We speak of them as they were
Male Voices in Praise of Jane Austen
|Volume 2, Number 5||May 1, 2003|
Edited by Sophia Sentiment
May 1, this is the Fifth Annual Mary Wollstonecraft Day: Editor Sophia Sentiment welcomes you to the Fifth Annual Mary Wollstonecraft Day. This is our first year at The Loiterer taking over this Momentous Duty, and we hope to live up to the Grand Tradition as it was first imagined by our Beloved Meister.
The Male Voices Newsletter is not, in general, intended as a place for political messages, social commentary, or discussion of current events. Rather, it is devoted to an exploration of the literary vision of Jane Austen. However, one important part of this study must be the context for Jane Austen's time and that context was one of radical political thought, rhetoric, and action. For that reason, we thought it might be useful—and fun—to adopt those conditions for one day of each year. So, this day is devoted to that other extreme and should be considered a celebration.
Mary Wollstonecraft was a contemporary of Jane Austen, a political radical, a feminist, and a bisexual sexual-libertarian. Ms. Wollstonecraft was many things that Miss Austen was not. Think of it this way: we devote this single date of every year to emulate Mary Wollstonecraft and to express our own frustrations or to share our utopian dreams.
Yours, as you behave,
Table of Contents for this Special Issue:
G.W.: "Some Sound Advice
for Our New Friends, the People Of Iraq"
Editor: Sophia's Settee, all that's fit to dish: What's shaking in the best political circles.
C. Hoffman: Honorary White People
Linden: Conspiracies in the Time of Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft—and, in Our Own.
Ashton Dennis: On Damage Not Called "Collateral": In Defense of Young Men
Linda: War and Conspiracy
Ashton Dennis: "My Baby Needs a Shepherd"
Here are links to
G.W.: Some Sound Advice for Our New Friends, the People Of Iraq
[A] solicitude for your welfare,—and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel.
Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
While, then, every part of [your] country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
In contemplating the causes which may disturb [y]our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations,—[from] whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.
To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. .Th[e] government, the offspring of [y]our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of [a] political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as [y]ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
In offering to you these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent [y]our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
EDITOR: Welcome to Sophia Sentiment's Settee, all that's fit to dish. Today we look at what's shaking in the best political circles.
French President Chirac and German Chancellor Schroeder, who upset J Lo and Ben in last week's "Most Annoying Couple" poll, were recently seen not together. The couple have shocked the normally bent-friendly Europeans with their in-your-face public canoodling. Publicists for the couple denied rumors that the romance is cooling off, but did confirm they were taking separate vacations saying, "everyone needs a little quality time alone."
Herr Schroeder is said to be enjoying himself at an exclusive spa in Baden-Baden. One spa employee says Schroeder is taking the "grape-and-coffee" cure, a well known European remedy for intractable constipation. The news sent German stocks up a few points on the hope that the Schroeder government, which has been straining mightily for months, might finally produce a coherent economic policy. Are you listening, Mr. President?
Meanwhile, sources close to the French president have revealed that M. Chirac is using his new-found freedom to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a "Boot-Licking Baghdad pimp." Talk about your sure bets!
Klaatu Barada Nikto
The White House today admitted it had "absolutely no clue what the hell Donald Rumsfeld is going on about." Official Spokesman Ari Fleischer refused to comment further saying, "We're still trying to figure out who wrote his last speech. The office pool is already up to $600." The President is said to favor Marvin the Martian while the First Lady has $10 on Yoko Ono. No Shock There!
Mystery Illness hits American Coasts
Hospitals up and down the Atlantic and Pacific declared a state of emergency as they were overwhelmed by Coastie Liberals who didn't know whether to defecate or go blind after it was revealed that brave, intelligent Peace-Loving Poster Boy "Baghdad Sean" (Penn) is really an ignorant redneck gun-nut with no right to live on Gaia's green Earth. Penn, whose car was stolen and then returned minus two handguns, was further revealed to have "concealed carry" permits for his baby killing weapons of mass destruction...
The Massachusetts National Guard was called out to provide aid to helpless residents desperate to get to the toilet, but unable to find their way. First door on the Left!
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is said to be livid at Fleet Street editors for continuing to call him "Vice President Blair."
"That's a gross misundercharacterizational thing to say." the PM snapped. "The United Kingdom is in complete equal partisanership with the United States."
US President George Bush, currently being held at Camp X-ray for allegations that he once called Islam "a religion of peace," refused to commentualize. Thank you, Mr. President
Making a Difference
Kofi Annan announced that he's been approached by the makers of Viagra to do a series of commercials for the Third World launch of the popular drug. Merck's ad agency says "The choice is obvious. Annan simply is the face of impotence to millions of Arabs and Africans." The Secretary General, who hopes to step down from his position at the end of the year, is said to be looking forward to the job, which will finally provide him with some "much needed dignity." Finally!
The first political assassination in modern Dutch history ended with Volkert van der Graaf being sentenced to 18 years. The court ruled that the short sentence was justified because van der Graaf was "unlikely" to re-offend . Questioned about the possibility of an early parole for the animal-loving assassin, the Dutch court scoffed at the idea, "unless of course some other gay skinhead Neo-Nazi fuckwad needs sorting out." Nobody here by that description.
In related news, the German Court that convicted Mounir al-Motassadek on 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and sentenced him to twenty-five years, has sentenced itself to life in prison. A press release said (in part) "The Justices wish to apologize to the defendant for failing to grasp just how much he hates Americans, how much the Americans deserve to be hated, and exactly how much ass-kissing it would take to get that $2 per barrel discount from the Saudis." Pucker up, boys!
