Posts Tagged ‘civilization’

Believing or Figuring it all out?

January 8, 2019

You may believe, as I do, that we were created long ago in the image of God.

Or you may think that we evolved, even longer ago, from lower life forms,

Since we don’t really really know exactly how it all spun out, let’s consider these two scenarios for a moment.

What if one of our hominid progenitors were set aside in a select place and given a “special” touch by the LifeForce, so that the new being would share a certain spiritual characteristic or two with its Creator? . . .

instead of being just, you know, another dumb critter.

What if some of us, caught up in this mysterious thing called human history, chose to identify with the special Creation?

What if others of us just continued to evolve the rough-and-tumble way, acknowledging our primeval struggle through the long ranks of evolving, biological creatures. . . vertebrates, primates, hominids, neanderthals, and ultimately homo sapiens?

What if the  Creator (aka the LifeForce) set up both paths of human development—one being “special’ and the other being the long, gradual process that Mr. Darwin sought to explain?

And what if, according to our human predicament, you were able to choose which model of development you would subscribe to, and thus pattern your life by?

Which would you choose?

Come let us reason together.

Could it be that the LifeForce ignited that first big shbang, and then later selected a spot from whence to spark something new, called “life”, beginning at the very lowest level? and then took a sort of sabbath break from creating while allowing the life process to move forward in a natural way over a vast expanse of time?

On the other hand could it be that, at some point in said development, that LifeCreator sovereignly made a supra-natural selection, setting a particular primate aside and, sprinkling in the dust of the earth, and initiated thereby a spiritual, civilizing character through the soulish man and his other half, the loverly (wo)man?

I’m thinking that scenario would render some of us Sons or Daughters of God, while others would be sons or daughters of nature.

What if—way back when— the Sons of God saw the daughters of Men? And then, finding them desirable, chose to hookup with them?

What would we have then?

Perhaps we have a human race torn between simply believing versus  trying to figure it all out—a homo sapiens species somewhat divided between them who settle for the simple wonder of believing . . .

MornGlor

versus them who propose to analyze it and document the results:

Layers

Which would you be?

I have made my choice, because I have not yet been able to figure it all out.  How about you?

King of Soul

The Beginning and the End

June 15, 2018

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to nurture the notion that mankind was innocent in some presumed condition of noble savagery—or to accept traditional religion that pronounces us guilty of offenses against Nature or against God.

If we are, or were, indeed, noble savages in our beginnings, why should we have taken on the disciplines and restrictions of religion—doctrines that judge us culpable of sin and thus in need of repair, salvation, or some kind of evolving perfection yet to be realized?

Hawaiians, for instance, who were alive here on the island of Kauai (I am wondering, as I write this on Kauai in 2018)—those Hawaiians who lived here in 1778 when Captain James Cook suddenly showed up with his fancy ship and his threatening weaponry, his magical gadgets, highly-trained crew, impressive use of language and documents, his tailored clothing and highly developed European culture—those relatively primitive people who first saw Capt. Cook’s two ships sail up to the mouth of the Waimea River . . .

CaptCook

Why should they have accepted his intrusion into their simple, primitive life?

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that was their question.

Would they go with the “arc of history” or resist it?

Did they eventually accept highly developed European culture to replace their traditional tribal existence? Did they accede to it out of submission, or out of necessity, or out of attraction to the new fancy stuff they saw? Were they conquered? Or were they taken by the hand and brought gently, Christian-like, into 18th-century civilization, and ultimately into 19th, 20th and 21st-century lifestyle?

Look around Hawaii today. What do you think?

They accepted it.

They went with the flow. One thing we know for sure about the so-called primitive Hawaiians of 1778: they knew how to go with the flow. They were here on this remote island in the middle of earth’s largest ocean, long before we technolified haoles were here, and they had arrived here at some earlier time because they knew how to make “the flow” of this life and the Pacific Ocean work for them.

So now, 2018, it is what it is. Hawaii, like every other place in our modern world, is what it is. Some may lament the demise of noble savagery that has been the result of Captain Cook’s intrusion into this paradisical (though deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing) island. Others may celebrate the entrance of the Hawaiians into modern life.

