Anarchist Cook

William Powell

William Powell, author of the Anarchist Cookbook.

Powell gave Anarchy a bad name.  He was disenchanted as a young man growing up in America in the 1960’s.  He observed a culture of government sanctioned violence.  Police bully tactics, violent attacks on peaceful civil rights protests, baton charging of student protests and all the way up to imposition of the draft sending young men to Vietnam.

His reaction to government violence was to arm the counter-cultural movement with techniques to fight a against the state through guerilla tactics and sabotage.  His book give recipes for home made weapons using commonly available products.  He also included some sabotage techniques for electronics, and some information on home made drugs.

Powell made the mistake of giving control of the publication to the publisher.  The book was published in 1971, and by 1976 Powell wanted it removed from sale.  Many years later he said in an interview:  “Over the years, I have come to understand that the basic premise behind the Cookbook is profoundly flawed. The anger that motivated the writing of the Cookbook blinded me to the illogical notion that violence can be used to prevent violence.”

The book is still in publication and has been blamed as providing the information for a number of home grown terror attacks in the USA.

I have observed many cases in history of angry young men who passionately call for violence and then grow up to advocate the far more difficult path of non-violent, but no less confrontational routes to reform.  Are there cases where young people begin with non-violence and come to a realization later in life that violence is a better path?

 

Still I Rise; by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

De Ma

Skerries

A short few lines about de Ma, because yesterday was the first Mother’s day in my life without a mother.  The photograph above says it all really.  She was always hovering in the background of my life even when she was not in a leading role.  A constant presence. Mothers are a bit like the Fates.  They weave the threads of your destiny, for good or ill, and they are as subtle about it as an anvil in a sight gag from an old slapstick comedy.

In the modern business world you will hear a lot of guff spoken about “Corporate Values” which reflect the “DNA of the Company”.  Values are things that people have.  Not corporations.  If there are values in a corporation they are the values of the senior managers in that corporation.  If those managers recruit staff with similar values this can make it seem like the company has a set of coherent values.

The truth is values are fed to you by your mother with every bite of bread, every spoonful of oatmeal and every sip of juice.  She spreads values on you with sunscreen and antiseptic.  She dabs them on with drops of iodine on scratched knees.  She interviews you about your friends, then she interviews your friends, and their parents too.  She ingrains you with attitudes to the most basic things in life, such as hard work, sick leave, ownership, permission, self-respect, equality, charity, religion, education, racism, xenophobia, curiosity, danger etc etc.

If you are in a company and they decide to “introduce a set of corporate values” ask them how long they plan to take over this exercise.  1 Year?  5 Years?  How many of your personal values were nailed down by the age of 5?  And that was with 100% devotion from your mother.  How can a company even hope to put a scratch on the values embedded in staff by their mothers for over 20 years?  Or 30 years?  Or 40 years?  Because let me tell you, Mother does not stop just because you got married and bought your own house.

De Ma can be a right interfering oul’ witch, sticking her nose into everything, still trying to run your life long after she has any right to do so.  Until she passes away and leaves a great big gaping hole where all that interference used to be, and you realize how much you miss it.

 

In Memory of My Mother; by Patrick Kavanagh

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us – eternally.

Never forget

Reichstag

Reichstag building wrapped by the artist Christo

On this day in 1933 Adolf Hitler managed to push “The Enabling Act” through the Reichstag in Germany.

This gave him the position of Dictator, and gave the minority Nazi party effective control of Germany.  Democracy was sacrificed to expedience.  The confusion of coalition government was replaced by the clarity, direction and strength of single minded purpose.  See where that ended up?

Democracy is hard.  Government is a messy process.  It is dirty, political, flawed, frustrating, time-consuming and downright annoying.  The Germans swept all that away in favour of simple solutions.

Beware politicians who seem to offer simple solutions to complex problems.  Remember the Enabling Act.  If you don’t know what it is, inform yourself.  This stuff is important to know!

Epic: by Patrick Kavanagh

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
“Here is the march along these iron stones.”

That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.

He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.

 

Greed for power.

I wish I could recall who pointed this out, but I have forgotten.  He is an astute man and I cannot claim credit for the thought.  He pointed out that man is inherently greedy.  We want more.  As long as this is an abundant resource go knock yourself out.

Want smiles, help yourself.  Hugs, compliments, handshakes, kisses, well wishes all do the world a power of good.  Indulge in this stuff and you will surround yourself in happiness and positivity.  Bulk up on love and romance.  If you are the religious type overdose on prayer.  Have as many friends as you want.

