Truth or Fiction?

Fray Bentos.png

Fray Bentos is one of the most important port cities in Uruguay.  The name is a Spanish version of “Friar Benedict” a local mendicant who lived in the area.  In the 19th Century Uruguay was the Beef Capital of the world.  Beef exporting made Uruguay a boom economy.  Fray Bentos was perfectly positioned to capitalise on its position as a harbour on the Rio Negro, and the good times rolled.

In the mid 19th Century  a German Chemist named Justus von Liebig perfected a process for extracting flavour from meat.  He invented the OXO cube.  His company opened a plant in Fray Bentos to make the meat extract product.  Over the years they expanded into tinned corned beef under the Fray Bentos brand.

When the British Army included Fray Bentos tinned meats in their ration packs in the Boer Wars and subsequently in WW1 the brand became a household name.  The company flourished during WW2.  After that war they moved upmarket and released the round tinned oven ready puff pastry pies in the photo above.  As a child I remember cooking one of these in a clay oven on a boyscout camp in County Wicklow.

In the 1960s the brand was damaged by an outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen which was traced back to the Rio Negro.  The company was cooling their tinned meats in river water contaminated by excrement.  Since then the brand has gone largely downhill.  It is associated with working class diets, red meat and saturated fats.  The products have traded between food companies ever since.

Then Game of Thrones arrived on the scene.  G.R.R. Martin is a fan of history and I suspect he has delved into ancient greek history and myths.  There are many myths in the Greek Pantheon of parents eating children, but my favourite comes from Herodotus.  It is related as true history.

King Astyages of the Medes had a dream about his daughter, Mandané, where a flood of water flowed from her that drowned his capital. He feared her child, Cyrus, would overthrow him. So he sent his general Harpagus to slay the child.

Harpagus gave the baby to a shepherd, Mitradates, replacing the child with the stillborn corpse taken from the shepherds wife, which he showed to the King.

Astyagus found out many years later that Cyrus was alive. The King invited Harpagus to a banquet. At the conclusion of the feast Harpagus was asked if he had enjoyed his meal. Astyagus then asked that Harpagus be shown the head and feet of the beast he had eaten, a tradition of the country for truly excellent food. When the basket was brought Harpagus saw that he had eaten his own son.

Fast forward to Game of Thrones and Arya Stark’s revenge on Walder Frey for his actions at the red wedding.  It was one thing for Frey to kill his enemies, but a far worse crime to breach the laws of hospitality by killing them under his roof as they ate his food.

FreyPie

Pie of Frey must be a breach of the Fray Bentos brandname.  The pie of the TV series itself is very similar to that served to the hapless Harpagus.  Inside the pie crust Walder Frey finds the digits of his missing sons.  You may need to use the pause button on the TV to capture the moment.

Truly there is nothing new under the sun!

Game of Thrones: Why Book Fans Love Wyman Manderly - IGN

Nyköping Banquet

Walder Frey

Walder Frey from Game of Thrones

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

These prophetic words appear in the Bible:  Ecclesiastes 1:9

I am always amused by fans of Cinema and TV who are astounded by shocking and horrific events, especially those who wonder what kind of sick minds the writers must possess to think up such cruelty.

In truth they are probably just good students of history.  While not as immediately bloody, the events of the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones remind me of the events in Sweden called the Håtuna games and their dreadful conclusion, the Nyköping Banquet.

I don’t want to give you a detailed lesson in the History of Sweden in the 13th and 14th Centuries.  You can check out the details yourselves with the aid of some online searching.

Suffice to say that King Birger of Sweden was imprisoned in Nyköping dungeon for two years by his brothers the Dukes Valdemar and Eric who visited on their way back from a wedding in 1306 AD.  This coup d’etat was called the Håtuna games.

Birger was reinstated due to intervention from the Kings of Norway and Denmark.  He held a banquet for Christmas 1317 AD on the night of the 10th of December.  There was not enough room in the castle for all the Dukes’ retinues so they were lodged outside the castle in the nearby town.  Fans of the Game of Thrones “Red Wedding” are now putting the pieces together.

That night the Dukes were woken up after their drunken revelry by squads of Crossbow men and were escorted to the dungeon.  Birger is said to have thrown the key of the dungeon into the river (and such a key was found in the river many years later).  He starved his two brothers to death.