Hottest ticket in Washington these days is an invite to Colin Powell's after-hours parties featuring CIA surveillance tapes of foreign dignitaries wetting themselves every time Donald Rumsfeld opens his mouth. Powell is said to be shopping the concept to Fox Network as "America's Funniest Allies On Tape." Set to host: former Iraqi Minister of Information Saheed al-Sahhaf. This may set off a bidding war: sources say President Bush admires Sahhaf's "remarkable flexibility." Watch your back Ari!
And that's all for Sophia's Settee this month.
C. HOFFMAN: HONORARY WHITE PEOPLE
One can't help but notice that in general Westerners (Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and western Europeans) are indifferent to events in the rest of the world. Oh sure, we're appalled when we read about 10,000 Brazilians killed in a mudslide, or about murders during the Nigerian elections. But 100,000 San Franciscans aren't out on the streets demonstrating because the Brazilian government failed to provide adequate drainage for slum dwellers.
Under certain circumstances, however we take a very personal concern in the deaths and misery of foreigners, or "Honorary White People" as I call them. The question is why are we so concerned about some Third World inhabitants, but not others? What exactly qualifies black, brown, and yellow people for Honorary Whiteness?
Three ongoing world events provide some clues.
Being on the receiving end of the US military action qualifies one as an HWP.
Less than a year ago, Afghans enjoyed the top position as HWP. The US determination to chase down Al Qaeda in the sovereign nation of Afghanistan led to a frenzy of brow-and-breast beating. Civilians would die as a result of military action, possibly by the thousand or tens of thousands; and millions might starve to death. Or in other words, life in Afghanistan would pretty much continue as it has for several centuries, certainly as it had for ordinary Afghans under the Taliban government and during the Soviet invasion. However, as HWP, these deaths were now unacceptable to Americans who had so little knowledge of the situation that they thought Afghans were Arabs and Afghanistan a "Middle Eastern" country. The cynic might note that now Afghans are back to being Ordinary Brown Folk (aka "towel heads", "diaper heads", wogs) and the continued horrifying death rate from unexploded landmines, clan warfare, and endemic disease gets buried on page six, if it makes the news at all.
Iraqi's are the new model Honorary White People for 2003. Actually, they've been hovering on the edge of Honorary Whiteness for some time now. Iraqi deaths due to UN sanctions have been "White" for years. Deaths due to torture and dismemberment by agents of the Iraqi government have somehow managed to escape this designation. A statistical quirk, one assumes.
Dying of a disease that Genuine White People die of qualifies literally billions as Honorary White People.
The SARS epidemic was front page, above the fold news before the confirmed worldwide death toll reached 100. The lives of ordinary Chinese normally are of absolutely no concern to Westerners. But lately, news about Southern China and its role as the incubator of various world-wide plagues has trickled down to street level. The Chinese government's complete lack of preparedness to handle a flu-type outbreak appears to have caught everyone, including the Chinese by surprise. Communism groupies who have stayed true to Marx and Lenin through pogroms, famines, nuclear disasters, and the recent Cuban 96 hour capture-indict-try-sentence-appeal-execute marathon; are deserting in droves because the Chinese government failed to respond adequately to what is literally a nearly one in a million chance that a Westerner might die of SARS.
Let's compare this number with those of some other diseases (worldwide deaths):
Tuberculosis deaths: 2 million annually
Childhood diarrhea 1.3 million annually
Childhood malaria 1 million annually
Even influenza, a disease common to Genuine White People areas kills a minimum of 15,000 (new estimates put it at 30,00+) Americans a year, virtually all of those deaths occurring within a 4-month window.
Real White People of course don't get malaria. Their children don't die of diarrhea. True, sometimes upper middle-class White people with AIDS die of tuberculosis, but it's already becoming rare.
Actually, SARS isn't really the first disease to grant HWP status. HIV in the Third World has always been on the bubble. In North America and Europe, HIV is a disease of middle class white males. It had what might be called a White legitimacy before its extent in places like Africa was truly known. Acrimonious debate about the morality of international drug companies aside, even if infection rates continue at their current level and no anti-retroviral drugs are provided, the death rate from HIV will "only" be about even with the natural death rate in Africa from dirty water. A death rate that could be reduced to zero if every American spent $1 annually to purchase chlorine bleach to treat Africa's drinking water.
The Curious Case of Ethiopia and Eritrea
After five years of (the most recent) war, and three years of UN sponsored arbitration, it was decided that the territory which has caused the current border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea "belongs" to Eritrea. The Ethiopian government, which agreed to the arbitration, has decided to reject the decision of the bi-lateral commission it helped set up. And the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is ready to start again. Ethiopia's threat to restart this war is:
- Illegal by standards of the UN and international law.
- In defiance of Ethiopia's agreement with the UN regarding this specific arbitration.
- Does not involve any question of Ethiopia's security.
- Does not qualify under either the Pope's or the Archbishop of Canterbury's definition of "moral war."
- Has already killed 70,000
- Has already displaced over 100,000
- Has already caused untold misery to hundreds of thousands in an area of Africa already plagued by disease and famine (remember "We Are The World"?)
The territory in question doesn't have oil, natural gas, mineral ores, foreign built infrastructure or anything else that might qualify its treasure as worth fighting over.