Material things also inspire greed, but of a less esoteric nature.  We look down the glutton who does not know when to stop eating.  We revile the drunkard and the drug addict.  Many people hold a certain respect for those who amass piles of money, property, cars, handbags, shoes etc.  But when you think about it how does a man with ten cars differ from a man who drinks too many whiskeys?  But if that’s what you want go for it.  There are plenty of whiskeys and plenty of cars in the world.

At some level of course, greed becomes so all consuming that it has the potential to harm the planet.  The greed of those who want to drink leatherback turtle soup, eat millionaires cabbage, dine on Ortolans drowned in Armagnac, wear Vicuna knitwear, Gorilla skin gloves and are happy to drain desert aquifers to water a golf course.

However, greed becomes something really sinister when the object of the greed is power.  Power really means “power over others”.  We see it in politicians, in generals, in business C-Suite executives.  Power is not an infinite resource.  The higher you rise the more finite it becomes.  The hunger for power is a tournament, a competition, a zero-sum game.

If you want to buy 200 cars I can ignore you.  If you want to be the ruler of 2 million people, me among them, I cannot ignore you.  Objectively the greed of mankind is a shallow thing, but when the greed is for power it is both shallow and dangerous.

Power over people is not a thing that should be lightly given.  Increasingly I find myself inspired by the tenets of Anarchism.  To paraphrase a biblical epigram:  “Politician!  Rule thyself”.

 

 

Sonnet XCIV; by William Shakespeare

They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing, they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmovèd, cold, and to temptation slow,

They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces,
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others, but stewards of their excellence.

The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself, it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity.

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

Mermaid or Siren?

Odysseus

Odysseus tied to the mast

This morning in work a lady was singing softly as she filled her water bottle from the ever so slow water filter in the office.  It reminded me of the passage below.  Do Mermaids really sing?  I thought it was just Sirens.  I thought the Sirens lured you onto the rocks with their singing, and the Mermaids saved you from drowning, if you were good looking enough!

 

—————————-

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
 
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

…………………..From: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: by T.S. Eliot

Death in Paradise

VersailleGardens.jpg

As I set up my compost pots and plant my seeds for the coming season I am pondering the rabbit issue.  The word paradise is derived from the Persian word for a Garden.  A garden is the ultimate symbol of man’s dominion over nature.  We build a fence or a wall to surround a patch of land.  Then we drive out the wild influences and cultivate what lies within.  The vegetables are larger, fleshier and sweeter than what grows out in the wild.  The fruits are more succulent and delicate.  The flowers are bigger and brighter.

To create this wonderful space is a statement of the control of man.  This control is represented at its greatest in the gardens of the Augustan period (early 18th Century), paved walkways, symmetrical and geometric layouts, neat box hedges, espaliered fruit trees, pulses supported by cane frames, clear boundaries between the area under control and the wilderness outside.  During the Augustan period this control was celebrated as beauty.  Wildness was represented as ugly.  It was not until the Romantic period that wild spaces and unregulated nature were appreciated.

Control of a garden also involved control of pests.  These can be very small pests, like greenfly, wireworms, codling moth larva.  They can also be much larger pests such as rabbits, dogs, deer and even certain types of people.

The poem below is the sad tale of a dog who had a good thing going until he made the mistake of becoming a garden pest.

A Dog’s Mistake: by Banjo Patterson

He had drifted in among us as a straw drifts with the tide,
He was just a wand’ring mongrel from the weary world outside;
He was not aristocratic, being mostly ribs and hair,
With a hint of spaniel parents and a touch of native bear.
He was very poor and humble and content with what he got,
So we fed him bones and biscuits, till he heartened up a lot;
Then he growled and grew aggressive, treating orders with disdain,
Till at last he bit the butcher, which would argue want of brain.

Now the butcher, noble fellow, was a sport beyond belief,
And instead of bringing actions he brought half a shin of beef,
Which he handed on to Fido, who received it as a right
And removed it to the garden, where he buried it at night.

‘Twas the means of his undoing, for my wife, who’d stood his friend,
To adopt a slang expression, “went in off the deepest end”,
For among the pinks and pansies, the gloxinias and the gorse
He had made an excavation like a graveyard for a horse.

Then we held a consultation which decided on his fate:
‘Twas in anger more than sorrow that we led him to the gate,
And we handed him the beef-bone as provision for the day,
Then we opened wide the portal and we told him, “On your way.”

