English Grade 12 in Quebec in the early 6o's is some kind of middle ground (in many dimensions - it's Montréal's West Island). University-style lectures for English Literature in a large steeply-sloped room and the Norton Anthology, a huge book to carry around. Our teacher is a white-haired lady who knows how to speak Middle English - one of the first actually 'educated' people I (ever) meet. She reads aloud to us some of the prologue to The Canterbury Tales and I will never forget the sound of her voice. She also knows how to properly perform public speaking with no microphone required. Another one I remember is:
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean — roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain.
(From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage fourth canto verse CLXXIX (179) 1812-1818, Lord Byron.)
She rocks the place ... but that's another story ...
Chaucer doesn't write about the Great Rising which must be going on at about the time The Canterbury Tales are being written & performed in whatever way they're disseminated. He is the king's bureaucrat and a 'moneyer', and it just wouldn't do. And the likes of Wat Tyler & John Ball don't ride to Canterbury with good pilgrim burghers either I guess.
Readers of this blog will know that I have been looking at the holocaust a bit over the last few years - there are tags: Holocaust, Rwanda ... There is a section on my bookshelf with Primo Levi, Henry Kreisel, Hannah Arendt, Georgio Agamben, Zygmunt Bauman ...
But by a coincidence I don't read Jared Diamond's take on it. Last week, after his notions on agriculture shake me violently up and down, the very next (or so) chapter in The Third Chimpanzee is 16: In Black and White ... on genocide.
I plod along, slowly coming to realize that genocide perpetrators are ordinary folks; wondering how that could be? And then BOOM! It is frequent if not continuous if not structurally necessary to human development and history; the 1994 Rwanda genocide has antecedents, an extended context, background; species kill their own kind as their capabilities permit.
The Third Chimpanzee is published in 1992 and mentions Hutus & Tutsis but not the 1994 case. Diamond subsequently brings his thinking up-to-date in Chapter 10 of Collapse - Malthus in Africa: Rwanda's Genocide.
I won't belabour it - like I said before he is not trustworthy. Read these things and digest and absorb them if and as you will.
... consider that torture is a high art, refined, subtle, technologically advanced - and has been ... forever; or Chinese lotus feet and infibulation (both male and female); or that 90% of Nazi death camp commandants were nominally Catholics.
The idea that human nature has fundamentally (as it were) changed very much since Chaucer's time is simple nonsense. The bourgeois bromide 'Life is Sacred' ditto. How did I get this old and have no clue?
My son asks several times in the last few years why I bother trying to raise consciousness of the environmental debacle which is coming down - and my reasons really come (again beginning in that Øth chakra, the kundalini fundament) through some women I meet in Brazil, and Oxum and Iansã and Iemanjá, and a reaction I have to knowing that the first hard rain will fall upon them and people much like them and their kids.
(Anyone who don't know that men relate to the world through their pricks don't know much. Not the one-and-only, neither the be-all nor the end-all; but certainly right up there among the very first of objective correlatives. With respect to my mother for her part in teaching me this.)
I am surprised at the quickness of these jagged pieces falling so certainly into place in the jigsaw ... click.
Bottom line gentle reader is that looking at the humanity I see these days doesn't show much reason to be striving for climate- or eco- or any other kind of justice. Is this the cockeroach in the ointment? Is this why the 'movement' is not... moving?
( Just askin' y'unnerstan' ... ) Be well.Later on sometime: ... Sure it's personal.
How not to wonder and ask the obvious questions: What is my share in deserving oblivion? How much of this is mine? Who needs this species and what is it good for beyond some sentimental attachments to the music of Bach & Handel?
Homo erectus, Homo sapiens ... Homo grǽdum? Homo agapiens? Which will it be and, who can say?
It becomes less difficult to understand transcendental end-runs: inventing gods and devils; putting it all more-or-less comfortably 'out there' to be dealt with 'objectively' (or trying to). And too, understanding that (vain? futile?) temptation compassionately (or trying to).
It is never pleasant to be faced with another's pain & suffering; less to have to cut into your own existence for any reason.
Anyway, it's not 2015 yet. There's still time to turn it around. And we're not quitters are we? That's what I say to my son as we sit looking out into an urban land- socio- spirit-scape which we agree there is no good reason to preserve.
[Lamer than usual gentle reader; oh well ... "How're ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?"]