So one might reasonably ask why
- Aren't peace activists demonstrating against the Ethiopian Government
- Isn't anyone writing protest songs
- Isn't the story making front page headlines anywhere in the world
- Hasn't the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury said one word about the morality of the possible war
- Isn't the Red Cross handing out daily press releases detailing how many civilians are likely to die without aid, and how little chance there is that the Ethiopian military can guarantee aid workers safety during the war
- Isn't the UN Security Council working day and night to resolve the dispute, with hourly progress reports handed to the press
- Haven't Tim and Susan weighed in with their opinion
It would be nice to think that Westerners could learn something from the events of the last few months ... We might learn that our own individual self-interest rules our view of the world no less than self-interest rules great nations. We might learn that the world has more on its plate than the Palestinians and Israelis. We might learn that Communism's anti-science tradition is still the same evil that it has been since 1917. (And no few Westerners should learn that Tai Chi, acupuncture, and green tea are no more effective against an infectious disease than burning sulfur was against the Black Death.) We might learn that non-Westerners rightly resent our tendency to arbitrarily pick and choose which governments will be held to White standards for the treatment of their citizens, and which won't.
At the very least I hope the everyday citizens of the US and Europe realize that, in the eyes of the rest of the world, their support or antipathy for a war that may define the twenty-first century, was ruled solely by political partisanship. That we seemed to spend more time, money, and energy weighing the possible risks and benefits to the political aspirations of our party leaders than the possible risks and benefits to people of Iraq. And I hope we're properly ashamed of ourselves for it.
Conspiracies in the time of Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft—and in our own.
I have never been one to believe in conspiracy theories. Some time ago, Linda and I were discussing the idea, and Linda was inclined to believe in them. I poured scorn on the idea, adapting Henry Tilney's words:
"Consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open?"
I swore that, if ever there was evidence of a grand conspiracy by powerful people to take over the world, I would write, in eight-foot high letters in a place of her choosing, the words, "I was wrong."
This will teach me not to make rash promises. In the build-up to the war in Iraq, I became aware of the neo-conservative group that is powerful in the Bush administration, and its long-held determination to stomp on Saddam Hussein (Americans have no doubt been aware of them for some time, but it was only just before the war started that much attention to them was paid in Australia). The Project for the New American Century has a website (see the Resource list at the end for the link), where leading neoconservatives explain what they want and how they intend to get it.
Neoconservatives are not a hidden conspiracy—putting your aims and methods on a website is hardly keeping it secret. Nevertheless, there they are: a group of people in powerful positions aiming to take over the world, and doing a pretty good job of it at the moment.
So I wrote to Linda, admitting that I was wrong, and asking her where she wanted me to write it. She's a sweet person, and didn't insist that I do it on a mosque in Baghdad or an iceberg in the Arctic: instead she required me to write an article for this special ‘Mary Wollstonecraft’ edition. And here it is.
The greatest historical event in the lifetimes of Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft was the French Revolution. Jane Austen took little notice of it (though more than she is often credited for—Captain Wentworth wasn't just going fishing). Mary Wollstonecraft took a more acute interest, to the extent of going to live in France from December 1792 to April 1795. She was influenced by the Revolution's triumphs and its disasters; by its ideals and the horrors of the Reign of Terror, which sent many of those with whom she sympathised to the guillotine.
For those whose knowledge of the French Revolution is a bit hazy I am putting some recommended reading at the end. In this article, all I'll do is comment on those events that shed light on conspiracy and conspiracy theorists—this is not the place to try to summarise the French Revolution.
Nobody doubts that there are conspiracies. People are convicted every day in courts throughout the world of conspiracies to murder, rob banks, pervert the course of justice, and other crimes. Small-scale conspiracies, involving only a handful of people, may have an important effect on history and world events, particularly conspiracies to assassinate. In repressive societies, conspiracy is the only way to achieve what in free and democratic societies people consider normal, such as uncensored publishing: and nothing but praise can be given to the conspiracies who ran the Underground Railroad that liberated slaves, or the Resistance who helped Jews, POWs and other enemies of the Nazis to freedom.
However, what I shall talk about here is something different: the belief that there is a Grand Conspiracy, in which large numbers of people in high places contrive in some mysterious way to run the world's affairs even more than they apparently do. People who believe in such Grand Conspiracies I shall call conspiracy theorists, a term I prefer to what has been called the ‘paranoid style’, which begs the question. Perhaps there are such Grand Conspiracies—just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't out to get you.
However, conspiracy theory is more than just pointing to conspiracies as a matter of fact; it is a style of explanation of events. A conspiracy theorist believes that bad things happen, not through incompetence, chance, or the working out of natural laws, but because there are evil and cunning people acting in secret to bring them about. Outbreaks of conspiracy theory have occurred throughout history and have led to witch hunts, either literal as in the Salem witch trials, or metaphorical as in the McCarthy communist scare.
The Internet has spawned conspiracy theories of all sorts. I include at the end a selection of links to conspiracy theories, and reviews and critiques of them: I make no claims for their accuracy or even their sanity. Modern Internet conspiracy theorists, unlike their predecessors who had to go to the trouble of finding a publisher prepared to put money into producing their stuff, are often woefully ignorant of history, and the only thing that most of them know about the French Revolution is that there was one. They plagiarise the works of the better-read (though equally loony) when it comes to any event before the assassination of Kennedy. I particularly treasure the theories of history from David Icke, that there is a bloodline of conspirators descended from aliens, and Lyndon LaRouche's alternative contention that the conspirators are Venetians rather than Venusians. These people have the same grasp of reality as the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, and can unintentionally produce just as many laughs. I also add at the end something I wrote for the Pemberley Board: the Great Jane Austen Conspiracy—a fractionally more rational idea than some of the conspiracies that some people put forward in all seriousness.