TheVegetableGarden.jpg

Is Bran Stark the Green Man?

adventuresofrobinhood

Most ancient traditions of Northern Europe represent a version of the “Green man”.  He is a very powerful vegetative deity who has a role in fertility rites and particularly in Springtime and May Day celebrations.  Ancient links go back to Nuada Silverarm of the Irish Celtic Mythology, and the Welsh Ludd of the Silver Hand.

Several of the ancient Celtic demigods, Bran the Blessed being one of the best known, become prophetic oracles once their heads had been cut off and, although these figures were not traditionally represented as decorated with leaves, there may be a link between them and the later stand-alone Green Man heads.

There is strong evidence to say that the Robin Hood cycle of stories from the 13th Century are a retelling of the Green Man legend.  Not a noble, but a common Yeoman, Robin takes from the Rich and gives to the Poor.  He lives outside the Law and brings the nobles to book with his archery.  He lives with his band in the Forest of Sherwood.  In a sense he represents the innate and irresistible power of nature over the vicissitudes and greed of man.  When greedy nobles turn the world awry he steps in to set everything to rights.

The notion of Robin being the “Earl of Huntington” is probably a later revision intended to wrest control away from the commons to the nobility.  Alternatively it may be a play on words.  Outlaws were poachers, hunting game that legally belonged to the landowning royalty.  Robin, living on poached venison, might be said to exist on his hunting and archery.  Jokingly the lord of all he hunts becoming “Earl of Huntington”.  If so this can be seen as an early allusion to Marxism/socialism alluding to the theft of property and confiscation of the commons by the nobles.

The Green Man is later represented in the tale of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” from the Arthurian romances of the 14th Century.

The Green Man motif is a common architectural feature in Christian churches, a face made of leaves, often with roots or shoots emerging from eyes, ears or mouth.

Ludlow_Green_Man_misericord

The fact that the Green Knight can have his head cut off and rise from the dead links into the Mystery of Christ.  This idea of death and rebirth is very ancient and goes way back to Sumer, Egypt and Babylon, predating Christianity by millennia.

Prototypes for the Green man from Eastern religions include Humbaba, the ancient Sumerian guardian of the cedar forest, Enkidu, the wild man of the forest in Sumerian mythology, both of which date back to at least 3000 BCE.  The Egyptian corn-god Osiris, who is often depicted with a green face representing vegetation and rebirth.  Attis, a Phrygian god of vegetation and nature; the Tibetan Buddhist deity Amoghasiddhi; the Hindu demon Kirtimukha.

Some experts on Islamic mysticism and architecture have identified the Green Man with a deity known as Al-Khidr from esoteric Islamic Sufism. The name Khidr itself means “The Green One”, and he is seen as representing freshness of spirit and eternal liveliness.

Many Templar churches, including the Basilica of Neuvy St. Sepulchre in France, Garway Church in England and Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, bear Green Man carvings. It has been suggested that it was Crusading knights, with their experience of Middle Eastern culture and architecture, who re-introduced the foliage and Green Man motifs into early medieval Gothic churches. Some of these figures also exhibit small horns, and this may be associated with a Middle Eastern figure of a horned “Green Prophet” rather than with the devil.

If there is a common theme for the Green Man it appear to be a restoration of the balance of nature after a period of turmoil.  In annual terms it is the triumph of spring over winter.  In longer cyclical terms it represents recovery from disasters such as plague and invasion.

In the 20th Century some see Peter Pan as a representation of the ancient figure, an eternally regenerating presence, reappearing always as a child, clothed in leaves, rooted in nature, living beyond the bounds of society and physics.  He can fly!  Peter marks a different type of transformation, that of Wendy, from girl to woman, with its own connotations of fertility.

For fans of Game of Thrones you may see where this has impacted on the storyline of Brandon Stark who is a Greenseer.  The faces carved into the wierwoods conjure up the Green Man Stones of Medieval Architecture.  Is Bran Stark the savior?  When the world goes awry, when the Others clash with the Dragons and there is a war of Ice and Fire how will it end?  For the small folk where is the benefit to being ruled by ice demons or dragons?  Will Bran restore the balance and breathe new life into Westeros?

A tantalizing hint for you, how were you introduced to Bran in the TV series?  Do you remember?  He was practicing his archery!

 

Inscription on a grave in Kirklees Priory, West Yorkshire :
“Hear underneath dis laitl stean
Laz robert earl of Huntingtun
Ne’er arcir ver as hie sa geud
An pipl kauld im robin heud
Sick utlawz as he an iz men
Vil england nivr si agen.”

 

VonSydow