Some may come and some may go.

Captain Cook came. He left and came back again. The beginning of Captain James Cook’s Hawaii experience happened when his crew sailed their two ships to the mouth of the Waimea River— a river that flowed from mile-high Waialeale crater down to sea level at the southwest shore of Kauai.

Waimea1

He died in 1779, shot dead by an Hawaiian on the Big Island of Hawaii, at the other end of this island archipelago. His sudden demise came in the midst of dispute between some of his own crew members and the natives of Hawaii.

Many have lived and died since that time.

Two days ago, up on the other end of Kauai island, the northeast end, at a strand called Larsen’s Beach, we witnessed the life-end of another person, a contemporary. The man was a traveler from Pennsylvania. He had been snorkeling at a reef in unpredictable waters when the Ocean took hold of him.

A little while later, his flippers floated to shore. After we had witnessed a team of chance beach visitors (us), and then a couple of jet-skiing lifeguards from some other nearby beach, and then EMT guys flown in on a “bird,”—after we had witnessed all this collective noble attempt to coax life back into the snorkeler’s breathless lungs and heart, we saw his neon-green flippers float back to shore.

Flipper

Maybe he was going with the flow; maybe he was going against it; maybe he was fighting against the current, or maybe he was just going with that flow of life and death that eventually captures us all.

In my case, that flow will, in the long run, take me to death, and then resurrected life, as was demonstrated by Jesus.

Am I really going with the flow, you may ask, in joining the historical current of the Christian faith into which I was born?

Or am I going against the rational flow by subscribing to such an incredible prospect as life after death?

God only knows.

King of Soul

What the Jews did

January 30, 2018

What the Jews did was establish about half of the narrative foundation of the Western World.

Their Old Testament, combined with the New, were received as Holy Scriptures  by the Church, which, after Constantine, dominated European cultural development for over a thousand years.

Long about 1500 or so, the Protestant Reformation began the process of unshackling the chains of dogmatic error that the Catholic hierarchy had, over 1400 years, lapsed into. Then Reformation disruption of Papist hegemony broke ground for another new emphasis—the Renaissance. This humanist  arts movement unearthed the  quasi-dormant other half of the Western cultural narrative, the ancient Greeks, most notably Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. On the coattails of the Greek philosophers, the Roman writers, most notably Cicero, Cato and Virgil later appended their contribution to the philosophical and governmental legacy of ancient Greece. It later became a bedrock of Western culture and government.

That ancient Greek heritage had initiated an idea called democracy, which was later amended to Republic by the Romans in their Empire.

Judeo-Christian Religion, Greek Democracy and Roman Republic became the religious, philosophical and governmental foundations upon which the Western World was established in Europe and beyond.

In the early stages of Western history, during the period of the Roman Empire, along came a Roman general named Titus. In 70 a.c.e., he ran most of the Jews out of Israel, their homeland, and he sent his soldiers to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, even though it had had been constructed by one of the Romans’ own puppet kings, Herod.

Titus apparently thought it was a notable accomplishment that he had expelled most of the Jews out of their own ancient capital;  the Hebrews had previously managed to reclaim Jerusalem after the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar had expelled them about 670 years earlier.

Titus’ Roman victory over the Jews was thought to be quite impressive by his successors. A few years after he died, his brother Domitian commissioned the Arch of Titus to be constructed in the main area of Rome. Among the conquests of Titus depicted in stone on the Arch, the plundering of Jerusalem is plain to see.

ArcTitusMenr

In this picture that I snapped, the Jewish Menorah can be plainly seen. To the victor goes the spoils, eh? The Roman big shots must have thought themselves something special after they ran those upstart Jews out of Jerusalem back in the day. The Jews were infamous among several historical empire-builders for being ungovernable.

One reason that Titus and Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus and their ilk had so much trouble governing the Jews was because the people of Israel always insisted on being free.

This whole idea of freedom, around which Western culture revolves, originated largely with the Jews.

Long about 1400 or so years b.c.e., Moses rounded up the Jews and lead them out of the slavery that Egyptian pharoahs had inflicted on them.