No event in history has attracted more conspiracy theorists than the French Revolution, not even the death of Princess Diana. At the time and ever since, there have been vast numbers of theories which point the finger at some person or group as responsible for the events: targets include Lafayette, Robespierre, William Pitt, the Emperor of Austria, the Duke of Orleans, the Du Pont family, the British Royal Society, the Masons, the Illuminati, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, extraterrestrials, and Satan.
However, there is no doubt some of the people or groups in that list did engage in something like conspiracies: for example, William Pitt, as British Prime Minister, did indeed provide funding for a spy network in France. The conspiracy theory that blames the Masons is based on the fact that, in Lodges throughout France on the eve of the Revolution, Masons proposed radical solutions to problems—the Lodges were one of the few places in the Old Regime before the Revolution that ideas could be discussed freely, since there was strict censorship. The Masonic Lodges were a haven of free speech for those who supported the ideals of the American Revolution. Indeed, many of them had been part of the French contingent that supported the Americans: Lafayette is the most famous, but there were hundreds of others: and Americans like Franklin would join them in their debates.
However, this sort of activity was nothing compared with the paranoid belief in the vast network of conspiracies during the years between about 1791 and 1794—most of the years which Mary Wollstonecraft spent in France—when solid and sensible men in the succession of Assemblies that governed France during the years of the Revolution could allege, ‘We are surrounded by conspiracy. Everywhere plots are being hatched,’ and be taken seriously.
One reason for these conspiracy theories is that there were, in fact, conspiracies. For example, several leading generals of the Revolutionary Army—including Lafayette—planned coups d'etat, defected to the enemy, or both. But these were what I have called small scale conspiracies, undertaken by a handful of people, and though they had an important effect, were not a Grand Conspiracy involving hundreds of people in acts of secret and treacherous cunning.
Such proven conspiracies fed the atmosphere of paranoia to such an extent that any general was at risk of being charged with treason: if he was successful he was accused of plotting a coup d'etat; if he was a failure he was accused of deliberately losing battles. Several dozen revolutionary generals went to the guillotine, as did many of the leaders of the early stages of the Revolution, including the Duke of Orleans. Lafayette certainly would have joined them on the scaffold, had he not already defected to the Austrians, who threw him in prison for his pains as a revolutionary while his wife was in prison accused of being a royalist (she was saved by the intervention of the American ambassador who pointed out that it would be poor public relations to alienate the only other revolutionary country at the time).
Finally, the arch-conspiracy theorist himself, Robespierre, who had sent hundreds of his former colleagues to the guillotine suspected of conspiracy, was brought down by a real conspiracy of people so terrified that they were next on his list that they were forced to act in sheer self-defence. Conspiracy theory often breeds, rather than discovers, real conspiracies.
Yet the French Revolution did not start out in an atmosphere of conspiracy theory. In his article ‘Conspiracy Obsession in a Time of Revolution: French Elites and the Origins of the Terror, 1789–1792’ (available on line—see Resources list), Timothy Tackett has examined the development of conspiracies theories among the governing classes, and much of the information in this article comes from him.
Tackett indicates that in the pre-revolutionary period, when all sorts of ideas were circulating among the liberal and educated children of the Enlightenment, conspiracy theories were rare. These people would have echoed that other child of the Enlightenment, Henry Tilney, in his scepticism of Catherine Morland's imaginings. In the thinking of the Enlightenment, rational and physical causes were preferred as explanations to the workings of human or supernatural intent.
Enlightened leaders of the early Revolution were often explicitly sceptical of conspiracy theory. When there was a shortage of grain, and the poor and uneducated were inclined to believe in a ‘famine plot’ to starve them, the early revolutionary leaders went to some trouble to deny the conspiracy: ‘It would be senseless,’ said one, ‘to attribute [the food shortage] to fraudulent hoarding by individuals ... The hail storms and the miserable harvest [of 1788] are the sole causes.’
When these people did talk of conspiracy, it was in response to real threats, such as the massing of the army around Paris in July 1789, which appeared—probably rightly—as an attempt by conservative forces to put down the liberty of the people: the Storming of the Bastille, the massive fortress in the heart of Paris with its cannon pointing straight into the areas where the poor lived, was the response of ordinary Parisians to this threat. A handful of Assemblymen, including Robespierre, continued to talk of conspiracies, but in general they were pooh-poohed.
In a couple of years, however, something turned these French Henry Tilneys into paranoid followers of Robespierre who could declare ‘We are betrayed by everyone!’ And, though there are complex and varied causes for this rise of paranoia, which Tackett analyzes, the main cause is one single event—the proven existence of a Grand Conspiracy, undertaken in secret by large numbers of people including the highest in the land.
To tell the story I shall have to go back a few years to the time just before the Revolution, and those tolerably familiar with these events may skip this paragraph. King Louis XVI was in theory an absolute monarch, unlike the Constitutional King George III of Britain. However, even absolute monarchs have to find money to exert their power, and the treasury of France was virtually bankrupt (supporting the Americans hadn't helped). French finances were in complete disarray, with the richest paying the least taxes, and widespread evasion. Louis tried various means to alter the tax and financial structure, and was eventually forced to call the ‘Three Estates’—i.e. representatives of the Clergy, the Nobles, and the Commons—to assemble in order to rectify matters in May 1789. However, the members of the Third Estate—the commoners—were by no means willing to agree to be taxed further without substantial reform in other ways, and they were joined in their demands by some of the nobility (like Lafayette and other children of the Enlightenment) and by many of the poorer clergymen. These early revolutionaries wanted a fairer tax system and equality before the law—everyday concepts in Britain and America—and a Constitutional Monarchy like Britain's.