Breaking the laws of hospitality appears to reap divine vengance.  Fans of Game of Thrones know what happened Walder Frey.  King Birger did not meet so dramatic an end but his actions led to a rebellion that deposed him.  He had to flee Sweden and died in exile in Denmark.

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Frey crossbow-men disguised as musicians.

They also serve.

Famous Quotes John Milton. QuotesGram

Born Dec 9th 1608 John Milton grew up in Stewart England at a time of religious fervor.  The King James Version (KJV) Bible was published when he was an infant.  Milton studied for Aglican religious orders and attended Cambridge for his Bachelors and Masters degrees.   He then delved further into personal study and left England on a Grand Tour of Europe.  At Naples he cancelled his plans to travel onwards to Sicily and Greece due to the outbreak of Civil War in England.

He was a committed supporter of the Commonwealth and Oliver Cromwell and he worked as a civil servant in that administration.  He fought the English Civil War with his pen while Cromwell wielded his sword.  In the dying days of the commonwealth he lost his sight to blindness.  Once Cromwell passed away the commonwealth was doomed and Milton found himself in mortal danger.

He was saved by the pleas of influential friends and lived the remainder of his life in relative poverty, writing poetry by dictation, including his Magnum Opus “Paradise Lost”.

Many consider him to be a writer to match Shakespeare and he was hugely influential to his contemporaries like Andrew Marvell, and subsequent critics and writers such as Samuel Johnson, William Blake, William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy.

 

On his blindness; by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
‘ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
and that one talent which is death to hide
lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
to serve therewith my Maker, and present
my true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
that murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
and post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

The White Terror

Guernica

The White Terror was the murder, killing & assassination of left wing forces during and after the Spanish Civil War by the Nationalists of the right under their Caudillo General Francisco Franco Bahamonde.  It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 republican supporters were killed by assassination and in concentration camps during the Civil War and in the decade after the war.

A “Red Terror” of assassinations of Nationalist supporters was instigated on the Republican side.  The reds managed about 50,000 which is below half of the most conservative White Terror number.  In addition the “Red Terror” involved insider assassinations as the Communists eliminated competiton from Anarchists, Democrats and Union Leaders who did not fancy the creation of a Stalinist Spain.

Commonly remembered simply as Franco, the Dictator of Spain was born on this day, Dec 4th, 1892.  A career military man he came from a Naval family in El Ferrol but elected to join the army.  Serving in the Rif wars in Morocco he rose rapidly in the ranks and at age 33 was the youngest General in Europe.

He led the Spanish troops who brutally suppressed the Anarchist mine workers strike in Asturias, an event which polarised left and right and may have led to the civil war.

When the Civil War commenced with a military coup by a group of generals Franco was the junior of the junta.  He famously negotiated with Hitler to have the Luftwaffe airlift his Army of Africa to the Spanish Mainland.  All his rivals met with “unfortunate accidents” leaving Franco as Caudillo – the Spanish version of Il Duce or Der Führer.  From October 1936 to November 1975 he was dictator of a repressive conservative Catholic Spain.  He was buried on his death with full honors in the mausoleum at the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) the only person interred there who did not die in the civil war.

After a long and drawn out legal process to prevent the veneration of his dictatorship his remains were removed from the mausoleum in October of this year.

Aprende un llanto que limpie el tierra, aprende un llanto que me limpie de tierra.

 

Gacela De La Muerte Oscura; Federico García Lorca

Quiero dormir el sueño de las manzanas,
alejarme del tumulto de los cementerios.
Quiero dormir el sueño de aquel niño
que quería cortarse el corazón en alta mar.

No quiero que me repitan
que los muertos no pierden la sangre;
que la boca podrida sigue pidiendo agua.

No quiero enterarme
de los martirios que da la hierba,
ni de la luna con boca de serpiente
que trabaja antes del amanecer.

Quiero dormir un rato,
un rato, un minuto, un siglo;
pero que todos sepan que no he muerto;
que hay un establo de oro en mis labios;
que soy el pequeño amigo del viento Oeste;
que soy la sombra inmensa de mis lágrimas.

Cúbreme por la aurora con un velo,
porque me arrojará puñados de hormigas,
y moja con agua dura mis zapatos
para que resbale la pinza de su alacrán.

Porque quiero dormir el sueño de las manzanas
para aprender un llanto que me limpie de tierra;
porque quiero vivir con aquel niño oscuro
que quería cortarse el corazón en alta mar.