This turned out to be a major event in world history.

Why? Because Moses and some of his people wrote a book about it. We know it as the book of Exodus. Along with the other books of the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, it later became an international best-seller for many and many a year, many and many a century and several millenia of time.

What later became the Bible was passed down through the ages to many and many a person and group of persons to read and spark inspiration.

That spark of freedom that enabled the Jews to throw off the bondage of Pharoahic slavery—it has been an inspiration to many freedom-seeking people throughout history.

Case in point, within our lifetime. (All ye Boomers out there, hear ye, hear ye. . .)

Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr., on the night before he was assassinated, declared this message to his people in Memphis, and ultimately via audiotape to America, and to the world:

“I’ve been to the Mountaintop. . . I’ve seen the Promised Land . . .”

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

We can see that Dr. King was inspired by Moses. A long time ago, I wrote a song about it. Mountaintop

And we know from the Hebrew scriptures that Moses was inspired by God.

Now this may seem a little old-fashioned to you, a little bit religious. But this religious thing is much more than belief in God. It’s not just out-of-style old hat. Faith also includes the idea of freedom. It also includes the idea of freedom of religion , freedom to believe what you need to believe, and freedom to act on what you believe to be true. It goes way back, way back . . .

Here’s another example from American history. A hundred and fifty years ago when black folks in this country were still enslaved . . . in a situation not unlike what the Jews had found themselves in ancient Egypt, one of those black former slaves, Harriet Tubman, started a secret society for the purpose of providing an escape for self-freed slaves who wanted to come up to the free states.

The name that was given to Harriet’s clandestine network was the Underground Railroad. Have you heard of it?

I’m here to tell you that the Underground Railroad has been transporting people from bondage to liberty for a very long time.

Last century,  freedom-seeking people did another version of it to smuggle the children of Israel  out of the Nazi Third Reich. Have you heard of it?

But know this: it’s still going on.

Underground Railroad Rides Again.

 And we can thank the Jews for that, because way, way back in the day . . . they started it; they started the freedom track that runs through human civilization.  The first one ran from Egypt to the Promised Land, and its been going, whenever needed, under the radar ever since.

It will never be shut down.

Glass half-Full 

Symbols that Unite or Divide

November 16, 2016

AmFlag

Here’s a timely excerpt from Glass half-Full, the novel I wrote in 2007:

Marcus opened a can of turpentine. He tipped it slightly so that its upper contents would spill onto a rag that lay on the parking lot next to his car. With the rag partially soaked, he began rubbing on the driver’s-side door. Someone had painted a black swastika on it while he was working late. His cell phone rang.

He opened it, looked at the mini-screen, saw “Grille,” which stood for Jesse James Gang Grille. In the last few days, however, whenever he would see “Grille” displayed as the caller ID, it registered in his mind as “Girl,” meaning Bridget, because she would often call from there.

“Hi.”

“Marcus, have you heard about the explosion?”

“No, where?”

“At the Belmont Hotel, about 20 minutes ago.”

The Belmont was just two blocks from the restaurant.

“That’s where the FEF convention is. Aleph told me he would be going there tonight. Has anybody been down there to see what’s happening?”

“Kaneesha left here right after we heard it, but she hasn’t returned. I don’t think anybody’s getting in there for awhile. The police have got the whole block barricaded.”

“I want to find out if anything has happened to Aleph. Don’t you think he would have left there by now?

“The TV News says the police aren’t letting anyone in or out except rescue workers.”

“I’m headed over there in a few minutes, as soon as I get the car-door cleaned up. Someone painted a swastika on it.”

LincMemNit

Glass half-Full

Blogging in Stone

February 4, 2015

TreviHorsWrk

We moved to the West, having been born in the East,

subduing the wild,  taming the beast.

While striving in metal and sweating o’er stone

we forged out destiny, and carved us a home.

WriterStatu

We paused to ponder, to find purpose and rest,

to identify some truths and preserve the best.

Looking heavenward for faith, we found hope and love,

but we cast it aside when push came to shove.