Louis appeared to agree to the reforming spirit, especially after the Fall of the Bastille on July 14 1789 (celebrated as the French National Holiday since). However, large numbers of noblemen, including many of the rest of the royal family, loathed the reforms and emigrated. These emigrés conspired on a small scale to restore the lost autocracy of the French Kings, and tried to get the support of the Emperor of Austria, who was the brother of Marie Antoinette, Louis's Queen. This connection caused suspicion among the conspiracy theorists like Robespierre, but the ‘Constitutionals’—as the liberal reformers like Lafayette came to be called—felt secure. The King had sworn to uphold the Constitution and accept the reforms: the Constitutionals might have asked, with Henry Tilney, ‘Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open?’
However, on 20 June 1791, their confidence was shattered. The King, together with Marie-Antoinette and their children, attempted to flee the country over which he was supposed to rule and whose Constitution he had sworn to uphold. It was a botched attempt: the royal party were recognised in their lumbering coach and brought back to a shocked Paris.
The details of this Grand Conspiracy and who was involved in it are not established even now: Monroe Price's recent book on the subject (see the Resource List) indicates that the Emperor of Austria and the King of Sweden were involved at least to some extent. But at the time it was clear that large numbers of powerful people were involved: not only the royal family themselves and their friends and attendants, but the emigrés, senior military men and their regiments, bishops, and other absolute monarchs of Europe. Even Lafayette came under suspicion, as he was guarding the royal family, though it is now clear that he was betrayed perhaps more than anyone else by the king to whom he had sworn an oath of loyalty.
By this one act, the previous affection and respect for the King were instantly destroyed. The Constitutionals, wedded to their constitution, continued to prop up the monarchy, circulating the fiction that the king had been kidnapped. But their position was doomed, and many in France turned to ideals of a republic. Any sense of confidence was destroyed. If the King could betray his country, who could be trusted?
So when a previously moderate leader declared that an ‘Austrian Committee’ was working within France to destroy the country, he was readily believed by those who would, the year before, have poured scorn on the idea. And, indeed, we now know that there was some basis to the conspiracy theory. Louis, still King, declared war on Austria and its allies on behalf of the French people in April 1792. Yet all the time, he and Marie Antoinette were hoping that the French would lose: even more, we now know that she at least was in correspondence with the enemy, revealing the plans of the French army.
Though there are many who pity King Louis and Queen Marie-Antoinette for their trials and deaths on the guillotine, I am not among them. I can think of nothing more despicable than rulers who send out men to fight and die in their name, yet who are doing their best to ensure their defeat.
Let us return to Henry Tilney. When he asks Catherine to be reasonable about her suspicions that General Tilney murdered his wife, we descendants of the Enlightenment support him. And yet, at the heart of Catherine's wild imaginings, there is a core of truth: the General is a villain, even if he isn't a murderer. Grand conspiracies do occasionally exist. However, we should not be too ready to believe in them: we should not be Robespierres, seeing conspiracy and treason in every heart.
So, on reflecting about the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration, I do not think that they are involved in a Grand Conspiracy. They are open about their aims; and though they may be engaged in behind-the-scenes deals and discreet lobbying, that is all part of the normal democratic political process. I do not believe for a moment that they are acting like Louis and Marie-Antoinette, sending men off to fight and conspiring with the enemy for their defeat.
Linda, after all, I do not think I was wrong. But I'm writing this article for you in any case: I hope you like it.
Project for the New American Century
The neo-conservatives declared aims and methods
The French Revolution
a good collection of links
Tackett, Timothy (2000) ‘Conspiracy Obsession in a Time of Revolution: French Elites and the Origins of the Terror, 1789-1792’, in American Historical Review 105.3, available on-line.
A selection of conspiracy theories, and reviews and critiques of them, of varying degrees of lunacy.
Hibbert, Christopher (1980) The French Revolution, Penguin, Harmondsworth (some editions are entitled Days of the French Revolution). A good basic primer, reasonably fair, on the events and people.
Schama, Simon (1989) Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Alfred A. Knopf, New York. A fuller account, with Schama's typical excellent writing and his own personal point of view
Tomalin, Claire (revised edition 1992) The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, Penguin, Harmondsworth. Good on her years in France.
Price, Munro (2002) The Fall of the French Monarchy Macmillan, London. A sympathetic and detailed account of the dealings of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
A none-too-serious conspiracy theory
REVEALED! THE TRUTH AT LAST! Have you ever wondered about the TRUTH behind world events? What is responsible for evils such as war, corruption, environmental pollution, and "Mickey Blue Eyes"?
There is a conspiracy, generations old, to take over the world and force us all to submit to their will. These evil men and women, all across the world, are intent on forcing their depraved tastes on us all. It's the GREAT JANE AUSTEN CONSPIRACY!
If we do not resist, soon they will have copies of Mansfield Park in every public library. Our children will be forced to read Emma in school. Our TV stations will have eternal re-runs of Pride and Prejudice. YES! It may seem unbelievable, but that just goes to show how clever they are.
