Category Archives: Interesting Stories

Becoming – Michelle Obama.

To all the people who have helped me become: the folks who raised me, Fraser, Marian, Craig, and my vast extended family, my circle of strong women, who always lift me up, my loyal and dedicated staff, who continue to make me proud.

To the loves of my life: Malia and Sasha, my two most precious peas, who are my reasons for being, and finally, Barack, who always promised me an interesting journey.

Preface

March 2017

When I was a kid, my aspirations were simple. I wanted a dog. I wanted a house that had stairs in it, two floors for one family. I wanted, for some reason, a four-door station wagon instead of the two-door Buick that was my father’s pride and joy. I used to tell people that when I grew up, I was going to be a pediatrician. Why? Because I loved being around little kids and I quickly learned that it was a pleasing answer for adults to hear. Oh, a doctor! What a good choice! In those days, I wore pigtails and bossed my older brother around and managed, always and no matter what, to get As at school. I was ambitious, though I didn’t know exactly what I was shooting for. Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child, What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.

So far in my life, I’ve been a lawyer. I’ve been a vice president at a hospital and the director of a nonprofit that helps young people build meaningful careers. I’ve been a working-class black student at a fancy mostly white college. I’ve been the only woman, the only African American, in all sorts of rooms. I’ve been a bride, a stressed-out new mother, a daughter torn up by grief. And until recently, I was the First Lady of the United States of America, a job that’s not officially a job, but that nonetheless has given me a platform like nothing I could have imagined. It challenged me and humbled me, lifted me up and shrank me down, sometimes all at once. I’m just beginning to process what took place over these last years, from the moment in 2006 when my husband first started talking about running for president to the cold morning this winter when I climbed into a limo with Melania Trump, accompanying her to her husband’s inauguration. It’s been quite a ride.

When you’re First Lady, America shows itself to you in its extremes. I’ve been to fund-raisers in private homes that look more like art museums, houses where people own bathtubs made from gemstones. I’ve visited families who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and were tearful and grateful just to have a working refrigerator and stove. I’ve encountered people I find to be shallow and hypocritical and others, teachers and military spouses and so many more, whose spirits are so deep and strong it’s astonishing. And I’ve met kids, lots of them, all over the world, who crack me up and fill me with hope and who blessedly manage to forget about my title once we start rooting around in the dirt of a garden.

Since stepping reluctantly into public life, I’ve been held up as the most powerful woman in the world and taken down as an “angry black woman.” I’ve wanted to ask my detractors which part of that phrase matters to them the most, is it “angry” or “black” or “woman”? I’ve smiled for photos with people who call my husband horrible names on national television, but still want a framed keepsake for their mantel. I’ve heard about the swampy parts of the internet that question everything about me, right down to whether I’m a woman or a man. A sitting U.S. congressman has made fun of my butt. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been furious. But mostly, I’ve tried to laugh this stuff off.

There’s a lot I still don’t know about America, about life, about what the future might bring. But I do know myself. My father, Fraser, taught me to work hard, laugh often, and keep my word. My mother, Marian, showed me how to think for myself and to use my voice. Together, in our cramped apartment on the South Side of Chicago, they helped me see the value in our story, in my story, in the larger story of our country. Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be.

Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.

For eight years, I lived in the White House, a place with more stairs than I can count, plus elevators, a bowling alley, and an in-house florist. I slept in a bed that was made up with Italian linens. Our meals were cooked by a team of world-class chefs and delivered by professionals more highly trained than those at any five-star restaurant or hotel. Secret Service agents, with their earpieces and guns and deliberately flat expressions, stood outside our doors, doing their best to stay out of our family’s private life. We got used to it, eventually, sort of, the strange grandeur of our new home and also the constant, quiet presence of others.

The White House is where our two girls played ball in the hallways and climbed trees on the South Lawn. It’s where Barack sat up late at night, poring over briefings and drafts of speeches in the Treaty Room, and where Sunny, one of our dogs, sometimes pooped on the rug. I could stand on the Truman Balcony and watch the tourists posing with their selfie sticks and peering through the iron fence, trying to guess at what went on inside. There were days when I felt suffocated by the fact that our windows had to be kept shut for security, that I couldn’t get some fresh air without causing a fuss. There were other times when I’d be awestruck by the white magnolias blooming outside, the everyday bustle of government business, the majesty of a military welcome. There were days, weeks, and months when I hated politics. And there were moments when the beauty of this country and its people so overwhelmed me that I couldn’t speak.

Then it was over. Even if you see it coming, even as your final weeks are filled with emotional good-byes, the day itself is still a blur. A hand goes on a Bible; an oath gets repeated. One president’s furniture gets carried out while another’s comes in. Closets are emptied and refilled in the span of a few hours. Just like that, there are new heads on new pillows, new temperaments, new dreams. And when it ends, when you walk out the door that last time from the world’s most famous address, you’re left in many ways to find yourself again.

So let me start here, with a small thing that happened not long ago. I was at home in the redbrick house that my family recently moved into. Our new house sits about two miles from our old house, on a quiet neighborhood street. We’re still settling in. In the family room, our furniture is arranged the same way it was in the White House. We’ve got mementos around the house that remind us it was all real, photos of our family time at Camp David, handmade pots given to me by Native American students, a book signed by Nelson Mandela. What was strange about this night was that everyone was gone. Barack was traveling. Sasha was out with friends. Malia’s been living and working in New York, finishing out her gap year before college. It was just me, our two dogs, and a silent, empty house like I haven’t known in eight years.

And I was hungry. I walked down the stairs from our bedroom with the dogs following on my heels. In the kitchen, I opened the fridge. I found a loaf of bread, took out two pieces, and laid them in the toaster oven. I opened a cabinet and got out a plate. I know it’s a weird thing to say, but to take a plate from a shelf in the kitchen without anyone first insisting that they get it for me, to stand by myself watching bread turn brown in the toaster, feels as close to a return to my old life as I’ve come. Or maybe it’s my new life just beginning to announce itself.

In the end, I didn’t just make toast; I made cheese toast, moving my slices of bread to the microwave and melting a fat mess of gooey cheddar between them. I then carried my plate outside to the backyard. I didn’t have to tell anyone I was going. I just went. I was in bare feet, wearing a pair of shorts. The chill of winter had finally lifted. The crocuses were just starting to push up through the beds along our back wall. The air smelled like spring. I sat on the steps of our veranda, feeling the warmth of the day’s sun still caught in the slate beneath my feet. A dog started barking somewhere in the distance, and my own dogs paused to listen, seeming momentarily confused. It occurred to me that it was a jarring sound for them, given that we didn’t have neighbors, let alone neighbor dogs, at the White House. For them, all this was new. As the dogs loped off to explore the perimeter of the yard, I ate my toast in the dark, feeling alone in the best possible way. My mind wasn’t on the group of guards with guns sitting less than a hundred yards away at the custom-built command post inside our garage, or the fact that I still can’t walk down a street without a security detail. I wasn’t thinking about the new president or for that matter the old president, either.

I was thinking instead about how in a few minutes I would go back inside my house, wash my plate in the sink, and head up to bed, maybe opening a window so I could feel the spring air, how glorious that would be. I was thinking, too, that the stillness was affording me a first real opportunity to reflect. As First Lady, I’d get to the end of a busy week and need to be reminded how it had started. But time is beginning to feel different. My girls, who arrived at the White House with their Polly Pockets, a blanket named Blankie, and a stuffed tiger named Tiger, are now teenagers, young women with plans and voices of their own. My husband is making his own adjustments to life after the White House, catching his own breath. And here I am, in this new place, with a lot I want to say.

Becoming Me

One

I spent much of my childhood listening to the sound of striving. It came in the form of bad music, or at least amateur music, coming up through the floorboards of my bedroom, the plink plink plink of students sitting downstairs at my great-aunt Robbie‘s piano, slowly and imperfectly learning their scales. My family lived in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, in a tidy brick bungalow that belonged to Robbie and her husband, Terry. My parents rented an apartment on the second floor, while Robbie and Terry lived on the first. Robbie was my mother’s aunt and had been generous to her over many years, but to me she was kind of a terror. Prim and serious, she directed the choir at a local church and was also our community’s resident piano teacher. She wore sensible heels and kept a pair of reading glasses on a chain around her neck. She had a sly smile but didn’t appreciate sarcasm the way my mother did. I’d sometimes hear her chewing out her students for not having practiced enough or chewing out their parents for delivering them late to lessons.

“Good night!” she’d exclaim in the middle of the day, with the same blast of exasperation someone else might say, “Oh, for God’s sake!” Few, it seemed, could live up to Robbie’s standards.

The sound of people trying, however, became the soundtrack to our life. There was plinking in the afternoons, plinking in the evenings. Ladies from church sometimes came over to practice hymns, belting their piety through our walls. Under Robbie’s rules, kids who took piano lessons were allowed to work on only one song at a time. From my room, I’d listen to them attempting, note by uncertain note, to win her approval, graduating from “Hot Cross Buns” to “Brahms’s Lullaby,” but only after many tries. The music was never annoying; it was just persistent. It crept up the stairwell that separated our space from Robbie’s. It drifted through open windows in summertime, accompanying my thoughts as I played with my Barbies or built little kingdoms made out of blocks. The only respite came when my father got home from an early shift at the city’s water treatment plant and put the Cubs game on TV, boosting the volume just enough to blot it all out.

This was the tail end of the 1960s on the South Side of Chicago. The Cubs weren’t bad, but they weren’t great, either. I’d sit on my dad’s lap in his recliner and listen to him narrate how the Cubs were in the middle of a late season swoon or why Billy Williams, who lived just around the corner from us on Constance Avenue, had such a sweet swing from the left side of the plate. Outside the ballparks, America was in the midst of a massive and uncertain shift. The Kennedys were dead. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed standing on a balcony in Memphis, setting off riots across the country, including in Chicago. The 1968 Democratic National Convention turned bloody as police went after Vietnam War protesters with batons and tear gas in Grant Park, about nine miles north of where we lived. White families, meanwhile, were moving out of the city in droves, lured by the suburbs, the promise of better schools, more space, and probably more whiteness, too.

None of this really registered with me. I was just a kid, a girl with Barbies and blocks, with two parents and an older brother who slept each night with his head about three feet from mine. My family was my world, the center of everything. My mother taught me how to read early, walking me to the public library, sitting with me as I sounded out words on a page. My father went to work every day dressed in the blue uniform of a city laborer, but at night he showed us what it meant to love jazz and art. As a boy, he’d taken classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and in high school he’d painted and sculpted. He’d been a competitive swimmer and boxer in school, too, and as an adult was a fan of every televised sport, from professional golf to the NHL. He appreciated seeing strong people excel. When my brother, Craig, got interested in basketball, my father propped coins above the doorframe in our kitchen, encouraging him to leap for them.

Everything that mattered was within a five block radius, my grandparents and cousins, the church on the corner where we were not quite regulars at Sunday school, the gas station where my mother sometimes sent me to pick up a pack of Newports, and the liquor store, which also sold Wonder bread, penny candy, and gallons of milk. On hot summer nights, Craig and I dozed off to the sound of cheers from the adult-league softball games going on at the nearby public park, where by day we climbed on the playground jungle gym and played tag with other kids.

Craig and I are not quite two years apart in age. He’s got my father’s soft eyes and optimistic spirit, my mother’s implacability. The two of us have always been tight, in part thanks to an unwavering and somewhat inexplicable allegiance he seemed to feel for his baby sister right from the start. There’s an early family photograph, a black and white of the four of us sitting on a couch, my mother smiling as she holds me on her lap, my father appearing serious and proud with Craig perched on his. We’re dressed for church or maybe a wedding. I’m about eight months old, a pudge-faced, nononsense bruiser in diapers and an ironed white dress, looking ready to slide out of my mother’s Clutches, staring down the camera as if I might eat it. Next to me is Craig, gentlemanly in a little bow tie and suit jacket, bearing an earnest expression. He’s two years old and already the portrait of brotherly vigilance and responsibility, his arm extended toward mine, his fingers wrapped protectively around my fat wrist.

At the time the photo was taken, we were living across the hall from my father’s parents in Parkway Gardens, an affordable housing project on the South Side made up of modernist apartment buildings. It had been built in the 1950s and was designed as a co-op, meant to ease a post-World War II housing shortage for black working-class families. Later, it would deteriorate under the grind of poverty and gang violence, becoming one of the city’s more dangerous places to live. Long before this, though, when I was still a toddler, my parents, who had met as teenagers and married in their mid-twenties, accepted an offer to move a few miles south to Robbie and Terry’s place in a nicer neighborhood.

On Euclid Avenue, we were two households living under one not very big roof. Judging from the layout, the second-floor space had probably been designed as an in-law apartment meant for one or two people, but four of us found a way to fit inside. My parents slept in the lone bedroom, while Craig and I shared a bigger area that I assume was intended to be the living room. Later, as we grew, my grandfather, PurneII Shields, my mother’s father, who was an enthusiastic if not deeply skilled carpenter, brought over some cheap wooden paneling and built a makeshift partition to divide the room into two semiprivate spaces. He added a plastic accordion door to each space and created a little common play area in front where we could keep our toys and books.

I loved my room. It was just big enough for a twin bed and a narrow desk. I kept all my stuffed animals on the bed, painstakingly tucking them around my head each night as a form of ritual comfort. On his side of the wall, Craig lived a sort of mirror existence with his own bed pushed up against the paneling, parallel to mine. The partition between us was so flimsy that we could talk as we lay in bed at night, often tossing a balled sock back and forth through the ten-inch gap between the partition and the ceiling as we did.

Aunt Robbie, meanwhile, kept her part of the house like a mausoleum, the furniture swathed in protective plastic that felt cold and sticky on my bare legs when I dared sit on it. Her shelves were loaded with porcelain figurines we weren’t allowed to touch. I’d let my hand hover over a set of sweet-faced glass poodles, a delicate looking mother and three tiny puppies, and then pull it back, fearing Robbie’s wrath. When lessons weren’t happening, the first floor was deadly silent. The television was never on, the radio never played. I’m not even sure the two of them talked much down there. Robbie’s husband’s full name was William Victor Terry, but for some reason we called him only by his last name. Terry was like a shadow, a distinguished looking man who wore threepiece suits every day of the week and pretty much never said a word.

I came to think of upstairs and downstairs as two different universes, ruled over by competing sensibilities. Upstairs, we were noisy and unapologetically so. Craig and I threw balls and chased each other around the apartment. We sprayed Pledge furniture polish on the wood floor of the hallway so we could slide farther and faster in our socks, often crashing into the walls. We held brother-sister boxing matches in the kitchen, using the two sets of gloves my dad had given us for Christmas, along with personalized instructions on how to land a proper jab. At night, as a family, we played board games, told stories and jokes, and cranked Jackson 5 records on the stereo. When it got to be too much for Robbie down below, she’d emphatically flick the light switch in our shared stairwell, which also controlled the lightbulb in our upstairs hallway, off and on, again and again, her polite-ish way of telling us to pipe down.

Robbie and Terry were older. They grew up in a different era, with different concerns. They’d seen things our parents hadn’t, things that Craig and I, in our raucous childishness, couldn’t begin to guess. This was some version of what my mother would say if we got too wound up about the grouchiness downstairs. Even if we didn’t know the context, we were instructed to remember that context existed. Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance. Robbie, I’d learn many years later, had sued Northwestern University for discrimination, having registered for a choral music workshop there in 1943 and been denied a room in the women’s dorm. She was instructed to stay instead in a rooming house in town, a place “for coloreds,” she was told. Terry, meanwhile, had once been a Pullman porter on one of the overnight passenger rail lines running in and out of Chicago. It was a respectable if not well-paying profession, made up entirely of black men who kept their uniforms immaculate while also hauling luggage, serving meals, and generally tending to the needs of train passengers, including shining their shoes.

Years after his retirement, Terry still lived in a state of numbed formality, impeccably dressed, remotely servile, never asserting himself in any way, at least that I would see. It was as if he’d surrendered a part of himself as a way of coping. I’d watch him mow our lawn in the high heat of summer in a pair of wing tips, suspenders, and a thin-brimmed fedora, the sleeves of his dress shirt carefully rolled up. He’d indulge himself by having exactly one cigarette a day and exactly one cocktail a month, and even then he wouldn’t loosen up the way my father and mother would after having a highball or a Schlitz, which they did a few times a month. Some part of me wanted Terry to talk, to spill whatever secrets he carried. I imagined that he had all sorts of interesting stories about cities he’d visited and how rich people on trains behaved or maybe didn’t. But we wouldn’t hear any of it. For some reason, he’d never tell.

I was about four when I decided I wanted to learn piano. Craig, who was in the first grade, was already making trips downstairs for weekly lessons on Robbie’s upright and returning relatively unscathed. I figured I was ready. I was pretty convinced I already had learned piano, in fact, through straight-up osmosis, all those hours spent listening to other kids fumbling through their songs. The music was already in my head. I just wanted to go downstairs and demonstrate to my exacting great-aunt what a gifted girl I was, how it would take no effort at all for me to become her star student.

Robbie’s piano sat in a small square room at the rear of the house, close to a window that overlooked the backyard. She kept a potted plant in one corner and a folding table where students could fill out music work sheets in the other. During lessons, she sat straight spined in an upholstered high-back armchair, tapping out the beat with one finger, her head cocked as she listened keenly for each mistake. Was I afraid of Robbie? Not exactly, but there was a scariness to her; she represented a rigid kind of authority I hadn’t yet encountered elsewhere. She demanded excellence from every kid who sat on her piano bench. I saw her as someone to win over, or maybe to somehow conquer. With her, it always felt like there was something to prove.

At my first lesson, my legs dangled from the piano bench, too short to reach the floor. Robbie gave me my own elementary music workbook, which I was thrilled about, and showed me how to position my hands properly over the keys.

“All right, pay attention,” she said, scolding me before we’d even begun. “Find middle C.”

When you’re little, a piano can look like it has a thousand keys. You’re staring at an expanse of black and white that stretches farther than two small arms can reach. Middle C, I soon learned, was the anchoring point. It was the territorial line between where the right hand and the left hand traveled, between the treble and the bass clefs. If you could lay your thumb on middle C, everything else automatically fell into place. The keys on Robbie’s piano had a subtle unevenness of color and shape, places where bits of the ivory had broken off over time, leaving them looking like a set of bad teeth. Helpfully, the middle C key had a full corner missing, a wedge about the size of my fingernail, which got me centered every time.

It turned out I liked the piano. Sitting at it felt natural, like something I was meant to do. My family was loaded with musicians and music lovers, especially on my mother’s side. I had an uncle who played in a professional band. Several of my aunts sang in church choirs. I had Robbie, who in addition to her choir and lessons directed something called the Operetta Workshop, a shoestring musical theater program for kids, which Craig and I attended every Saturday morning in the basement of her church. The musical center of my family, though, was my grandfather Shields, the carpenter, who was also Robbie’s younger brother. He was a carefree, round-bellied man with an infectious laugh and a scraggly salt-and-pepper beard. When I was younger, he’d lived on the West Side of the city and Craig and I had referred to him as Westside. But he moved into our neighborhood the same year I started taking piano lessons, and we’d duly rechristened him Southside.

Southside had separated from my grandmother decades earlier, when my mother was in her teens. He lived with my aunt Carolyn, my mom’s oldest sister, and my uncle Steve, her youngest brother, just two blocks from us in a cozy one-story house that he’d wired top to bottom for music, putting speakers in every room, including the bathroom. In the dining room, he built an elaborate cabinet system to hold his stereo equipment, much of it scavenged at yard sales. He had two mismatched turntables plus a rickety old reel-to-reel tape player and shelves packed with records he’d collected over many years.

There was a lot about the world that Southside didn’t trust. He was kind of a classic old-guy conspiracy theorist. He didn’t trust dentists, which led to his having virtually no teeth. He didn’t trust the police, and he didn’t always trust white people, either, being the grandson of a Georgia slave and having spent his early childhood in Alabama during the time of Jim Crow before coming north to Chicago in the 1920s. When he had kids of his own, Southside had taken pains to keep them safe, scaring them with real and imagined stories about what might happen to black kids who crossed into the wrong neighborhood, lecturing them about avoiding the police.

Music seemed to be an antidote to his worries, a way to relax and crowd them out. When Southside had a payday for his carpentry work, he’d sometimes splurge and buy himself a new album. He threw regular parties for the family, forcing everyone to talk loudly over whatever he put on the stereo, because the music always dominated. We celebrated most major life events at Southside’s house, which meant that over the years we unwrapped Christmas presents to Ella Fitzgerald and blew out birthday candles to Coltrane. According to my mother, as a younger man Southside had made a point of pumping jazz into his seven children, often waking everyone at sunrise by playing one of his records at full blast.

His love for music was infectious. Once Southside moved to our neighborhood, I’d pass whole afternoons at his house, pulling albums from the shelf at random and putting them on his stereo, each one its own immersing adventure. Even though I was small, he put no restrictions on what I could touch. He’d later buy me my first album, Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, which I’d keep at his house on a special shelf he designated for my favorite records. If I was hungry, he’d make me a milk shake or fry us a whole chicken while we listened to Aretha or Miles or Billie. To me, Southside was as big as heaven. And heaven, as I envisioned it, had to be a place full of jazz.

At home, I continued to work on my own progress as a musician. Sitting at Robbie’s upright piano, I was quick to pick up the scales, that osmosis thing was real, and I threw myself into filling out the sight-reading work sheets she gave me. Because we didn’t have a piano of our own, I had to do my practicing downstairs on hers, waiting until nobody else was having a lesson, often dragging my mom with me to sit in the upholstered chair and listen to me play. I learned one song in the piano book and then another. I was probably no better than her other students, no less fumbling, but I was driven. To me, there was magic in the learning. I got a buzzy sort of satisfaction from it. For one thing, I’d picked up on the simple, encouraging correlation between how long I practiced and how much I achieved. And I sensed something in Robbie as well, too deeply buried to be outright pleasure, but still, a pulse of something lighter and happier coming from her when I made it through a song without messing up, when my right hand picked out a melody while my left touched down on a chord. I’d notice it out of the corner of my eye: Robbie’s lips would unpurse themselves just slightly; her tapping finger would pick up a little bounce.

This, it turns out, was our honeymoon phase. It’s possible that we might have continued this way, Robbie and I, had I been less curious and more reverent when it came to her piano method. But the lesson book was thick enough and my progress on the opening few songs slow enough that I got impatient and started peeking ahead, and not just a few pages ahead but deep into the book, checking out the titles of the more advanced songs and beginning, during my practice sessions, to fiddle around with playing them. When I proudly debuted one of my late-in-the-book songs for Robbie, she exploded, slapping down my achievement with a vicious “Good night!” I got chewed out the way I’d heard her chewing out plenty of students before me. All I’d done was try to learn more and faster, but Robbie viewed it as a crime approaching treason. She wasn’t impressed, not even a little bit.

Nor was I chastened. I was the kind of kid who liked concrete answers to my questions, who liked to reason things out to some logical if exhausting end. I was lawyerly and also veered toward dictatorial, as my brother, who often got ordered out of our shared play area, would attest. When I thought I had a good idea about something, I didn’t like being told no. Which is how my great-aunt and I ended up in each other’s faces, both of us hot and unyielding.

“How could you be mad at me for wanting to learn a new song?”

“You’re not ready for it. That’s not how you learn piano.”

“But I am ready. I just played it.”

“That’s not how it’s done.”

“But why?”

Piano lessons became epic and trying, largely due to my refusal to follow the prescribed method and Robbie’s refusal to see anything good in my freewheeling approach to her songbook. We went back and forth, week after week, as I remember it. I was stubborn and so was she. I had a point of view and she did, too. In between disputes, I continued to play the piano and she continued to listen, offering a stream of corrections. I gave her little credit for my improvement as a player. She gave me little credit for improving. But still, the lessons went on.

Upstairs, my parents and Craig found it all so very funny. They cracked up at the dinner table as I recounted my battles with Robbie, still seething as I ate my spaghetti and meatballs. Craig, for his part, had no issues with Robbie, being a cheerful kid and a by-the-book, marginally invested piano student. My parents expressed no sympathy for my woes and none for Robbie’s, either. In general, they weren’t ones to intervene in matters outside schooling, expecting early on that my brother and I should handle our own business. They seemed to view their job as mostly to listen and bolster us as needed inside the four walls of our home. And where another parent might have scolded a kid for being sassy with an elder as I had been, they also let that be. My mother had lived with Robbie on and off since she was about sixteen, following every arcane rule the woman laid down, and it’s possible she was secretly happy to see Robbie’s authority challenged. Looking back on it now, I think my parents appreciated my feistiness and I’m glad for it. It was a flame inside me they wanted to keep lit.

Once a year, Robbie held a fancy recital so that her students could perform for a live audience. To this day, I’m not sure how she managed it, but she somehow got access to a practice hall at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago, holding her recitals in a grand stone building on Michigan Avenue, right near where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played. Just thinking about going there made me nervous. Our apartment on Euclid Avenue was about nine miles south of the Chicago Loop, which with its glittering skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks felt otherworldly to me. My family made trips into the heart of the city only a handful of times a year, to visit the Art Institute or see a play, the four of us traveling like astronauts in the capsule of my dad’s Buick.

My father loved any excuse to drive. He was devoted to his car, a bronze-colored two-door Buick Electra 225, which he referred to with pride as “the Deuce and a Quarter.” He kept it buffed and waxed and was religious about the maintenance schedule, taking it to Sears for tire rotations and oil changes the same way my mom carted us kids to the pediatrician for checkups. We loved the Deuce and a Quarter, too. It had smooth lines and narrow taillights that made it look cool and futuristic. It was roomy enough to feel like a house. I could practically stand up inside it, running my hands over the cloth-covered ceiling. This was back when wearing a seat belt was optional, so most of the time Craig and I just flopped around in the rear, draping our bodies over the front seat when we wanted to talk to our parents. Half the time I’d pull myself up on the headrest and jut my chin forward so that my face could be next to my dad’s and we’d have the exact same view.

The car provided another form of closeness for my family, a chance to talk and travel at once. In the evenings after dinner, Craig and I would sometimes beg my dad to take us out for an aimless drive. As a treat on summer nights, we’d head to a drive-in theater southwest of our neighborhood to watch Planet of the Apes movies, parking the Buick at dusk and settling in for the show, my mother handing out a dinner of fried chicken and potato chips she’d brought from home, Craig and I eating it on our laps in the backseat, careful to wipe our hands on our napkins and not the seat.

It would be years before I fully understood what driving the car meant to my father. As a kid, I could only sense it, the liberation he felt behind the wheel, the pleasure he took in having a smooth-running engine and perfectly balanced tires humming beneath him. He’d been in his thirties when a doctor informed him that the odd weakness he’d started to feel in one leg was just the beginning of a long and probably painful slide toward immobility, that odds were that someday, due to a mysterious unsheathing of neurons in his brain and spinal cord, he’d find himself unable to walk at all. I don’t have the precise dates, but it seems that the Buick came into my father’s life at roughly the same time that multiple sclerosis did. And though he never said it, the car had to provide some sort of sideways relief.

The diagnosis was not something he or my mother dwelled upon. We were decades, still, from a time when a simple Google search would bring up a head-spinning array of charts, statistics, and medical explainers that either gave or took away hope. I doubt he would have wanted to see them anyway. Although my father was raised in the church, he wouldn’t have prayed for God to spare him. He wouldn’t have looked for alternative treatments or a guru or some faulty gene to blame. In my family, we have a long-standing habit of blocking out bad news, of trying to forget about it almost the moment it arrives. Nobody knew how long my father had been feeling poorly before he first took himself to the doctor, but my guess is it had already been months if not years. He didn’t like medical appointments. He wasn’t interested in complaining. He was the sort of person who accepted what came and just kept moving forward.

I do know that on the day of my big piano recital, he was already walking with a slight limp, his left foot unable to catch up to his right. All my memories of my father include some manifestation of his disability, even if none of us were quite willing to call it that yet. What I knew at the time was that my dad moved a bit more slowly than other dads. I sometimes saw him pausing before walking up a flight of stairs, as if needing to think through the maneuver before actually attempting it. When we went shopping at the mall, he’d park himself on a bench, content to watch the bags or sneak in a nap while the rest of the family roamed freely.

Riding downtown for the piano recital, I sat in the backseat of the Buick wearing a nice dress and patent leather shoes, my hair in pigtails, experiencing the first cold sweat of my life. I was anxious about performing, even though back at home in Robbie’s apartment I’d practiced my song practically to death. Craig, too, was in a suit and prepared to play his own song. But the prospect of it wasn’t bothering him. He was sound asleep, in fact, knocked out cold in the backseat, his mouth agape, his expression blissful and unworried. This was Craig. I’d spend a lifetime admiring him for his ease. He was playing by then in a Biddy Basketball league that had games every weekend and apparently had already tamed his nerves around performing.

My father would often pick a lot as close to our destination as possible, shelling out more money for parking to minimize how far he’d have to walk on his unsteady legs. That day, we found Roosevelt University with no trouble and made our way up to what seemed like an enormous, echoing hall where the recital would take place. I felt tiny inside it. The room had elegant floor-to-ceiling windows through which you could see the wide lawns of Grant Park and, beyond that, the white-capped swells of Lake Michigan. There were steel-gray chairs arranged in orderly rows, slowly filling with nervous kids and expectant parents. And at the front, on a raised stage, were the first two baby grand pianos I’d ever laid eyes on, their giant hardwood tops propped open like black bird wings. Robbie was there too, bustling about in a floral-print dress like the belle of the ball, albeit a matronly belle, making sure all her students had arrived with sheet music in hand. She shushed the room to silence when it was time for the show to begin.

I don’t recall who played in what order that day. I only know that when it was my turn, I got up from my seat and walked with my very best posture to the front of the room, mounting the stairs and finding my seat at one of the gleaming baby grands. The truth is I was ready. As much as I found Robbie to be snippy and inflexible, I’d also internalized her devotion to rigor. I knew my song so well I hardly had to think about it. I just had to start moving my hands.

And yet there was a problem, one I discovered in the split second it took to lift my little fingers to the keys. I was sitting at a perfect piano, it turned out, with its surfaces carefully dusted, its internal wires precisely tuned, its eighty-eight keys laid out in a flawless ribbon of black and white. The issue was that I wasn’t used to flawless. In fact, I’d never once in my life encountered it. My experience of the piano came entirely from Robbie’s squat little music room with its scraggly potted plant and view of our modest backyard. The only instrument I’d ever played was her less-than-perfect upright, with its honky-tonk patchwork of yellowed keys and its conveniently chipped middle C. To me, that’s what a piano was, the same way my neighborhood was my neighborhood, my dad was my dad, my life was my life. It was all I knew.

Now, suddenly, I was aware of people watching me from their chairs as I stared hard at the high gloss of the piano keys, finding nothing there but sameness. I had no clue where to place my hands. With a tight throat and chugging heart, I looked out to the audience, trying not to telegraph my panic, searching for the safe harbor of my mother’s face. Instead, I spotted a figure rising from the front row and slowly levitating in my direction. It was Robbie.

We had brawled plenty by then, to the point where I viewed her a little bit like an enemy. But here in my moment of comeuppance, she arrived at my shoulder almost like an angel. Maybe she understood my shock. Maybe she knew that the disparities of the world had just quietly shown themselves to me for the first time. It’s possible she needed simply to hurry things up. Either way, without a word, Robbie gently laid one finger on middle C so that I would know where to start. Then, turning back with the smallest smile of encouragement, she left me to play my song.

Two

I started kindergarten at Bryn Mayer Elementary School in the fall of 1969, showing up with the twin advantages of knowing in advance how to read basic words and having a well-liked second-grade brother ahead of me. The school, a four-story brick building with a yard in front, sat just a couple of blocks from our house on Euclid. Getting there involved a two-minute walk or, if you did it like Craig, a one-minute run.