ReaderStatu

Now we ponder our fate and wonder where it went–

this wonder and faith that was birthed in a tent,

while the old beast rises up among us again

to dismantle and slay us, Civilized Man.

ForumVw

But when earthen pots are broken into pieces,

when sheep are slain, and turned into fleeces,

don’t despair into thinking it’s the end of the game,

but rebuild and strengthen the things that remain.

Glass half-Full 

Something happening here

February 3, 2015

People have always been coming together for one reason or another, haven’t they?

Let’s get together so we can overcome these fierce animals.

Let’s go out and hunt some animals so we’ll have meat.

Let’s gather these fruits; let’s collect these seeds; then we’ll crush them together and eat them.

Let’s build a fire and cook what we find.

Let’s keep warm. We’ll tell some stories. We’ll drink the fermented grape and feel safe together for a while.

Let’s go see what the next tribe is doing.

Oh look, they’ve got these potatoes we’ve never seen before; they want to give us some in exchange for our buffalo.

Wow, they are drinking milk from their animals. Wonder what that tastes like.

Here comes this man we’ve been hearing about, this Nimrod man. He says he can protect us in exchange for our labor in his fields.

Now he wants to build a big dwelling place; his people say they will feed us and give us shelter if we help them while they are stacking the  big stones for the great house.

Look. They are chipping the stones to make them fit closer. What’s that in his hand?

We need one of those.

They say we can use their tools if we help them build the great house.

Now they want to build a Great House for god.

Which god? Their god or our God?

GoldAltar

Let’s go; I’m hungry. They seem to know what they’re doing. We’ll follow them.

Oh, look at the color of that woman’s garment. How did she make it that color?

I want that color on mine.

RedShutrPath

Let’s go. There’s something happening there.

They have more than they need; they will put the color on our garments while we help them build the Great House.

One Great House. Two great houses, three, four. . . many great houses

Look. Very big house! So tall. How did they do that?

We need to know how they build Great House so great!

Oh no, what are they arguing about?

Oh no, what are they fighting about?

We better get out of here. We go back where our great Fathers and Mothers started, back down the road, out in countryside where we can grow our own as Fathers and Mothers did back in the day.

No. We stay here. We must stay here.

Great People say we must stay here, work for them. It’ll all work out.

Well, ok then, you stay, but I go. I take my family and leave.

Where you go?

I go to Ur. Something happening there.

You leave Accad to go to Ur? Dangerous place.

Not as dangerous as here, and they pay better.

See ya, been nice knowing you. I go to Ur now.

He go to Ur. He go to Ninevah. They go to India. These go to Egypt. Those go to Syria, Persia, Asia.

Athens, Rome.

ColosmInN

Something happening there. We want in. We want bread and circuses.

Paris, London, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley.

Look! Never seen that before. Cool!

Nothing new under the sun! Well maybe.

ManFloatng

Glass Chimera

at The Cradle of Western Civilization

January 26, 2015

Back in the 1960’s days of my youth I began what eventually became a lifetime study of history and literature. While studying classic English literature in college (LSU) I sometimes wondered why the great writers of British literature had such a fascination, almost obsession with, ancient Greek literature.

Yesterday I began to understand why.

When you actually go to a place like Athens and walk around for a day, your definition of literacy changes. You see how far back our quest for knowledge goes. You notice  how different that quest was then, even though it now seems to be somehow the same pursuit.

While ambling on foundations (literally) of Western civilization established in Athenian ground 2500 years ago, you get an unfamiliar sense of time-travel, especially if you’re an American like me. I grew up in a national identity that was only hundreds of years old instead of, you know, thousands of years old.

This sense of getting deep insight into the origins of constructive thought is probably similar to what the classic English writers–Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Keats, Shelley, etc. etc.–felt when they came here.

It is a sense of this Culture thing that’s going on in the annals of mankind–it goes back a long, long way!

What I want to do here is present to you three examples of this experience that I had yesterday.

1.

Pat and I  stumbled upon (with a little help from a map) an ancient theatre, thousands of years old, where actual people who lived during that time came to see and hear actual plays being acted, like we would go to plays or movies today.