THE EVIDENCE IS CLEAR
- Jane Austen herself revealed the truth in Persuasion: their subtle techniques are so powerful that they can make a woman break her engagement to a man she loves
- Think of the great writers who have suffered the penalty for disliking Jane Austen's work: Charlotte Bronte, who died young; Mark Twain, reports of whose death were much exaggerated—the list is endless.
- Why does the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation produce series after series of adaptations of Jane Austen novels? How did it spread the infection to Hollywood?
- Why is their most widely known website called a "Republic"? Is it not a clear indication of their links with Republican France during the Reign of Terror, when thousands went to the guillotine for disagreeing with them?
- How can such talentless actors as Hugh Grant be so successful, without the power of the JANE AUSTEN CONSPIRACY?
- What pages were ripped out of Bridget Jones's Diary before it was published?
- Why was Lee Harvey Oswald hiding in a Book Depository? THE BOOKS WERE THE NOVELS OF JANE AUSTEN!
IT'S UP TO YOU! ACT NOW!
Add your own evidence of the great JANE AUSTEN CONSPIRACY, so you can tell the world THE TRUTH!
On the damage not called "collateral"—In defense of young men
I have a good friend who is an Arab and a devout Muslim. You can know that he is a good friend when I tell you he once humored me by agreeing to take a walk with me in a near-by wilderness area. I say that because, in my limited experience, folks from that culture are not enamored of untamed nature. I mean that a beautiful garden will please but a natural meadow will be greeted with indifference, a well-kept, productive orchard will seem far more charming than a virgin forest. (When is the last time you packed up the family to go take a walk in an orchard?)
My friend was as naive as I expected he would be on this walk. We live in an area where mallard ducks nest during the spring and the usual "parings" at such a time are one female with two males. I first taught my friend how to distinguish between the sexes and then asked him to notice the redundant male. He was incredulous at first but soon had to acknowledge the truth of the matter as we encountered many such redundant "couples". He then became very concerned and asked, "Is this the way it is supposed to be?—With humans as well?" I never miss an opportunity and so I quickly answered. "Oh no, with humans the proper arrangement is the other way around." (If you remember who I was talking to, you might agree that my comment was an example of "carrying coals to Newcastle".)
I feed feral cats at night time and within a few hundred yards of that same area. I remember one year when the feeding place was inhabited by a female mallard with three males. (Incidentally, feral cats can't find the handle on an adult duck and so they have learned to leave them alone.) I decided that I was not in the presence of a duck slut because when she walked about—excuse me—when she waddled about, one could discern that she must seem formidable and unusually attractive to other mallards. Do you remember how Miss Bingley put it?—Ah yes, I seem to remember,
"An accomplished female duck must possess a certain something in her air and manner of waddling, the tone of her quack, her address and expressions, or the term ‘accomplished’ will be but half deserved."The particular female of whom I speak was deserving of "fully accomplished".
I mention this particular mallard ménage in order to tell you about the manner in which they slept. The three males slept at the vertices of a triangle and the female slept at its geometric center.—Sweet. That sleeping arrangement reinforced my own theory about the reason for the redundant male(s). There must be a number of plausible explanations and a number of reasons but one of my own is based primarily on another observation. I once observed some idiot bring an unleashed dog to the area. A dog knows where the handle is to be found so he immediately lit out after a mallard "couple". Then one of the males did an interesting thing, he moved into a position that made himself vulnerable before he took to flight before the frustrated predator. I watched the escape—it was a close thing—and then, in the far background, I caught sight of the female flying away to her own escape with the other male close behind. Hunting is illegal in that area, but it makes me sad to tell you that there are a number of natural predators so that, later in the season, a female is most often seen with only a single male. It's hard to explain, but I was proud of that male who would expose himself in that way to divert a predator away from his mate and his co-husband—I also was afraid for him.
And so it is with the males of many species—it's all so honorable and brave. (Not all species; I mean that even in some mammal species, the male is not much more than a mobile sperm bank.) But these are the profound instincts of men, the males of our species. However, as is the case in all human matters, the devil resides in the nurturing. So, the same instincts that are nurtured to produce a New York firefighter can be honed in another way to produce a Timothy McVeigh or a Mohamed Ata.
War is not an inherently masculine activity. Feminists say it is and so do generals, but that is an unholy alliance—don't give it any credit. Feminists and generals have their own, narrow motives. The truth is that war is a facet of genderless statecraft. (The soils of nations are called "motherland" in as many instances as "fatherland".) It is true that young men have the nature that makes them suitable for warfare—they bring their masculine athleticism, stamina, comradeship, courage, and self-sacrifice to a war effort—but in all cases indoctrination must be used in order to direct them in that endeavor. I mean to say that most men will bring manliness to any situation into which they are thrown. Men bring their manliness to war but they cannot transform war. War is not honorable. War is confused, grotesque, dishonorable, cruel homicide.
Yet, some of the accomplishments of men at war will be celebrated forever such as those at Marathon and Thermopylae, at Masada, at the Alamo, and at Bastogne. Of course, we also are left to wonder about the insanities of the charge of the Light Brigade or Picket's charge at Gettysburg—perhaps all of World War I was an insane charge. And then, there are the even more deeply disturbing thoughts that haunt us over the greater insanities perpetrated at Wounded Knee and at My Lai—the devil resides in the nurturing.