I liked school right away. I liked my teacher, a diminutive white lady named Mrs. Burroughs, who seemed ancient to me but was probably in her fifties. Her classroom had big sunny windows, a collection of baby dolls to play with, and a giant cardboard playhouse in the back. I made friends in my class, drawn to the kids who, like me, seemed eager to be there. I was confident in my ability to read. At home, I’d plowed through the Dick and Jane books, courtesy of my mom’s library card, and thus was thrilled to hear that our first job as kindergartners would be learning to read new sets of words by sight. We were assigned a list of colors to study, not the hues, but the words themselves, “red,” “blue,” “green,” “black,” “orange,” “purple,” “white.” In class, Mrs. Burroughs quizzed us one student at a time, holding up a series of large manila cards and asking us to read whatever word was printed in black letters on the front. I watched one day as the girls and boys I was just getting to know stood up and worked through the color cards, succeeding and failing in varying degrees, and were told to sit back down at whatever point they got stumped. It was meant to be something of a game, I think, the way a spelling bee is a game, but you could see a subtle sorting going on and a knowing slump of humiliation in the kids who didn’t make it past “red.” This, of course, was 1969, in a public school on the South Side of Chicago. Nobody was talking about self-esteem or growth mindsets. If you’d had a head start at home, you were rewarded for it at school, deemed “bright” or “gifted,” which in turn only compounded your confidence. The advantages aggregated quickly. The two smartest kids in my kindergarten class were Teddy, a Korean American boy, and Chiaka, an African American girl, who both would remain at the top of the class for years to come.

I was driven to keep up with them. When it came my turn to read the words off the teacher’s manila cards, I stood up and gave it everything I had, rattling off “red,” “green,” and “blue” without effort. “Purple” took a second, though, and “orange” was hard. But it wasn’t until the letters W-H-I-T-E came up that I froze altogether, my throat instantly dry, my mouth awkward and unable to shape the sound as my brain glitched madly, trying to dig up a color that resembled “wuh-haaa.” It was a straight-up choke. I felt a weird airiness in my knees, as if they might buckle. But before they did, Mrs. Burroughs instructed me to sit back down. And that’s exactly when the word hit me in its full and easy perfection. White. Whiiiite. The word was “white.”

Lying in bed that night with my stuffed animals packed around my head, I thought only of “white.” I spelled it in my head, forward and backward, chastising myself for my own stupidity. The embarrassment felt like a weight, like something I’d never shake off, even though I knew my parents wouldn’t care whether I’d read every card correctly. I just wanted to achieve. Or maybe I didn’t want to be dismissed as incapable of achieving. I was sure my teacher had now pegged me as someone who couldn’t read or, worse, didn’t try. I obsessed over the dime-sized gold-foil stars that Mrs. Burroughs had given to Teddy and Chiaka that day to wear on their chests as an emblem of their accomplishment, or maybe a sign that they were marked for greatness when the rest of us weren’t. The two of them, after all, had read every last color card without a hitch.

The next morning in class, I asked for a do-over.

When Mrs. Burroughs said no, cheerily adding that we kindergartners had other things to get to, I demanded it.

Pity the kids who then had to watch me face the color cards a second time, going slower now, pausing deliberately to breathe after I’d pronounced each word, refusing to let my nerves short-circuit my brain. And it worked, through “black,” “orange,” “purple,” and especially “white.” I was practically shouting the word “white” before I’d even seen the letters on the card. I like to imagine now that Mrs. Burroughs was impressed with this little black girl who’d found the courage to advocate for herself. I didn’t know whether Teddy and Chiaka had even noticed. I was quick to claim my trophy, though, heading home that afternoon with my head up and one of those gold-foil stars stuck on my shirt.

At home, I lived in a world of high drama and intrigue, immersing myself in an ever-evolving soap opera of dolls. There were births, feuds, and betrayals. There was hope, hatred, and sometimes sex. My preferred way to pass the time between school and dinner was to park myself in the common area outside my room and Craig’s and spread my Barbies across the floor, Spinning out scenarios that felt as real to me as life itself, sometimes inserting Craig’s GI. Joe action figures into the plotlines. I kept my dolls’ outfits in a child-sized vinyl suitcase covered in a floral print. I assigned every Barbie and every G.I. Joe a personality. I also recruited into service the worn-out alphabet blocks my mother had used years earlier to teach us our letters. They, too, were given names and inner lives.

I rarely chose to join the neighborhood kids who played outside after school, nor did I invite school friends home with me, in part because I was a fastidious kid and didn’t want anyone meddling with my dolls. I’d been to other girls’ houses and seen the horror-show scenarios. Barbies whose hair had been hacked off or whose faces had been crosshatched with Magic Marker. And one thing I was learning at school was that kid dynamics could be messy. Whatever sweet scenes you might witness on a playground, beneath them lay a tyranny of shifting hierarchies and alliances. There were queen bees, bullies, and followers. I wasn’t shy, but I also wasn’t sure I needed any of that messiness in my life outside school. Instead, I sank my energy into being the sole animating force in my little common-area universe. If Craig showed up and had the audacity to move a single block, I’d start shrieking. I was also not above hitting him when necessary, usually a direct fist blow to the middle of his back. The point was that the dolls and blocks needed me to give them life, and I dutifully gave it to them, imposing one personal crisis after another. Like any good deity, I was there to see them suffer and grow.

Meanwhile, from my bedroom window, I could observe most of the real-world happenings on our block of Euclid Avenue. In the late afternoons, I’d see Mr. Thompson, the tall African American man who owned the three-unit building across the street, loading his big bass guitar into the back of his Cadillac, setting off for a gig in one jazz club or another. I’d watch the Mendozas, the Mexican family next door, arriving home in their pickup loaded with ladders after a long day of painting houses, greeted at the fence by their yapping dogs.

Our neighborhood was middle-class and racially mixed. Kids found one another based not on the color of their skin but on who was outside and ready to play. My friends included a girl named Rachel, whose mother was white and had a British accent; Susie, a curly-haired redhead; and the Mendozas’ granddaughter whenever she was visiting. We were a motley mix of last names, Kansopant, Abuasef, Yacker, Robinson, and were too young to register that things around us were changing fast. In 1950, fifteen years before my parents moved to South Shore, the neighborhood had been 96 percent white. By the time I’d leave for college in 1981, it would be about 96 percent black.

Craig and I were raised squarely in the crosscurrents of that flux. The blocks surrounding us were home to Jewish families, immigrant families, white and black families, folks who were thriving and some who were not. In general, people tended to their lawns and kept track of their children. They wrote checks to Robbie so their kids could learn piano. My family, in fact, was probably on the poor side of the neighborhood spectrum. We were among the few people we knew who didn’t own their own home, stuffed as we were into Robbie and Terry’s second floor. South Shore hadn’t yet tilted the way other neighborhoods had, with the better-off people long departed for the suburbs, the neighborhood businesses closing one by one, the blight setting in, but the tilt was clearly beginning.

We were starting to feel the effects of this transition, especially at school. My second grade classroom turned out to be a mayhem of unruly kids and flying erasers, which had not been the norm in either my experience or Craig’s. All this seemed due to a teacher who couldn’t figure out how to assert control, who didn’t seem to like children, even. Beyond that, it wasn’t clear that anyone was particularly bothered by the fact that the teacher was incompetent. The students used it as an excuse to act out, and she seemed to think only the worst of us. In her eyes, we were a class of “bad kids,” though we had no guidance and no structure and had been sentenced to a grim, underlit room in the basement of the school. Every hour there felt hellish and long. I sat miserably at my desk, in my puke, green chair puke, green being the official color of the 1970s, learning nothing and waiting for the midday lunch break, when I could go home and have a sandwich and complain to my mom.

When I got angry as a kid, I almost always funneled it through my mother. As I fumed about my new teacher, she listened placidly, saying things like “Oh, dear” and “Oh, really?” She never indulged my outrage, but she took my frustration seriously. If my mother were somebody different, she might have done the polite thing and said, “Just go and do your best.” But she knew the difference. She knew the difference between whining and actual distress. Without telling me, she went over to the school and began a weeks-long process of behind-the-scenes lobbying, which led to me and a couple of other high-performing kids getting quietly pulled out of class, given a battery of tests, and about a week later reinstalled permanently into a bright and orderly third-grade class upstairs, governed by a smiling, no-nonsense teacher who knew her stuff.

from

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

get it at Amazon.com

WHEN I FELL FROM THE SKY. The True Story of One Woman’s Miraculous Survival – Juliane Koepcke.

People are screaming in panic, shrill cries for help; the roar of the plummeting turbines, which I will hear again and again in my dreams, engulfs me.

And there, over everything, clear as glass, I hear my mother saying quite calmly: “Now it’s all over.”

From one moment to the next, the people’s screams go silent. It’s as if the roar of the turbines has been erased.

My mother is no longer at my side and I’m no longer in the airplane. I’m still strapped into my seat, but I’m alone.

At an altitude of about ten thousand feet, I’m alone.

And I’m falling, slicing through the sky about 2 miles above the earth.

The crash, of which I was the sole survivor, shaped the rest of my life, pointed it in a new direction and led me to where I am today.

Nature is always the same, whether we’re there or not, it doesn’t matter to it. But we, this too, I experienced firsthand during those eleven days in the rain forest, cannot survive without it.

“She did not leave the airplane, the airplane left her.” Werner Herzog

“He was the first person I saw, and it was as if an angel were coming toward me.” Juliane Koepcke, describing her rescuer

Christmas Eve, 1971

The flight from Lima to Pucallpa takes only about an hour. On December 24, 1971, the first thirty minutes are perfectly normal. Our fellow passengers are in high spirits. Everyone is excited to celebrate Christmas at home. The luggage bins are stuffed with presents, and everyone is settled in for the flight. After about twenty minutes, we’re served a small breakfast, which includes a sandwich and drink. Ten minutes later the stewardesses are cleaning up our areas.

Then, all of a sudden, we hit a storm front.

And this time it’s completely different from anything I’ve experienced before. The pilot does not avoid the thunderstorm, but flies straight into the cauldron of hell. It turns to night around us, in broad daylight. Lightning is flashing feverishly from all directions.

At the same time an invisible power begins to shake our airplane as if it were a plaything. The people cry out as objects fall on their heads from the violently opened overhead compartments. Bags, flowers, packages, toys, wrapped gifts, jackets and clothing rain down hard on us; sandwich trays and bags soar through the air; half-finished drinks splatter on our heads and shoulders. Everyone is frightened, and I hear screams and cries.

A few weeks before that flight on Christmas Eve, 1971, I had gone on an eight-day trip with my whole class. We flew to Arequipa in the southern part of the country, and in a letter to my grandmother I wrote: The flight was glorious! At the end of the trip, the return flight to Lima was extremely turbulent, and many of my classmates felt physically ill. But I wasn’t nervous at all. I even enjoyed the rocking. I was so naive that it didn’t even occur to me that something could happen.

My mother, however, doesn’t like to fly. She often says: “It’s totally unnatural that such a bird made of metal takes off into the air.” As an ornithologist, she sees this from a different standpoint than other people do. On one of her flights to the United States, she already had an experience that gave her a huge scare, when an engine malfunctioned. Even though nothing happened and the plane was still able to land safely with one engine, she was sweating.

“Hopefully, this goes all right,” my mother says.

I can feel her nervousness, while I myself am still pretty calm.

Then I suddenly see a blinding white light over the right wing. I don’t know whether it’s a flash of lightning striking there or an explosion. I lose all sense of time. I can’t tell whether all this lasts minutes or only a fraction of a second: I’m blinded by that blazing light.

With a jolt, the tip of the airplane falls steeply downward. Even though I’m in a window seat all the way in the back, I can see the whole aisle to the cockpit, which is below me. The physical laws have been suspended; it’s like an earthquake. No, it is worse. Because now we’re racing downward. We’re falling. People are screaming in panic, shrill cries for help; the roar of the plummeting turbines, which I will hear again and again in my dreams, engulfs me.

And there, over everything, clear as glass, I hear my mother saying quite calmly: “Now it’s all over.”

Today I know that at that moment she already grasped what would happen.

I, on the other hand, grasp nothing at all.

An intense astonishment comes over me, because now my ears, my head, no, I myself am completely filled with the deep roar of the plane, while its nose slants almost vertically downward. We’re plummeting. But this nosedive, too, I experience as if it lasted no longer than the blink of an eye. From one moment to the next, the people’s screams go silent. It’s as if the roar of the turbines has been erased.

My mother is no longer at my side and I’m no longer in the airplane. I’m still strapped into my seat, but I’m alone.

At an altitude of about ten thousand feet, I’m alone.

And I’m falling, slicing through the sky about 2 miles above the earth.

Many people wonder how I still manage to get on airplanes, for I am one of the few who have survived a plane crash from a great height. It was a catastrophe that occurred nearly ten thousand feet over the Peruvian rain forest. But that’s not all: After the crash I struggled for eleven days on my own through the jungle. At that time, when I fell from the sky, I was just seventeen years old.

Today I’m fifty-six. A good age for looking back. A good time to confront old, unhealed wounds and to share with other people my memories, which are just as fresh and alive after all these years. The crash, of which I was the sole survivor, shaped the rest of my life, pointed it in a new direction and led me to where I am today. Back then, newspapers all over the world were full of my story. Among them there were many half-truths and reports that had little to do with the actual events. Because of them, people still approach me to this day and ask about the crash. Everyone in Germany and Peru seems to know my story, and yet scarcely anyone has a genuine idea of what really happened back then.

Of course, it’s not so simple to understand that after eleven days fighting to survive in the “green hell of the jungle,” I still love the rain forest. The truth is: For me it was never a “green hell.” When I plunged to earth from such a great height, the forest saved my life. Without the leaves of trees and bushes cushioning my fall, I never could have survived the impact on the ground. When I was unconscious, it screened me from the tropical sun. And later it helped me find my way out of the untouched wilderness back to civilization.

Had I been a pure city child, I never would have made it back to life. It was my good fortune that I had already spent a few years of my young life in the “jungle.” (Nowadays the term “rain forest” is preferred to “jungle,” but we used the words interchangeably back then.) In 1968, my parents had realized their dream and founded a biological research station in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest. At the time, I was fourteen years old and less than thrilled about leaving behind my friends in Lima and moving with my parents, our dog and parakeet, the whole kit and caboodle, into the “middle of nowhere.” In any case that’s how I imagined it back then, even though my parents had taken me from an early age along on their expeditions.

The move to the jungle was a real adventure. On our arrival, I immediately fell in love with that life, as simple and modest as it might have been. For almost two years I lived in Panguana, as my parents had christened the research station after a native bird. In addition to being taught by them, I went to the school of the jungle. There I got to know its rules, its laws and its inhabitants. I became acquainted with the plant life, explored the world of animals.

Not for nothing was I the daughter of two well-known zoologists: My mother, Maria Koepcke, was Peru’s leading ornithologist, and my father, Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke, was the author of an important comprehensive work on the life-forms of the animal and plant world.

In Panguana, the jungle became my home, and there I learned which dangers loom in it and which don’t. I was familiar with the rules of conduct with which a person can survive in this extreme environment. As a child, my senses were already sharpened for the incredible wonders contained by this habitat, which leads in biodiversity worldwide. Yes, I was already learning to love the jungle back then.

Those eleven days far from settlements in the middle of the tropical rain forest, eleven days during which I didn’t hear a human voice and didn’t know where I was, those extraordinary days have made my attachment still deeper. At that time I formed a bond with the jungle, which decisively influenced my later life, and it continues to do so today. I learned early that we’re afraid only of things we don’t know. Human beings have a tendency to destroy everything that frightens them, even if they cannot begin to conceive of its worth. During my lonely journey back to civilization, I was often afraid, but never of the jungle. It wasn’t its fault that I landed in it. Nature is always the same, whether we’re there or not, it doesn’t matter to it. But we, this, too, I experienced firsthand during those eleven days, cannot survive without it.

All this is reason enough for me to devote my life to the preservation of this unique ecosystem. With Panguana, my parents left me an inheritance that I have accepted with all my heart. And today I’m taking their work there into a critical new phase: Panguana, larger than ever, is to be declared a nature reserve. Not only is this the fulfillment of my father’s dream, which he spent decades fighting for, but it is also a valuable contribution to the preservation of the Amazon Rain Forest. Not least of all, this can help prevent global climate catastrophe.

The rain forest is not only full of wonders, most of which we don’t even know yet, its preservation as the green lung of the earth is also crucial for the continued existence of an extremely young species on this planet: human beings.

The year 2011 is the fortieth anniversary of the 1971 airplane disaster. Over all these years, much has been written about my “accident,” as I call the crash. Countless newspaper pages have been filled with what people take to be “Juliane’s story.” From time to time there were good articles among them, but unfortunately also many that had little do with the truth. There was a time when the media attention almost overwhelmed me. To protect myself, I remained silent for years, rejected every interview and withdrew completely. But now the time has come to break my silence and tell how it really was. That’s why I am now sitting at the Munich Airport on packed suitcases to begin a journey that will be important to me for two reasons: to achieve the goal of establishing Panguana as a nature reserve, and to face my past. Past, present and future are thus meaningfully intertwined. What happened to me back then and the question of why I, of all people, was the only survivor spared in the LANSA disaster, now all this finally takes on a deeper meaning.

And then I’m sitting on the airplane. Yes, people wonder with amazement how I manage to get on airplanes time and again. I manage it with willpower and discipline. I manage it because I have to if I want to return to the rain forest. But it’s hard.

The airplane starts moving; we take off; we rise; we plunge deep into the dense cloud cover in the sky over Munich. I look out the window, and suddenly I see . . . those impenetrable black clouds and flashes of lightning. We’ve hit a heavy thunderstorm, and the pilot flies straight into the seething cauldron. The airplane turns into the plaything of the hurricane. Baggage and gifts wrapped for Christmas, flowers and toys fall down on us from overhead compartments. The airplane plunges directly into deep air pockets and then rises rapidly again. The people scream with fear. And suddenly there’s that blinding flash over the right wing of the airplane…

I take a deep breath. Above me the sign turns off; I can unfasten my seat belt. We’re just beyond Munich, and our airplane has reached its cruising altitude. After a layover in Madrid, my husband, Erich Diller, and I will board the plane to Lima. Then there are still twelve hours ahead of me, twelve hours of extreme tension about six miles above the ground. Over Portugal, we will leave the mainland behind and cross the Atlantic.

If I want to return to the country where I was born, I have no other choice. Even in the age of the low-budget flight, a trip around half the globe is no picnic. I’m entering not only another continent, but also another time zone, climate and season. When it’s spring at home, autumn is beginning in Peru. And even within Peru, I experience two different climate zones: the temperate one in Lima and the tropical one in the rain forest. But above all, each trip for me is a journey into the past. For in Peru, I came into the world; in Peru, I grew up; and in Peru, the event occurred that would change my life from the ground up, I was in a plane crash, survived by some miracle for several days completely on my own in the middle of the jungle and found my way back to other people. Back then, my life was given to me a second time. It was like a second birth. Only this time my mother lost her life.

My mother often told me how happy she was when she was pregnant with me. My parents conducted their intensive research together and loved their work more than anything. They had met as doctoral students in Kiel, and because it was difficult for passionate biologists to find a suitable position in postwar Germany, my father decided to immigrate to a country with a high, as yet unexplored, biodiversity. His then-fiancée, Maria von Mikulicz-Radecki, was excited about the plan and followed him after receiving her doctorate, which was unheard of at that time for an unmarried young woman. My grandfather was not at all pleased that my mother went on the long journey all by herself. But once she got something into her head, she could no longer be dissuaded from it. (Incidentally, my husband claims that I inherited that from her.)

In the cathedral of the Miraflores District in Lima, they were married soon after their arrival in the New World. My mother was disappointed that as a Catholic she was wed to my father, who was a Protestant, not on the main altar but in a small adjacent chapel. At that time interdenominational marriages were in the minority, and the Catholic priest tried hard to influence my mother to lead my father to the “true faith.” This insistence annoyed my mother so much that she stopped attending the Catholic service and also decided after my birth to baptize me as a Protestant.

At the time my parents got married, my mother still didn’t speak any Spanish, so she couldn’t follow the wedding ceremony. At one point it became strangely silent in the church, and then the priest said: “Senora, you have to say ‘Si’ now.”

And “si”, “yes”, both of them said from the bottom of their hearts. Not only to each other, but also to the kind of life they wanted to lead together. From their small apartment they soon moved into a larger house, which belonged to friends, and here I was born. Later they founded a few blocks away the “Humboldt House,” well known at the time in researcher circles, in which they sublet rooms to scientists passing through from all over the world. They divided their private area of the house simply with curtains. The Humboldt House in Miraflores would go down in history as the meeting place and base station of notable scientists.

Even though both of them were devoted to their work with heart and soul, I was absolutely a wanted child. My father was hoping for a girl, and when I entered the world in 1954, on a Sunday at seven o’clock in the evening, in the Clinica Delgado in the Miraflores District of Lima, his wish came true. I was born prematurely in the eighth month of my mother’s pregnancy and first had to go into the incubator. Perhaps it was a good omen that my parents decided to give me the name Juliane. It means “the cheerful one”, I find that the name suits me well.

At that time my father’s mother and his sister, Cordula, were also living with us in Peru. My grandmother wanted to spend a few years in the country to which two of her sons had immigrated. For after my father had settled down here, Joachim, his younger brother, decided in 1951 to build a life here too. He worked as an administrator on various large haciendas in the north of the country. One of them was even as large as Belgium. My parents visited Uncle Joachim several times there in Taulis, which was an exceptionally interesting area for them as zoologists. Because the Andes are relatively low there, at about 6,500 feet, an unusual flora and fauna exchange takes place between the east and west side of the mountain range, and my parents discovered some new animal species there. But completely unexpectedly, while my grandmother and aunt were making their departure plans in Germany, my uncle Joachim had a deadly accident in Taulis. Having just been perfectly healthy, he died within less than two hours from spasms. To this day it remains unresolved whether he fell victim to tetanus or might have been poisoned by opium farmers he was onto.

But his mother and sister had already severed all ties at home and now decided to come, anyway. So I had the good fortune of having not only my father and mother, but also my grandmother and aunt around during the first years of my childhood. The two of them remained in Peru for six years. My aunt worked for a time as the editor in chief of the Peruvian Post, a German newspaper in Lima. Then they returned to their native country, my aunt because of better professional opportunities and my grandmother for health reasons, and probably also because she was homesick for Germany.

I grew up with both languages, Spanish and German. The latter was spoken at home, and it was really important to my parents that I learned their mother tongue perfectly. By no means was that a given. Some of my schoolmates of German descent had only an imperfect mastery of the language of their ancestors. I spoke Spanish with my Peruvian friends, with our housemaid and later also in school. My parents had first really learned the language in Peru, and even though they were proficient in it, a few mistakes would always creep in. But Peruvians are polite people; when it was necessary to point out an error, they always did so as gently as possible.

One day, when I was already almost grown up, I realized that my father used the formal mode of address with me in Spanish. I told him: “You can’t do that. I’m your daughter!” But he became really embarrassed and confessed to me that he had never properly learned the informal mode. He was a very formal person, had few close friends and, thus, used the polite form of address without exception.

In Lima, I attended the German-Peruvian Alexander von Humboldt School. Instruction was mostly in German, but the military regime at the time placed value on subjects like history and regional geography being taught in Spanish. I remember my school days as very pleasant, even though my Peruvian schoolmates came from much better circles. No wonder, because you had to pay tuition, which the poorer families couldn’t afford. When you finished school, there was a mandatory trip, which in Peru was called the “Viaje de Promocién.” I took part in it, but there was to be no “Abitur,” as the German university entrance exam is called, for me. A German delegation would have come specifically to test us, but a flight over the Andes would change everything.

When I came home from school, I was always surrounded by animals. As an ornithologist, my mother was constantly bringing birds home that had been injured or shot and that we nursed back to health. For a while tinamous were her main object of study. This family of birds outwardly displays similarities with partridges, but is not otherwise related to them. They occur only in South and Central America. It is funny to compare their behavior with South American machismo. For among tinamous the females are in charge: They have several males at once, who have a lot of work to do. They build the nest, have to brood the eggs and raise the young, while the female defends the turf. That caused problems with the breeding: If a male wanted to leave the nest to eat something, the female would promptly chase it back onto the eggs. Incidentally, they were brown as chocolate and shiny as porcelain.

Sometimes we also raised hatched chicks. We fed them carefully with the dropper. They liked a mixture of hard-boiled egg, ground meat and vitamin formula best. My mother had a real knack for this: Not once did a chick she was raising die. I was responsible for naming the creatures. I came up with the wildest things: A large lizard I christened Krokodeckchen (a combination of the German “Krokodil” and “Eidechschen,” the diminutive for a lizard; in English, it might have been something like Crocolizzy), and my three tinamous I named Piups (an imitation of its call when it was frightened), Polsterchen (Little Pillow, because of its soft plumage, which I loved to pet and which it often ruffled) and Kastanienauglein (Little Chestnut Eye, because of its beautiful chestnut brown eyes).

These animals originally come from a magical landscape. It’s called Lomas de Lachay and is a fog desert area on the Pacific Coast. An extremely dry desert, the Atacama, runs through parts of Peru. Because out on the ocean, the cold Humboldt Current flows by, a dense fog cover forms, known as “garda,” which provides astonishingly lush vegetation at particular points where it meets the Andean slopes. In the middle of the desert, you thus encounter in those places vibrantly colorful islands of plants. My parents took me there with them a few times. This blooming oasis in the middle of the brown desert monotony appeared to me on each visit as a true wonder. And that’s where our tinamous came from.

A multicolored parrot named Tobias also lived with us, whom I called “Bio” even before I learned to speak. Bio had already been in the house before my birth and at first couldn’t stand me, because he was jealous. When as a small child I approached him, shouting “Bio, Bio,” full of excitement, he would peck at me, until he finally had to accept me. Tobias was a very smart parrot, who didn’t like it at all when his cage was soiled. When he had to go, he let out a certain sound. That was a sign for us to take Tobias out of the cage and bring him to the toilet. Yes, to the regular toilet for people! We held him above the bowl and, plop, he did his business. When Tobias one day suffered a heart attack, my mother cured him with Italian Cinzano. That revived his circulation, and is it any surprise: From that day on, he was a fan of this aperitif. Whenever guests came, Tobias waddled over and wanted to have his sip too.

In a letter to a friend in Germany, my mother wrote of my great enthusiasm for the jungle when she took me with her for the first time to the Rio Pachitea, which would later become so important for my life. At the time I was only five years old:

“She copes amazingly well with any situation, such as sleeping in a tent or in a sleeping bag on a rubber mattress, whether on the beach or on a boat. For her, these are all interesting things. And you have to imagine the atmosphere on the Rio Pachitea: the dim morning or evening with dense fog, the calls of the howler monkeys, the river silvery green, close to the boat the high wall of the dark jungle, from which the many-voiced concert of the crickets and cicadas sounds. You feel as if you’re really in primordial nature. Juliane was probably most excited about the blooming trees and the diversity and beautiful shapes of the leaves. She has already collected a herbarium . . .”

When I was nine years old, the Belgian animal catcher Charles Cordier visited us with his wife and his menagerie. Cordier was commissioned by famous zoological gardens all over the world to trap specimens of particular animal species. He had an extremely intelligent gray parrot named Kazuco, who could speak more outstandingly than I ever witnessed a parrot speak before or since. There was also the boxer Bocki and the owl Skadi, who was allowed to fly around the bathroom at night. Monsieur Cordier released mice for the owl to catch. Sometimes it also attacked Daddy’s shaving brush, because it looked so similar. Kazuco, the gray parrot from the Congo, greeted you in the morning with “Good morning” and in the evening with “Good evening.” I was extremely fascinated by the clever little guy, who could also say “Bocki, sit!” And the boxer would actually sit down. Kazuco picked up sounds and sentences incredibly quickly. During the days in the Humboldt House, he learned to say: “Lima has two million people.” I loved to stroke his magnificent gray-shaded plumage. Once he bit my finger hard, to this day I have a scar. Unfortunately, our Tobias died that same year of pneumonia.

I myself became seriously ill the next year, during summer vacation, of all times! I got scarlet fever, which really alarmed my parents, for my father’s youngest sister had died of that illness at the same age. I was always so small, thin and frail, and so the whole family heaved a sigh of relief when after several weeks I was back on my feet and could take care of my animals again.

. . .

from

When I fell from the sky. The True Story of One Woman’s Miraculous Survival

by Juliane Koepcke

get it at Amazon.com

New Zealand’s moose hunt: A century-long quest for a forest’s final secret – Charlie Mitchell.

The idea that moose roam the most remote corner of New Zealand has long been an urban legend. The New Zealand moose is no ‘Bigfoot’. It’s far more plausible than one might think.

It was listed on the map as “unexplored territory”. A dim cove in the mist, separating the fiord from the colossal forests that cloak the steep valleys of Fiordland.

The famous government steamship, the Hinemoa, had rescued shipwreck survivors in the sub-Antarctic and dropped supplies to the lonely lighthouses dotting the southern coast. But when it crept into the gorge at Doubtful Sound, past the waterfalls and the caves and the steep, rolling ridges, it had entered truly inhospitable territory.

Eight men stepped off the ship at Supper Cove, a small arc of sand at the end of the sound. More than a century earlier, Captain James Cook had anchored his ship, the Resolution, nearer the beginning of the fiord for repairs. Cook was struck by the feeling of utter isolation: ”In this bay we are all strangers,” he wrote in his journal.

The Hinemoa’s men hauled 10 large, wooden crates from the steamship, dragged them through the shallows and onto the sand. There were six females and four males, all less than a year old, about a metre and a half in height at the shoulder. The animals stepped carefully into the dim light.

They were here because the governor of Saskatchewan, Canada had received a request from New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward, for assistance in complementing a grand vision: New Zealand as the world’s largest game reserve, collecting the Earth’s most prized, living trophies in one place.

The animals were duly caught in the frozen wilds and raised in captivity. They were fed cow’s milk from a bottle. They were docile and thought capable of surviving the treacherous boat trip across the world, through the tropics and into the cold, perpetual rain.

It was the beginning of autumn in 1910 and the air was thick with sandflies. When the animals stepped onto the beach, some were scared and returned to their crates, but the men upended the boxes and they toppled out. One animal, in a panic, attacked another, breaking its leg.

The men returned to the Hinemoa. They sailed back down the fiord, away from the darkness and the cargo they’d left behind.

And so the moose, young, small and afraid, were alone. They dissolved into the mist and the Fiordland bush, strangers in a strange land.

THE PAUSE OF AN ERA

One of the last verified photographs of a Fiordland moose, taken in 1952.

There are millions of trees in Fiordland, and Ken Tustin, a biologist, had them all to choose from when setting up his surveillance network.

He’s had cameras in the bush for more than 20 years, hoping they will capture a glimpse of the ghosts of the forest. As the years progressed, so did his cameras his latest ones automatically triggered upon sensing movement, taking photographs of deer, possums, and the occasional tramper. The cameras took many thousands of photos and videos, weathering some of the world’s harshest conditions, where it rains 20 days a month and tremendous storms emerge from the quiet, rattling the trees and turning paths into creeks and creeks into torrents.

He caught one on video, once. In 1995, the deer like animal wandered into frame; The camera was in time-lapse mode so the image was blurry, but the animal’s shape was distinctive. It was nearly black and had a curved back, a thick neck and a beaked nose, swaying through the bush with the lumbering gait of a large animal, unlike a deer but suspiciously like a moose.

It was too blurry to convince everyone, though. The camera was a “monstrous arrangement,” Tustin says, powered by car batteries and primitive by modern standards. It took a photo every four seconds and would only record video when the animal came close, which happened just as it moved out of frame. Since then, the cameras had caught nothing.

Having failed to capture his target, Tustin decided to retire his cameras late last year.