It was in this place:

TheatrDion2

In this very place, in this grandiose structure, playwrights of ancient Athens were amused as they watched ancient Athenian actors acting out on stage the dramas that they–the playwrights– had written.

When I dabbled in classic literature, back in the day, in college, I read selections from very old plays or poems written by long-dead Greek guys like Aeschylus, Euripides, or Homer. When I was reading, on printed pages, their old dramas and stories–like Oedipus Rex or The Odyssey or whatever–the reading experience was rather shallow.

To see the place where those ancient Greek stories were recited or acted out–there’s just something about it that propels the awareness of human story-telling into a new reality, a new appreciation for history that I never understood before.

Doesn’t that resemble a theater of auditorium in which you have been seated, having been perhaps assisted by an usher?

So that you see and hear some old story acted or sung about.

The urge to watch drama–plays or musicals of whatever fashion–goes back a long way! It’s nothing new.

There’s nothing new under the sun, as the ancient (even older than these Greeks) Hebrew poet Ecclesiastes noted.

What I am seeing is that, while the content of the narrative may change with time and fashion, the fundamental means of dramatic story-telling has changed not so much.

2.

This is true not only of literature, but also of military conquest and politics.

Pat snapped this picture of the antiquated structure called Hadrian’s Arch. You see me standing there beneath the architecture.

HadrArchCare

What’s funny about this is, on one side of the arch the citizens of Athens had inscribed (only barely visible) this statement:

“This is Athens, the city of Theseus.”

A few centuries later, the Romans came through and took over Athens. The Romans conquered the Greeks, or subjugated them, or threw their weight around in such a way that they wanted to demonstrate to the Athenians that  they–the Romans, new kids on the block of civilization– were now in charge of things around here and so now we pre-Italianos would be running the show and things would be different around here and you better know who’s calling the shots, if you know what I mean. And so, to make their point in an impressively architectural way, the Romans inscribed on the other side of the arch a new statement:

“This is the city of Hadrian, not Theseus”

I thought that was quite funny when Pat read it to me in the guide book.

3.

Here’s a time-travel appointment with one more  event that had happened in Athens, almost two thousand years ago. We were at a stony hilltop called Aereopagus.

AeropRoc

Yesterday I was standing here, looking at the marbly rocks of geological and historical time; the stones were worn smooth by millions of human feet that had trod there since the tree of knowledge was first encountered. Here, Greeks of long ago would gather to talk about the meaning of life, and probably drink coffee or wine, while discovering among themselves great thoughts of philosophy, history, politics, sports and bullshit and war and whatnot.

One day a zealous proponent of a new movement called Christianity came to town. He had come on a boat from Israel.

Paul had wandered in Athens for a day or two, and had heard about the serious pursuits of knowledge and nascent Western civilization that were taking place up on Aereopagus. So he went up there to listen, and to deliver a message to those sages. Here is (as recorded in a book, Acts of the Apostles) the beginning of what he told them:

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man . . .”

But that was only another new beginning, even though it was in the middle of everything.

More to come. News at 11.

Glass Chimera

The Memory of Wild

July 6, 2014

QuetzlArtDeep down inside

it is there

or is it?

high above the green forest canopy

nearly hidden from our sights.

or hiding from our captive

civilizing acquisitive

sites.

Living high above our territory

it is there

or is it?

burrowing beneath the trod of human feet

cringing from electronic drumbeat

of civilizing man

beneath the artifacts

among fossils

fleeing us fools

flora and fauna

i wanna

u. I think therefore

am I?

  Glass Chimera

The Height of Civilization

April 29, 2013

Sometimes I think human history is the outcome of a great war between civilization and barbarism.

When terrorists  set bombs in a public place to kill and maim innocent people, that is barbarism. When neighbors and citizens arise to comfort and compensate the victims of such atrocity, that is one of the many functions of what we call civilization.

History has  always been us civilized folks against the barbarians who assault the the gates of law and decency.