Yes, it is true that with enough of the wrong kind of nurturing, young men (and women) will become Fighting SS, Al Qaeda, or Klu Klux Klansmen. However, by and large, young men in conflict retain their honorable nature and heroic, protective instincts. And, more importantly, they retain their innocence. Yes they are innocent and most young men killed in war are innocent victims. That is true of the war dead who would have preferred to be strolling in a virgin forest and it applies equally well to those that would have preferred the well-cultured orchard. If we squander young men, ours and theirs, in a wrong war then we squander a portion of our collective honor and a goodly portion of our collective innocence and masculinity. And, what else do we really have? I mean that where we squander young men, we waste one of our truly precious resources. On the other hand there are right wars with attendant losses just as surely as predators will sometimes take that redundant mallard male.
Next year is a presidential election year. If it turns out that the present administration can thoroughly and convincingly establish that the Iraqis had stockpiles of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well as ties to terrorist groups willing to use them against us, then the current administration should be retained and honored. (The Lord knows that they have failed to convince us to this point.) But, if either condition is not confirmed then that bunch should be sent packing. It seems that Paul Wolfowitz was the philosophical architect of the war on Iraq and this is the time for testing the value of his theories and influence. Of course, the buck stops in the Oval Office and it is George Bush that must bear the penalty of a misguided policy if, indeed, it is proved to be misguided. That will be a judgment of history but it must be a judgment of the American electorate long before the issue becomes one for academics.
There will be a good deal of blame to spread around—starting with those implicated in the election of 2000. I am not referring just to those rogue state election-officials and that rogue Supreme Court. The Green party deserves a major share of the blame for conducting an impractical, divisive campaign that could only result as it did in the election of a man who did not win anything like a majority of the popular vote. I will never again contribute to the Green party and I will take every opportunity to criticize it and its leaders.
Well, it is late now and dark enough that I can feed the feral cats without drawing attention to the animals. Tomorrow I will take my five-year old grandson to that little patch of wilderness where the female mallards are now shepherding their herds of ducklings. When I see one of those families, I will try to not think about what cost might have been paid to bring that female to this point. I will not give the boy the slightest hint that a majority of the ducklings will be taken by predators—yes, in part, a small number of the feral cats will be implicated in that. I can only wonder but must not speak of the other dangers that the male ducklings will face eventually; this will be a tough and sometimes cruel world for those males. I always love my visits with my grandson—he is already very masculine.
My Baby Needs a Shepherd
My baby needs a shepherd
She's lost out on the hill
Too late I tried to call her
When the night was cold and still
And I tell myself I'll find her
But I know I never will
My baby needs a shepherd
She's lost out on the hill
My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly
She'll not reach sanctuary
Just by looking to the sky
I guess I could have carried her
But I didn't even try
My baby needs an angel
She never learned to fly
Oh I ran so far through a broken landAnd somewhere on the highway
I was following that drummer
Beating in a different band
I let go of her hand
Now she's gone forever
Like her footsteps in the sand
Toora loora loora loMy baby needs a pilot
First the seed and then the rose
Toora loora loora li
My kingdom for a lullaby
She has no magic wand
To help her part the troubled waters
Of the Rubicon
But in my soul I know she'll
Have to go this one alone
After all that is the only way she's ever known
But there is no lamp in all this darkI pray she rides a dolphin
That could chase away her shadow
From the corners of my heart
But she's swimming with the shark
Out where no one can save her
Not even Noah and his ark
Toora loora loora loMy baby needs a mother
To the cradle comes the crow
Toora loora loora li
My kingdom for a lullaby
To love her till the end
Up every rugged mountain
And down every road that bends
Sometimes I hear her cryin'
But I guess it's just the wind
My baby needs a mother
To love her till the end
— Emmylou Harris —
from her CD, Red Dirt Girl
Lori Ann Piestewa
War and Conspiracy
Like Mary I shall take the unorthodox view. However my views are not Mary's views. I shall examine two things: 1) the lack of the mention of the Christian God in those discussions in my sphere; and, 2) the conspiracy theories or lack thereof. This conspiracy discussion may appear as a chance exercise, but for me, it "forced" a hard look at the wording of my beliefs in order to get the straight of it. Hope it helps you all as well.
God in warMost people don’t see God in war, or any other tribulation. I suppose war is too horrible to mix with God. What does He have to do with it? As for me, I see God in everything. Why? What is He doing? The short of it is He has a plan—we may not agree with it; but, in the end, He will work it out in fairness, and justice. It is not my purpose here to convert or convince but simply to make the statement "for the record" that He IS involved. I would not have it that there is complete silence on the subject.
My friend, Linden, is Dr. Linden Salter-Duke of Northwest Territory in Australia and published author of several books about the Jane Austen time frame. I can attest to her scholarship in Jane Austen's life and times because only a serious nut, er, researcher would spend hundreds of dollars on obscure books of that era. I, personally, saw the books because they passed through my home on their passage to Humpty Doo last year.
Lately, I have done some research and found that here is not just "a Conspiracy" per se, but that through the Ages men rose and fell from power and had dreams of world (or country) domination. I was probably not clear on that point in our discussion. I now realize that we are both "right and wrong".
For instance, during the 70s and 80s there was talk of conspiracies by several groups such as the John Birch Society (against communism) then moving on to the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateralists, the Rothschilds, the New World Order, etc
The bottom line—there is not "a" grand conspiracy, but many "conspiracies"—and "conspiracy" may not be the best choice of words—a better choice may be "plots" or "plans". The "players" have changed throughout the ages, but the Plans [power grab, etc.] have remained the same. When discussing all this with Linden I had not thought through the mish mash to reach a suitable conclusion/wording.
