Happy Birthday Julius Caesar

Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC, making him 2118 today.  We know this because of the calendar he gave us.

A populist politician in the mould of the brothers Gracchus and his own Great Uncle Gaius Marius.  Caesar wanted to move power from the Senatorial class and absentee landlords and spread the wealth to the working classes of Rome, the Plebs and the Legionnaires.

In the process he set in motion the events that led to the collapse of the Republic and the creation of an Empire.  Caesar has given a lasting lesson to the democracies and republics of the world.  Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

Cassius speaks to Brutus

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
“Brutus” and “Caesar”—what should be in that “Caesar”?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ’em,
“Brutus” will start a spirit as soon as “Caesar.”
Now, in the names of all the gods at once,
Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed
That he is grown so great? Age, thou art shamed!
Rome, thou hast lost the breed of noble bloods!
When could they say, till now, that talked of Rome,
That her wide walks encompassed but one man?
Now is it Rome indeed, and room enough
When there is in it but only one man.
O, you and I have heard our fathers say
There was a Brutus once that would have brooked
Th’ eternal devil to keep his state in Rome
As easily as a king.

Advertisements

Happy Birthday Pablo Neruda

Marmandes

Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto was born this day in 1904.  He ‘borrowed’ his pen name from a Czech poet, Jan Neruda.  A brilliant poet, a nobel laureate, nationalist and politician.  He was murdered under orders of Augusto Pinochet by a doctor treating him for cancer.  Pinochet staged a Coup D’état against the legally elected government of President Allende.

Pinochet was able to do this because he was supported by the US Government and received direct support from the CIA.  That’s American democracy for you!  Democracy for Americans who live in the United States, just not for all Americans, unless it is the right kind of democracy.

Enough with the politics, July is the month of tomatoes.  I planted Marmandes this year.  See the photo!

 

Ode to Tomatoes: by Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera,
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

 

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.

 

Why vote?

benito_mussolini_duce

 

Ever wonder why you bother to vote?  The same muppets always seem to get in and frankly you don’t think much of any of them.

On this day in 1922 King Victor Emmanuel III handed power to Mussolini and the Fascists after the “March On Rome”.  30,000 men took democratic power from the Italian population.  In the years that followed a similar drama played out in Germany and Spain as Fascists used physical intimidation to wrest power from the people.

Democracy is not a right, it is a duty, an obligation.  As a citizen you exercise your vote even if only to let the politicians know that the people care, and they are being watched.

 

First they came…; by Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Bastille Day

Today is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1798, the seminal action of the French Revolution.  The impact of that revolution continues to be felt today.  The French Revolution was an event that marked a watershed in world politics.  Prior to the revolution the affairs of the world were dictated by three broad conditions.

1.      God ruled, and understanding of affairs came from an understanding of the will of God.  

2.      In the Catholic nations the will of God was interpreted by the Pope.  A strong papal representation was present in all the Catholic courts of Europe.

3.      Monarchs took their authority from God, and ruled with divine right.

Now I know that the British out there are saying “wait a minute, we lobbed off Charlies head and did away with divine right way back in 1649.  Agreed, but you also restored the monarchy albeit in a far more controlled manner.  The rest of Europe was still lagging a long way behind.

After the French revolution the affairs of the world were dictated by a different set of conditions.

1.      The scientific method became fundamental to human endeavour.  Rational proof replaced fervent belief as the basis for understanding.

2.      Since religion is founded on belief and not on rational proof, the power of the church waned considerably in the affairs of men.

3.      The monarchy as a method for rule lost credibility with the passing years.  People realised that it was better to be ruled by logic and merit than by divinity and birth.

To avoid traffic jams of pilgrims entering and leaving Rome, Popes advised that pilgrims walk on the left side of the road.  The French in the revolution rejected the pope by instructing their troops to march on the right.  This is why some countries now drive on the right and others drive on the left.

The evolution of the European Union today owes its origin to the visions of Napoleon Bonaparte.  It was he who had the vision of a continental system with a single set of weights and measures and a single currency.

It took centuries for the changes wrought by the French Revolution to work their way through society.  The vision of a European Union was eventually realised only after the devastation of two world wars.

Bastille day 1916 was around the mid-point of the Somme Offensive.  In 1944 Bastille day was in the middle of the Battle of the Hedgerows, or the Battle for St Lo in Normandy, part of the Normandy invasion.

In 1998 on Bastille day my daughter was born and the Tour de France made its first and only visit to Ireland.

We as a society need to protect the values of the French Revolution.  We need to defend reason and logic over misinformation, propaganda and blind faith.  Too many good people died to give us rational democracy for us to give it away.  Protect your rights, protect your democracy, inform yourself, and for the sake of logic and reason, please exercise your vote!

Arms and the Boy:  Wilfred Owen

1 Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
2 How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
3 Blue with all malice, like a madman’s flash;
4 And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

5 Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
6 Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
7 Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,
8 Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

9 For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
10 There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
11 And God will grow no talons at his heels,
12 Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.

Image