In the last decade of our nation’s collective experience, many of us have borne the burden of tragedies in which innocents suffered terrible pain, suffering, and death. In the wake of these terrible events, there never fails to be a multitude of Americans who answer the immediate and subsequent challenges  presented in sorting out and cleaning up bloody messes, and then ministering care and comfort to victims and their families. The most obvious heroes are the first responders, the  firemen, EMTs, physicians, nurses, policemen, neighbors, compassionate passersby, good samaritans. But there are many others all along the way in the aftermath.

For instance, long after the fact, after the dust settles, someone has to sort out the financial damages and compensations; there has to be a person or persons whose job is to  make the hard decisions in allocating limited money for compensation to victims and others who have suffered undeserved losses and injuries.

Fortunately for us here in the USA, there is a man whose God-given gift is to administrate those decisions, and their accompanying financial compensations, in a very public and transparent way. He is a man who is known for fairness, impartiality, and sound judgement.

Ken Feinberg is his name.  He has been appointed, in days recently past, to help others sort out and distribute the sticky, inadequate financial damages that collect in the wake of such events as: 9/11, the Virginia Tech shootings, the Colorado movie shootings, BP oilspill, and many others.

And now the Boston Marathon bombing damage compensation fund.

In an interview today with Robin Young of Boston’s WBUR Here and Now, Mr. Fineberg explainedthat there is “never enough money” in a situation such as this  to justly compensate all those people who have suffered death, maiming, loss of limbs, paralysis, pain, suffering and loss of just about every asset that humans are heir to, including suffering to which no monetary value can be assigned.

But somebody has to do it. Somebody has to make the difficult calls, and then have the results of the distribution acknowledged generally as fair and sufficient. In the USA today, that somebody is Ken Feinberg and his crew.

I admire him. It is a very difficult job, and he has handled it well, with honesty and integrity that is widely, consistently acknowledged, case after case, disaster after disaster.

What a hell of a job.

I recommend you listen to his answers in response to Robin Young’s questions:  http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/04/29/one-fund-feinberg

At the end of the interview, Ken intimated that the job is stressful. He said he has to take little breaks after meeting with victims and their families, in order to deal with the pain and suffering that he sees in their faces and hears in their complaints.

Then Robin mentioned Mozart; she had heard that he enjoys listening to music at the end of such a stressful day. Mr. Feinberg confirmed it. After all the stress that his day’s enquiries uncover, at the end of the day he finds release from the fierce collateral damages of barbarism, by fleeing to what he calls the  “height of civilization”: listening to Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Beethoven.

I can relate, especially as he mentioned Beethoven.

It is true: a Beethoven symphony  performed by a professional orchestra is indeed the height of civilization.

In terms of music, that is.

But the deeper and loftier height of civilization is this:

what good people do to comfort, heal and care for their fellowmen/women, in the tragic aftermath whenever evil  has been inflicted by barbarians at the gate.

Glass half-Full

This here’s for the Rule of Law!

June 24, 2012

Whether or not they actually could, the people of the British empire sought to civilize the world. One could say, perhaps, that on a good day those loyal subjects of the realm were sauntering forth to bring to unruly distant lands the rule of law, the benefits of a well-constructed language, and good manners, not to mention cricket.

Or one could say that, on a bad day, those John Bull limeys were exploiting the indigenous peoples, robbing them of their ancient heritages, playing contractual tricks to abscond their homelands, and getting rich in the process.

And one would be correct on both counts. Such is the dual nature of civilized man: he is a scoundrel, even as he strives, or pretends to, follow his so-called better angels.

Ditto for us Americans, their bratty little brothers in this saga of colonializing world history. But hey, it is what it is, and that’s all that it is, so be that as it may, today or someday.

Nevertheless, one beneficial concept that the world has, IMHO, derived from the hegemonizing Brits, is the rule of law. Like the Romans before them, far-flung British representatives of the Crown have, in recent centuries, carried to the four corners of their known world the idea that justice should prevail, and men should be accountable, in a duly-appointed court of law, for their actions.

Therefore anarchy and mayhem are not permitted.

In British literature, a residual benefit of this principle is demonstrated by Robert Louis Stevenson in his classic story, Treasure Island.  I’ll not tell thee the tale, as thou must read it for thyself, or find a video of it somewhere online haha, as if there were such a thing.