I will quote from several sources found recently since this subject came up.1) I happened to catch the movie Khartoum (1966). I missed it the first time around and since Arabs, Muslims, etc. were involved I thought it might be of interest in view of current events.
In the movie, the self-proclaimed (well he said he had a vision from Allah) Muslim leader known as "the Mahdi" said the following as a statement of his purpose:
We fight a holy war against the fat, the corrupt, the sinful and the unbelieving. We fight a war to restore to a disobedient, forgetful world, the laws and commands of the prophet Mohammed.
The Mahdi's actions based on this belief caused problems for the English, Egyptian, and Sudanese powers at that time. After some political maneuvering, Gladstone said the following:
When I think how history will record someday that the decisions of an Empire were made only by greedy businessmen, scheming generals, and conniving politicians.
2) A few days after this discovery I happened upon a description of Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age which said:
First published in 1873, The Gilded Age is both a biting satire and a revealing portrait of post-Civil War America—an age of corruption when crooked land speculators, ruthless bankers, and dishonest politicians voraciously took advantage of the nation's peacetime optimism. With his characteristic wit and perception, Mark Twain and his collaborator, Charles Dudley Warner, attack the greed, lust, and naiveté of their own time in a work which endures as a valuable social document and one of America's most important satirical novels.
3) Next came these few sentences found at the site on the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase in New Orleans. [I have already made plans to go see the exhibition.]
January 1803—President Jefferson asks James Monroe to join Robert Livingston in France as Envoy Extraordinary. Congress authorizes Monroe to spend $2 million to buy New Orleans and the Floridas, but Jefferson secretly instructs him to spend more if necessary. Jefferson decides that if negotiations with France fail, he is willing to take New Orleans by force.
May 1803—Although England declares war on France on May 18, Baring & Co., a British bank, finance the purchase.
4) We come now to the present day, quoting Linden:
"So, on reflecting about the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration, I do not think that they are involved in a Grand Conspiracy. They are open about their aims; and though they may be engaged in behind-the-scenes deals and discreet lobbying, that is all part of the normal democratic political process. I do not believe for a moment that they are acting like Louis and Marie-Antoinette, sending men off to fight and conspiring with the enemy for their defeat."
Taking the role of "conspiracy theorist", the questions arise, "do we know the real motives of Bush and Co. today and is there not something to be gained by them?" I just don't know. Does anyone know? Will we ever really know? Someone said to watch Iraq and see who gets the oil! That may be a clue.
Do you see a pattern here? I have concluded that throughout the Ages there is not just one conspiracy or a "grand conspiracy", but simply greedy, power hungry persons who rule and contend with each other for the position of top dog. They are being allowed to follow their plans until the Time of the Restoration of All Things.
Thank you Linden for that most informative article. You have kept your word beautifully. In my article following, I shall perform my own penance for keeping silent.
Setting the record straight—an apology
I have heard it said that "men are pigs". Not giving it much thought at the moment, I let the comment pass without remarking upon it. Tacit agreement you might say. In my study of "feminism" that comment came to mind, and now I will beg to disagree. My conclusion being that yes, there are some to which that epithet may apply, but not all men. There have been some Ladies of my acquaintance who claim to be married to a "Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightly, Mr. Bingley, etc." and in my own immediate sphere I will add my brother-in-law, several nephews, and my son to that list of enlightened gentlemen.
Depending upon the extent of our personal experience with the "pigs" we have possibly overlooked the gentlemen. At least that is true in my case. We have a tendency quite like the Media who report all that is bad in the world and seldom report the nicer side of the news. That being the case I most humbly apologize for not speaking up sooner on behalf of "the Gentlemen", especially those who have a tender spot in their hearts for our dear Jane, especially that "certain gentleman" we all know.
I want to take the opportunity of Mary Wollstonecraft Day to make a first report on my journey of discovery on the subject of "feminism". Not having thought about it very seriously before now, I am amazed at what I have found thus far.
This journey is the main reason I so earnestly wish to attend the conference on Women’s writing in Britain 1660 -1830 in July. I have discovered that there have been many women writers writing about the concerns of women and society for several hundred years in contrast to the very few who are mentioned in the school textbooks. If I thought really hard I might be able to list on the fingers of both hands (with some fingers left over) the names of prominent women I heard about in school.
For example, I consider Marietta Holley and Fanny Fern (both Americans) to be my own personal discoveries. Then there are all those on the Celebration of Women Writers site that includes so many before, during and after Jane Austen's time. These women writers covered many subjects, however, just because they were women doesn't mean they always agreed on everything. There is great diversity and I find it thought provoking.
On a more personal note, my study of feminism led me to discover who I am and why. In pursuit of this subject, I have bought every thing I can find written by Drew Gilpin Faust, the Dean of Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She has a somewhat southern background connection and has written extensively on the South and its women. I can hardly stand the anticipation until I get them all read. Also in recent years the diaries and writings of Southern women (pre 1900) have been published. It is all very fascinating—well, for me anyway.
We shall see who was more correct on this subject—Mary or Jane—well, I already know the answer, but the search is half the fun. This is only the beginning of an intriguing journey. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
And another Jane Austen Conspiracy Theory from the Male Voices Archive:
The Unified Theory of Jane: all modern western culture is derivative of Jane Austen:
So ends this month's Loiterer. We hope the pot was stirred, you blood pressure was raised, and your fancy tickled.
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