Telling Lies #13: Gaslighting

The term is popularly thrown around as an accusation in arguments on social media and I have seen it misused in many circumstances where people were just accusing others of lying but dressed it up in the fancy term of gaslighting.

Gaslighting is derived from a plot point in the Patrick Hamilton play “Gas Light”.  Jack Manningham is searching for jewels in an upstairs flat.  During his disappearences his wife Bella notices the gas lighting in her own flat dimming.  Jack tries to convince her that she is imagining this, knowing that it is he who is causing the dimming by lighing the lamps in the upstairs flat.  This is part of a larger pattern of Jack causing Bella to doubt her own experiences, as he attempts to convince her she is going insane.

Effective gaslighting involves a relationship of some kind.  It involves one party in the relationship intentionally leveraging their influence to convince the other party they are mistaken in what they have seen, or heard, or experienced.

Sexual abusers will gaslight victims into believing that the abuse never took place, or that it was consensual, or that the victim actually instigated the events.

A business owner engaged in fraud will manipulate staff members who notice irregularities and will attempt to convince them that they have seen 1+1 and arrived at an answer of 3.

The person doing the gaslighting is generally in a position of power in the relationship.  The victorian patriarchal husband, the paterfamilias, the wealthy Dowager Aunt, the boss, a teacher, a mentor, a politician, leader or a tribal elder.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation.  It is not a one off event.  You can’t be gaslighted in a single interaction.  It requires a long term pattern of behaviour.

It is a behaviour prevalent in religious cults where the “glorious leader” through a structured programme of interactions leads acolytes to doubt their entire belief system and replace it with a blind faith in the paradigm of the leader.  Gaslighting is preparatory to brainwashing.  By gaslighting you have the acolyte doubt their reality, opening them to manipulation.  Then you are free to replace their reality with your own – which is the brainwashing piece.

A form of gaslighting is highlighted in the George Orwell novel 1984.  History is edited to reflect current reality.  A back issue of a newspaper showing the award of a medal to a war hero is replaced to reflect the current reality where the hero has become an enemy of the state.  If you seem to remember the individual was some kind of hero, and you go back to check, you will find your memory of the past is flawed.

These days with Deep-Fake technology you will see evidence of people saying and doing things that never happened.  But how will you know the truth?  What is reality in a post-truth society?

Happy Birthday Sir Philip Sidney

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Scholar, Knight, Diplomat, Traveller, Linguist, Poet, Politician, Advisor to Queen Elizabeth, Master of Ordnance, Soldier; shot in the leg in the battle of Zutphen in the Netherlands during the 80 years war against Spain.  An avid proponent of the Protestant cause.  He died aged only 31 from gangrene.  Born November 30th, 1554.  A true renaissance man.

 

The Bargain; by Sir Philip Sidney

My true love hath my heart, and I have his,
by just exchange one for another given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
there never was a better bargain driven:
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
my heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
I cherish his because in me it bides:
My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

Happy Birthday Isaac Rosenberg

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Isaac Rosenberg – Self Portrait – 1915

Born in Britain to a family of immigrant Lithuanian Jews, 25th November 1890.  In East London he gravitated towards the arts and was taken under the wing by Laurence Binyon and Edward Marsh.

He permanently suffered from bad health, bronchitis in particular, and emigrated to South Africa for the better air and warmer climate.  At the outbreak of WW1 he returned to Britain to do his duty and “get the trouble over” despite being anti-war.

Because of his small size, an outcome of poor health, he was assigned to a “Bantam” battalion which was a unit for men under the normal height.

He served for the entire war, despite bad health, until his death in action in 1918, producing some of the best poetry of the war.

As a side note the Tory Government of the UK today would not allow Rosenbergs family into the country if they have their way.  Priti Patel, herself a daughter of immigrants, wants to close the door.  England had no better servant than Isaac Rosenberg.

 

Break Of Day In The Trenches; by Isaac Rosenberg

The darkness crumbles away
it is the same old druid Time as ever,
only a live thing leaps my hand,
a queer sardonic rat,
as I pull the parapet’s poppy
to stick behind my ear.

Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
your cosmopolitan sympathies,
now you have touched this English hand
you will do the same to a German
soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
to cross the sleeping green between.

It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
less chanced than you for life,
bonds to the whims of murder,
sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
the torn fields of France.

What do you see in our eyes
at the shrieking iron and flame
hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
drop, and are ever dropping;
but mine in my ear is safe,
just a little white with the dust.