Nevertheless, I’ll take thee in thy imagination, as author Stevenson did, down to a little island in some distant sea wherein lies a hidden treasure that was left behind during a dispute between some gentlemen of fortune, some of them honest, some of them not, but which is which, I’ll tell thee what–on second thought–suffice it say, some men were killed, and some got caught.

Years later, as the story is told, having obtained a map that could lead to the buried booty, a band of reputable fortune-seeking men have returned to the island to uncover the misplaced gold, which is a considerable weight of what’s called pieces of eight. And if’n you don’t know what that is, matey, go look it up on your wikipedia slate.

By and by, I’m a-comin’ to my point, lads n’ lassies, about the civilizing effects of the British empire. And this is how it happened:

There was, to state it plainly, a mutiny among the men. I don’t know how else to say it except that certain dirty/rotten scoundrels were led by their wolf-in-sheep’s clothing leader, Long John Silver, into the perfidy of lawless rebellion against the good Captain and the owners of the ship who were with him. And there was among the loyals the good lad, Jim Hawkins, cabin boy, who lived to tell the tale, whose account enables me to write it to thee.

Pirates is what they were, pure and simple–Long John Silver and his mutineers.

During the course of the dispute, an actual battle broke out between the two sides. The Captain and his loyal men had managed to occupy an old stockade. The contemptible buccaneers were planning to overpower them with muskets and swords and the ship’s cannon offshore, which they had occupied.

Immediately upon taking the stockade, the Captain had made it his first order of business to raise the Union Jack–the British flag– on a log-pole above the fort, although it might seem there could be more productive ways he could have spent his energy and precious time at that perilous moment.

Very soon the scumbag pirates began firing cannonballs at the stockade. This turn of events is told near the end of chapter 18 in the book. A ship’s owner speaks to Captain Smollett:

“Captain,” said the squire, “the house is quite invisible from the ship. It must be the flag they are coming at. Would it not be wiser to take it in?”

“Strike my colors!” cried the captain. “No, sir, not I”; and as soon as he had said the words, I think (the ship’s doctor is writing this. -ed.) we all agreed with him. For it was not only a piece of stout, seamanly, good feeling; it was good policy besides and showed our enemies that we despised their cannonade.

The good Captain, in so doing, was proclaiming to the scoundrels, and to the very world: This here ground we have taken is now for God and King! This here’s for law and order! We’ll not tolerate mayhem and rebellion! That’s our stand and we are stickin’ to it.

Now this particularly resolute act of the Captain had good effect, even beyond the mere declaration of it. Young Jim Hawkins, who had been separated from the ship’s loyal men, was out in the island somewhere, among the scrubby shrubs and sandy spits, trying to get to the stockade to rejoin his mates. And he had found, long story short, a wild island man who was not actually wild– though he appeared to be so with the scruffy beard and raggish coverings. This character, name of Ben Gunn,  had been marooned on the island by the former buccaneers, the ones who had left the treasure somewhere in the vicinity.

So, meanwhile, back at the outback part of the island where Hawkins and Gunn are dodging cannonballs and musket shots, old Ben says to young Jim, at the beginning of chapter 19:

As soon as Ben Gunn saw the colors he came to a halt, stopped me by the arm, and sat down.

“Now,” said he, “there’s your friends, sure enough.”

“Far more likely, it’s the mutineers,” I answered.

“That!” he cried. “Why, in a place like this, where nobody puts in but gen’lmen of fortune, Silver would fly the Jolly Roger, you don’t make no doubt of that. No, that’s your friends.”

Which is to say, the ringleader of the mutineers would not be flying the Union Jack. He would not be claiming ground for God and King. He would not be declaring by such actions: This here’s for the rule of law. Come ye to this flag and you shall find order, and justice, not mayhem and rebellion!Ben Gunn knew this, and he assured the cabin-boy that the Union Jack was reliable, and so. . .

It could come about that the ship’s doctor would later write:

“And I ran to the door in time to see Jim Hawkins, safe and sound, come climbing over the stockade.”

Thus had this incident made known, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the sanctuarial power of Brittania. God save the King, and the Queen, too!

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress