians and lobbyists, the demi-gods of celebrity will not save any of us from that fate.  
    This is the truth about the gods that America has chosen.  Like any pagan deities, they require regular human sacrifice.  And they are getting it.