“That’s it. The end of an era”, he told the local newspaper.

“Well, the pause of an era.”

More than a century after the animals disappeared into the forest, the strange tale of the Southern Hemisphere’s only moose population has entered the realm of New Zealand folklore. The moose have encouraged intrepid explorers seeking sizeable bounties and inspired tall tales told in southern pubs.

There have been blurry photos and stray hairs, suspicious droppings and sinister hoaxes. The gossip circle of the West Coast bush still spits out the occasional story of huge antlers glimpsed in the dark, or a strange, cloying smell disrupting the thick smell of deer.

What there hasn’t been is clear, undeniable proof that the descendants of those 10 moose still roam the forest somewhere in the mist, even as the body of circumstantial evidence has continued to grow.

“We’re just talking about a remnant population, hanging on by the skin of their teeth”, Tustin says in an interview.

“The scale of Fiordland is just monstrous. They’re not living in the open, and there’s very few people who frequent the places under the canopy.”

On its face, it sounds completely implausible. A fully grown Canadian bull moose would be 6ft tall at the shoulder and weigh 350kg, roughly the size of a large horse, with giant, sprawling antlers. How could one creature that size, let alone dozens of them, remain unseen for more than 60 years?

But moose are famously elusive, and the Fiordland bush is a uniquely superb landscape for disappearing. Legendary hunting guide Jim Muir, who hunted Fiordland moose in the 1920s and 1930s, once said he could tell a moose was just metres away by its tracks, but he could not see it through the trees. They are silent and solitary and move like shadows.

“They’ve got all the senses that make humans seem rather clumsy,” Tustin says.

“I can think of half a dozen times where I’ve been within a step or two. You can smell them and you’re surrounded by sign… You feel the hair stand on the back of your neck. Out of all those years, only half a dozen times.”

He began his search for moose in the early 1970s at the behest of his then employer, the Forestry Service. During their 70 days in the bush, his team found a cast antler, what was then the most convincing evidence of a live moose in decades.

At the time, he believed the moose would soon become extinct, they would struggle to compete with deer for food. But shortly afterwards, helicopter deer hunting became popular and mass deer culls greatly reduced the population. It was a respite for the moose.

In the time since, Tustin has spent the equivalent of several years in the bush, much of it joined by his wife, Marg, searching for moose. Although he took his cameras down, he is not capitulating: He had been trying to track one particular moose since 2002, which he believed roamed through Herrick Creek every July up to about 2011. It stopped leaving physical signs, leading Tustin to assume it was dead. The cameras were pointless.

He still ventures into the forest for weeks at a time, despite his advancing age, hoping to map the route of another moose.

“I’m 72 now, which is a pain in the arse, being this old,” he says.

“It’s demanding, and I like it like that. If it was soft and easy you wouldn’t feel you were having such an adventure. I’m still on the case. Maybe not with the same intensity as a few years ago, but we’re still out there.”

‘FOLLOW YOUR NOSE’

The sheep farmer was tramping through the forest when he smelled something unusual, a cloying, honey-like scent, clinging to the wind. An animal, but not a deer, and not any of the plants familiar to him from his previous expeditions into the bush.

Steve Jones had a tarpaulin and a week of food, but chose to walk on. The sun was sinking and the hut was some ways away. He realised later what he had sensed: The elusive moose, likely bathing in a small stream near him in the Hauroko Burn.

“There was a moose not 200 metres upwind from me, and I walked on,” he says. He had ignored his own advice: “Follow your nose”.

The Australian has made several trips to Fiordland in search of the moose. His quest began when he picked up a copy of Australian Deer magazine in the 1990s, which featured a photo of famed Hastings moose hunter Eddie Herrick carrying a bull moose’s head on his back, trudging through the creek which now bears his name, where many historical moose sightings took place.

Only three moose trophies were ever obtained in New Zealand; two were shot by Herrick, including the first bull moose killed under licence, in 1929. One of the moose was old and weak and missing one of its legs, likely as a result of gangrene, it was thought to be the original moose that had broken its leg in a panic 20 years earlier.

Jones recreated that trip, an arduous slog through the wilderness. He enjoys the enormity of the landscape, the sense of wilderness: “It is somehow deeply reassuring and invigorating to be alone with all that silence, moss and vastness,” he says in an email.

He says it wasn’t the first time he had come close. On one trip, he was crawling through a stream when “something very large and dark surged up and thundered off in a cloud of spray further up the stream, giving me just the barest glimpse of it”, he recalled.

It was not a bull, as he could not see its antlers; he followed it to a patch of sand, where he saw its large, fresh prints. The animal ventured into a swamp, where he circled it for an hour, catching occasional glimpses of its leg through bush. He had his gun but refused to take the shot and so was conquered by the coming darkness.

“It simply could not have been anything else,” he says.

“I would never shoot at something I could not see clearly, it would be dangerous and unethical. I’m glad I didn’t though as they are rare and special and it would have been just a waste.”

Jones, who has hunted deer for more than 40 years, has detailed his years long hunt for the moose on his blog. Like others who have gone searching, he says the evidence is unmistakeable: Only a moose could feed on branches three metres high, leave footprints that large.

Around this time every year, Jones yearns for Fiordland. He plans to come back next year to finally capture a moose on camera. He says he has a strategy, which he declines to reveal, but may arrange helicopter supply drops ahead of time so he can stay in the bush for some time, searching.

He’s not sure if he would make the photos public; He seeks personal, not public triumph.

“The herd might be better off if I did not publicise it, so they might just be enlarged on my wall”.

The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan.

Introduction

By Anne Fadiman.

I first saw Marina Keegan on November 10, 2010. I was hosting the novelist Mark Helprin at a master’s tea at Yale, during which he said that making it as a writer today was virtually impossible.

A student stood up. Thin. Beautiful. Long, reddish-brown hair. Long legs. Flagrantly short skirt. Nimbus of angry energy. She asked Helprin if he really meant that. There was a collective intake of breath in the room. It was what everyone else had been thinking but no one else had been brave (or brazen) enough to say.

That night, I got an e-mail from marina.keegan@ yale.edu: Hello! I don’t think you know me, but I was the student who asked the question . . . Hearing a famous writer tell me that the industry is dying and that we should probably do something else was sad. Perhaps I just expected him to be more encouraging of those hoping to stop the death of literature.

“To stop the death of literature”: Marina was being simultaneously self-mocking (if she’d said that line aloud, she would have overacted, with plenty of pregnant pauses and overenunciated consonants, so you’d know it was hyperbole) and 100 percent serious.

She applied to my class on first-person writing a few weeks later. Her application began: About three years ago, I started a list. It began in a marbled notebook but has since evolved inside the walls of my word processor. Interesting stuff. That’s what I call it. I’ll admit it’s become a bit of an addiction. I add to it in class, in the library, before bed, and on trains. It has everything from descriptions of a waiter’s hand gestures, to my cab driver’s eyes, to strange things that happen to me or a way to phrase something. I have 32 single-spaced pages of interesting stuff in my life.

In my class, which she took in the spring of her junior year, she drew on those thirty-two pages of interesting stuff to write a series of essays that her classmates, in their written critiques, festooned with awestruck adjectives: beautiful, vivid, vibrant, visual, fresh, direct, lyrical, compelling, evocative, precise, confident, honest, startling. (Three of the pieces in this book are from that class. Others are from Yale writing classes taught by John Crowley and Cathy Shufro; some are from student periodicals; and three — “Baggage Claim,” “Sclerotherapy,” and “I Kill for Money” — were written during Marina’s junior and senior years at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, in classes taught by Harry Thomas and Brian Staveley.)

Many of my students sound forty years old. They are articulate but derivative, their own voices muffled by their desire to skip over their current age and experience, which they fear trivial, and land on some version of polished adulthood without passing Go.

Marina was twenty-one and sounded twenty-one: a brainy twenty-one, a twenty-one who knew her way around the English language, a twenty-one who understood that there were few better subjects than being young and uncertain and starry-eyed and frustrated and hopeful. When she read her work aloud around our seminar table, it would make us snort with laughter, and then it would turn on a dime and break our hearts.

I always ask my students to append to their final essay a list of “Personal Pitfalls”— the aspects of their writing they wish to work on in the future. These were some of Marina’s: • Too much polysyndeton. 1 Watch it! • Don’t overdo the anaphora. 2 • Be careful of weird strange phrases and their prepositions. • Be careful of parallels. • Make your titles good! Don’t just choose them at the last minute! Avoid alliteration! • Make sure modifiers make sense. • Add more real stories when talking about general ideas. • Make sure to spell-check homophones like “it’s” and “its” by searching the document before finishing. • Don’t use too many adverbs in one sentence. • Similes must actually be capable of doing their thing. You can’t “curl up like a spoon.” • Unusual phrases work better at the end of paragraphs. • I lay an egg, I laid an egg, I have laid an egg. I lie, I lay, I have lain. • Topic indecision—just get over it! • Make sure tenses are consistent. • Don’t use two prepositions in a row. • Don’t get too attached to things. It only took you a minute to write that sentence! • THERE CAN ALWAYS BE A BETTER THING!

* * *

High on their posthumous pedestals, the dead become hard to see. Grief, deference, and the homogenizing effects of adulation blur the details, flatten the bumps, sand off the sharp corners. Marina was brilliant, kind, and idealistic; I hope I never forget that she was also fierce, edgy, and provocative. A little wild. More than a little contrarian. If you wanted a smooth ride, Marina wasn’t your vehicle.

When we met for an hour-long conference to edit her first essay together, we got through three and a half lines. She resisted my suggestions because she didn’t want to sound like me; she wanted to sound like herself.

In class, she had strong opinions about the writers we read. She hated Lucy Grealy even though most of her classmates loved her, and loved Joyce Maynard even though most of her classmates hated her. She both admired and envied other talented young writers.

When I posted exemplary essays by two students from a previous class, she wrote, “AHHHH ALICE’S ESSAY IS SO GOOD OH MY GOD . . . . ELISA’S IS SO GOOD TOO! oh my gosh. No i won’t get dampened . . .

”She frequently lost her keys and her cell phone, sometimes for days, sometimes inside her bag, an infinitely capacious, ink-stained tote (you might have expected someone as entropic as Marina to choose a bag with a zipper, but, as in all else, openness was her hallmark); she was given to procrastination and the all-nighters that inevitably followed; she was frustrated by deadlines, bureaucracies, obtuse politicians, the gap between theory and practice, her roommates’ habit of using a knife to cut bread and then dipping it in the Nutella jar, and her own tendency to forget things, all of which inspired the all-purpose e-mail-and-text expletive “GAH!”

The summer between her junior and senior years, everything went so well for Marina that she had few occasions to say GAH. She had once papered her bedroom wall with New Yorker covers; now she was interning in the New Yorker’s fiction department, combing its slush pile for hidden gems, and getting published on its book blog. One of her plays was selected for a staged reading at a major theater festival, and she wrote much of another by, as she put it, “clocking in 3 hours (no excuses) every day.”

During that summer Marina also found time to write to her friends and teachers. Having just read an essay in which I’d mentioned the excuses that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an inveterate procrastinator, had made for his tardy correspondence, she began one e-mail: I’m so sorry about the delay in writing to you! The fact of the matter is I’ve taken ill after wearing excessively thin breeches in bad weather—not to mention because of my toothache, insomnia, gout, cough, boils, inflamed eyes, swollen testicles, and raging epistolophobia. And ended it: And above all, be at peace with yourself, and a double Blessing to me, who am, my dear Professor, anxiously, Your fond Student (She explained in a postscript to a later e-mail: “Since reading those Coleridge letters I’ve become obsessed with these types of signatures. They’re just so GOOD. Like, that moment with the comma before the line break. I love that moment. COLERIDGE! Thank you.”) But she couldn’t wait to get back to college:

I’m realizing how much I love Yale. With my minutes before sleep preoccupied with The Future for the first time in a while, I’m beginning to regard Yale with a kind of premature nostalgia. I WANT TO TAKE EVERY CLASS IN THE CATALOGUE. I WANT TO SEE EVERY BUILDING. I WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH ALL MY FRIENDS.

And she did, pretty much, flying through her senior year with every pore open, collecting prizes, working as Harold Bloom’s research assistant, acting in two plays and writing a third, serving as president of the Yale College Democrats, helping to organize Occupy Yale, taking the train to New York every Thursday to intern at the Paris Review, lining up a postgraduation job at the New Yorker, writing during every spare minute, falling in love.

When a friend who had graduated the previous year asked her permission to show some of her work to his students in Peru, she responded, “Yes to everything!”

* * *

Five days after Marina graduated magna cum laude, I got an e-mail from another student of mine: Anne, sorry to bother you this late, but there’s some terrible news that I don’t know if you’ve heard—please call me. Marina’s boyfriend had been driving her from brunch with her grandmother near Boston to her family’s summer house on Cape Cod to celebrate her father’s fifty-fifth birthday. Her parents were waiting with lobsters and, because Marina had Celiac Disease and couldn’t digest wheat, a homemade gluten-free strawberry shortcake.

Her boyfriend, who was neither speeding nor drinking, fell asleep at the wheel. The car hit a guardrail and rolled over twice. Marina was killed. Her boyfriend was unhurt. Marina’s parents invited him to their house the next day and embraced him. They wrote the state police to ask that no charges of vehicular homicide be brought because “it would break [Marina’s] heart to know her boyfriend would have to suffer more than he already is.”

When he went to court, the Keegans accompanied him. The charges were dropped. At Marina’s memorial service, I had never seen so many young people cry—not just cry, but shake so hard I feared their ribs would break. Within a week, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” an essay that had appeared in the graduation issue of the Yale Daily News, had been read by more than a million people.

“We’re so young. We’re so young,” Marina had written. “We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.”When a young person dies, much of the tragedy lies in her promise: what she would have done. But Marina left what she had already done: an entire body of writing, far more than could fit between these covers.

As her parents and friends and I gathered her work, trying to find the most recent version of every story and essay, we knew that none of it was in exactly the form she would have wanted to publish. She was a demon reviser, rewriting and rewriting and rewriting even when everyone else thought something was done. (THERE CAN ALWAYS BE A BETTER THING.)

We knew we couldn’t rewrite her work; only she could have done that. Still, every time I reread these nine stories and nine essays, they sound exactly like her, and I don’t want to change a word. Marina wouldn’t want to be remembered because she’s dead. She would want to be remembered because she’s good.

* * *

I have seen too many young writers give up because they couldn’t handle the repeated failures their profession threw at them. They had talent, but they lacked determination and resilience. Marina had all three, and that’s why I am certain she would have succeeded.

She once wrote me on the night that Yale’s secret societies—senior social clubs, including Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Book and Snake, that meet in windowless buildings called tombs—tapped their new members. She had not been chosen. “I’m in our WaO room right now actually,” she began. (“WaO”was the acronym for our writing class, Writing about Oneself. Marina joked that the following year its students should continue to meet for DaO, Drinking about Oneself.) I ended up getting a bit screwed over on the secret society front so I’ve vowed to spend the 12 hours a week writing a novel. (Tonight is tap.) If I was willing to devote that much time chatting in a tomb I should be willing to devote it to writing! 6–12 sundays and thursdays. Might call it BOOK and BOOK. 🙂

She had devoted less than two hours to disappointment before she moved on. If she’d been tapped by Book and Snake, this book would not exist. After Marina’s death, her father told me about a sailing race she’d entered when she was fourteen. The race—in Well-fleet Harbor, on the outer end of Cape Cod—was for a class of solo fourteen-foot dinghies called Lasers. The junior sailors, fifteen and under, were to start at the same time as the adults. Marina was hoping for a calm day. She thought she could beat everyone, including the adults, both because she was an expert sailor and because she weighed less than a hundred pounds. A heavy sailor slows a boat just as a heavy jockey slows a racehorse.

But the day wasn’t calm. There were forty-knot winds and three-foot waves. Before the race started, the entire junior division dropped out, along with all the women—except Marina. In weather like that, lightness is not an asset. Especially when the boat is heading upwind, keeping it stable is almost impossible.

Marina capsized more times than her parents could count. Each time, the boat tipped onto its side and she was thrown into the water. She had to swim the bow into the wind, climb onto the centerboard, stand on it while holding onto the gunwale, lean backward, pull hard enough to lift seventy-six square feet of wet sail out of the water, climb back into the boat, and readjust the sail, all with the wind howling and the waves crashing into and over her. Marina’s original goal had been to win. Her new goal was to finish. Several of the men gave up, but Marina continued. In perfect weather, the race would have taken her fifteen minutes. It took her almost an hour. She came in second to last, to incredulous applause. She was soaking wet, her hair was bedraggled, and her hands were bloody from gripping the lines.

* * *

A few hours after Marina was told that making it as a writer today was virtually impossible, she arrived late to a meeting of her spoken-word poetry group at Yale. A friend of hers recalls that her face was flushed and her eyes were like sharp, wet stones. “I’ve decided I’m going to be a writer,” she said. “Like, a real one. With my life.”

Anne Fadiman, November 12, 2013

*

‘Opposite of Loneliness’ by Marina Keegan

The piece below was written by Marina Keegan for a special edition of the Yale Daily News distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse — I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

*

from

The Opposite of Loneliness, Essays and Stories.

by Marina Keegan

get it at Amazon.com

‘Damn … I missed’: the incredible story of the day the Queen was nearly shot – Eleanor Ainge Roy. 

In 1981 a New Zealand teenager fired at the British monarch – and a new investigation claims the assassination attempt was brushed aside by officials

It may be the closest anyone has ever come to assassinating Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1981, Christopher John Lewis, a disturbed New Zealand teenager aimed his .22 rifle at the British monarch during her tour of the country, lining up her jade outfit in his scope.

The bullet missed, but according to an investigation by reporter Hamish McNeilly for the website Stuff, the 17-year-old became obsessed with wiping out the royal family, as the government scrambled to conceal how close the self-styled terrorist had come to killing the head of state.

Two years after shooting at the Queen, the teenager, planning to murder Prince Charles, attempted to escape from a psychiatric ward. In 1995, New Zealand police sent him on a taxpayer-funded holiday during the Queen’s November tour – believing him to be safer snoozing on a beach than anywhere within firing distance of the monarch. He killed himself in prison in 1997.

By the age of 17, Lewis had a history of armed robbery, arson and animal torture. He idolised the Australian bandit Ned Kelly and American serial killer Charles Manson.

On Wednesday 14 October 1981, Lewis pulled on gloves and loaded his rifle inside a deserted toilet cubicle in New Zealand’s oldest city, Dunedin, aiming his scope at the Queen’s motorcade five storeys below.

Later, police found clippings on the royal family in Lewis’s squalid flat as well as a detailed map of the Queen’s route that day, with the words “Operation = Ass QUEB” written on the paper.

The Queen had just stepped out of a Rolls-Royce to greet 3,500 wellwishers when a distinctive crack rang out across the grassy reserve.

According to former Dunedin police det sgt Tom Lewis (no relation to the shooter), police immediately attempted to disguise the seriousness of the threat, telling the British press the noise was a council sign falling over. Later, under further questioning from reporters, they said someone had been letting off firecrackers nearby.

According to Tom Lewis, the then prime minister Robert Muldoon feared if word got out about how close the teenager had come to killing the Queen, the royals would never again visit New Zealand.

The 1981 annual police report reads: “The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks.”

Police interviewed the teenager eight times, during which he claimed he had been instructed to kill the Queen by an Englishman known to him as “the Snowman”, of whom Lewis was frightened.

The Snowman allegedly told Lewis about the pro-Nazi, rightwing National Front in England, and said Lewis could be part of similar groups that were popping up in New Zealand.

Lewis later claimed to have been visited by high-ranking officials from the government in Wellington during his 13-day interrogation, and was told never to discuss the incident.

“If I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse than death’,” Lewis wrote in a draft autobiography found beside his body after he killed himself. It was published posthumously.

Further evidence of Lewis’s obsession with the royal family had emerged in 1983 when he attempted to overpower a guard at a psychiatric hospital where he was being detained in order to assassinate Prince Charles, who visited the country in April with the Princess of Wales and their young son, William.

Fourteen years after Lewis’s attempt on the Queen’s life, the monarch returned to tour New Zealand in November 1995.

Lewis, then 31, was deemed a serious threat to her safety, so New Zealand police dispatched him to Great Barrier Island in the north of the country, with free accommodation, daily spending money and the use of a vehicle. He was not, however, under 24-hour surveillance.

“I started to feel like royalty,” Lewis wrote of his 10-day exile.

Tom Lewis, who worked on the 1981 case, said police were eager to keep the troubled man out of the spotlight during the second tour and downplay how close he had come to the Queen on her earlier visit.

“You will never get a true file on that: it was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on it,” Lewis told Stuff, adding that Christopher Lewis’s original statement to police was destroyed. “They were in damage control so many times.”

Murray Hanan, Lewis’s former lawyer, said police did not want to press ahead with a charge of treason – which in 1981 still carried the death penalty – and he believed they had received an order from “up-top, politically” to hush up the attempted murder.

“The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand … it was just too politically hot to handle,” said Hanan. “I think the government took the view that he is a bit nutty and has had a hard upbringing, so it won’t be too harsh.”

When Lewis faced court, his potshot at the Queen was downgraded to possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging it. The attempted assassination – an embarrassment to the police protection squad, and to the government – was being quietly and conveniently forgotten.

Lewis killed himself in prison at the age of 33, while awaiting trial for the murder of a young mother and the kidnapping of her child. Shortly before his death Lewis told his partner about his infamous attempt to assassinate the Queen of England.

“Damn,” he told her, “damn … I missed.”

The Guardian 

*

The Snowman and the Queen: Christopher John Lewis’ young life of crime.

The Snowman and the Queen is a five-part series looking at the life and crimes of Christopher John Lewis, a self-styled teen terrorist and trained ‘ninja’ whose bizarre criminal antics kept police busy from his school days until his strange suicide in prison at age 33.
*

Timeline 

Christopher John Lewis was born in Dunedin on September 7, 1964. His life of crime started young, when he was expelled from kindergarten for pushing another child off a slide, and continued until his suicide in prison at age 33.

This crimeline covers major criminal incidents involving Lewis, starting from when he was just 16.

1980

January 20: Sent to Cherry Farm psychiatric hospital in Dunedin for a risk assessment after a minor criminal matter. Later escaped.

December 13: Lewis burgled his former school, Otago Boys’ High School, stealing five .22 rifles.

1981

January 20: Lewis is committed under the Mental Health Act to Cherry Farm, after taking a vehicle at gunpoint. Released in May.

August 5-October 9: Dunedin crimespree of arsons, burglaries, vandalism and an armed robbery, with his guerilla group N.I.G.A claiming responsibility for most.

October 14: The Queen and Prince Philip walk around Dunedin’s Octagon as part of their royal tour of New Zealand. After lunch their motorcade heads to the Otago Museum Reserve, arriving just before 3pm. As they exit the car, a shot is heard.

October 22: Lewis is brought in for questioning.

October 23: Lewis takes police to Dunedin’s Adams Building and they recover a missing .22 rifle. Under questioning, Lewis confirms he took a shot at the Queen.

November 2: Lewis is charged in connection with firing a weapon on the day of the Royal visit.

November 17: Lewis pleads guilty in court to 17 charges including aggravated robbery and unlawfully discharging a firearm.

December 10: Lewis is sentenced to three years imprisonment.1982-1985

Lewis serves time at an Invercargill youth institution and at the maximum security Lake Alice Hospital in Whanganui, where it is revealed he was behind a detailed plot to kill visiting Prince Charles. He serves the last part of his sentence at Dunedin’s Cherry Farm psychiatric hospital.

He is jailed for further burglary and theft offending.

1987

April: Lewis, after four robberies, sparks a major West Coast manhunt and flees via the underside of a bus.

June: Lewis is captured in Auckland trying to buy a car. He appears in court on aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and burglary. He is sentenced to eight years’ jail.

1992

Days after his release he is sentenced to four years for the hold-up of a bank at Waikanae.

1995

Lewis parolled.

November: Lewis and his then partner sent to Great Barrier Island by authorities worried he may threaten the Queen once more.

1996

July 26: Tania Furlan found bashed to death in her Auckland home.

November: Lewis sent to jail for six months over making a false statement for the purpose of procuring a New Zealand passport. He is later charged with Furlan’s murder.

1997

September 23: Yet to face trial, Lewis, 33, electrocutes himself in his prison cell at Mt Eden.

*

Chapter one

The schoolboy with the strawberry blonde hair goes unnoticed as he walks up the stairs carrying a gun wrapped in a pair of old jeans.

The wannabe assassin leaves his 10-speed bike outside the seven-storey Adams Building; chosen at the last minute.

He enters a deserted toilet cubicle on the fifth floor, removes the stolen .22, puts on gloves, opens the window, and waits.

After a nerve-racking five minutes, the teenager spots a Rolls Royce driving down the closed road.

A few hundred metres away a large crowd of people erupts in cheers as the motorcade stops outside the Otago Museum Reserve.

This is the moment. After this, he’d be New Zealand’s greatest criminal.

He puts the rifle against his shoulder, and aims at the Queen of England.

THE BOY CRIMINAL

This is the story of how a 17-year-old from Dunedin made the world’s closest attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth II, our longest-living reigning monarch, and how police allegedly covered it up to save face.

As far as assassins go, Christopher John Lewis hardly looked the part. The short, bespectacled teen with a slight frame was described by police as “something out of the Boy Scout manual” and having a “Joe 90” appearance – after the 1960s spy character.

But a note on his file read: “Not to be trusted.”

Born in Dunedin on September 7, 1964, Lewis’ life of offending began with his expulsion from kindergarten. According to his memoirs, Last Words, published after his death, he was kicked out for pushing a child off a slide.

His father left after a few years and his mother remarried. According to Lewis, his stepfather was a harsh disciplinarian who frequently beat him with a strap.

“This taste of violence made me resentful and turn inwards,” Lewis said.

A self-described loner, he struggled at school and was unable to read or write until he was 8.

Expulsions became a way of life. At Anderson Bay Primary it was for “stirring up teachers”; at Tahuna Intermediate for taking a porn magazine to school; at Otago Boys’ High he was “always having fights and getting in the s…”.

“I had the most detentions and the most canings of anyone in the high school,” he would tell police.

As his criminal ambitions escalated, Lewis, who idolised cult outlaws such as Ned Kelly and Charles Manson, styled himself as the leader of his own guerilla army: the National Imperial Guerilla Army (N.I.G.A.). He enlisted former primary school buddy Geoffrey Rothwell and friend Paul Taane to join.

Taane, who now lives in Christchurch, said Lewis often appeared “angry at the world, people were afraid of him”.

Lewis, simply, had no regard for human life, he said.

Taane remembers Lewis sticking pins into a kitten for fun. Once, Lewis pointed a loaded shotgun in his face.

In late 1980, the three-man army launched a crimewave in Dunedin, beginning with the theft of five .22s from Lewis’ former high school, a church burglary and the arson of a video store. The boys claimed responsibility for four-break ins and a safe cracking. A letter to police during the 1981 Springbok rugby tour claimed that N.I.G.A. would “continue to steal, rob or even kill … unless if the Springbok team leaves New Zealand”. [sic]

Rothwell, now a lawyer, declined to be interviewed for this story.

The burglary of a secondhand sporting store and then a gun store gave the fledgling army an arsenal of weapons, some of which were later found buried at Lewis’ Albany St flat in the heart of Dunedin’s student quarter.

As Taane recalls, the trio would bike on their 10-speeds to a park for target practice with a sawn-off shotgun.

With an eye on sourcing cash to expand their criminal activities, the burgeoning teen terrorists embarked on their most daring plan yet: the armed robbery of the Anderson’s Bay Post Office.

THE UNLIKELY ROBBERS

On the day of the robbery, Taane and Rothwell left nearby Bayfield High School at morning tea break, so they wouldn’t be missed.

They joined Lewis and pulled on camouflage coats to hide their school uniforms, before cycling to the target.

The trio donned balaclavas and Lewis – wielding a sawn-off shotgun and with an ammunition belt slung across his skinny frame – burst into the post office.

“This is a f….. hold-up,” he yelled at the startled postmistress and female clerk.

Lewis leapt over the counter and ordered his large backpack filled with cash.

Two terrified teenage girls waiting outside were forced into the building and ordered to sit on the floor by the shotgun-wielding Taane, who was acting as a lookout.

When Lewis jumped back over the counter his shotgun went off, missing a post office worker by centimetres.

With $5244.31 in cash, the boy robbers then made their getaway on their bikes.

Bizarrely, as he rode back to his flat with his stolen loot, Lewis stopped to help a police car that had crashed on the way to the scene. The cop suspected nothing.

Back at school Taane and Rothwell sat an exam, alongside their unwitting classmates.

Former constable Frank Van Der Eik was one of the officers called to set up a cordon around the post office.

He and other officers were amazed to discover it was schoolboys who carried out the brazen daylight armed robbery.

“You would never think to look for a high school kid in school clothes,” Van Der Eik said.

Ten days after the robbery a letter posted at Otago University said “N.I.G.A. claimed responsibility for the Post Office robbery and the Centrefire Sports shop”.

Taane recalled telling Rothwell in the days after the robbery, “normal life will be boring after this”.

Lewis had never been one for boring. In later years, he boasted to his lawyer, Murray Hanan, that he would be “New Zealand’s greatest criminal”. What he planned next was his ticket to notoriety.

THE MOMENT

Christopher John Lewis is only 17 when he finds himself perched inside the Adams Building, with a rifle cocked and aimed at Queen Elizabeth II, on Wednesday October 14, 1981.

The eight-day royal visit, her sixth to New Zealand, is a short one, just a month after the divisive Springbok rugby tour.

Hundreds of police, fresh from clashing with anti-apartheid protesters, are tasked with protecting the Queen.

Security is tight, or so they believe.

Wearing a jade-coloured wool dress, coat and hat, the Queen steps out of a Rolls Royce and onto the sunny Otago Museum Reserve, while the Duke observes police shielding about 15 demonstrators.

Then a loud crack echoes around.

How close did this sandy-haired boy burglar come in his attempt on Queen Elizabeth’s life?

What made New Zealand police so afraid of Lewis that they sent him on a taxpayer-funded holiday 14 years after the assassination attempt during another of the Queen’s visits?

And who was the mysterious ‘Snowman’ whom Lewis claimed gave him the order to shoot?

*

Chapter two

At just 17, Christopher John Lewis fears nothing. Nothing except one person. 
“I have no unnatural phobias at all. I am scared of the Snowman,” he tells police.

The Snowman is English, about 22 years old, 172 centimetres tall, of average build, with short black hair and a “rough temper”, teen criminal Lewis says.

He first meets the Snowman by chance at Dunedin’s Manor House Coffee Lounge.
Snowman tells Lewis about the pro-Nazi, right-wing National Front in England and says similar groups are “sprouting up” across New Zealand.
Lewis is keen to get involved, and has visions of leading his own local terrorist cell.

When the Snowman asks Lewis whether the Queen should be “knocked off”, the young bandit knows this is his chance for a promotion.

He starts planning to kill Queen Elizabeth II.

THE ORDER

One might have expected panic among the 3500-strong crowd when the crack of gunfire rang out across the Otago Museum Reserve on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 14, 1981.

Engraver Garth Simpson and two workmates had just downed tools to watch the Rolls Royce cruise along Malcolm St.
Garth Simpson was in Dunedin when the Queen visited the city. As she was driven past, he remembers hearing a gun-shot nearby.

They waved, but Queen Elizabeth II did not return their greeting.
Annoyed, Simpson turned his back. That’s when he heard it.
“It was clearly a gunshot.”
A former territorial soldier for more than a decade, Simpson was adamant the shot came from a .22 calibre rifle.

“I assumed it was a shot at the Queen.”
Sue Cutfield, who was near the reserve, heard the shot as the Queen, wearing her trademark matching hat, coat and dress, emerged from the car.

Former Constable Frank Van Der Eik, one of hundreds of officers at the scene, described it as a “crack”.

“You hear that noise and all the cops are looking around: scanning, scanning, scanning,” Van Der Eik said.

But nothing happened. “The Queen just carried on.”

Media reports later quoted police saying the noise was merely a council sign falling over, but an inquiry was launched.

Eight days later, police stumbled across 17-year-old Christopher Lewis by chance.
Officers were going door-to-door to find possible witnesses to an unrelated armed robbery, when they discovered nervous schoolboy Geoffrey Rothwell, wearing a camouflage jacket matching the description of the robbers.

Rothwell, Lewis, and another mate, Paul Taane, were taken in for questioning.
Soon the boys were talking – none more so than Lewis.

Described by police as looking like “something out of a boy scout manual”, he admitted to a string of burglaries, and to being the supposed head of the National Imperial Guerilla Army (N.I.G.A), which only months earlier had sent letters to police threatening violence over the Springbok tour.

Officers seized a cache of weapons from the teen’s flat, but something was missing: a BSA .22 bolt action.

Later, Lewis led police to the non-descript Adams Building, to a toilet overlooking the Queen’s route through Dunedin. There police found the weapon, along with a spent .22 cartridge.

At Lewis’ flat, officers found newspaper clippings on the royal family and a hand-drawn map of the Octagon with the words: Operation = Ass QUEB.

They realised this sandy-haired schoolboy was not just a robber, but a would-be assassin.

Lewis was officially interviewed eight times over a 13-day period, on suspicion of attempting to kill the Queen, the police file shows.

The teen potentially faced a charge of treason. The penalty? Death.
Lewis claimed the order for the assassination came from the Snowman.
Transcripts of those interviews, obtained for the first time under the Official Information Act, said Lewis portrayed “a real fear” of the Snowman.

“He … considers him to be very powerful, with access to firearms,” a detective noted.
According to Lewis, school mates Taane, 17, and Rothwell, 16, were directly under his command in N.I.G.A, with another person, the Polar Bear, higher ranked in the group.

The Snowman was the leader, and under his orders the fledgling army aimed “to terrorise Dunedin” and police with “fear tactics, terrorism, firearms and explosives”.

He told police he thought killing the Queen would get him promoted within N.I.G.A.
Detectives had “grave doubts” about the existence of the Snowman and the Polar Bear.

One interviewing detective put it to Lewis that, if the Snowman wanted a person of such international prestige as the Queen assassinated, he wouldn’t get a boy to do the job for him.

“I … suggested that he was the Snowman,” the officer said.

But Lewis put on a convincing show.
In one interview, he asked to sit away from the window over fears he would be shot by a sniper. If the Snowman found out Lewis had exposed him, he would be killed, he said.

Lewis said his last meeting with the Snowman was on Monday October 12, 1981, two days before the royal visit.
“It was his idea that I shoot the Queen.”

THE PLOT

In several statements to police between October 22 to November 3, 1981, Lewis gave varying versions of how he carried out his plot to assassinate the Queen.

He first said he originally planned to shoot the monarch in the Octagon, but aborted the location because there wasn’t an escape route.

“I wanted to find a good place to get her from. I wanted to find a place where I wouldn’t get caught.”

When he realised the Octagon wouldn’t work, he biked to the Adams Building, his Plan B.

With no-one around he walked up to the fifth floor and then into a toilet block.
There he found a window facing towards the museum.

“The window was open just a fraction, I didn’t open it any further, just a fraction was enough for what I wanted it for.”
Lewis told detectives he waited a few minutes for the Queen to arrive before letting a shot off.

“I don’t know if I hit anything or not.”
Lewis left the rifle in a locker just outside the toilet, and took the lift to the ground floor, before cycling back to his flat.

Two days later he gave another version of events. This time he told detectives that on the day of the attempt he went to scope out the museum before playing Space Invaders in the foyer of the nearby University Union.

Walking back to his flat he changed into his dark blue suit trousers, jersey and gym shoes.

He then went to his garden, dug up a stolen .22 rifle, and gave it a clean.
Wrapping the rifle up in a pair of old jeans he placed it on the handlebars of his green 10 speed Healing and headed to the Adams Building.

“Right up until this stage it was my intention to kill the Queen by shooting her with the loaded .22 calibre I was carrying.”
“At about the fifth floor I changed my mind.”

Lewis told police that he could no longer see the museum reserve, and developed second thoughts.

“My mind was in turmoil. I was tearing my insides out. I didn’t know what to do.'”
Regardless, he unwrapped the gun, putting gloves on to avoid fingerprints.
Opening the window a fraction, he waited in the locked toilet area with his gun aimed at the street below.

“I was going to make a spur of the moment decision if I saw her.”

Five minutes later that opportunity came.
A car travelled down Malcolm St.
“I had no idea who was in this car,” Lewis said.

“I never thought it was the Queen.”
He put the rifle against his shoulder, sighted the road and fired a shot.
Lewis maintained he had no idea where the Queen was when he fired the shot and he “definitely could not see her”.

Later, when shown three photos in order to pinpoint the location of the bullet, Lewis could not orientate himself and asked to be taken to the Adams Building.

In the toilet cubicle, he demonstrated how he latched the window, before simulating firing a gun.

Lewis told police he was confused and uncertain as to where he had fired the shot.

Eventually, Lewis gave the police the true identity of the Snowman: his imagination.
“I have been telling a number of untruths… I now wish to correct a few things.

“The major issue concerns two persons I have code-named the Snowman and Polar Bear.

“These persons do not exist. They are a figment of my imagination.”

On November 2, Lewis was charged with the possession of a .22 rifle in a public place, and another charge of discharging it.
He seemed disappointed.

“Only two charges, what?” “S…,” Lewis said, before letting out a long whistle.

“Had the bullet hit her, would it be treason?” he asked.

“I ignored the question,” the officer wrote.

THE SHED

The bedroom is bare apart from a bed, and bullet holes from a .22 rifle peppering the walls.

It is the day after Lewis is charged and he guides police working on the case outside to a small shed at the rear of his ramshackle villa in the heart of Dunedin’s student quarter.

It’s in this shed, where the budding scientist carries out experiments, the 17-year-old tells the officers.

Among the books and chemicals he uses for his correspondence schooling are his mice which he uses for testing.

Lewis, concerned that no-one will be able to look after the two mice while he is in prison, says he will have to kill them.

Without hesitation he picks up a live mouse and pulls its head clean off in front of his guarding officers, before doing the same to the other.

Police have the boy who took a shot at Queen Elizabeth II, but they’re discovering this young, bookish criminal is more fearsome than he looks, and they don’t want the world to know about him.

***

Lewis, his lawyer, and a senior officer-turned-whistleblower, claim the truth never came out. Why was Lewis allegedly told by police officers he would suffer a “fate worse than death” if he talked?

If they didn’t believe he had really tried to assassinate the Queen that day, what were police trying to protect by sending Lewis on a publicaly-funded island holiday during a future royal visit?

And what other criminal exploits meant Lewis spent most of his 20s in and out of jail?

***

Chapter three

It has been 14 years since Christopher John Lewis took a shot at the Queen in Dunedin, when the teen terrorist-turned-Buddhist finds himself on a taxpayer-funded holiday.

He and his partner are fishing and kayaking on Great Barrier Island, with free accommodation, daily spending money and a 4WD – courtesy of the New Zealand police.

“I started to feel like royalty,” Lewis writes in his memoir of the 10-day trip in November 1995.

So great are police fears that the now 31-year-old will again try to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II, their solution is to exile him while the monarch and a swag of heads of states are in Auckland for the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) talks.

“My name came up on a list which the police drew up, of suspected radicals with political ideals that had seen them (at some point or another) clash with the law,” Lewis writes.

While police later confirm Lewis was sent to the island for security reasons, he is not under 24-hour surveillance.

Lewis writes: “All in all I had a great holiday and wasn’t at all fazed to spend 10 days away from Auckland.

“Of course had I wanted to shoot someone from CHOGM it would have been a simple task to just fly back to Auckland and do so.”

THE TRUTH?

Given how paranoid police were about Lewis’ threat to the Queen’s life in the 1990s, their subdued response to his 1981 assassination attempt in Dunedin was surprising.

Former Dunedin Detective Sergeant Tom Lewis, who is no relation of Christopher Lewis, has no doubt there was a police cover-up.

“You will never get a true file on that, it was reactivated, regurgitated, bits pulled off it, other false bits put on it . . . they were in damage control so many times.”

According to Tom Lewis, who was initially the officer assigned to the case, orders to cover up the assassination attempt came from the top – then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

It was feared New Zealand would never get another royal tour and that police would be the laughing stock of the British press.

Paul Taane, a childhood mate of Lewis who carried out several burglaries and arsons with him, said Lewis confided in him about the plot.

When asked if the assassination attempt was covered-up by authorities, Taane replied “guaranteed”.

“You don’t hear about it. And they don’t want to talk about it.”

On October 14, 1981, the day a shot was heard across Otago Museum Reserve as the Queen greeted thousands of Kiwi fans, police downplayed the incident, telling reporters the sound was merely a council sign falling over.

However, rumours persisted, fuelled by a tip to the British press from within the royal entourage.

Police later said it may have been a person letting off firecrackers near the Medical School Library.

Despite these public denials, Christopher Lewis was in police custody just over a week later.

Tom Lewis alleges the 17-year-old’s first statement to police was destroyed.
Under questioning, Christopher Lewis claimed he had the Queen lined up for a shot as the royal couple met fans, the former detective said.

“He was just about to pull the trigger. He was just tightening the trigger, he could just see her hat and was lining up the hat.”
Now based on the Gold Coast, Tom Lewis claimed a “very accurate” hand-drawn map recovered from the teenager’s bedroom showed how he planned to shoot from the Octagon.

But that plan was thwarted when two policemen walked in front of the teen’s view.

The Adams Building, where Christopher Lewis let off a shot from his perch in a toilet cubicle on the fifth floor, was his “Plan B”.

Tom Lewis said he was with the suspect when police re-enacted his assassination plans in the Octagon, and later from the Adams Building.

And the teen got close. Very close.
“If he had waited until she walked a wee bit closer . . . it could have been less than 50 metres.”

Tom Lewis wrote extensively about the cover-up in his book, Coverups and Copouts, published in 1998.

Some years earlier the former cop had gone public, prompting top brass to deny allegations of a cover-up while claiming all details of the incident were made public.
The 1995 police statement said the case was widely reported at the time, with the incident referenced in the 1981 police annual report.

That report, obtained by Stuff, reads: “The discharge of a firearm during the visit of Her Majesty the Queen serves to remind us all of the potential risks to royalty, particularly during public walks.”
Christopher Lewis, in his memoir Last Words, claimed that, while in custody, he was visited by “high-ranking police officers” from Wellington.

“The Dunedin police were rocking from the pressure the ‘top-brass’ were putting on them from Wellington.

“Many heads rolled because of this.”

“And the cover-up did not stop there,” Lewis wrote.

Interviewed by senior NZSIS officers, Lewis claimed he was offered a “new deal”.

“That if I was ever to mention the events surrounding my interviews or the organisation, or that I was in the building, or that I was shooting from it – that they would make sure I ‘suffered a fate worse than death’.”

THE CHARGE

Police job sheets released to Stuff reveal that Christopher John Lewis initially faced a charge of treason, or attempted treason.
Tom Lewis, who was later taken off the case, said he was dumbfounded to learn the charge was downgraded.

Lewis’ former lawyer, Murray Hanan, said police did not want to hear any talk of his client shooting at the Queen.

“They kept on saying ‘oh no, oh no’.”
Hanan believed a message had come from “up-top, politically” to downplay the incident.

“The fact an attempted assassination of the Queen had taken place in New Zealand with a nutcase who later said he was trying to establish a new IRA movement . . . it was just too politically hot to handle.”

Hanan was puzzled as to why Lewis was never charged with treason, with capital punishment remaining on the government books until 1989.

“I think the Government took the view that he is a bit nutty and has had a hard upbringing, so it won’t be too harsh.”

Hanan did not believe anyone else was involved in the assassination attempt, with Lewis ultimately claiming full responsibility.

“That was typical Christopher.”

On December 10, 1981 in the Dunedin High Court, Christopher Lewis was sentenced to three years jail, after pleading guilty to 17 charges from his exploits in the months leading up to the royal visit. They included aggravated robbery, arson and burglary.

He was never charged with attempting to kill the Queen. Instead, it was possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging a firearm.

“From their investigation the police were satisfied that at no time could the accused have been close enough to the Royal party to have been within effective range of any member of that party and, in fact, when he discharged that rifle, the Royal party would not have been visible to him,” the official police summary said.

“Subsequently, the accused admitted that he had in fact discharged the firearms directly into the ground.”

Five days after his arrest a confidential letter, obtained by Stuff under OIA, was sent to the then Commissioner of Police about the incident.

“Because of the lack of the physical evidence and Lewis’ psychiatric history, we may never know exactly what happened.”

THE RELEASE

‘FREED – The BOY GUERILLA’ screams the 

headline on The Truth in June 1984.
Christopher Lewis’ release from custody does not go unnoticed.

Having tried to escape youth prison and then finishing his sentence in a psychiatric hospital, his freedom sparks a flurry of official correspondence between government departments.

One letter, seen by Stuff, cites a visiting psychiatrist warning that the former teen terrorist has the “potential to plan and carry out criminal activities on a very large scale”.

They are right to be worried.

“I don’t think that anything before or after, has ever made me feel so happy as when I finally drove out the gate of the hospital and headed south to Dunedin,” Lewis writes in his memoir.
He is finally free, but far from reformed.

***

A trained ninja, Christopher Lewis is still to rob a handful of banks, spark a major West Coast manhunt, fake a passport and allegedly, to murder.

He will spend most of his 20s inside some of New Zealand’s harshest prisons.
Does his ‘enlightenment’ through Buddhism and yoga change his criminal course?

***

Chapter four

Christopher John Lewis steps into the hot bath, takes a sip of brandy and lights a cigar.

On the television in his motel room is a news report of a large police manhunt for the fugitive.

The problem for police is they are searching on the West Coast, but Lewis is in Wellington, watching the drama unfold.

A week earlier, the 23-year-old had grabbed his pet kitten and the $20,000 in cash he robbed from a Christchurch bank and gone on the run.

Armed police and an Iroquois helicopter comb rugged Buller Gorge bush looking for Lewis, but he escapes by using his ninja skills to wedge himself into the underside of a bus for 200km to flee the area.

Now, as he savours his drink and his criminal success in equal parts, he has another destination in mind: Australia.

THE PRINCE

By the time Lewis finds himself holed up in a Wellington motel in May 1987, the young man has already been jailed three times.
His longest stint was more than three years in custody for a crime spree in 1981, which ended with the then-17-year-old firing a shot at Queen Elizabeth II during her Dunedin visit that year.

Lewis narrowly escaped a treason charge for the assassination plot – instead police charged him with possession of a firearm in a public place and discharging a firearm, adding to the other 15 charges he admitted to, including aggravated robbery, arson and burglary.

Lewis served the first year of his sentence in an Invercargill youth detention centre.
He was later given an extra three months inside, after an hour-long prison break (he made a run for it while bringing in milk containers from outside the wire) which landed him in solitary confinement for weeks.

In 1983 he was transferred to Lake Alice psychiatric hospital, near Whanganui, where he planned another attack on the Royal family.

After he tried to overpower a guard with a knife, staff found in Lewis’ room detailed plans to murder Prince Charles, who was at the time touring New Zealand with his then-wife Princess Diana and their young son, William.

That prompted justice officials to try to have Lewis committed under the Mental Health Act. One letter between government departments, seen by Stuff, noted Lewis could “be a real danger to others”.

Regardless, the bid failed and Lewis spent the latter part of his sentence in Otago psychiatric hospital Cherry Farm, before returning to Dunedin to live with his parents.

Lewis remained on the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) watch list.

After serving more time for burglary (including that of his former primary school) in 1985, Lewis was in his 20s and ready to make headlines again: It was time to put his ninjutsu training into practise.

THE RUN

The former boy burglar appeared to be going straight.

Now living in Christchurch, the 23-year-old had a partner, regularly attended church, and had set-up his own ninja dojo.

But his new civilian life did not last.

“Robbery was the only area of crime that I felt fitted my disposition,” he wrote in his memoir.

First, he hit a Christchurch BNZ bank and three post offices – two in Dunedin – netting about $20,000.

Armed with a fake pistol and a ninja sword, he eluded police and headed for the West Coast.

Posing as a writer, he rented a small flat in Westport, where he hunkered down for the next six weeks with his adopted kitten, Tiger.

Running out of cash, he returned to Christchurch to rob another bank.

In a stolen Ford Telstar, Lewis fled back to the Westport flat. But three days in and with police hot on his trail, Lewis packed his belongings and put Tiger in the front seat of the Ford, planning to drive to Dunedin and then fly to Auckland.

He was soon being followed by police, and after a high-speed pursuit in torrential rain through the Buller Gorge, Lewis deliberately drove off the road, plunging 10 metres into dense bush and coming to a stop metres from the flooded Buller River.
Grabbing a radio, provisions and $20,000 cash, he abandoned Tiger and went bush.
Ninja skills may benefit fugitive’, The Dominion reported on May 5, 1987.

Dozens of police, including the Armed Offender Squad and an Iroquois helicopter scoured the gorge.

Police told media the chance of Lewis surviving was “very slim” given the cold and wet conditions, but noted a diary found in his crashed car showed he previously survived in the bush for days on end.

That was thanks to his ninja skills, Lewis wrote in his memoir.

He’d first learnt the martial art Tae Kwon Do as a 14-year-old, but was drawn to the art of the ninja under the tutelage of the so-called Master Leong.

His martial arts training showed him “how to injure, or even kill someone with my bare hands”.

He eventually ran his own “terrorism” courses in Christchurch under the guise of a Ninjutsu class, telling students he was a black belt, first dan.

According to reports in the Christchurch Press from his time on the run, lessons included using darts, knives and spikes, poisons, world politics and bush survival.
He expected students to run hundreds of kilometres cross-country, tread water for three hours, swim 5km by breast-stroke and swim under 30 logs.

“He professes to be a ninja, but it is highly doubtful,” a martial arts expert told the newspaper.

“There is no governing body. If you wanted to start a ninjutsu school you could call yourself a ninja.”

Trained ninja or not, Lewis remained at large following his daring plunge in the Buller Gorge.

After a week evading police in the bush, he came to a road where he spied an empty bus he hoped would take him south to Greymouth.

Placing his cash-filled backpack under the bus, he nestled on some pipes to make his escape. Unfortunately for Lewis, the bus travelled 100km to Karamea, and he was forced to return to Westport the same way.
Lewis then walked along railway tracks and at the Inangahua Junction he hitched a ride to Blenheim and flew to Wellington the next day.

After securing passage to Melbourne by boat in a month’s time, Lewis flew to Auckland and stayed in a bedsit to await departure.

After a tip-off, he was finally captured at gunpoint by police while buying a Mini.
He pleaded guilty to eight robberies and burglaries and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years’ jail.

Considered a security risk, Lewis was sent to the toughest prison in the country – Paremoremo – where he found enlightenment.

THE BUDDHIST

Monks visit the young criminal who once tried to kill the Queen, and he writes to The Truth newspaper in 1989 about his “newfound enlightenment” in prison.
The self-styled terrorist has converted to Buddhism and is working on his rehabilitation. He writes that he regrets his offending and asks that prisoners who “show initiative to clean up their life” are let go.

Five years into his sentence, he is released on parole.

It takes just four weeks before he is back inside following another bank robbery.
Freed again in 1995, Lewis and his then-partner move to Karekare, a small coastal settlement west of Auckland, to practise yoga and start a business selling herbal medicine for dogs.

He finds a studio in an old warehouse on Auckland’s North Shore and starts teaching the Korean martial art Hapkido, and later Ninjutsu.

But in a year, he will be awaiting trial again. This time the stakes are higher than ever: he is accused of murdering an Auckland housewife.

***

Lewis maintained he was framed for murder by a former cellmate dubbed ‘Jimmy the Weasel’, who was paid $30,000 by police for his information.

Did Lewis really bludgeon 27-year-old Tania Furlan to death in her own home? How did his shoe print end up at the murder scene?

And how did the young criminal manage to take his own life while under prison watch?

***

The final chapter

It’s 1pm at Mt Eden Prison when guards unlock the room of murder-accused Christopher John Lewis and his cellmate.
It is a chance for them to stretch their legs in the small exercise yard, after lunch.

But Lewis wishes to stay in his room with a newspaper and biscuits for “some time” to himself.

Earlier that day, his girlfriend visited. The woman, who calls him “Chris”, is deeply in love with him, and doesn’t notice signs of anything out of the ordinary, despite her lover turning down an offer to put money in his account.

Lewis’ shared cell in the maximum security wing has artist’s paints set up, a TV and a typewriter in the corner, where Lewis has been working on his memoir.

About 3.15pm, when a Corrections Officer checks the cell, Lewis is slumped in a metal chair “in a lifeless state”.

The guard initially thinks Lewis is asleep. Then he notices his colour.

At 33, the man infamous for attempting to assassinate the Queen in Dunedin, is dead.

THE MURDER

It came down to a pair of shoes: Reebok sneakers that would connect Lewis to the murder of 27-year-old Auckland mother-of-three Tania Furlan, though he always denied killing her.

Furlan was bashed to death with a hammer in her Howick home in July 1996.
Her then 6-week-old daughter, Tiffany, was later found at a church, some 18 kilometres from her home.

Police were puzzled over the brutal death, but their investigation soon zeroed in on Lewis, after they talked to one of his former Paremoremo cellmates.

Lewis had served five years in Paremoremo – the country’s toughest prison – from 1987, for a string of robberies and burglaries.

Although Lewis, a bookish, sandy-haired man who wore glasses, had a police record spanning two decades back to his early teens, extreme violence was not his usual MO. He was most well-known for plots to kill the Queen and Prince Charles, as well as numerous bank robberies, arsons and elaborate escapes from authorities.

During pre-trial depositions hearings, his former jail mate, who had name suppression at the time, claimed Lewis confessed to murdering Furlan.

He alleged Lewis posed as a delivery man, with a hammer in a cardboard box. When Furlan answered the door, Lewis asked for a pen and then hit her on the head, intending just to knock her out.

“He said he must have hit her too hard because the blood was p…ing out,” NZPA reported the witness saying.

“He hit her another five times, because he knew he had f….. up.”

The informant alleged Lewis, who was a self-proclaimed ninja and survival expert, needed money for a martial arts centre. As part of the plot Lewis wanted to take Furlan hostage to extort money from her husband, Victor, who managed his local Big Fresh supermarket in Glenfield.

After taking baby Tiffany instead, and leaving a ransom note, he changed his mind, dropped the girl at the Royal Oak Baptist Church and returned to the house to retrieve the note.

The police case centred around a shoe print forensic scientists found at the crime scene, which matched a pair of Reebok Aztrek Plus sneakers Lewis owned. Police also recovered a notepad from Lewis’ home with indentation, indicating a ransom note had been written.

Lewis and his partner were staying with his mother in Christchurch when police came for him.

The couple were planning a sailing holiday to South America, but were struggling to get a passport for Lewis due to his criminal convictions. They offered money to a mate to get one under his name, but the friend got cold feet.

When the cops came knocking, Lewis was wearing his Reeboks. Both Lewis and his partner were initially arrested on passport charges, but police soon began asking about Lewis’ whereabouts on the night Furlan was bludgeoned to death.

On Friday November 1, 1996, Lewis was sent to jail for six weeks after admitting making a false statement for procuring a New Zealand passport.

His partner, a first offender, was fined $350 plus court costs.

Later that day, after he was taken to Addington Prison, a police officer with results from testing his pair of Reeboks visited.

“You killed Tania Furlan,” the officer said.
Lewis, who avoided a charge of treason as a teen, was charged with murder.

The next day he was transferred to Mt Eden Prison, Auckland.

In his memoir Last Words, Lewis maintained his former Paremoremo cellmate, who he dubbed “Jimmy the Weasel”, framed him.

“Words alone cannot express the feelings of fear and anxiety that weigh upon me as I write this book,” Lewis’ opening sentence read.

“I have tossed and turned, sleeping briefly then staring blankly into the cell ceiling wondering how I can possibly cope with this accusation levelled against me by an ex-inmate and former rapist and violent thug.”

That “thug” informant was later revealed to have been paid $30,000 by police for accusing Lewis of Furlan’s murder.

THE ‘WEASEL’

The man who pointed the finger at Lewis to police was later revealed to be Travis Burns, a former Paremoremo prison mate who shared Lewis’ interest in martial arts and cannabis.

Lewis, who claimed he could smash bricks and punch concrete blocks without flinching, argued his ninja training meant he would not have killed Furlan by battering her with a hammer.

“If I had wanted to kill her, I could have done so in a hundred more able, efficient and cleaner ways,” he wrote in his book.
Lewis’ mother, who declined to be named, said her son was no killer and “got hung out to dry”.

“He told me he didn’t do it.”

The now Christchurch-based woman said her son was diagnosed with a mental disorder as a pre-teen, and was involved with criminal activity, but “never hurt anyone ever”.

Lewis maintained his innocence. He believed Burns, who had the same shoe size as him, wore his sneakers during the murder and secretly returned them to Lewis’ flat.

Lewis claimed he and his former cellmate “often borrowed each other’s shoes and prison clothing anyway, so it wasn’t such a big thing to do”. Lewis alleged Burns wrote notes on a pad at his home, but took the piece of paper with him.

Those impressions on the note pad included the references “come alone”, “when you get money you will get child 36 hours later” and “no ringing pigs”.

Lewis’ ex-partner believes in his innocence. She told Stuff she would have taken the stand in his defence.

The woman, who Stuff is not naming, said Lewis was driving her to a yoga class at the time police say Furlan was murdered.
“Potentially he orchestrated it, but did he do it? I still don’t believe that.

“I think that would have been beneath him to do something so stupid.”

Two years after Furlan’s murder, Whangaparaoa mother Joanna McCarthy was battered to death in front of her two children in a flurry of hammer blows, kicks and punches in November 1998.

DNA later identified Travis Burns as her killer.

In August 1997, Lewis wrote in his memoir a message to Furlan’s husband and family: “May your hearts be softened by my sincere words, and I hope to one day look you in the eye and say with infinite truth that I did not commit this crime, not ever would I do such a thing.”

A month later Lewis would take his own life.

THE DEATH OF CHRISTOPHER JOHN LEWIS

A Mt Eden prison guard finds Lewis in a “lifeless state in his cell” about 3.15pm on Tuesday September 23, 1997.

The inmate, who has a Japanese Kanji tattoo on the right side of his chest and a wizard on his thigh, is sitting on a metal chair, slumped forward towards his bed.
“My first impression was that Lewis was asleep,” the guard said, according to the coroner’s report.

But noticing the murder-accused prisoner looks off-white, he calls for help.
Attempts to resuscitate Lewis fail and he is declared dead at 4.10pm.

With permission from the coroner, Stuff can report that Lewis committed suicide in his prison cell by tampering with a junction box and electrocuting himself.
Other details of his death remain suppressed.

After his suicide at Mt Eden the coroner made three recommendations to reduce the chances of further deaths occurring in similar circumstances, which led to a nationwide change to ensure prisoners were unable to access the junction boxes.

A suicide note was recovered from the cellroom toilet, next to Lewis’ body.
Lewis’ ex-partner, who visited him that morning, saw a copy of the note and said it “stated that he had nothing to do with the [Furlan] crime”.

She described Lewis as a highly intelligent but manipulative person who was damaged mentally and emotionally by a violent upbringing.

“He could have done really good things, but he chose to do really bad things.”

She said with Lewis, it was always “hard to tell what is true and what isn’t true”.

That included his notorious attempt to shoot the Queen in Dunedin, back in 1981.
Lewis confessed to her he did not shoot at the road, or at some seagulls, but at the Queen herself.

“Damn,” he told her “damn . . . I missed.”

Stuff.co.nz

***

WILD AT HEART: HOW ONE WOMAN AND HER HUSBAND LIVE OUT IN THE WOODS

For seven years, Miriam Lancewood and her husband Peter have lived a nomadic life in the New Zealand bush. She is the hunter and he is the cook. 

See also A Life In The Bush

I’d expected Miriam to look bedraggled, maybe with a couple of teeth missing, but she’s immaculate and smiling broadly, her teeth shiny white (she usually cleans them with ash); no dandruff, legs shaven, she smells of campfire. She is powerfully built; almost the double of Sarah Connor from The Terminator. A Dutch Sarah Connor – she was born in Holland. Her husband, Peter, proudly tells me she could beat most men in a fight: “Miriam is the hunter and I’m the cook. She’s much stronger than me. Women are better shots,” he says. “And they’re more careful,” adds Miriam. “They are less driven by trophy hunting. They have less of a need to prove themselves.”


Randolph Bourne’s 1911 essay on disability shocked society. But what’s changed since? – Christopher Reardon. 

I hadn’t heard of Randolph Bourne until my cousin, a writer, suggested I seek him out. It turns out that 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Bourne’s death. He was a wunderkind among American intellectuals, one of the country’s leading social critics, and a pioneer for people with disabilities – including me.
My ignorance of Bourne was embarrassing, because I have also written about my physical handicaps. When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and other ailments, and for the past 21 years have lived in a wheelchair.

Bourne’s troubles began at birth, in Bloomfield, New Jersey in 1886, when his face was mangled by misused forceps and an umbilical cord that wrapped around his left ear. When he was four years old, he contracted tuberculosis of the spine, which led to the stunting of his growth and a hunched back.

From high school at 17, he was scheduled to be a member of Princeton University’s class of 1907, but could not afford to attend (even though his wealthy uncle would later pay his two sisters’ college tuition) and needed to help his mother with living expenses. So Bourne taught piano lessons; in between, he acquired his writing voice by being a proofreader and doing secretarial work.

Undaunted by years of discrimination, Bourne studied on a scholarship at Columbia University under famed anthropologist Franz Boas and renowned eduction reformer (and later pro-war adversary) John Dewey. While in college Bourne began publishing essays in the Atlantic. His rise was meteoric – but amid the acclaim he began to be “blackballed” because of the fierce anti-war essays he penned in response to the war raging in Europe.

This bellicose atmosphere was exacerbated by the Woodrow Wilson administration’s enactment of the Sedition Act of 1918, which made it a crime to criticise the constitution, government, or military. That year, at age 32, Bourne died of Spanish influenza, during the infamous pandemic.

After reading his early essay The Handicapped – By One of Them, published in the Atlantic in 1911, I observed Bourne and I to be kindred spirits. An impassioned pacifist, his progressive politics would have made him a great millennial.

In a time when influential voices such as Helen Keller, HG Wells and TS Eliot supported eugenics, and when cities like Chicago passed “ugly laws” that barred anyone who was “diseased, maimed, mutilated, or deformed” from public view, The Handicapped was a truly revolutionary essay. Bourne published it anonymously for fear of being “discovered”. When an Atlantic editor did just that, he abruptly cancelled a lunch with Bourne so as not to be seen with him.

What astounds me most is how emotionally prescient The Handicapped feels today. I’m not sure if this uncanny time-ghost is a case of history repeating itself, or simply evidence that little in society has changed for the disabled individual. I hope it is the former; I fear it is the latter.

In The Handicapped, Bourne explores the inner thoughts of a disabled person, the way the world perceives that person, and how a disabled person forms his or her identity. Throughout, he brings up the lack of confidence that is endemic to disabled individuals, describing how, as a young person, he felt out of place “when the world became one of dances and parties and social evenings and boy-and-girl attachments – the world of youth”.

Bourne concludes that “admiration and gayety [sic] and smiles and favors and quick interests and companionship [are] only for the well-begotten and the debonair”.

I can attest to this. Insecurity is why I befriended the popular kids in high school, instead of gravitating towards the outsiders I had more in common with. Insecurity is why I say “sorry” when there is no need to. It is also, at least in part, the reason I have never had a significant other – and the reason I don’t voice my opinion in a myriad of social situations, even though I have two degrees and have self-published four books. How could I be confident when, as Bourne points out, I have grown up in an environment where nobody has been very confident in me? am not referring to my family and friends – who have been supportive throughout – but rather a culture where disability-shaming is the norm. As an adolescent, I watched Damon Wayans mock disabled people with his character Handi-man on In Living Color. More recently, I’ve tuned in to see people with disabilities constantly dehumanised on Family Guy and Modern Family.

In film, it seems like every other villain has a deformity. The movies Million Dollar Baby and Me Before You are praised, despite possessing a subtext that people with disabilities should mercy-kill themselves so they are not a burden to others. Just last year, a presidential candidate appeared to mock a reporter with a disability, and 63 million citizens were comfortable enough with that act to vote him into the highest office in the land. No wonder I doubt myself.

It was with hesitation that Bourne republished The Handicapped in his 1913 collection of essays Youth and Life, because his anonymity would be no more. He renamed it “A Philosophy of the Handicapped” and placed it last in the collection because he knew it was his best, and that his disability was the driving force behind his political motivations.

‘Doors of the deformed’

Another theme in The Handicapped is that the deck is stacked against disabled people from the start, making it twice as difficult to achieve what an able-bodied person does, even though disabled individuals are already at twice the disadvantage.

“The doors of the deformed man are always locked, and the key is on the outside,” Bourne writes. “He may have treasures of charm inside, but they will never be revealed unless the person outside cooperates with him in unlocking the door.”

I can’t button my shirt, tie my shoes or pour myself a glass of orange juice – and this is all before I start the day. The world is still not designed to include disabled people: streets and sidewalks have potholes and tree roots; every friend, neighbour or business has at least one step at the entrance (or a “special” side entrance); accessible bathrooms (when there are any) are often insufficient in size, or occupied by an able-bodied individual.

Infrastructurally, we have a long way to go. But I think Bourne would be pleased with the progress we have made in daily living: from Dragon voice-recognition programs for disabled people to Motion Savvy UNI for deaf people to Kurzweil 3000 for the visually impaired, it is plain to see that a hundred years of technological advancements to aid the disabled have been nothing short of phenomenal.

Equally profound have been the landmarks reached in the medical fields. We are healthier than ever, curing illnesses at an exponential rate, and are improving the quality of life for all individuals. At what point, however, does the populous begin to show disdain for someone’s lack of health?

This inevitable disdain may have been the reason The Handicapped was overlooked by many historians compared to Boune’s pre-war political critiques. Since then, however, John Dos Passos has dedicated a chapter to Bourne in his modernist novel 1919, and The Handicapped was published in 2000 in Joyce Carol Oates’s collection of the best American essays of the 20th century.

My fear is that the public, instead of harbouring disdain, will become so besotted with medical advancements such as gene therapy and designer babies that those with disabilities will be edited out of existence, left to fade away like a dying language. I understand that new ailments will always arise and that disabilities will more likely change than be eradicated, but I believe this generation of disabled people must cultivate empathy by permeating every sector of society, because they may be the last agents of innovation and inclusivity before disability as we know it is gone from the public consciousness.

But there is a reason to be hopeful, I think – because of the able-bodied people around us. In The Handicapped, Bourne discusses his dependency on friends and how much they mean to him. Disabled people cannot win the battles for inclusivity and accessibility on their own; they need that person on the other side of the door.

And, especially in the last decade, my spirit has been lifted by the public focus on the rights and humanity of every individual.

When I hear of an engineer building a new product to include or make life easier for disabled users, when an architect designs a stylish building or public transport system that has universal design, when couples decide to raise a disabled child with all their love instead of having an abortion or putting it up for adoption, I’m reminded that we are living in a socially progressive time – and that is not something to be forgotten.

In the last paragraph of The Handicapped, Bourne writes, “And if misfortune comes, it will only be something flowing from the common lot of men, not from my own particular disability.” These are freeing words that those with disabilities should heed and live by.
A century later, The Handicapped is as relevant as ever. I wish someone had made me read it when I was young, to validate my experiences, confirm my confusion between how much of my character was moulded by disability vs personality, and to assure me that I was not alone in my struggle. The Handicapped is an essay that should be included in textbooks because it is so accurate in its depiction of the disabled experience: it would raise awareness for able-bodied readers, while offering solace to disabled readers.

Whatever you do, don’t grow bitter at the world, even though you may have ample opportunity; know that maturing and finding self-respect may be a long process, no matter your age; and do not consider your life a perpetual effort in making the best of a bad situation – it is not. It is a chance to live and breathe and be happy.

Or as Bourne wrote: “Do not take the world too seriously, nor let too many social conventions oppress you. Keep sweet your sense of humor, and above all do not let any morbid feelings of inferiority creep into your soul.”

The Guardian 

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The Handicapped by Randolph Bourne

First published anonymously as “The Handicapped — By One of Them” in The Atlantic Monthly, 1911; revised and collected in Youth and Life, 1913.

It would not perhaps be thought, ordinarily, that the man whom physical disabilities have made so helpless that he is unable to move around among his fellows can bear his lot more happily, even though he suffer pain, and face life with a more cheerful and contented spirit, than can the man whose deformities are merely enough to mark him out from the rest of his fellows without preventing him from entering with them into most of their common affairs and experiences. But the fact is that the former’s very helplessness makes him content to rest and not to strive. I know a young man so helplessly deformed that he has to be carried about, who is happy in reading a little, playing chess, taking a course or two in college, and all with the sunniest goodwill in the world, and a happiness that seems strange and unaccountable to my restlessness. He does not cry for the moon.

When one, however, is in full possession of his faculties, and can move about freely, bearing simply a crooked back and an unsightly face, he is perforce drawn into all the currents of life. Particularly if he has his own way in the world to make, his road is apt to be hard and rugged, and he will penetrate to an unusual depth in his interpretation both of the world’s attitude toward such misfortunes, and of the attitude toward the world which such misfortunes tend to cultivate in men like him. For he has all the battles of a stronger man to fight, and he is at a double disadvantage in fighting them. He has constantly with him the sense of being obliged to make extra efforts to overcome the bad impression of his physical defects, and he is haunted with a constant feeling of weakness and low vitality which makes effort more difficult and renders him easily fainthearted and discouraged by failure. He is never confident of himself, because he has grown up in an atmosphere where nobody has been very confident of him; and yet his environment and circumstances call out all sorts of ambitions and energies in him which, from the nature of his case, are bound to be immediately thwarted. This attitude is likely to keep him at a generally low level of accomplishment unless he have an unusually strong will, and a strong will is perhaps the last thing to develop under such circumstances.

That vague sense of physical uncomfortableness which is with him nearly every minute of his waking day serves, too, to make steady application for hours to any particular kind of work much more irksome than it is even to the lazy man. No one but the deformed man can realize just what the mere fact of sitting a foot lower than the normal means in discomfort and annoyance. For one cannot carry one’s special chair everywhere, to theatre and library and train and schoolroom. This sounds trivial, I know, but I mention it because it furnishes a real, even though usually dim, “background of consciousness” which one had to reckon with during all one’s solid work or enjoyment. The things that the world deems hardest for the deformed man to bear are perhaps really the easiest of all. I can truthfully say, for instance, that I have never suffered so much as a pang from the interested comments on my personal appearance made by urchins in the street, nor from the curious looks of people in the street and public places. To ignore this vulgar curiosity is the simplest and easiest thing in the world. It does not worry me in the least to appear on a platform if I have anything to say and there is anybody to listen. What one does get sensitive to is rather the inevitable way that people, acquaintances and strangers alike, have of discounting in advance what one does or says.

The deformed man is always conscious that the world does not expect very much from him. And it takes him a long time to see in this a challenge instead of a firm pressing down to a low level of accomplishment. As a result, he does not expect very much of himself; he is timid in approaching people, and distrustful of his ability to persuade and convince. He becomes extraordinarily sensitive to other people’s first impressions of him. Those who are to be his friends he knows instantly, and further acquaintance adds little to the intimacy and warm friendship that he at once feels for them. On the other hand, those who do not respond to him immediately cannot by any effort either on his part or theirs overcome that first alienation.

This sensitiveness has both its good and bad sides. It makes friendship that most precious thing in the world to him, and he finds that he arrives at a much richer and wider intimacy with his friends than do ordinary men with their light, surface friendships, based on good fellowship or the convenience of the moment. But on the other hand this sensitiveness absolutely unfits him for business and the practice of a profession, where one must be “all things to all men,” and the professional manner is indispensable to success. For here, where he has to meet a constant stream of men of all sorts and conditions, his sensitiveness to these first impressions will make his case hopeless. Except with those few who by some secret sympathy will seem to respond, his deformity will stand like a huge barrier between his personality and other men’s. The magical good fortune of attractive personal appearance makes its way almost without effort in the world, breaking down all sorts of walls of disapproval and lack of interest. Even the homely person can attract by personal charm. But deformity cannot even be charming.

The doors of the deformed man are always locked, and the key is on the outside. 

He may have treasures of charm inside, but they will never be revealed unless the person outside cooperates with him in unlocking the door. A friend becomes, to a much greater degree than with the ordinary man, the indispensable means of discovering one’s own personality. One only exists, so to speak, with friends. It is easy to see how hopelessly such a sensitiveness incapacitates a man for business, professional, or social life, where the hasty and superficial impression is everything, and disaster is the fate of the man who has not all the treasures of his personality in the front window, where they can be readily inspected and appraised.

It thus takes the deformed man a long time to get adjusted to his world. Childhood is perhaps the hardest time of all. As a child he is a strange creature in a strange land. It was my own fate to be just strong enough to play about with the other boys, and attempt all their games and “stunts” without being strong enough actually to succeed in any of them. It never used to occur to me that my failures and lack of skill were due to circumstances beyond my control, but I would always impute them, in consequence of my rigid Calvinistic bringing-up, I suppose, to some moral weakness of my own. I suffered tortures in trying to learn to skate, to climb trees, to play ball, to conform in general to the ways of the world. I never resigned myself to the inevitable, but overexerted myself constantly in a grim determination to succeed. I was good at my lessons, and through timidity rather than priggishness, I hope, a very well-behaved boy at school; I was devoted, too, to music, and learned to play the piano pretty well. But I despised my reputation for excellence in these things, and instead of adapting myself philosophically to the situation, I strove (and have been striving ever since) to do the things I could not.

As I look back now it seems perfectly natural that I should have followed the standards of the crowd, and loathed my high marks in lessons and deportment, and the concerts to which I was sent by my aunt, and the exhibitions of my musical skill that I had to give before admiring ladies. Whether or not such an experience is typical of handicapped children, there is tragedy there for those situated as I was. For had I been a little weaker physically, I should have been thrown back on reading omnivorously and cultivating my music, with some possible results; while if I had been a little stronger, I could have participated in the play on an equal footing with the rest. As it was, I simply tantalized myself, and grew up with a deepening sense of failure, and a lack of pride in what I really excelled at.

When the world become one of dances and parties and social evenings and boy-and-girl attachments — the world of youth — I was to find myself still less adapted to it. And this was the harder to bear because I was naturally sociable, and all these things appealed tremendously to me. This world of admiration and gayety and smiles and favors and quick interest and companionship, however, is only for the well-begotten and the debonair. It was not through any cruelty or dislike, I think, that I was refused admittance; indeed they were always very kind about inviting me. But it was more as if a ragged urchin had been asked to come and look through the window at the light and warmth of a glittering party; I was truly in the world, but not of the world. Indeed there were times when one would almost prefer conscious cruelty to this silent, unconscious, gentle oblivion. And this is the tragedy, I suppose, not only of the deformed, but of all the ill-favored and unattractive to a greater or less degree. The world of youth is a world of so many conventions, and the abnormal in any direction is so glaringly and hideously abnormal.

Although it took me a long time to understand this, and I continue to attribute my failure mostly to my own character, trying hard to compensate for my physical deficiencies by skill and cleverness, I suffered comparatively few pangs, and got much better adjusted to this world than to the other, For I was older, and I had acquired a lively interest in all the social politics; I would get so interested in watching how people behaved, and in sizing them up, that only at rare intervals would I remember that I was really having no hand in the game. This interest just in the ways people are human has become more and more a positive advantage in my life, and has kept sweet many a situation that might easily have cost me a pang. Not that a person with my disabilities should be a sort of detective, evil-mindedly using his social opportunities for spying out and analyzing his friends’ foibles, but that, if he does acquire an interest in people quite apart from their relation to him, he may go into society with an easy conscience and a certainty that he will be entertained and possibly entertaining, even though he cuts a poor enough social figure. He must simply not expect too much.

Perhaps the bitterest struggles of the handicapped man come when he tackles the business world. If he has to go out for himself to look for work, without fortune, training, or influence, as I personally did, his way will indeed be rugged. His disability will work against him for any position where he must be much in the eyes of men, and his general insignificance has a subtle influence in convincing those to whom he applies that he is unfitted for any kind of work. As I have suggested, his keen sensitiveness to other people’s impressions of him makes him more than unusually timid and unable to counteract that fatal first impression by any display of personal force and will. He cannot get his personality over across that barrier. The cards seem stacked against him from the start. With training and influence something might be done, but alone and unaided his case is almost hopeless. At least, this was my own experience. We were poor relations, and our prosperous relatives thought they had done quite enough for us without sending me through college, and I did not seem strong enough to work my way through (although I have since done it). I started out auspiciously enough, becoming a sort of apprentice to a musician who had invented a machine for turning out music-rolls. Here, with steady work, good pay, and the comfortable consciousness that I was “helping support the family,” I got the first pleasurable sensation of self-respect, I think, that I ever had. But with the failure of this business I was precipitated against the real world.

It would be futile to recount the story of my struggles: how I besieged for nearly two years firm after firm, in search of a permanent position, trying everything in New York in which I thought I had the slightest chance of success, meanwhile making a precarious living by a few music lessons. The attitude toward me ranged from “You can’t expect us to create a place for you,” to, “How could it enter your head that we should find any use for a man like you?” My situation was doubtless unusual. Few men handicapped as I was would be likely to go so long without arousing some interest and support in relative or friend. But my experience serves to illustrate the peculiar difficulties that a handicapped man meets if he has his own way to make in the world. He is discounted at the start: it is not business to make allowances for anybody; and while people were not cruel or unkind, it was the hopeless finality of the thing that filled one’s heart with despair.

The environment of a big city is perhaps the worst possible that a man in such a situation could have. For the thousands of seeming opportunities lead one restlessly on and on, and keep one’s mind perpetually unsettled and depressed. There is a poignant mental torture that comes with such an experience — the urgent need, the repeated failure, or rather the repeated failure even to obtain a chance to fail, the realization that those at home can ill afford to have you idle, the growing dread of encountering people — all this is something that those who have never been through it can never realize. Personally I know of no particular way of escape. One can expect to do little by one’s own unaided efforts. I solved my difficulties only by evading them, by throwing overboard some of my responsibility, and taking the desperate step of entering college on a scholarship. Desultory work is not nearly so humiliating when one is using one’s time to some advantage, and college furnishes an ideal environment where the things at which a man handicapped like myself can succeed really count. One’s self-respect can begin to grow like a weed.

For at the bottom of all the difficulties of a man like me is really the fact that his self-respect is so slow in growing up. Accustomed from childhood to being discounted, his self-respect is not naturally very strong, and it would require pretty constant success in a congenial line of work really to confirm it. If he could only more easily separate the factors that are due to his physical disability from those that are due to his weak will and character, he might more quickly attain self-respect, for he would realize what he is responsible for, and what he is not. But at the beginning he rarely makes allowances for himself, he is his own severest judge. He longs for a “strong will,” and yet the experience of having his efforts promptly nipped off at the beginning is the last thing on earth to produce that will.

Life, particularly if he is brought into harsh and direct touch with the real world, is a much more complex thing to him than to the ordinary man. Many of his inherited platitudes vanish at the first touch. Life appears to him as a grim struggle, where ability does not necessarily mean opportunity and success, nor piety sympathy, and where helplessness cannot count on assistance and kindly interest. Human affairs seem to be running on a wholly irrational plan, and success to be founded on chance as much as on anything. But if he can stand the first shock of disillusionment, he may find himself enormously interested in discovering how they actually do run, and he will want to burrow into the motives of men, and find the reasons for the crass inequalities and injustices of the world he sees around him. He has practically to construct anew a world of his own, and explain a great many things to himself that the ordinary person never dreams of finding unintelligible at all. He will be filled with a profound sympathy for all who are despised and ignored in the world. When he has been through the neglect and struggles of a handicapped and ill-favored man himself, he will begin to understand the feelings of all the horde of the unpresentable and the unemployable, the incompetent and the ugly, the queer and crotchety people who make up so large a proportion of human folk.

We are perhaps too prone to get our ideas and standards of worth from the successful, without reflecting that the interpretations of life which patriotic legend, copybook philosophy, and the sayings of the wealthy give us are pitifully inadequate for those who fall behind in the race. Surely there are enough people to whom the task of making a decent living and maintaining themselves and their families in their social class, or of winning and keeping the respect of their fellows, is a hard and bitter task, to make a philosophy gained through personal disability and failure as just and true a method of appraising the life around us as the cheap optimism of the ordinary professional man. And certainly a kindlier, for it has no shade of contempt or disparagement about it.

It irritates me as if I had been spoken of contemptuously myself, to hear people called “common” or “ordinary,” or to see that deadly and delicate feeling for social gradations crop out, which so many of our upper-middle-class women seem to have. It makes me wince to hear a man spoken of as a failure, or to have it said of one that he “doesn’t amount to much.” Instantly I want to know why he has not succeeded, and what have been the forces that have been working against him. He is the truly interesting person, and yet how little our eager-pressing, onrushing world cares about such aspects of life, and how hideously though unconsciously cruel and heartless it usually is.

Often I had tried in arguments to show my friends how much of circumstance and chance go to the making of success; and when I reached the age of sober reading, a long series of the works of radical social philosophers, beginning with Henry George, provided me with the materials for a philosophy which explained why men were miserable and overworked, and why there was on the whole so little joy and gladness among us — and which fixed the blame. Here was suggested a goal, and a definite glorious future, toward which all good men might work. My own working hours became filled with visions of how men could be brought to see all that this meant, and how I in particular might work some great and wonderful thing for human betterment. In more recent years, the study of history and social psychology and ethics has made those crude outlines sounder and more normal, and brought them into a saner relation to other aspects of life and thought, but I have not lost the first glow of enthusiasm, nor my belief in social progress as the first right and permanent interest for every thinking and truehearted man or woman.

I am ashamed that my experience has given me so little chance to count in any way toward either the spreading of such a philosophy or toward direct influence and action. Nor do I yet see clearly how I shall be able to count effectually toward this ideal. Of one thing I am sure, however: that life will have little meaning for me except as I am able to contribute toward some such ideal of social betterment, if not in deed, then in word. For this is the faith that I believe we need today, all of us — a truly religious belief in human progress, a thorough social consciousness, an eager delight in every sign and promise of social improvement, and best of all, a new spirit of courage that will dare. I want to give to the young men whom I see -who, with fine intellect and high principles, lack just that light of the future on their faces that would give them a purpose and meaning in life — to them I want to give some touch of this philosophy — that will energize their lives, and save them from the disheartening effects of that poisonous counsel of timidity and distrust of human ideals which pours out in steady stream from reactionary press and pulpit.

It is hard to tell just how much of this philosophy has been due to my handicaps. If it is solely to my physical misfortunes that I owe its existence, the price has not been a heavy one to pay. For it has given me something that I should not know how to be without. For, however gained, this radical philosophy has not only made the world intelligible and dynamic to me, but has furnished me with the strongest spiritual support. I know that many people, handicapped by physical weakness and failure, find consolation and satisfaction in a very different sort of faith — in an evangelical religion, and a feeling of close dependence on God and dose communion with him. But my experience has made my ideal of character militant rather than long-suffering.

I very early experienced a revulsion against the rigid Presbyterianism in which I had been brought up — a purely intellectual revulsion, I believe, because my mind was occupied for a long time afterward with theological questions, and the only feeling that entered into it was a sort of disgust at the arrogance of damning so great a proportion of the human race. I read T. W. Higginson’s The Sympathy of Religions with the greatest satisfaction, and attended the Unitarian Church whenever I could slip away. This faith, while it still appeals to me, seems at times a little too static and refined to satisfy me with completeness. For some time there was a considerable bitterness in my heart at the narrowness of the people who could still find comfort in the old faith. Reading Buckle and Oliver Wendell Holmes gave me a new contempt for “conventionality,” and my social philosophy still further tortured me by throwing the burden for the misery of the world on these same good neighbors. And all this, although I think I did not make a nuisance of myself, made me feel a spiritual and intellectual isolation in addition to my more or less effective physical isolation.

Happily these days are over. The world has righted itself, and I have been able to appreciate and realize how people count in a social and group capacity as well as in an individual and personal one, and to separate the two in my thinking. Really to believe in human nature while striving to know the thousand forces that warp it from its ideal development — to call for and expect much from men and women, and not to be disappointed and embittered if they fall short — to try to do good with people rather than to them -this is my religion on its human side. And if God exists, I think that He must be in the warm sun, in the kindly actions of the people we know and read of, in the beautiful things of art and nature, and in the closeness of friendships. He may also be in heaven, in life, in suffering, but it is only in these simple moments of happiness that I feel Him and know that He is there.

Death I do not understand at all. I have seen it in its cruelest, most irrational forms, where there has seemed no excuse, no palliation. I have only known that if we were more careful, and more relentless in fighting evil, if we knew more of medical science, such things would not be. I know that a sound body, intelligent care and training, prolong life, and that the death of a very old person is neither sad nor shocking, but sweet and fitting. I see in death a perpetual warning of how much there is to be known and done in the way of human progress and betterment. And equally, it seems to me, is this true of disease. So all the crises and deeper implications of life seem inevitably to lead back to that question of social improvement, and militant learning and doing.

This, then, is the goal of my religion — the bringing of fuller, richer life to more people on this earth. All institutions and all works that do not have this for their object are useless and pernicious. And this is not to be a mere philosophic precept which may well be buried under a host of more immediate matters, but a living faith, to permeate one’s thought, and transfuse one’s life. Prevention must be the method against evil. To remove temptation from men, and to apply the stimulus which shall call forth their highest endeavors — these seem to me the only right principles of ethical endeavor. Not to keep waging the agelong battle with sin and poverty, but to make the air around men so pure that foul lungs cannot breathe it — this should be our noblest religious aim.

Education — knowledge and training — I have felt so keenly my lack of these things that I count them as the greatest of means toward making life noble and happy. The lack of stimulus has tended with me to dissipate the power which might otherwise have been concentrated in some one productive direction. Or perhaps it was the many weak stimuli that constantly incited me and thus kept me from following one particular bent. I look back on what seems a long waste of intellectual power, time frittered away in groping and moping, which might easily have been spent constructively. A defect in one of the physical senses often means a keener sensitiveness in the others, but it seems that unless the sphere of action that the handicapped man has is very much narrowed, his intellectual ability will not grow in compensation for his physical defects. He will always feel that, had he been strong or even successful, he would have been further advanced intellectually, and would have attained greater command over his powers. For his mind tends to be cultivated extensively, rather than intensively. He has so many problems to meet, so many things to explain to himself, that he acquires a wide rather than a profound knowledge. Perhaps eventually, by eliminating most of these interests as practicable fields, he may tie himself down to one line of work; but at first he is pretty apt to find his mind rebellious. If he is eager and active, he will get a smattering of too many things, and his imperfect, badly trained organism will make intense application very difficult.

Now that I have talked a little of my philosophy of life, particularly about what I want to put into it, there is something to be said also of its enjoyment, and what I may hope to get out of it. I have said that my ideal of character was militant rather than long-suffering. It is true that my world has been one of failure and deficit — I have accomplished practically nothing alone, and can count only two or three instances where I have received kindly counsel and suggestion; moreover it still seems a miracle to me that money can be spent for anything beyond the necessities without being first carefully weighed and pondered over — but it has not been a world of suffering and sacrifice, my health has been almost criminally perfect in the light of my actual achievement, and life has appeared to me, at least since my more pressing responsibilities were removed, as a challenge and an arena, rather than a vale of tears. I do not like the idea of helplessly suffering one’s misfortunes, of passively bearing one’s lot. The Stoics depress me. I do not want to look on my life as an eternal making the best of a bad bargain. Granting all the circumstances, admitting all my disabilities, I want too to “warm both hands before the fire of life.” What satisfactions I have, and they are many and precious, I do not want to look on as compensations, but as positive goods.

The difference between what the strongest of the strong and the most winning of the attractive can get out of life, and what I can, is after all so slight. Our experiences and enjoyments, both his and mine, are so infinitesimal compared with the great mass of possibilities; and there must be a division of labor. If he takes the world of physical satisfactions and of material success, I at least can occupy the far richer kingdom of mental effort and artistic appreciation. And on the side of what we are to put into life, although I admit that achievement on my part will be harder relatively to encompass than on his, at least I may have the field of artistic creation and intellectual achievement for my own. Indeed, as one gets older, the fact of one’s disabilities fades dimmer and dimmer away from consciousness. One’s enemy is now one’s own weak will, and the struggle is to attain the artistic ideal one has set.

But one must have grown up, to get this attitude. And that is the best thing the handicapped man can do. Growing up will have given him one of the greatest, and certainly the most durable satisfaction of his life. It will mean at least that he is out of the woods. Childhood has nothing to offer him; youth little more. They are things to be gotten through with as soon as possible. For he will not understand, and he will not be understood. He finds himself simply a bundle of chaotic impulses and emotions and ambitions, very few of which, from the nature of the case, can possibly be realized or satisfied. He is bound to be at cross-grains with the world, and he has to look sharp that he does not grow up with a bad temper and a hateful disposition, and become cynical and bitter against those who turn him away. But grown up, his horizon will broaden; he will get a better perspective, and will not take the world so seriously as he used to, nor will failure frighten him so much. He can look back and see how inevitable it all was, and understand how precarious and problematic even the best regulated of human affairs may be. And if he feels that there were times when he should have been able to count upon the help and kindly counsel of relatives and acquaintances who remained dumb and uninterested, he will not put their behavior down as proof of the depravity of human nature, but as due to an unfortunate blindness which it will be his work to avoid in himself by looking out for others when he has the power.

When he has grown up, he will find that people of his own age and experience are willing to make those large allowances for what is out of the ordinary which were impossible to his younger friends, and that grown-up people touch each other on planes other than the purely superficial. With a broadening of his own interests, he will find himself overlapping other people’s personalities at new points, and will discover with rare delight that he is beginning to be understood and appreciated — at least to a greater degree than when he had to keep his real interests hid as something unusual. For he will begin to see in his friends, his music and books, and his interest in people and social betterment, his true life; many of his restless ambitions will fade gradually away, and he will come to recognize all the more clearly some true ambition of his life that is within the range of his capabilities. He will have built up his world, and have sifted out the things that are not going to concern him, and participation in which will only serve to vex and harass him. He may well come to count his deformity even as a blessing, for it has made impossible to him at last many things in the pursuit of which he would only fritter away his time and dissipate his interest. He must not think of “resigning himself to his fate”; above all he must insist on his own personality. For once really grown up, he will find that he has acquired self-respect and personality. Grown-upness, I think, is not a mere question of age, but of being able to look back and understand and find satisfaction in one’s experience, no matter how bitter it may have been.

So to all who are situated as I am, I would say — Grow up as fast as you can. Cultivate the widest interests you can, and cherish all your friends. Cultivate some artistic talent, for you will find it the most durable of satisfactions, and perhaps one of the surest means of livelihood as well. Achievement is, of course, on the knees of the gods; but you will at least have the thrill of trial, and, after all, not to try is to fail. Taking your disabilities for granted, and assuming constantly that they are being taken for granted, make your social intercourse as broad and as constant as possible. Do not take the world too seriously, nor let too many social conventions oppress you. Keep sweet your sense of humor, and above all do not let any morbid feelings of inferiority creep into your soul. You will find yourself sensitive enough to the sympathy of others, and if you do not find people who like you and are willing to meet you more than halfway, it will be because you have let your disability narrow your vision and shrink up your soul. It will be really your own fault, and not that of your circumstances. In a word, keep looking outward; look out eagerly for those things that interest you, for people who will interest you and be friends with you, for new interests and for opportunities to express yourself. You will find that your disability will come to have little meaning for you, that it will begin to fade quite completely out of your sight; you will wake up some fine morning and find yourself, after all the struggles that seemed so bitter to you, really and truly adjusted to the world.

I am perhaps not yet sufficiently out of the wilderness to utter all these brave words. For, I must confess, I find myself hopelessly dependent on my friends, and my environment. My friends have come to mean more to me than almost anything else in the world. If it is far harder work for a man in my situation to make friendships quickly, at least friendships once made have a depth and intimacy quite beyond ordinary attachments. For a man such as I am has little prestige; people do not want to impress him. They are genuine and sincere, talk to him freely about themselves, and are generally far less reticent about revealing their real personality and history and aspirations. And particularly is this so in friendships with young women. I have found their friendships the most delightful and satisfying of all. For all that social convention that insists that every friendship between a young man and woman must be on a romantic basis is necessarily absent in our case. There is no fringe around us to make our acquaintance anything but a charming companionship. With all my friends, the same thing is true. The first barrier of strangeness broken down, our interest is really in each other, and not in what each is going to think of the other, how he is to be impressed, or whether we are going to fall in love with each other. When one of my friends moves away, I feel as if a great hole had been left in my life. There is a whole side of my personality that I cannot express without him. I shudder to think of any change that will deprive me of their constant companionship. Without friends I feel as if even my music and books and interests would turn stale on my hands. I confess that I am not grown up enough to get along without them.

But if I am not yet out of the wilderness, at least I think I see the way to happiness. With health and a modicum of achievement, I shall not see my lot as unenviable. And if misfortune comes, it will only be something flowing from the common lot of men, not from my own particular disability. Most of the difficulties that flow from that I flatter myself I have met by this time of my twenty-fifth year, have looked full in the face, have grappled with, and find in nowise so formidable as the world usually deems them; no bar to my real ambitions and ideals.

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John Dos Passos, from his novel 1919 (published 1932)

Randolph Bourne came as an inhabitant of this earth without the pleasure of choosing his dwelling or his career.
He was a hunchback, grandson of a congregational minister, born in 1886 in Bloomfield, New Jersey; there he attended grammarschool and highschool.

At the age of seventeen he went to work as a secretary to a Morristown businessman.
He worked his way through Columbia working in a pianola record factory in Newark, working as proofreader, pianotuner, accompanist in a vocal studio in Carnegie Hall.

At Columbia he studied with John Dewey, got a traveling fellowship that took him to England Paris Rome Berlin Copenhagen, wrote a book on the Gary schools.
In Europe he heard music, a great deal of Wagner and Scriabine and bought himself a black cape.

This little sparrowlike man, tiny twisted bit of flesh in a black cape, always in pain and ailing, put a pebble in his sling and hit Goliath square in the forehead with it.
War, he wrote, is the health of the state.

Half musician, half educational theorist (weak health and being poor and twisted in body and on bad terms with his people hadn’t spoiled the world for Randolph Bourne; he was a happy man, loved die Meistersinger and playing Bach with his long hands that stretched so easily over the keys and pretty girls and good food and evenings of talk. When he was dying of pneumonia a friend brought him an eggnog; Look at the yellow, its beautiful, he kept saying as his life ebbed into delirium and fever. He was a happy man.) 

Bourne seized with feverish intensity on the ideas then going around at Columbia he picked rosy glasses out of the turgid jumble of John Dewey’s teaching through which he saw clear and sharp the shining capitol of reformed democracy, Wilson’s New Freedom; but he was too good a mathematician; he had to work the equations out; with the result that in the crazy spring of 1917 he began to get unpopular where his bread was buttered at the New Republic; for New Freedom read Conscription, for Democracy, Win the War, for Reform, Safeguard the Morgan Loans for Progress Civilization Education Service, Buy a Liberty Bond, Strafe the Hun, Jail the Objectors.

He resigned from the New Republic; only The Seven Arts had the nerve to publish his articles against the war. The backers of the Seven Arts took their money elsewhere; friends didn’t like to be seen with Bourne, his father wrote him begging him not to disgrace the family name. The rainbowtinted future of reformed democracy went pop like a pricked soapbubble.

The liberals scurried to Washington; some of his friends pled with him to climb up on Schoolmaster Wilson’s sharabang; the war was great fought from the swivel chairs of Mr. Creel’s bureau in Washington.
He was cartooned, shadowed by the espionage service and the counter-espionage service; taking a walk with two girl friends at Wood’s Hole he was arrested, a trunk full of manuscript and letters stolen from him in Connecticut. (Force to the utmost, thundered Schoolmaster Wilson)

He didn’t live to see the big circus of the Peace of Versailles or the purplish normalcy of the Ohio Gang. Six weeks after the armistice he died planning an essay on the foundations of future radicalism in America.

If any man has a ghost Bourne has a ghost, a tiny twisted unscared ghost in a black cloak hopping along the grimy old brick and brownstone streets still left in downtown New York, crying out in a shrill soundless giggle;

“War is the health of the state.” 

*

War is the Health of the State, 

by Randolph Bourne

To most Americans of the classes which consider themselves significant the war [World War I] brought a sense of the sanctity of the State which, if they had had time to think about it, would have seemed a sudden and surprising alteration in their habits of thought. In times of peace, we usually ignore the State in favour of partisan political controversies, or personal struggles for office, or the pursuit of party policies. It is the Government rather than the State with which the politically minded are concerned. The State is reduced to a shadowy emblem which comes to consciousness only on occasions of patriotic holiday.

Government is obviously composed of common and unsanctified men, and is thus a legitimate object of criticism and even contempt. If your own party is in power, things may be assumed to be moving safely enough; but if the opposition is in, then clearly all safety and honor have fled the State. Yet you do not put it to yourself in quite that way. What you think is only that there are rascals to be turned out of a very practical machinery of offices and functions which you take for granted. 
When we say that Americans are lawless, we usually mean that they are less conscious than other peoples of the august majesty of the institution of the State as it stands behind the objective government of men and laws which we see. In a republic the men who hold office are indistinguishable from the mass. Very few of them possess the slightest personal dignity with which they could endow their political role; even if they ever thought of such a thing. And they have no class distinction to give them glamour. In a republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking. In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory, because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of Country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.

Now this feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive; we think of our own people merely as living on the earth’s surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them. In our simple conception of country there is no more feeling of rivalry with other peoples than there is in our feeling for our family. Our interest turns within rather than without, is intensive and not belligerent. We grow up and our imaginations gradually stake out the world we live in, they need no greater conscious satisfaction for their gregarious impulses than this sense of a great mass of people to whom we are more or less attuned, and in whose institutions we are functioning. The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the ideas of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition: it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion.

The State is the country acting as a political unit, it is the group acting as a repository of force, determiner of law, arbiter of justice. International politics is a “power politics” because it is a relation of States and that is what States infallibly and calamitously are, huge aggregations of human and industrial force that may be hurled against each other in war. When a country acts as a whole in relation to another country, or in imposing laws on its own inhabitants, or in coercing or punishing individuals or minorities, it is acting as a State.

The history of America as a country is quite different from that of America as a State. In one case it is the drama of the pioneering conquest of the land, of the growth of wealth and the ways in which it was used, of the enterprise of education, and the carrying out of spiritual ideals, of the struggle of economic classes. But as a State, its history is that of playing a part in the world, making war, obstructing international trade, preventing itself from being split to pieces, punishing those citizens whom society agrees are offensive, and collecting money to pay for all. 

Government on the other hand is synonymous with neither State nor Nation. It is the machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions. Government is a framework of the administration of laws, and the carrying out of the public force. Government is the idea of the State put into practical operation in the hands of definite, concrete, fallible men. It is the visible sign of the invisible grace. It is the word made flesh. And it has necessarily the limitations inherent in all practicality. Government is the only form in which we can envisage the State, but it is by no means identical with it. That the State is a mystical conception is something that must never be forgotten. Its glamour and its significance linger behind the framework of Government and direct its activities. Wartime brings the ideal of the State out into very clear relief, and reveals attitudes and tendencies that were hidden. In times of peace the sense of the State flags in a republic that is not militarized. For war is essentially the health of the State. The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of man, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. Its idealism is a rich blood flowing to all the members of the body politic. 

And it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned. The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing down to the lowest level of the herd, and to its most remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or a military defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become — the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men’s business and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, toward the great end, toward the “peacefulness of being at war,” of which L.P. Jacks [Lawrence Pearsall Jacks, Oxford philosopher and Unitarian clergyman] has so unforgettably spoken.

The classes which are able to play an active and not merely a passive role in the organization for war get a tremendous liberation of activity and energy. Individuals are jolted out of their old routine, many of them are given new positions of responsibility, new techniques must be learned. Wearing home ties are broken and women who would have remained attached with infantile bonds are liberated for service overseas. A vast sense of rejuvenescence pervades the significant classes, a sense of new importance in the world. 

Old national ideals are taken out, re-adapted to the purpose and used as universal touchstones, or molds into which all thought is poured. Every individual citizen who in peacetimes had no function to perform by which he could imagine himself an expression or living fragment of the State becomes an active amateur agent of the Government in reporting spies and disloyalists, in raising Government funds, or in propagating such measures as are considered necessary by officialdom. Minority opinion, which in times of peace, was only irritating and could not be dealt with by law unless it was conjoined with actual crime, becomes, with the outbreak of war, a case for outlawry. Criticism of the State, objections to war, lukewarm opinions concerning the necessity or the beauty of conscription, are made subject to ferocious penalties, far exceeding in severity those affixed to actual pragmatic crimes. 

Public opinion, as expressed in the newspapers, and the pulpits and the schools, becomes one solid block. “Loyalty,” or rather war orthodoxy, becomes the sole test for all professions, techniques, occupations. Particularly is this true in the sphere of the intellectual life. There the smallest taint is held to spread over the whole soul, so that a professor of physics is ipso facto disqualified to teach physics or to hold honorable place in a university — the republic of learning — if he is at all unsound on the war. Even mere association with persons thus tainted is considered to disqualify a teacher. Anything pertaining to the enemy becomes taboo. His books are suppressed wherever possible, his language is forbidden. His artistic products are considered to convey in the subtlest spiritual way taints of vast poison to the soul that permits itself to enjoy them. So enemy music is suppressed, and energetic measures of opprobrium taken against those whose artistic consciences are not ready to perform such an act of self-sacrifice. The rage for loyal conformity works impartially, and often in diametric opposition to other orthodoxies and traditional conformities, or even ideals. The triumphant orthodoxy of the State is shown at its apex perhaps when Christian preachers lose their pulpits for taking in more or less literal terms the Sermon on the Mount, and Christian zealots are sent to prison for twenty years for distributing tracts which argue that war is unscriptural.
War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation instead of converting, merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. 

Loyalty — or mystic devotion to the State — becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.

War — or at least modern war waged by a democratic republic against a powerful enemy — seems to achieve for a nation almost all that the most inflamed political idealist could desire. Citizens are no longer indifferent to their Government, but each cell of the body politic is brimming with life and activity. We are at last on the way to full realization of that collective community in which each individual somehow contains the virtue of the whole. In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself wholeheartedly into the cause of war. The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out. At war, the individual becomes almost identical with his society. He achieves a superb self-assurance, an intuition of the rightness of all his ideas and emotions, so that in the suppression of opponents or heretics he is invincibly strong; he feels behind him all the power of the collective community. The individual as social being in war seems to have achieved almost his apotheosis. Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice and labor. 

Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature, would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men. But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of “democracy,” it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.

For these secular goods, connected with the enhancement of life, the education of man and the use of the intelligence to realize reason and beauty in the nation’s communal living, are alien to our traditional ideal of the State. The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rival group has meant, throughout all history — war. There is nothing invidious in the use of the term “herd” in connection with the State. It is merely an attempt to reduce closer to first principles the nature of this institution in the shadow of which we all live, move, and have our being. Ethnologists are generally agreed that human society made its first appearance as the human pack and not as a collection of individuals or of couples. The herd is in fact the original unit, and only as it was differentiated did personal individuality develop. 

All the most primitive surviving tribes of men are shown to live in a very complex but very rigid social organization where opportunity for individuation is scarcely given. These tribes remain strictly organized herds, and the difference between them and the modern State is one of degree of sophistication and variety of organization, and not of kind.

Psychologists recognize the gregarious impulse as one of the strongest primitive pulls which keeps together the herds of the different species of higher animals. Mankind is no exception. Our pugnacious evolutionary history has prevented the impulse from ever dying out. This gregarious impulse is the tendency to imitate, to conform, to coalesce together, and is most powerful when the herd believes itself threatened with attack. Animals crowd together for protection, and men become most conscious of their collectivity at the threat of war.

Consciousness of collectivity brings confidence and a feeling of massed strength, which in turn arouses pugnacity and the battle is on. In civilized man, the gregarious impulse acts not only to produce concerted action for defense, but also to produce identity of opinion. Since thought is a form of behavior, the gregarious impulse floods up into its realms and demands that sense of uniform thought which wartime produces so successfully. And it is in this flooding of the conscious life of society that gregariousness works its havoc.

For just as in modern societies the sex instinct is enormously oversupplied for the requirements of human propagation, so the gregarious impulse is enormously oversupplied for the work of protection which it is called upon to perform. It would be quite enough if we were gregarious enough to enjoy the companionship of others, to be able to cooperate with them, and to feel a slight malaise at solitude. Unfortunately, however, this impulse is not content with these reasonable and healthful demands, but insists that like-mindedness shall prevail everywhere, in all departments of life. So that all human progress, all novelty, and nonconformity, must be carried against the resistance of this tyrannical herd instinct which drives the individual into obedience and conformity with the majority. Even in the most modern and enlightened societies this impulse shows little sign of abating. As it is driven by inexorable economic demand out of the sphere of utility, it seems to fasten itself ever more fiercely in the realm of feeling and opinion, so that conformity comes to be a thing aggressively desired and demanded.

The gregarious impulse keeps its hold all the more virulently because when the group is in motion or is taking any positive action, this feeling of being with and supported by the collective herd very greatly feeds that will to power, the nourishment of which the individual organism so constantly demands. You feel powerful by conforming, and you feel forlorn and helpless if you are out of the crowd. While even if you do not get any access of power by thinking and feeling just as everybody else in your group does, you get at least the warm feeling of obedience, the soothing irresponsibility of protection.

Joining as it does to these very vigorous tendencies of the individual — the pleasure in power and the pleasure in obedience — this gregarious impulse becomes irresistible in society. War stimulates it to the highest possible degree, sending the influences of its mysterious herd-current with its inflations of power and obedience to the farthest reaches of the society, to every individual and little group that can possibly be affected. And it is these impulses which the State — the organization of the entire herd, the entire collectivity — is founded on and makes use of.

There is, of course, in the feeling toward the State a large element of pure filial mysticism. The sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one’s desire back to the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feelings of protection. It is not for nothing that one’s State is still thought of as Father or Motherland, that one’s relation toward it is conceived in terms of family affection. The war has shown that nowhere under the shock of danger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to assert themselves again, as much in this country as anywhere. If we have not the intense Father-sense of the German who worships his Vaterland, at least in Uncle Sam we have a symbol of protecting, kindly authority, and in the many Mother-posters of the Red Cross, we see how easily in the more tender functions of war service, the ruling organization is conceived in family terms. A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naïve faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. 

In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily, and upon none more than those members of the significant classes who have had bequeathed to them or have assumed the responsibilities of governing. The State provides the convenientest of symbols under which these classes can retain all the actual pragmatic satisfaction of governing, but can rid themselves of the psychic burden of adulthood. They continue to direct industry and government and all the institutions of society pretty much as before, but in their own conscious eyes and in the eyes of the general public, they are turned from their selfish and predatory ways, and have become loyal servants of society, or something greater than they — the State. The man who moves from the direction of a large business in New York to a post in the war management industrial service in Washington does not apparently alter very much his power or his administrative technique. But psychically, what a transfiguration has occurred! His is now not only the power but the glory! And his sense of satisfaction is directly proportional not to the genuine amount of personal sacrifice that may be involved in the change but to the extent to which he retains his industrial prerogatives and sense of command.

From members of this class a certain insuperable indignation arises if the change from private enterprise to State service involves any real loss of power and personal privilege. If there is to be pragmatic sacrifice, let it be, they feel, on the field of honor, in the traditionally acclaimed deaths by battle, in that detour to suicide, as Nietzsche calls war. The State in wartime supplies satisfaction for this very real craving, but its chief value is the opportunity it gives for this regression to infantile attitudes. In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas.
The members of the working classes, that portion at least which does not identify itself with the significant classes and seek to imitate it and rise to it, are notoriously less affected by the symbolism of the State, or, in other words, are less patriotic than the significant classes. For theirs is neither the power nor the glory. The State in wartime does not offer them the opportunity to regress, for, never having acquired social adulthood, they cannot lose it. If they have been drilled and regimented, as by the industrial regime of the last century, they go out docilely enough to do battle for their State, but they are almost entirely without that filial sense and even without that herd-intellect sense which operates so powerfully among their “betters.” They live habitually in an industrial serfdom, by which, though nominally free, they are in practice as a class bound to a system of machine-production the implements of which they do not own, and in the distribution of whose product they have not the slightest voice, except what they can occasionally exert by a veiled intimidation which draws slightly more of the product in their direction. From such serfdom, military conscription is not so great a change. But into the military enterprise they go, not with those hurrahs of the significant classes whose instincts war so powerfully feeds, but with the same apathy with which they enter and continue in the industrial enterprise.

From this point of view, war can be called almost an upper-class sport. The novel interests and excitements it provides, the inflations of power, the satisfaction it gives to those very tenacious human impulses — gregariousness and parent-regression — endow it with all the qualities of a luxurious collective game which is felt intensely just in proportion to the sense of significant rule the person has in the class division of his society. A country at war — particularly our own country at war — does not act as a purely homogeneous herd. The significant classes have all the herd-feeling in all its primitive intensity, but there are barriers, or at least differentials of intensity, so that this feeling does not flow freely without impediment throughout the entire nation. A modern country represents a long historical and social process of disaggregation of the herd. The nation at peace is not a group, it is a network of myriads of groups representing the cooperation and similar feeling of men on all sorts of planes and in all sorts of human interests and enterprises. In every modern industrial country, there are parallel planes of economic classes with divergent attitudes and institutions and interests — bourgeois and proletariat, with their many subdivisions according to power and function, and even their interweaving, such as those more highly skilled workers who habitually identify themselves with the owning and the significant classes and strive to raise themselves to the bourgeois level, imitating their cultural standards and manners. Then there are religious groups with a certain definite, though weakening sense of kinship, and there are the powerful ethnic groups which behave almost as cultural colonies in the New World, clinging tenaciously to language and historical tradition, though their herdishness is usually founded on cultural rather than State symbols. There are even certain vague sectional groupings. All these small sects, political parties, classes, levels, interests, may act as foci for herd-feelings. They intersect and interweave, and the same person may be a member of several different groups lying at different planes. Different occasions will set off his herd-feeling in one direction or another. In a religious crisis he will be intensely conscious of the necessity that his sect (or sub-herd) may prevail, in a political campaign, that his party shall triumph.

To the spread of herd-feeling, therefore, all these smaller herds offer resistance. To the spread of that herd-feeling which arises from the threat of war, and which would normally involve the entire nation, the only groups which make serious resistance are those, of course, which continue to identify themselves with the other nation from which they or their parents have come. In times of peace they are for all practical purposes citizens of their new country. They keep alive their ethnic traditions more as a luxury than anything. Indeed these traditions tend rapidly to die out except where they connect with some still unresolved nationalistic cause abroad, with some struggle for freedom, or some irredentism. If they are consciously opposed by a too invidious policy of Americanism, they tend to be strengthened. And in time of war, these ethnic elements which have any traditional connection with the enemy, even though most of the individuals may have little real sympathy with the enemy’s cause, are naturally lukewarm to the herd-feeling of the nation which goes back to State traditions in which they have no share. But to the natives imbued with State-feeling, any such resistance or apathy is intolerable. This herd-feeling, this newly awakened consciousness of the State, demands universality. The leaders of the significant classes, who feel most intensely this State compulsion, demand a 100 percent Americanism, among 100 percent of the population. The State is a jealous God and will brook no rivals. Its sovereignty must pervade every one, and all feeling must be run into the stereotyped forms of romantic patriotic militarism which is the traditional expression of the State herd-feeling.

Thus arises conflict within the State. War becomes almost a sport between the hunters and the hunted. The pursuit of enemies within outweighs in psychic attractiveness the assault on the enemy without. The whole terrific force of the State is brought to bear against the heretics. The nation boils with a slow insistent fever. A white terrorism is carried on by the Government against pacifists, socialists, enemy aliens, and a milder unofficial persecution against all persons or movements that can be imagined as connected with the enemy. War, which should be the health of the State, unifies all the bourgeois elements and the common people, and outlaws the rest. The revolutionary proletariat shows more resistance to this unification, is, as we have seen, psychically out of the current. Its vanguard, as the I.W.W., is remorselessly pursued, in spite of the proof that it is a symptom, not a cause, and its persecution increases the disaffection of labor and intensifies the friction instead of lessening it.

But the emotions that play around the defense of the State do not take into consideration the pragmatic results. A nation at war, led by its significant classes, is engaged in liberating certain of its impulses which have had all too little exercise in the past. It is getting certain satisfactions, and the actual conduct of the war or the condition of the country are really incidental to the enjoyment of new forms of virtue and power and aggressiveness. If it could be shown conclusively that the persecution of slightly disaffected elements actually increased enormously the difficulties of production and the organization of the war technique, it would be found that public policy would scarcely change. The significant classes must have their pleasure in hunting down and chastising everything that they feel instinctively to be not imbued with the current State enthusiasm, though the State itself be actually impeded in its efforts to carry out those objects for which they are passionately contending. The best proof of this is that with a pursuit of plotters that has continued with ceaseless vigilance ever since the beginning of the war in Europe, the concrete crimes unearthed and punished have been fewer than those prosecutions for the mere crime of opinion or the expression of sentiments critical of the State or the national policy. The punishment for opinion has been far more ferocious and unintermittent than the punishment of pragmatic crime. Unimpeachable Anglo-Saxon Americans who were freer of pacifist or socialist utterance than the State-obsessed ruling public opinion, received heavier penalties and even greater opprobrium, in many instances, than the definitely hostile German plotter. A public opinion which, almost without protest, accepts as just, adequate, beautiful, deserved, and in fitting harmony with ideals of liberty and freedom of speech, a sentence of twenty years in prison for mere utterances, no matter what they may be, shows itself to be suffering from a kind of social derangement of values, a sort of social neurosis, that deserves analysis and comprehension.

On our entrance into the war, there were many persons who predicted exactly this derangement of values, who feared lest democracy suffer more at home from an America at war than could be gained for democracy abroad. That fear has been amply justified. The question whether the American nation would act like an enlightened democracy going to war for the sake of high ideals, or like a State-obsessed herd, has been decisively answered. The record is written and cannot be erased. History will decide whether the terrorization of opinion and the regimentation of life were justified under the most idealistic of democratic administrations. It will see that when the American nation had ostensibly a chance to conduct a gallant war, with scrupulous regard to the safety of democratic values at home, it chose rather to adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy and of the other countries at war, and to rival in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst governmental systems of the age. For its former unconsciousness and disrespect of the State ideal, the nation apparently paid the penalty in a violent swing to the other extreme. It acted so exactly like a herd in its irrational coercion of minorities that there is no artificiality in interpreting the progress of the war in terms of the herd psychology. It unwittingly brought out into the strongest relief the true characteristics of the State and its intimate alliance with war. It provided for the enemies of war and the critics of the State the most telling arguments possible. The new passion for the State ideal unwittingly set in motion and encouraged forces that threaten very materially to reform the State. It has shown those who are really determined to end war that the problem is not the mere simple one of finishing a war that will end war.

For war is a complicated way in which a nation acts, and it acts so out of a spiritual compulsion which pushes it on, perhaps against all its interests, all its real desires, and all its real sense of values. It is States that make wars and not nations, and the very thought and almost necessity of war is bound up with the ideal of the State. Not for centuries have nations made war; in fact the only historical example of nations making war is the great barbarian invasions into southern Europe, the invasions of Russia from the East, and perhaps the sweep of Islam through northern Africa into Europe after Mohammed’s death. And the motivations for such wars were either the restless expansion of migratory tribes or the flame of religious fanaticism. Perhaps these great movements could scarcely be called wars at all, for war implies an organized people drilled and led: in fact, it necessitates the State. Ever since Europe has had any such organization, such huge conflicts between nations — nations, that is, as cultural groups — have been unthinkable. It is preposterous to assume that for centuries in Europe there would have been any possibility of a people en masse (with their own leaders, and not with the leaders of their duly constituted State) rising up and overflowing their borders in a war raid upon a neighboring people. The wars of the Revolutionary armies of France were clearly in defense of an imperiled freedom, and, moreover, they were clearly directed not against other peoples, but against the autocratic governments that were combining to crush the Revolution. There is no instance in history of a genuinely national war. There are instances of national defenses, among primitive civilizations such as the Balkan peoples, against intolerable invasion by neighboring despots or oppression. But war, as such, cannot occur except in a system of competing States, which have relations with each other through the channels of diplomacy.

War is a function of this system of States, and could not occur except in such a system. Nations organized for internal administration, nations organized as a federation of free communities, nations organized in any way except that of a political centralization of a dynasty, or the reformed descendant of a dynasty, could not possibly make war upon each other. They would not only have no motive for conflict, but they would be unable to muster the concentrated force to make war effective. There might be all sorts of amateur marauding, there might be guerrilla expeditions of group against group, but there could not be that terrible war en masse of the national State, that exploitation of the nation in the interests of the State, that abuse of the national life and resource in the frenzied mutual suicide, which is modern war.

It cannot be too firmly realized that war is a function of States and not of nations, indeed that it is the chief function of States. War is a very artificial thing. It is not the naïve spontaneous outburst of herd pugnacity; it is no more primary than is formal religion. War cannot exist without a military establishment, and a military establishment cannot exist without a State organization. War has an immemorial tradition and heredity only because the State has a long tradition and heredity. But they are inseparably and functionally joined. We cannot crusade against war without crusading implicitly against the State. And we cannot expect, or take measures to ensure, that this war is a war to end war, unless at the same time we take measures to end the State in its traditional form. The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated. If the State’s chief function is war, then the State must suck out of the nation a large part of its energy for its purely sterile purposes of defense and aggression. It devotes to waste or to actual destruction as much as it can of the vitality of the nation. No one will deny that war is a vast complex of life-destroying and life-crippling forces. If the State’s chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction. And this means not only the actual and potential destruction of the enemy, but of the nation at home as well. For the very existence of a State in a system of States means that the nation lies always under a risk of war and invasion, and the calling away of energy into military pursuits means a crippling of the productive and life-enhancing processes of the national life.

All this organization of death-dealing energy and technique is not a natural but a very sophisticated process. Particularly in modern nations, but also all through the course of modern European history, it could never exist without the State. For it meets the demands of no other institution, it follows the desires of no religious, industrial, political group. If the demand for military organization and a military establishment seems to come not from the officers of the State but from the public, it is only that it comes from the State-obsessed portion of the public, those groups which feel most keenly the State ideal. And in this country we have had evidence all too indubitable how powerless the pacifically minded officers of State may be in the face of a State obsession of the significant classes. If a powerful section of the significant classes feels more intensely the attitudes of the State, then they will most infallibly mold the Government in time to their wishes, bring it back to act as the embodiment of the State which it pretends to be. In every country we have seen groups that were more loyal than the king — more patriotic than the Government — the Ulsterites in Great Britain, the Junkers in Prussia, l’Action Française in France, our patrioteers in America. These groups exist to keep the steering wheel of the State straight, and they prevent the nation from ever veering very far from the State ideal.

Militarism expresses the desires and satisfies the major impulse only of this class. The other classes, left to themselves, have too many necessities and interests and ambitions, to concern themselves with so expensive and destructive a game. But the State-obsessed group is either able to get control of the machinery of the State or to intimidate those in control, so that it is able through use of the collective force to regiment the other grudging and reluctant classes into a military program. State idealism percolates down through the strata of society; capturing groups and individuals just in proportion to the prestige of this dominant class. So that we have the herd actually strung along between two extremes, the militaristic patriots at one end, who are scarcely distinguishable in attitude and animus from the most reactionary Bourbons of an Empire, and unskilled labor groups, which entirely lack the State sense. But the State acts as a whole, and the class that controls governmental machinery can swing the effective action of the herd as a whole. The herd is not actually a whole, emotionally. But by an ingenious mixture of cajolery, agitation, intimidation, the herd is licked into shape, into an effective mechanical unity, if not into a spiritual whole. Men are told simultaneously that they will enter the military establishment of their own volition, as their splendid sacrifice for their country’s welfare, and that if they do not enter they will be hunted down and punished with the most horrid penalties; and under a most indescribable confusion of democratic pride and personal fear they submit to the destruction of their livelihood if not their lives, in a way that would formerly have seemed to them so obnoxious as to be incredible.

In this great herd machinery, dissent is like sand in the bearings. The State ideal is primarily a sort of blind animal push toward military unity. Any difference with that unity turns the whole vast impulse toward crushing it. Dissent is speedily outlawed, and the Government, backed by the significant classes and those who in every locality, however small, identify themselves with them, proceeds against the outlaws, regardless of their value to the other institutions of the nation, or to the effect their persecution may have on public opinion. The herd becomes divided into the hunters and the hunted, and war enterprise becomes not only a technical game but a sport as well. It must never be forgotten that nations do not declare war on each other, nor in the strictest sense is it nations that fight each other. Much has been said to the effect that modern wars are wars of whole peoples and not of dynasties. Because the entire nation is regimented and the whole resources of the country are levied on for war, this does not mean that it is the country qua country which is fighting. It is the country organized as a State that is fighting, and only as a State would it possibly fight. So literally it is States which make war on each other and not peoples. Governments are the agents of States, and it is Governments which declare war on each other, acting truest to form in the interests of the great State ideal they represent. There is no case known in modern times of the people being consulted in the initiation of a war. The present demand for “democratic control” of foreign policy indicates how completely, even in the most democratic of modern nations, foreign policy has been the secret private possession of the executive branch of the Government.

However representative of the people Parliaments and Congresses may be in all that concerns the internal administration of a country’s political affairs, in international relations it has never been possible to maintain that the popular body acted except as a wholly mechanical ratifier of the Executive’s will. The formality by which Parliaments and Congresses declare war is the merest technicality. Before such a declaration can take place, the country will have been brought to the very brink of war by the foreign policy of the Executive. A long series of steps on the downward path, each one more fatally committing the unsuspecting country to a warlike course of action, will have been taken without either the people or its representatives being consulted or expressing its feeling. When the declaration of war is finally demanded by the Executive, the Parliament or Congress could not refuse it without reversing the course of history, without repudiating what has been representing itself in the eyes of the other States as the symbol and interpreter of the nation’s will and animus. To repudiate an Executive at that time would be to publish to the entire world the evidence that the country had been grossly deceived by its own Government, that the country with an almost criminal carelessness had allowed its Government to commit it to gigantic national enterprises in which it had no heart. In such a crisis, even a Parliament which in the most democratic States represents the common man and not the significant classes who most strongly cherish the State ideal, will cheerfully sustain the foreign policy which it understands even less than it would care for if it understood, and will vote almost unanimously for an incalculable war, in which the nation may be brought well nigh to ruin. That is why the referendum which was advocated by some people as a test of American sentiment in entering the war was considered even by thoughtful democrats to be something subtly improper. The die had been cast. Popular whim could only derange and bungle monstrously the majestic march of State policy in its new crusade for the peace of the world. The irresistible State ideal got hold of the bowels of men. Whereas up to this time, it had been irreproachable to be neutral in word and deed, for the foreign policy of the State had so decided it, henceforth it became the most arrant crime to remain neutral. The Middle West, which had been soddenly pacifistic in our days of neutrality, became in a few months just as soddenly bellicose, and in its zeal for witch-burnings and its scent for enemies within gave precedence to no section of the country. The herd-mind followed faithfully the State-mind and, the agitation for a referendum being soon forgotten, the country fell into the universal conclusion that, since its Congress had formally declared the war, the nation itself had in the most solemn and universal way devised and brought on the entire affair.

Oppression of minorities became justified on the plea that the latter were perversely resisting the rationally constructed and solemnly declared will of a majority of the nation. The herd coalescence of opinion which became inevitable the moment the State had set flowing the war attitudes became interpreted as a prewar popular decision, and disinclination to bow to the herd was treated as a monstrously antisocial act. So that the State, which had vigorously resisted the idea of a referendum and clung tenaciously and, of course, with entire success to its autocratic and absolute control of foreign policy, had the pleasure of seeing the country, within a few months, given over to the retrospective impression that a genuine referendum had taken place. When once a country has lapped up these State attitudes, its memory fades; it conceives itself not as merely accepting, but of having itself willed, the whole policy and technique of war. The significant classes, with their trailing satellites, identify themselves with the State, so that what the State, through the agency of the Government, has willed, this majority conceives itself to have willed.

All of which goes to show that the State represents all the autocratic, arbitrary, coercive, belligerent forces within a social group, it is a sort of complexus of everything most distasteful to the modern free creative spirit, the feeling for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. War is the health of the State. Only when the State is at war does the modern society function with that unity of sentiment, simple uncritical patriotic devotion, cooperation of services, which have always been the ideal of the State lover. With the ravages of democratic ideas, however, the modern republic cannot go to war under the old conceptions of autocracy and death-dealing belligerency. If a successful animus for war requires a renaissance of State ideals, they can only come back under democratic forms, under this retrospective conviction of democratic control of foreign policy, democratic desire for war, and particularly of this identification of the democracy with the State. How unregenerate the ancient State may be, however, is indicated by the laws against sedition, and by the Government’s unreformed attitude on foreign policy. One of the first demands of the more farseeing democrats in the democracies of the Alliance was that secret diplomacy must go. The war was seen to have been made possible by a web of secret agreements between States, alliances that were made by Governments without the shadow of popular support or even popular knowledge, and vague, half-understood commitments that scarcely reached the stage of a treaty or agreement, but which proved binding in the event. Certainly, said these democratic thinkers, war can scarcely be avoided unless this poisonous underground system of secret diplomacy is destroyed, this system by which a nation’s power, wealth, and manhood may be signed away like a blank check to an allied nation to be cashed in at some future crisis. Agreements which are to affect the lives of whole peoples must be made between peoples and not by Governments, or at least by their representatives in the full glare of publicity and criticism.

Such a demand for “democratic control of foreign policy” seemed axiomatic. Even if the country had been swung into war by steps taken secretly and announced to the public only after they had been consummated, it was felt that the attitude of the American State toward foreign policy was only a relic of the bad old days and must be superseded in the new order. The American President himself, the liberal hope of the world, had demanded, in the eyes of the world, open diplomacy, agreements freely and openly arrived at. Did this mean a genuine transference of power in this most crucial of State functions from Government to people? Not at all. When the question recently came to a challenge in Congress, and the implications of open discussion were somewhat specifically discussed, and the desirabilities frankly commended, the President let his disapproval be known in no uncertain way. No one ever accused Mr. Wilson of not being a State idealist, and whenever democratic aspirations swung ideals too far out of the State orbit, he could be counted on to react vigorously. Here was a clear case of conflict between democratic idealism and the very crux of the concept of the State. However unthinkingly he might have been led on to encourage open diplomacy in his liberalizing program, when its implication was made vivid to him, he betrayed how mere a tool the idea had been in his mind to accentuate America’s redeeming role. Not in any sense as a serious pragmatic technique had he thought of a genuinely open diplomacy. And how could he? For the last stronghold of State power is foreign policy. It is in foreign policy that the State acts most concentratedly as the organized herd, acts with fullest sense of aggressive-power, acts with freest arbitrariness. In foreign policy, the State is most itself. States, with reference to each other, may be said to be in a continual state of latent war. The “armed truce,” a phrase so familiar before 1914, was an accurate description of the normal relation of States when they are not at war. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the normal relation of States is war. Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which States seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of wits, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war. Diplomacy is used while the States are recuperating from conflicts in which they have exhausted themselves. It is the wheedling and the bargaining of the worn-out bullies as they rise from the ground and slowly restore their strength to begin fighting again. If diplomacy had been a moral equivalent for war, a higher stage in human progress, an inestimable means of making words prevail instead of blows, militarism would have broken down and given place to it. But since it is a mere temporary substitute, a mere appearance of war’s energy under another form, a surrogate effect is almost exactly proportioned to the armed force behind it. When it fails, the recourse is immediate to the military technique whose thinly veiled arm it has been. A diplomacy that was the agency of popular democratic forces in their non-State manifestations would be no diplomacy at all. It would be no better than the Railway or Education commissions that are sent from one country to another with rational constructive purpose. The State, acting as a diplomatic-military ideal, is eternally at war. Just as it must act arbitrarily and autocratically in time of war, it must act in time of peace in this particular role where it acts as a unit. Unified control is necessarily autocratic control.

Democratic control of foreign policy is therefore a contradiction in terms. Open discussion destroys swiftness and certainty of action. The giant State is paralyzed. Mr. Wilson retains his full ideal of the State at the same time that he desires to eliminate war. He wishes to make the world safe for democracy as well as safe for diplomacy. When the two are in conflict, his clear political insight, his idealism of the State, tells him that it is the naïver democratic values that must be sacrificed. The world must primarily be made safe for diplomacy. The State must not be diminished.

What is the State essentially? The more closely we examine it, the more mystical and personal it becomes. On the Nation we can put our hand as a definite social group, with attitudes and qualities exact enough to mean something. On the Government we can put our hand as a certain organization of ruling functions, the machinery of lawmaking and law-enforcing. The Administration is a recognizable group of political functionaries, temporarily in charge of the government. But the State stands as an idea behind them all, eternal, sanctified, and from it Government and Administration conceive themselves to have the breath of life. Even the nation, especially in times of war — or at least, its significant classes — considers that it derives its authority and its purpose from the idea of the State. Nation and State are scarcely differentiated, and the concrete, practical, apparent facts are sunk in the symbol. We reverence not our country but the flag. We may criticize ever so severely our country, but we are disrespectful to the flag at our peril. It is the flag and the uniform that make men’s heart beat high and fill them with noble emotions, not the thought of and pious hopes for America as a free and enlightened nation.

It cannot be said that the object of emotion is the same, because the flag is the symbol of the nation, so that in reverencing the American flag we are reverencing the nation. For the flag is not a symbol of the country as a cultural group, following certain ideals of life, but solely a symbol of the political State, inseparable from its prestige and expansion. The flag is most intimately connected with military achievement, military memory. It represents the country not in its intensive life, but in its far-flung challenge to the world. The flag is primarily the banner of war; it is allied with patriotic anthem and holiday. It recalls old martial memories. A nation’s patriotic history is solely the history of its wars, that is, of the State in its health and glorious functioning. So in responding to the appeal of the flag, we are responding to the appeal of the State, to the symbol of the herd organized as an offensive and defensive body, conscious of its prowess and its mystical herd strength.

Even those authorities in the present Administration, to whom has been granted autocratic control over opinion, feel, though they are scarcely able to philosophize over, this distinction. It has been authoritatively declared that the horrid penalties against seditious opinion must not be construed as inhibiting legitimate, that is, partisan criticism of the Administration. A distinction is made between the Administration and the Government. It is quite accurately suggested by this attitude that the Administration is a temporary band of partisan politicians in charge of the machinery of Government, carrying out the mystical policies of State. The manner in which they operate this machinery may be freely discussed and objected to by their political opponents. The Governmental machinery may also be legitimately altered, in case of necessity. What may not be discussed or criticized is the mystical policy itself or the motives of the State in inaugurating such a policy. The President, it is true, has made certain partisan distinctions between candidates for office on the ground of support or nonsupport of the Administration, but what he means was really support or nonsupport of the State policy as faithfully carried out by the Administration. Certain of the Administration measures were devised directly to increase the health of the State, such as the Conscription and the Espionage laws. Others were concerned merely with the machinery. To oppose the first was to oppose the State and was therefore not tolerable. To oppose the second was to oppose fallible human judgment, and was therefore, though to be depreciated, not to be wholly interpreted as political suicide.

The distinction between Government and State, however, has not been so carefully observed. In time of war it is natural that Government as the seat of authority should be confused with the State or the mystic source of authority. You cannot very well injure a mystical idea which is the State, but you can very well interfere with the processes of Government. So that the two become identified in the public mind, and any contempt for or opposition to the workings of the machinery of Government is considered equivalent to contempt for the sacred State. The State, it is felt, is being injured in its faithful surrogate, and public emotion rallies passionately to defend it. It even makes any criticism of the form of Government a crime.

The inextricable union of militarism and the State is beautifully shown by those laws which emphasize interference with the Army and Navy as the most culpable of seditious crimes. Pragmatically, a case of capitalistic sabotage, or a strike in war industry would seem to be far more dangerous to the successful prosecution of the war than the isolated and ineffectual efforts of an individual to prevent recruiting. But in the tradition of the State ideal, such industrial interference with national policy is not identified as a crime against the State. It may be grumbled against; it may be seen quite rationally as an impediment of the utmost gravity. But it is not felt in those obscure seats of the herd mind which dictate the identity of crime and fix their proportional punishments. Army and Navy, however, are the very arms of the State; in them flows its most precious lifeblood. To paralyze them is to touch the very State itself. And the majesty of the State is so sacred that even to attempt such a paralysis is a crime equal to a successful strike. The will is deemed sufficient. Even though the individual in his effort to impede recruiting should utterly and lamentably fail, he shall be in no wise spared. Let the wrath of the State descend upon him for his impiety! Even if he does not try any overt action, but merely utters sentiments that may incidentally in the most indirect way cause someone to refrain from enlisting, he is guilty. The guardians of the State do not ask whether any pragmatic effect flowed out of this evil will or desire. It is enough that the will is present. Fifteen or twenty years in prison is not deemed too much for such sacrilege.

Such attitudes and such laws, which affront every principle of human reason, are no accident, nor are they the result of hysteria caused by the war. They are considered just, proper, beautiful by all the classes which have the State ideal, and they express only an extreme of health and vigor in the reaction of the State to its nonfriends. Such attitudes are inevitable as arising from the devotees of the State. For the State is a personal as well as a mystical symbol, and it can only be understood by tracing its historical origin. The modern State is not the rational and intelligent product of modern men desiring to live harmoniously together with security of life, property, and opinion. It is not an organization which has been devised as pragmatic means to a desired social end. All the idealism with which we have been instructed to endow the State is the fruit of our retrospective imaginations. What it does for us in the way of security and benefit of life, it does incidentally as a by-product and development of its original functions, and not because at any time men or classes in the full possession of their insight and intelligence have desired that it be so. It is very important that we should occasionally lift the incorrigible veil of that ex post facto idealism by which we throw a glamour of rationalization over what is, and pretend in the ecstasies of social conceit that we have personally invented and set up for the glory of God and man the hoary institutions which we see around us. Things are what they are, and come down to us with all their thick encrustations of error and malevolence. Political philosophy can delight us with fantasy and convince us who need illusion to live that the actual is a fair and approximate copy — full of failings, of course, but approximately sound and sincere — of that ideal society which we can imagine ourselves as creating. From this it is a step to the tacit assumption that we have somehow had a hand in its creation and are responsible for its maintenance and sanctity.

Nothing is more obvious, however, than that every one of us comes into society as into something in whose creation we had not the slightest hand. We have not even the advantage, like those little unborn souls in The Blue Bird, of consciousness before we take up our careers on earth. By the time we find ourselves here we are caught in a network of customs and attitudes, the major directions of our desires and interests have been stamped on our minds, and by the time we have emerged from tutelage and reached the years of discretion when we might conceivably throw our influence to the reshaping of social institutions, most of us have been so molded into the society and class we live in that we are scarcely aware of any distinction between ourselves as judging, desiring individuals and our social environment. We have been kneaded so successfully that we approve of what our society approves, desire what our society desires, and add to the group our own passionate inertia against change, against the effort of reason, and the adventure of beauty.

Every one of us, without exception, is born into a society that is given, just as the fauna and flora of our environment are given. Society and its institutions are, to the individual who enters it, as much naturalistic phenomena as is the weather itself. There is, therefore, no natural sanctity in the State any more than there is in the weather. We may bow down before it, just as our ancestors bowed before the sun and moon, but it is only because something in us unregenerate finds satisfaction in such an attitude, not because there is anything inherently reverential in the institution worshiped. Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance toward a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class, and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us. . . .

From the first draft of an essay, “The State”, which was left unfinished by Bourne at the time of his death. It is now in the Bourne MSS, Columbia University Libraries.

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Randolph Bourne Institute

The Randolph Bourne Institute seeks to honor his memory by promoting a non-interventionist foreign policy for the United States as the best way of fostering a peaceful, more prosperous world. It publishes the website Antiwar.com.

A nonprofit, tax-exempt, educational organization founded in 2001, the RBI centers its efforts around four major projects: a Web site, Antiwar.com; a fellows program for writers and researchers; a speakers program; and a student intern and campus outreach program. Every RBI project is designed for maximum inclusiveness, in the hope of enabling people from all points on the political spectrum – libertarian, left, right, and center – to join together on the vital issue of opposing war.

The Antiwar.com Web site, launched in December 1995, is the Institute’s main project and the preeminent noninterventionist site on the Internet. It provides hourly coverage of breaking news, along with informed analysis of major world conflicts (with particular attention to the U.S. role in those conflicts) – something the establishment media utterly fails to offer. Toward this end, Antiwar.com relies on existing news sources as well as on its own columnists and reporters, many of whom file from within the various conflict areas covered on the site. Antiwar.com’s target audience includes members of the media, college students, and other concerned individuals and organizations. Antiwar.com has been a project of the RBI for seventeen years and has grown steadily in that time, as has its following – whether measured by numbers of readers or by the site’s demonstrated ability to affect the type and tenor of public debate about noninterventionism. Antiwar.com’s growing influence has been analyzed and discussed on such national TV news programs as the PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, in such magazines as Mother Jones, The Atlantic, The Nation, and in such popular alternative weeklies as the New York Press and the SF (San Francisco) Bay Guardian.

The RBI fellows program provides support for authors and researchers interested in the topic of nonintervention. Currently, the RBI boasts two particularly distinguished fellows. The editorial director of Antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo, is also a senior fellow of the Randolph Bourne Institute. Raimondo’s writings include Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (1993, reprinted 2008); Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996); An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (2000); The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection (2003); and numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, The American Conservative, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. Another RBI senior fellow is prominent journalist Jeff Riggenbach, author of In Praise of Decadence (1998), Why American History Is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism (2009), and hundreds of articles in publications as diverse as USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, Reason, and Inquiry.

The RBI speakers program has arranged for our fellows, our columnists, our staff members, and others to make informative and insightful presentations, primarily on U.S. interventionism, on college campuses and in other venues. We are actively seeking to expand in this area and to schedule more events in the future. If our readers have suggestions, we welcome them.

A student intern/campus outreach program was initiated in the summer of 2002, when the RBI’s first two student interns worked on setting up the RBI campus outreach program and fielding assignments related to Antiwar.com, the RBI library project, and a series of face-to-face meetings between students and local experts on U.S. foreign policy (e.g., Hoover Institution scholars and Stanford and UC Berkeley students). We hope to expand the intern program to year-round in the near future.

Randolph Silliman Bourne first emerged into the light of day on May 30, 1886, in Bloomfield, New Jersey, a small town less than 20 miles outside Manhattan. He came of comfortable middle-class parents and was the grandson of a respected Congregational minister. But his head and face were deformed at birth in a bungled forceps delivery. Then, at the age of four, after a battle with spinal tuberculosis, he found himself a hunchback. When he was seven, his parents lost everything in the Panic of 1893. Thereafter he was fatherless, as well. He and his mother lived in genteel poverty as the wards of a prosperous (if somewhat tightfisted) uncle. Meanwhile, his growth had been permanently stunted by the same pathogen that had reshaped his spine years before. By the time he graduated from high school at the age of 17, in 1903, he had attained his full adult height of five feet.

Bourne had compiled an excellent academic record in high school. He was accepted as part of the Princeton class of 1907 and was expected to commence his freshman year at that institution in the fall of 1903. But he was broke. He could barely afford books, and his mother needed help with her living expenses. He went to work and stayed there for six years. He knew his way around a piano, so he took jobs as a piano teacher, piano tuner, and piano player (accompanying singers in a recording studio in Carnegie Hall). He cut piano rolls. He was also highly literate, so, between musical gigs, he took in proofreading and even did secretarial work.

By 1909, at 23 years old, Bourne had saved enough to cut back on his working hours and try to catch up on the college experience he had been putting off. He enrolled at Columbia, fell under the sway of historian and political scientist Charles A. Beard (1874-1948) and philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952), and began publishing essays in the Dial, the Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines. His first book, Youth and Life, a collection of his magazine essays, was published the year he graduated from Columbia, 1913. That fall, the 27-year-old recipient of what Louis Filler calls “Columbia’s most distinguished honor, the Gilder Fellowship for travel abroad,” he set out for Europe. After a year of travel and independent study there, he returned to America, took up residence in Greenwich Village, and resumed writing for the Dial and the Atlantic Monthly, along with a new, upstart weekly, The New Republic.

Actually, Bourne fled Europe in August 1914. For it was in late July and early August of 1914 that Europe – virtually all of Europe – embarked upon the conflict we know today as World War I. Bourne opposed this conflict, and he was especially worried that his own country, the United States, would choose to enter it before long. He wrote about many subjects over the next four years; he wrote enough about education, for example, that he was able to fill two books – The Gary Schools (1916) and Education and Living (1917) – from his magazine pieces on that subject. But his main subject was the new world war and the urgent need for the United States to stay out of it.

The problem was that what Casey Blake calls “Bourne’s insight that total war had made all modern nations increasingly totalitarian” neither won him friends nor influenced much of anyone to look kindly on his contributions to the public prints. Worse yet, according to Ben Reiner, Bourne “vehemently opposed all restrictions on dissent, bringing him into sharp conflict with the rising pro-war hysteria that preceded America’s entry into World War One. Bourne viewed Woodrow Wilson’s neutrality as a sham,” and he was also, as Charles Molesworth notes, openly contemptuous of “the weak logic of those who had to change their principles in order to justify joining the national call to arms.”

In the words of Christopher Phelps, Bourne was an “elegant refuter of ‘pragmatic’ pretensions in those who believed that the state, even in a time of unleashed militarism, could be tamed simply by their own moral presence in the corridors of power.” And he “held fast to principle as his erstwhile colleagues at The New Republic accommodated the imperialist carnage of the First World War.” His principled stand cost him dearly, “for few 20th-century American dissenters have … suffered the wrath of their targets as greatly as Bourne did. By 1917, The New Republic stopped publishing his political pieces. The Seven Arts, a literary ‘little magazine’ Bourne helped to found, collapsed when its financial angel refused further support because of Bourne’s antiwar articles.” (According to Reiner, the problem was that once Bourne’s “biting attacks on government repression began to appear in The Seven Arts,” this gave “birth to rumors that the publisher, Mrs. A.K. Raskine, was supporting a pro-German magazine. She … withdrew her support, which closed the magazine down.”)

“Even at the Dial, Bourne’s last hope among literary magazines,” Phelps continues, “he was stripped from editorial power in 1918 – the result of an uncharacteristically underhanded intervention by his former mentor John Dewey, one of the objects of Bourne’s disillusioned antiwar pen.” Phelps quotes a letter Bourne sent to a friend shortly thereafter, in which he laments that “I feel very much secluded from the world, very much out of touch with my times…. The magazines I write for die violent deaths, and all my thoughts are unprintable.” Robert Westbrook put the matter as memorably and eloquently as anyone when he said that “Bourne disturbed the peace of John Dewey and other intellectuals supporting Woodrow Wilson’s crusade to make the world safe for democracy, and they made him pay for it.”

Yet the ruination of his career was far from the only price he had to pay. Westbrook quotes John Dos Passos’ claim, from his novel 1919 (1932), that, in addition to his professional setbacks, “friends didn’t like to be seen with Bourne,” and “his father” – who had walked out of his life a quarter-century before – “wrote him begging him not to disgrace the family name.” But according to Casey Blake, Bourne never lost his optimism. When the Armistice came at last in November 1918, he wrote his mother, hoping that “[n]ow that the war is over, people can speak freely and we can dare to think. It’s like coming out of a nightmare.”

But for Bourne himself, this was not to be. In the words of Reiner, he “was stricken with influenza during the worldwide epidemic that took some 600,000 lives in our nation during the 1918-1919 winter” and succumbed at the age of 32 on Dec. 22. Having died so prematurely, so unexpectedly, he will, Christopher Phelps avers, “remain forever the intransigent, defiant outcast, forever young, forever the halfway revolutionary socialist with anarchist leanings. (‘War is the health of the State,’ runs that famous refrain from the unpublished, discarded manuscript rescued from his wastebasket at his death.)” 

by Jeff Riggenbach

*

Wikipedia 

Randolph Silliman Bourne, 1886–1918, was a progressive writer and intellectual born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and a graduate of Columbia University. Bourne is best known for his essays, especially his unfinished work “The State,” discovered after his death.

Bourne’s face was deformed at birth by misused forceps and the umbilical cord was coiled round his left ear, leaving it permanently damaged and misshapen. At age four, he suffered tuberculosis of the spine, resulting in stunted growth and a hunched back. He chronicled his experiences in his essay titled, “The Handicapped.” Bourne’s articles appeared in journals including The Seven Arts and The New Republic.

World War I divided American progressives, pitting an anti-war faction, including Bourne and Jane Addams, against a pro-war faction led by pragmatist philosopher and educational theorist John Dewey. Bourne was a student of Dewey at Columbia, but he rejected Dewey’s idea of using the war to spread democracy. (He was a member of the Boar’s Head Society.) 
In his pointedly titled 1917 essay “Twilight of Idols”, he invoked the progressive pragmatism of Dewey’s contemporary William James to argue that America was using democracy as an end to justify the war, but that democracy itself was never examined. Although initially following Dewey, he felt that Dewey had betrayed his democratic ideals by focusing only on the facade of a democratic government rather than on the ideas behind democracy that Dewey had once professed to respect.

Bourne was greatly influenced by Horace Kallen’s 1915 essay “Democracy Versus the Melting-Pot” and argued, like Kallen, that Americanism ought not to be associated with Anglo-Saxonism. In his 1916 article “Trans-National America,” Bourne argued that the US should accommodate immigrant cultures into a “cosmopolitan America,” instead of forcing immigrants to assimilate to Anglophilic culture.

Bourne was an enthusiast for Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s belief in the necessity of a General Will. Bourne once exclaimed: “Yes, that is what I would have felt, done, said! I could not judge him and his work by those standards that the hopelessly moral and complacent English have imposed upon our American mind. It was a sort of moral bath; it cleared up for me a whole new democratic morality, and put the last touch upon the old English way of looking at the world in which I was brought up and which I had such a struggle to get rid of.”

Bourne died in the Spanish flu pandemic after the war. His ideas have been influential in the shaping of postmodern ideas of cosmopolitanism and multiculturalism, and recent intellectuals such as David Hollinger have written extensively on Bourne’s ideology. John Dos Passos, an influential American modernist writer, eulogized Bourne in the chapter “Randolph Bourne” of his novel 1919 and drew heavily on the ideas presented in War Is The Health of the State in the novel.


“Trans-National America”
In this article, Bourne rejects the melting-pot theory and does not see immigrants assimilating easily to another culture. Bourne’s view of nationality was related to the connection between a person and their “spiritual country”, that is, their culture. 
He argued that people would most often hold tightly to the literature and culture of their native country even if they lived in another. He also believed this was true for the many immigrants to the United States. Therefore, Bourne could not see immigrants from all different parts of the world assimilating to the Anglo-Saxon traditions, which were viewed as American traditions.

This article goes on to say that America offers a unique liberty of opportunity and can still offer traditional isolation, which he felt could lead to a cosmopolitan enterprise. He felt that with this great mix of cultures and people, America would be able to grow into a Trans-National nation, which would have interconnecting cultural fibers with other countries. Bourne felt America would grow more as a country by broadening people’s views to include immigrants’ ways instead of conforming everyone to the melting-pot ideal. This broadening of people’s views would eventually lead to a nation where all who live in it are united, which would inevitably pull the country towards greatness. This article and most of the ideas in it were influenced by World War I, during which the article was written.

Randolph Bourne Institute
The Randolph Bourne Institute seeks to honor his memory by promoting a non-interventionist foreign policy for the United States as the best way of fostering a peaceful, more prosperous world. It publishes the website Antiwar.com.

*

‘We were just a normal family’: Che Guevara’s daughter remembers her father – Sophie Haydock. 

On the right is my father, cigar in hand, talking to his lifelong friend Fidel Castro, a fellow communist revolutionary. 

The angle makes it look like my father is holding out his cigar to me, but that’s not the case. It was unusual that he’d smoke around me. I don’t remember this picture being taken, or by whom; I was too young. I’d have been around three at the time. I was born in November 1960, and I’ve since been told it was 1964 in Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

I am the eldest of Che’s four children with my mother. Papi was known around the world as the Argentine revolutionary, a guerrilla leader and major figure of the Cuban revolution, but we were just a normal family. I never felt special as his daughter. Where I did feel special was as the child of a couple who loved each other dearly.

As children, we enjoyed Papi very little. I was only six when he was executed in Bolivia 50 years ago, on 9 October, 1967. Our mother formed our values and kept him alive in our memory long after he died. She never used him as a way to tell us off or threaten us. Papi was always the good guy.

We never enjoyed any privileges: my father was opposed to that, and my mother maintained the line. When she became a widow with four small children, my father’s friends wanted to help. They couldn’t replace the affection that had been lost, so tried to give us material things. My mother wouldn’t permit anything at all. She told us, “You must have your feet firmly on the ground, and let pass everything you haven’t earned yourselves.” That was an important lesson.

We went through difficult periods. In my teenage years, she’d make trousers for my brothers with material from her old blouses. But we were happy: we’d play, we’d laugh. We grew up like Cuban children, alongside the people in our community.

I was close to Fidel and comfortable with him. I have very fond memories – I would call him “mi tío”, which means “my uncle”. I maintained a relationship with him right up until the end of his last year. 

He’s holding me and I’m relaxed, smiling. My father and Fidel were always happy and joking together; there was much mutual respect and confidence there.

Fidel wanted to break the news to us children when Papi died, but my mother insisted it was her duty. But he told us that Papi had written a letter saying that if one day he fell in combat, we were not to cry for him: when a man dies trying to achieve what he wants to achieve, one doesn’t need to. The next day, I was called in to see my mother, who was in tears. She sat me on the bed and pulled out the farewell letter from Papi.

“When you see this letter,” it said, “you will know that I am no longer with you.” I started crying, too. The letter was very short. It ended with the words: “Here is a big kiss from Dad.” I understood I no longer had a father.

I still live and work in Havana, as a paediatrician, and feel hopeful for the future of Cuba. Do I have hope for humanity? None of us has a crystal ball, but if we want a different world, we need to work to achieve it. We can’t wait for it to fall out of the sky. We have a duty to forge that future ourselves.

The Guardian 

Wild at heart: how one woman and her husband live out in the woods – Stefanie Marsh. 

For seven years, Miriam Lancewood and her husband Peter have lived a nomadic life – she is the hunter and he is the cook. Now they’re walking across Europe to Turkey, with a tent and little else. Stefanie Marsh meets them to hear why. 

Miriam Lancewood has been living off grid, in the wild, for seven years now and she can still pinpoint the exact moment she knew she had truly broken with social norms. “It was when the idea was born to wash my hair with urine,” she recalls.

She had just started living wild, in the New Zealand Alps, when she developed a persistent dandruff problem. Luckily, she remembered reading about an ancient remedy. “I sat in the sun for a horrible, stinky half-hour to let it soak in.”

I’d expected Miriam to look bedraggled, maybe with a couple of teeth missing, but she’s immaculate and smiling broadly, her teeth shiny white (she usually cleans them with ash); no dandruff, legs shaven, she smells of campfire. She is powerfully built; almost the double of Sarah Connor from The Terminator. A Dutch Sarah Connor – she was born in Holland. Her husband, Peter, proudly tells me she could beat most men in a fight: “Miriam is the hunter and I’m the cook. She’s much stronger than me. Women are better shots,” he says. “And they’re more careful,” adds Miriam. “They are less driven by trophy hunting. They have less of a need to prove themselves.”

Five years into their nomadic life in New Zealand, Miriam decided to write a book about her experiences. The couple have since relocated to Europe, where they’re spending the year walking to Turkey; part two of their life’s dream of never returning to “civilisation”. So here we are in Bulgaria – three hours west of Sofia, upstream from a river where the couple can bathe, sitting around a campfire in a wood (the photographer met up with them earlier in their journey, in Bavaria). I’ve been invited for dinner and Peter is standing over a cast iron pot containing a bubbling bean stew. There are foraged wrinkly plums to start. It’s an exciting occasion for them: they haven’t seen another human being for 11 days. It’s 5pm. What have they been doing all day? “Nothing much. Waiting for you.” In the first few months of their primitive life, Miriam thought she’d go mad with boredom but she soon fell in sync with nature. Half of any given day is spent collecting firewood. They sleep as long as it’s dark. They’ve never had more energy.

It’s a stark contrast to when Miriam was still working as a special needs teacher in New Zealand. Those were grim days: “I was always stressed. And so bored. And depressed about thinking I’m going to do this forever and ever.” She’s learned so much since she’s been out here but one question remains unanswered: “Where are all the women?”

continued in The Guardian

Photos The Guardian 

A Brief History of Book Burning, From the Printing Press to Internet Archives – Lorraine Boissoneault. 

As long as there have been books, people have burned them, but over the years, the motivation has changed. 

When Al-Qaida Islamists invaded Mali, and then Timbuktu in 2012, among their targets were priceless manuscripts, books that needed to be burned. But the damage could’ve been much worse if not for men like Abdel Kader Haidara, who risked their lives to protect the medieval works. He and others succeeded in smuggling out 350,000 manuscripts, proving not only how much the books were valued, but also the lengths to which ordinary people were willing to go to save them. It was a remarkable victory in the long history of books threatened by would-be arsonists, and a relatively rare one at that.

Books and libraries have been targeted by people of all backgrounds for thousands of years, sometimes intentionally and sometimes as a side-effect of war. In 213 B.C., Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang (more widely remembered for his terracotta army in Xian) ordered a bonfire of books as a way of consolidating power in his new empire. According to historian Lois Mai Chan “His basic objective was not so much to wipe out these schools of thought completely as to place them under governmental control.” Books of poetry, philosophy and history were specifically targeted, so that the new emperor couldn’t be compared to more virtuous or successful rulers of the past. Although the exact amount of information lost is unknown, Chan writes that the history genre suffered the greatest loss.

Qin was only one in a long line of ancient rulers who felt threatened enough by the ideas expressed in written form to advocate arson. In Livy’s History of Rome, finished in the 1st century A.D., he describes past rulers who ordered books containing the predictions of oracles and details about celebrations like the Bacchanalia be outlawed and burned to prevent disorder and the spread of foreign customs; philosophers Giordano Bruno and Jan Hus both took positions counter to the Catholic church, the former for his work on Copernican cosmology, the latter for attacking church practices like indulgences. Scholar Hans J. Hildebrand writes that the executioner charged with killing heretics like Bruno and Hus was often the same person who put flame to their books.

But for Rebecca Knuth, author of Libricide: The Regime-Sponsored Destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century and Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction, Qin and religious leaders like him are only a small part of the early book-burning equation. “A lot of ancient book burning was a function of conquest,” Knuth says. Just look at one of the most famous examples of burning, the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. The famed building had its contents and structure burned during multiple periods of political upheaval, including in 48 B.C. when Caesar chased Pompey to Egypt and when Caliph Omar invaded Alexandria in 640 A.D.

What changed everything was the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. Not only were there suddenly far more books—there was also more knowledge. “With the printing press you had the huge rise of literacy and modern science and all these things,” Knuth says. “And some people in authoritarian regimes, in a way they want to turn back the effects of the printing press.”

According to Knuth, the motives behind book burning changed after the printing press helped bring about the Enlightenment era—though burning through the collateral damage of war continued to arise (just consider the destruction of the U.S. Library of Congress during the War of 1812 or all the libraries destroyed across Europe during World War II). People saw knowledge as a way to change themselves, and the world, and so it became a far more dangerous commodity, no longer controlled exclusively by the elite. What better way to reshape the balance of power and send a message at the same time than by burning books?

The unifying factor between all types of purposeful book-burners in the 20th century, Knuth says, is that the perpetrators feel like victims, even if they’re the ones in power. Perhaps the most infamous book burnings were those staged by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, who regularly employed language framing themselves as the victims of Jews. Similarly, when Mao Zedong took power in China and implemented the Cultural Revolution, any book that didn’t conform to party propaganda, like those promoting capitalism or other dangerous ideas, were destroyed. More recently, the Jaffna Public Library of Sri Lanka home to nearly 100,000 rare books of Tamil history and literature, was burned by Sinhalese Buddhists. The Sinhalese felt their Buddhist beliefs were under threat by the Hinduism of Tamils, even though they outnumbered the Tamils.

Even when the knowledge itself isn’t prevented from reaching the public, the symbolic weight of burning books is heavy. “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them as to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are,” wrote John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, in his 1644 book Areopagitica. “Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature… but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself—” an idea that continues to be espoused in modern culture, like in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door,” one character warns another in Bradbury’s story, arguing for why they must be burned and their knowledge erased. “Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”

Or, as author Barbara Tuchman said in her 1980 address at the Library of Congress, “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible.”

Today, with new technological advances offered by the Internet, the possibility of digitizing written documents seems to offer books a new immortality. But not so fast, Knuth says. “We have technology to preserve so much knowledge, we just have to be careful. If you don’t keep morphing it to an updated form of technology, it doesn’t matter if you made copies if you can’t access them.”

This is a problem archivists at the Smithsonian Institution regularly tackle, including electronic records archivist Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig.

“There are software companies that have gone away or gone out of business, and some of that software just stops being used,” Schmitz Fuhrig says. “And there’s not only the issue of software, but also hardware and operating systems that may not work with these older files.”

The archivists try to use formats that have been around for a long time and stood the test of time, like PDF for documents, but even keeping up with the changing technology doesn’t guarantee safety. Schmitz Fuhrig says one of the biggest challenges now is storage space. “A few years ago we were talking about gigabytes and then terabytes and now we’re getting into the area of petabytes.”

Even though the technology exists, transferring written documents to digital archives requires time and money—resources that aren’t always available. Sometimes doing so is counter to the beliefs of whoever happens to be in power. Just consider that under President George W. Bush EPA libraries were threatened with closure in 2006, spurring the American Library Association and scientists working at the EPA to put pressure on Congress to ensure the EPA’s budget could cover the cost of maintaining the libraries (although some libraries were closed, they reopened in September 2008). Or look at the scientific research documents that were locked away or destroyed under the Stephen Harper government in Canada in 2014, which had a chilling effect on the topics that could be researched and the studies that were published. As scientist Steven Campana, who spent decades working for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans, told Smithsonian.com, “Although we still kept our jobs, we basically were prevented from actually doing any science.” Though the methods may be different (and less visible) than in the past, the results are the same: knowledge is purposefully taken from the public.

Technology has undoubtedly changed the way we share and save information, but Knuth argues that the core motivations for book burning, in whatever form the act takes, remain the same: prioritizing one type of information over another.

“That’s why power is so scary,” Knuth says. “Because power allows you to put into effect the logic of your own beliefs.”

***

Lorraine Boissoneault is a staff writer for SmithsonianMag.com covering history and archaeology. She has previously written for The Atlantic, Salon, Nautilus and others. She is also the author of The Last Voyageurs: Retracing La Salle’s Journey Across America. Website: http://www.lboissoneault.com/

Smithsonian.com

Out of The Depths: An unforgettable WWII story of survival, courage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis – Edgar Harrell USMC. 

Shortly after midnight on July 30, 1945, just weeks before the end of World War II, the Japanese submarine I-58 launched a spread of torpedoes at the USS Indianapolis. Two of the “fish” found their mark. In less than fifteen minutes, the heavy cruiser, a battle-scarred veteran of the bloody campaigns for the Marianas, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, went down without a trace, and without anyone but the survivors knowing the ship had been lost.

Some nine hundred of the ship’s 1,196-man crew, cold, oil soaked, many with injuries, were suddenly alone in the shark-infested waters of the Philippine Sea. For five horrific days after the sinking, their numbers were cruelly depleted by shark attacks, saltwater poisoning, hypothermia, and dehydration. When they were finally spotted and rescued, only 317 remained alive.

This is their story, recounted by one of their own, Edgar Harrell, a young member of the ship’s U.S. Marine detachment. It is an unparalleled account of perseverance, courage, self-sacrifice, and faith.

Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, USMC (Ret.)

***

I remember hearing Dad talk about the war from time to time when I was a little boy. I recall his reluctant stories about the secret mission of the Indianapolis, the atomic bomb components they carried, and especially the gripping tales about the sharks when the crew was lost at sea for five days. I even remember attending some of the Indianapolis reunions and meeting Captain McVay and being awestruck by his white Navy uniform and medals.

David Harrell

***

Out of The Depths: An unforgettable WWII story of survival, courage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

by Edgar Harrell USMC

Every survivor of war has stories to tell, stories of triumph and tragedy, faith and fear, stories like mine, where fact is often stranger than fiction. Since that fateful night in 1945 when I stepped off a sinking ship into the unknown depths of the Pacific Ocean, there has never been a day when I have not reflected upon the horrors I experienced in the four and a half days of swimming in shark-infested waters.

The escort carrier Hollandia transported all of us from Guam back to San Diego. On September 26, over three hundred survivors of the greatest naval catastrophe at sea arrived on the shores of the country they loved and served, only to be met with a paltry Salvation Army band.

I cannot say that we knew what to expect, but we certainly thought there would be a more enthusiastic and official welcome.

The rather large crowd on the pier had assembled to welcome home the crew of the Hollandia and knew nothing of the Indianapolis survivors. To my knowledge, none of our families or friends greeted us. Most did not even know our whereabouts.

We remained on land as we were at sea, lost and neglected. We all had a mounting sense that we were somehow an embarrassment to the Navy, though at the time we did not understand why. With no official welcome, we all came ashore and invisibly made our way through the crowd, somewhat envious of the jubilant and legitimate welcome for their loved ones on the Hollandia.

My eight Marine companions and I looked in vain for an official Marine reception that would at least transport us to the Marine Corp Base. We finally located an MP who helped us find a bus.

I relate this story not to elicit sympathy, but only to underscore the realities that caused us all to become increasingly suspicious that something was wrong.

Someone has well said, “Truth and time walk hand in hand.” Indeed, over the next few months we began to understand why we experienced such a mysterious cloud of concealment and disregard. The Navy was up to something. And the story of the Indianapolis had to stay out of the headlines until they had all their political ducks in a row. 

***

Out of The Depths: An unforgettable WWII story of survival, courage and the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.

by Edgar Harrell USMC

get it from Amazon 

USS Indianapolis, sunk at the end of WW2, has finally been found – AAP. 

The wreckage of the US warship Indianapolis, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo off the Philippines in the final days of WWII, has been found.

The ship is more than 18,000 feet (5.5km) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the Navy said on Saturday.

The cruiser was returning from its mission to deliver components for the atomic bomb that would soon be dropped on Hiroshima when it was fired upon in the North Pacific Ocean by a Japanese submarine on July 30, 1945.

It sunk in 12 minutes, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington.

No distress signal was sent. About 800 of the 1197 crew members aboard survived the sinking, but only 316 were rescued alive five days later, with the rest lost to exposure, dehydration, drowning and sharks.

After a Navy historian unearthed new information last year about the warship’s last movements that pointed to a new search area, a team of civilian researchers led by Paul Allen, a Microsoft Corp co-founder, spent months searching in a 600-square-mile (1500-sq/km) patch of ocean.

With a vessel rigged with equipment that can reach some of the deepest ocean floors, members of Allen’s team found the wreckage somewhere in the Philippine Sea on Friday, Allen said in a statement on his website.

The Navy asked Allen to keep the precise location confidential.

Allen said that the discovery was a humbling experience and a means of honouring sailors he saw as playing a vital role in ending WWII.

“While our search for the rest of the wreckage will continue, I hope everyone connected to this historic ship will feel some measure of closure at this discovery so long in coming,” he said.

The Navy said it had plans to honour the 22 survivors from the Indianapolis still alive, along with the families of the ship’s crew.

NZ Herald 

***

It was shortly after midnight, on the 30th of July, 1945, when disaster struck.

After delivering Hiroshima-bomb components to Tinian Island, the USS Indianapolis and her crew of 1,196 sailors were sailing west, toward Leyte (in the Philippines).

Suddenly, an explosion rocked the ship.  She’d been struck by a torpedo from Japanese submarine I-58.

The Indianapolis capsized and sank in twelve minutes. 

Spending days in the water, without life rafts, the men were terrorized by sharks.  With no rescue in sight, two-thirds of the original survivors died from various causes.

The USS Indianapolis (CA-35) was commissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 15 November 1932. The ship served with honor from Pearl Harbor through the last campaign of World War II, sinking in action two weeks before the end of the war.

On 30 July 1945, while sailing from Guam to Leyte, Indianapolis was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-58 [in the Philippine Sea]. The ship capsized and sank in twelve minutes.

Survivors were spotted on 2 August. All air and surface units capable of rescue operations were dispatched to the scene at once, and the surrounding waters were thoroughly searched for survivors.

Upon completion of the day and night search on 8 August, 316 men were rescued out of the crew of 1,199.

Survivors tell us that approximately 900 men survived the ship’s explosion and sinking. Those who died, thereafter, were overcome by exhaustion, exposure, injuries sustained in the explosion, lack of safe drinking water (instead of salt water) and shark attacks.

*** 

NOTE: There is a very significant postcript to this story.

For many decades, the surviving Indianapolis crewmen tried to get the U.S. Navy to exonerate their skipper, Captain Charles Butler McVay, III who was:

  • Not warned about lurking enemy subs;
  • Was misled into thinking his route was safe;
  • Was court martialed on two charges of improper conduct;
  • Heard the favorable testimony of the Japanese commander who sank the Indy;
  • Was found guilty of one charge of negligence (despite all evidence to the contrary); and
  • Committed suicide in 1968.

Despite the crew’s efforts, nothing happened to exonerate the Captain … until … a 12 year old school boy, working on a middle-school history project, decided to do something about it (in 1998).

The US Congress finally cleared McVay’s name in 2000 (as a direct result of Hunter Scott’s efforts). The Japanese commander – who’d testified in McVay’s court martial that he could have sunk the Indy no matter what its skipper tried to do – sent a letter to Congress reiterating his earlier testimony. Among his words were these:

“I do not understand why Captain McVay was court-martialed.  I do not understand why he was convicted on the charge of hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag because I would have been able to launch a successful torpedo attack against his ship whether it had been zigzagging or not.”

AwesomeStories.com

How the Postal System and the Printing Press Transformed European Markets – Prateek Raj. 

In the sixteenth century, the Northwest European region of England and the Low Countries underwent transformational change. In this region, a bourgeois culture emerged and cities like Antwerp, Amsterdam, and London became centers of institutional and business innovation, whose accomplishments have influenced the modern world.

For example, one of the first permanent commodity bourses was established in Antwerp in 1531, the first stock exchange emerged in Amsterdam in 1602, and joint stock companies became a promising form of organizing business in London in the late sixteenth century. The sixteenth century transformation was followed by the seventeenth century Dutch Golden Age, and the eighteenth century English Industrial Revolution. What made the Northwest region of Europe so different? The question remains a central concern in social sciences, with scholars from diverse fields researching the subject.

The medieval power of merchant guilds

Markets don’t function well if they are ridden with frictions like lack of information, lack of trust, or high transaction costs. In the presence of frictions, business is often conducted via relationships.

Until the end of the fifteenth century, impartial institutions like courts and police that serve all parties generally—so ubiquitous today in the developed world—weren’t well developed in Europe. In such a world without impartial institutions, trade often was (is) heavily dependent on relationships and conducted through networks like merchant guilds. Such relationship-based trade through dense networks of merchant guilds reduced concerns of information access and reliability. Not surprisingly, because the merchant guild system was an effective system in the absence of strong formal institutions, it sustained in Europe for several centuries. In developing countries like India, lacking in developed formal institutions, networked institutions like castes still play an important role in business.

Before the fourteenth century, merchant guild networks were probably less hierarchical, more voluntary, and more inclusive. But, with time, merchant guilds started to become exclusive monopolies, placing high barriers to entry for outsiders, and they began to resemble cartels with close involvement in local politics. There were two reasons why these guilds erected such tough barriers to entry:

  • Repeated committed interaction was the key to effectiveness of merchant guilds. Uncommitted outsiders could behave opportunistically and undermine the reliability of the system. Therefore, outsiders faced restrictions.
  • Outsiders threatened the position of existing businessmen by increasing competition. So, even genuinely committed outsiders could be restricted to enter as they threatened the domination of existing members.

But, in the sixteenth century, the merchant guild system began to lose its significance as more impersonal markets, where traders could directly trade without the need of an affiliation, began to emerge and rulers stopped granting privileges to merchant guilds. The traders began to rely less on networked and collective institutions like merchant guilds, and directly initiated partnerships with traders who they may not have known well. For example, in Antwerp the domination of intermediaries (called hostellers) who would connect foreign traders declined. Instead, the foreign traders began to conduct such trades directly with each other in facilities like bourses.

Emergence of markets in the 16th century

In a new working paper, I study the emergence of impersonal markets in Europe during the sixteenth century. I survey the 50 largest European cities during the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries and codify the nature of sixteenth century economic institutions in each of the cities. In the survey, I find that merchant guilds were declining in the Northwest region of Europe, while elsewhere in Europe they continued to dominate commerce until much later, although there were some reforms underway in the Milanese and Viennese regions of Italy.

What explains the observed pattern of emergence of impersonal markets in sixteenth century Europe? I focus on the interaction between the commercial and communication revolutions of the late fifteenth century Europe. In the paper, I argue that the Northwest European region uniquely benefited from both of these revolutions due to its unique geography.

Commercial revolution at the Atlantic coast

What motivated traders to seek risky opportunities beyond close networks? If traders found partnerships with unfamiliar traders beyond their business networks to be highly beneficial, that would provide good incentives for the rise of impersonal markets. The Northwest Region was close to the sea, notably the Atlantic coast, which was at the time undergoing a commercial revolution with the discovery of new sea routes to Asia and the Americas. So, the region became a hub for long distance trade, attracting unfamiliar traders who came to its coast looking for business opportunity. I find that all cities where merchant guild privileges declined were at the sea, along the Atlantic or North Sea coast. Moreover, all cities where merchant guilds underwent reform (but didn’t decline) were within 150km of a sea port.

The communication revolution of the postal system and the printing press

What made traders feel confident about the reliability of such risky impersonal partnerships? If availability of trade-related information and business practices improved, it could increase confidence traders had in such unfamiliar partnerships. In the sixteenth century, the postal system improved across Europe. The postal system made communication between distant traders easier as traders could correspond regularly with each other and gain more accurate information. This helped expand long distance trade across Europe.

While the Northwest European region didn’t have a particular advantage over other regions in postal communication, it had an advantage in early diffusion of printed books. The Northwest European region was close to Mainz, the city where Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press in the mid fifteenth century showed how cities close to Mainz adopted printing sooner than many other regions of Europe in the first few decades of its introduction. So, trade-related books and new (or unknown) business practices like double-entry bookkeeping diffused early and rapidly in the region.

Such a high penetration of printed material reduced information barriers and improved business practices. I find that all cities where guild privileges declined or merchant guilds underwent reform in the sixteenth century enjoyed high penetration of printed material in the fifteenth century. Among cities within a 150km distance from a sea port, cities where merchant guilds declined or reformed had more than twice the number of diffused books per capita than cities where merchant guilds continued to dominate.

As a comparison, there were four major Atlantic port cities where merchant guilds declined: Hamburg, London, Antwerp, and Amsterdam; while there were four guild-based Atlantic cities: Lisbon, Seville, Rouen, and Bordeaux in the sixteenth century. The fifteenth century per capita printing penetration of the cities would stack as: Lisbon < Bordeaux < Hamburg < Seville < Rouen < London < Amsterdam < Antwerp.

The combination of both the commercial revolution along the sea coast, especially the Atlantic coast, and the communication revolution, especially near Mainz, uniquely benefited Northwest Europe, as it began to attract traders who favored impersonal market-based exchange over exchange conducted via guild networks. Rulers began to disfavor privileged monopolies when they realized the feasibility of impersonal exchange and that they could have superior sources of revenue from impersonal markets. In the region, trade democratised, as more people could participate in business.

Regions like Spain and Portugal that benefited only from the commercial revolution of trade through the sea to Asia and Americas had low levels of printing penetration. In contrast, regions like Germany, Italy, and France benefited from the communication and print revolution but didn’t enjoy a bustling Atlantic coast. Thus, no other region enjoyed the unique combination of both benefits of the commercial and communication revolution.

Takeaway for policy makers: democratize the market

If information access is poor (lack of transparency) or businesses don’t adopt reliable business practices (poor financial reporting or opaque quality standards), these deficiencies at the business level can make customers and investors question the reliability of new businesses. Politicians, like medieval rulers, may be more willing to enter into a nexus with dominant businesses, like medieval merchant guilds, if 1) market frictions or 2) lack of incentives make the economy dependent on such businesses.

This was the case with the taxi industry for a long time, where customers were willing to pay a high fee to get reliable taxi services as supply of drivers was low (new drivers in cities like London had to pay a high license fee and fulfill tough training requirements). But, better taxi hailing mobile apps like Lyft and Uber, by giving customers access to real time GPS tracking, have revolutionized the industry, much like the communication revolution did in late fifteenth and sixteenth century. Another area where information access has improved reliability in business is the tourism and travel industry.

While in the past the tourism sector was dominated by travel agents and their recommended offerings, now an influx of providers and travel comparison websites, such as expedia.com and AirBnB, has increased the reliability of small unknown hospitality service providers. Today, many prefer to stay at a stranger’s home over a reputed hotel chain. Such a revolution in the taxi or the travel industry is following the old historical trend where disruption in how information is made available changes how businesses are organized.

Evonomics.com

Are Books Superior to TV? How they affect our brains differently, according to science – Melissa Chu. 

Reading books is good for you. It increases your knowledge and makes you think. Watching television on the other hand kills off brain cells.

In 2013, a study was performed at Tohoku University in Japan. A team led by Hiraku Takeuchi examined the effects of television on the brains of 276 children, along with amount of time spent watching TV and its long-term effects.

Researcher Takeuchi found that the more TV the kids watched, parts of their brain associated with higher arousal and aggression levels became thicker. The frontal lobe also thickened, which is known to lower verbal reasoning ability.

The more hours of television the kids watched, the lower their verbal test results became. These negative effects in the brain happened regardless of the child’s age, gender, and economic background.

In the same year, a study was done on how reading a novel affected the brain. Gregory Burns and his colleagues at Emory University wanted to see the before and after effects of reading based on fMRI readings.

College students were asked to read Pompeii by Robert Harriss, a thriller based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy. The book was chosen due to its strong narration and a dramatic plot based on true events.

After reading the novel, the students had increased connectivity in parts of the brain that were related to language. There was also increased activity in the sensory motor region of the brain, suggesting that readers experienced similar sensations to the characters in the book.

There are also long-term effects from reading books. Reading keeps your mind alert and delays cognitive decline in elders. Research even found that Alzheimer’s is 2.5 times less likely to appear in elderly people who read regularly, while TV was presented as a risk factor.

Six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent, according to researchers at the University of Sussex. Reading beat out other relaxing activities, including listening to music (61 percent), drinking tea or coffee (54 percent), and taking a walk (42 percent).

Reading’s looking pretty good compared to television. We can see that it calms the nerves, increases language and reasoning, and can even keep you mentally alert as you age. TV, on the other hand, has the opposite effect.

But we still haven’t gotten to why that’s the case.

It’s not just an issue of the quality of the TV program or the book. It seems that the nature of the activities themselves is what’s causing the differences.

Television is designed to be passive. After switching to the show you like, you can just sit back and watch everything unfold without effort on your part. You’re less likely to pause to reflect on what’s happening.

TV also presents ideas and characters on a surface level. Shows don’t have the luxury of describing or explaining situations in great detail, since they need to keep viewers visually entertained. TV programs are fast-paced in order to keep people from switching.

Books, on the other hand, are a more proactive form of entertainment and learning. The reader has to concentrate on what’s being said and to think through concepts in the book. When we read, we’re forced to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps.

Books also have the advantage of being able to describe everything in greater depth. While television is mostly composed of dialogue between characters, books can walk readers through scenes, characters’ thoughts, and provide lengthier commentary.

Observer

After 54 Years, We Fell in Love. After Five Months, I Got Leukemia. – Delia Ephron. 

I thought I’d fallen into my own romantic comedy.

I write them for a living. My sister Nora and I wrote “You’ve Got Mail,” among others. How people fall in love is my specialty.

Here is where it begins.

Last August I wrote an essay for this newspaper about trying to disconnect my late husband’s phone and ending up in Verizon hell. In October, I got an email from a man who read the piece. A man Nora had fixed me up with when I was 18 years old, a summer intern she’d met at Newsweek. We’d had three dates, he wrote.

Now we were 72 years old. We are talking 54 years ago. “We went to a Columbia football game. There were snow flurries,” Peter told me when I confessed in my return email to having absolutely no memory of our dates.

He was now a psychiatrist, a Jungian analyst, living in the Bay Area.

There were confluences. He’d had similar problems — with AT&T — trying to disconnect his wife’s line after she died. The last trip they took together had been to Syracuse, Sicily. My most recent novel, “Siracusa,” was set there. Peter loved it, he told me. He knew the way to a writer’s heart.

“Do you want to talk further?” he wrote. “Clearly I do.”

I’d have sworn that I had no interest in meeting a man or, frankly, taking off my clothes in front of one. I was content. I had great friends. I’d had a wonderful marriage.

And yet when Peter opened his arms, I leapt into them.

Of course, first I Googled.

After mistaking several other men for him, I learned that he had written two books on sexual exploitation. He had testified on behalf of abused women in court. An activist on behalf of women? Is this a feminist prank? He’d recently hiked the Grand Canyon. He sent a photo of himself in a canoe. He was great looking.

After consulting my friend Jessie, who has excellent judgment and who approved of his email, I wrote back. Something charming, I hoped. Yet I was careful to mention that I never hike except across Greenwich Village for a pastry. Peter did sound seriously interesting, but there was no way I was going near the Grand Canyon.

Within days we were emailing several times a day. I remember thinking, there is no point in being anything other than who I am, so I was honest about my life, my loss, the complications of survival, and he responded in kind.

There we were, like Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail,” emailing our hearts. Or was it like “Sleepless in Seattle,” since we were on opposite coasts?

After about two weeks, he wrote the inevitable: “Delia, I think we should talk on the phone.”

Soon we were logging hours late at night. Not FaceTime or Skype, simply phone calls — voices connecting the way I did when I was young. He drove to Nevada to canvass for Hillary Clinton, and we talked the four hours there and the four hours it took him to drive back. I couldn’t think or write or sleep. I realized, I’m falling in love. I am 72 years old, how is this possible? All this before Peter said, “Delia, I think we should meet.”

The next weekend he flew to New York.

The day of our date, I had an excellent blow-dry. I spent way too much time considering what to wear. I was tongue-tied at dinner. I believe I asked him his favorite color. My brain was jumbled by his presence, by the ghost of my husband who would only want me to be happy, but still.

When we left the restaurant, Peter kissed me. On the corner of Bowery and Houston, let it be marked forever.

The next morning I freaked out. We were supposed to meet in Washington Square Park. I couldn’t go. I called Jessie. “He has a backpack,” I told her.

“Every man in Northern California has a backpack,” she said, “get over to the park.”

Peter and I sat on a bench and talked for hours. I was scared. At our age death is sitting there, right in front of you. You can reach out and touch it. And I remember saying, the way people say things they mean but don’t: “No one should have to go through twice what we both went through. If I get sick, I give you total permission to leave me.”

And Peter said, “I could never do that.”

This is not a romantic comedy. It’s not a comedy at all.

In the full disclosure necessary at our age, I told Peter that I had abnormal cells in my bone marrow, discovered in a biopsy seven years earlier. But every six months I would visit Dr. Gail Roboz, director of the leukemia program at Weill Cornell Medicine, and she would give me a blood test and tell me I was fine. Peter was not put off.

Within weeks of our first date, we were taking long trips together, including one to the edge of the Grand Canyon. And then I went in for my next blood test, on March 9, and found out that I had leukemia.

It was A.M.L., acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form. I would start chemotherapy in the hospital the next week, Dr. Roboz said, on CPX-351, a drug in clinical trials, not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Leukemia. A.M.L. My sister had died of this disease.

But it wasn’t the same disease, Dr. Roboz told me. Abnormal chromosomes and mutations make A.M.L. behave very differently in different patients. My version was not like my sister’s, and was, Dr. Roboz believed, a good candidate for CPX-351. This is why I could get the drug, through Weill Cornell’s compassionate-access program.

I felt grateful for that, but I wished so much that this drug or something suited to Nora had existed when she was sick. I was lonely for her, more than ever.

Like my sister, I started lying. I told lots of lies to people I love. To people I work with. About why the screenplay wasn’t in, why I had to miss appointments. I’m a terrible liar. I said whatever came into my head. I even borrowed a friend’s eye disease. All I could think was, if I tell one person and they tell another, my news would be public, published as: “Her sister died, she’s dying, too.”

I had to protect my hope.

Peter flew in the day after I found out. He was sitting at the breakfast table, I was making us French toast, and he said, “We should get married.” He stood up. “Will you marry me?”

“Yes.”

This wasn’t a practical decision. We both understood that the illness had given us an even clearer recognition of our love. On Monday we got a marriage license and bought a ring. On Tuesday I checked into the hospital.

We want to marry, we told Dr. Roboz, who turned out to be able to arrange that, too. We read our vows that Peter wrote all about miracles, and the Rev. Cheryl Fox, the hospital chaplain, pronounced us husband and wife in the dining room on the hospital’s 14th floor. I was one CPX-351 treatment in, two more to go.

Peter took a leave from his practice and slept in my hospital room. There was not one moment when he wasn’t positive. Not one. A long hospital stay is like being in a tunnel, a blur of people taking your vitals, meals arriving that you don’t want to eat, forcing yourself to walk the corridors to keep up your strength. Fear and hope battling for your heart and mind. Every night, when I fell asleep in my hospital bed, I saw Peter across the way on a cot, reading, waiting for me to fall asleep before he did.

Twenty-five days later I was out of the hospital. I had a final bone marrow biopsy and the official news: I was in remission.

Remission. A remarkable word to hear.

Within a week I was writing again. Peter and I went to the opera. But I continued to avoid friends and family. When I saw people dear to me, I presented a version of my life that didn’t exist (even omitting a marriage — how to explain that!).

All this secrecy became too great a burden; it isolated me. It simply didn’t suit.

And I hope very much that the F.D.A. approves this drug. It should be available to everyone who could benefit from it. I have an obligation to tell.

I look at Peter and wonder how this miracle happened to us. My sister, of course. She had the foresight to suspect 54 years ago that we were made for each other (“M.F.E.O.,” as a character says in “Sleepless”). Thank goodness he reads The New York Times. Thank goodness he has the most generous heart. Did I mention that CPX-351 doesn’t make you lose your hair? I suppose I could say that’s not important when it’s life and death, but losing your hair is huge. A heartbreak. It matters. Everything mattered. Especially love.

Delia Ephron

New York Times

History Nearly Forgot Kansas City’s Sarah Rector – Ingrid Keizer

Few Kansas Citians know the story of the 10 year old girl who became the one of the first black, female millionaires in the US. Though her story began in Oklahoma, it was in Kansas City that she spent her entire adulthood.

Before the the African slave trade began in the Americas, European settlers enslaved indigenous people. Later, some native tribes also adopted the use of African slaves and some even fought with the confederacy to retain that right. In 1866 a treaty was signed between the US and the Creek Nation to emancipate those slaves and allow them full citizenship in the Creek Nation. Those freed slaves came to be known as “Creek Freedman”.

The Dawes Act 0f 1887 authorized the US government to divide tribal lands into allotments. In 1907, 10 year old Sarah Rector’s parents who were Creek Freedmen, accepted an allotment of land with the condition that they live separate from the tribe and be granted US citizenship. In most cases the land was not prime farmland or desirable for any use. Each of the three Rector children and both parents were allotted land in eastern Oklahoma.

Sarah’s 160 acre land allotment was leased to an oil company to help pay the $30.00 tax bill. In 1913 the land proved highly valuable, producing 2500 barrels a day and providing Sarah a income of $300.00 a day. The law indicated that a white guardian must be assigned to any full blooded Indian, black adult or child with significant wealth. In many situations people were bilked out of their fortunes and left with nothing, children’s fortunes were taken and abandoned penniless to orphanages. Sarah’s guardianship was given to T.J. Porter a community member known to her family. More oil wells on her land became productive and became part of the Cushing-Drumright Oil Field which provided 20% of the oil in the US between 1915 and 1916.

Sarah’s wealth became well-known and the 13 year old began to receive marriage proposals from around the world. False rumors of neglect and abuse also began to circulate and eventually her guardian T.J Porter was accused of taking more than his share of her fortune and “stepped down” as her guardian. He was later found, “not guilty”. His attorney, however, was found guilty of taking kickbacks and lost his license to practice law.

By the time Sarah was 18 she was a millionaire. The Rector Family moved to Kansas City and bought a home on 2000 East 12th St. which came to be known as the “Rector Mansion”. The large home was priced at $20,000 in 1921. The “Rector Mansion” has experienced several incarnations including a funeral home. It currently stands empty.

In 1922, Sarah met Kenneth Campbell, a Lincoln High School Graduate who was playing football at the University of Kansas. The couple married in Lawrence, Kansas. The marriage produced three sons, Kenneth Jr. , Leonard and Clarence. Sarah and Kenneth socialized in the Jazz district and enjoyed the company of Kansas City musicians. Their wealth also afforded Sarah the ability to rise above some the constraints that a very segregated and often racist Kansas City presented. Sarah, who was frequently detained by law enforcement for speeding, was known to ask, “Do you know who I am?”.  In many cases, she was not ticketed.

In 1929 Kenneth partnered with Homer Roberts, the first black car dealer in the US. Roberts opened his first dealership in the 18th and Vine District in 1921. Black customers were not allowed to test drive cars at white dealerships rendering Roberts’ dealership highly profitable in the community. Sarah Rector loved cars and was likely one of Roberts’ first customers.

Sarah and Kenneth divorced and Kenneth moved to Chicago. The Campbell-Roberts duo opened a successful dealership in Chicago which closed during the depression.

The stock market crash of 1929 nearly depleted Sarah’s fortune. It is said that she sold the house on 2000 12th and downsized to a house on 2440 Brooklyn Avenue. The house on 2440 Brooklyn still stands and is considerable in size. She later moved to 2418 Campbell. The Campbell home no longer stands.

Sarah eventually sold her land in Oklahoma for a meager sum. It is suggested that her real-estate holdings in Kansas City also dwindled. Sarah married William Crawford, a baker and restaurant owner in 1934. In the 40’s Sarah was awarded a settlement of an undisclosed amount on the grounds of misuse and fraud of tribal lands by the government. She later bought a small farm a very short distance south of Kansas City, Missouri. She retained a small stable of cars.

Sarah continued to live in the Kansas City area until her death in 1967. She was buried in Oklahoma.

Black humour is sign of high intelligence, study suggests | Science | The Guardian.  

I’ve always known that 🙂

Who needs Mensa? If you want to find out if someone has a high IQ, just tell them a string of sick jokes and then gauge their reaction.

A new study in the journal Cognitive Processing has found that intelligence plays a key role in the appreciation of black humour – as well as several other factors, notably a person’s aggression levels.

A team of researchers, led by Ulrike Willinger at the Medical University of Vienna, asked 156 people, who had an average age of 33 and included 76 women, to rate their comprehension and enjoyment of 12 darkly humorous cartoons taken from The Black Book by the renowned German cartoonist Uli Stein.

Examples include a cartoon depicting a morgue where a physician lifts a cover sheet off a body. A woman confirms: “Sure, that’s my husband – anyway, which washing powder did you use to get that so white?”

Participants were also tested for verbal and non-verbal IQ and asked about their mood, aggression and educational background.

The group with the highest sick humour appreciation and comprehension scored the highest in verbal and non-verbal IQ tests, were better educated, and scored lower for aggression and bad mood.

The Guardian

Killer whales explain the mystery of the menopause – Robin McKie. 

Killer whales and humans would seem to have little in common. We inhabit very different ecosystems, after all. Yet the two species share one unexpected biological attribute. Females of Orcinus orca and Homo sapiens both go through the menopause.

It an extraordinary aspect of our development. In contrast to the vast majority of animals on our planet, women and female killer whales stop reproducing halfway through their lives. Only one other species – the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) – behaves this way.

The question is: why? For what reason do females of these three different species give up the critically important process of reproduction in middle age? According to Darren Croft of Exeter University, whose team has been studying killer whales for several years, there are many different theories. “Some have argued that it is an artefact that has appeared during our recent evolution and has simply persisted in our lineage,” he said. In other words, there is no specific reason for the menopause in humans. It is simply an evolutionary accident. However, Croft believes there is overwhelming evidence that the menopause is an evolved trait deep rooted in our past.

One idea to account for the deep-rooted evolution of this trait uses the concept of the “granny effect”: older females are programmed to close down their reproduction so they can devote themselves exclusively to the rearing of grandchildren. In doing so, they lose the ability to pass on their genes directly to one generation but gain because they can help the following generation to reach adulthood, thus promoting their genotype for the future, it is argued.

The Guardian

“Corn and Oak”. A Final Toast to Legendary Bourbon Master Distiller Parker Beam – Noah Rothbaum. 

For a long time it was said you couldn’t have a bourbon distillery without a member of the Beam family. In fact, when the five Shapira brothers started Heaven Hill, back in 1934, right after the repeal of Prohibition, it wasn’t long before a Beam was making the bourbon. Parker’s father, Earl (who was Jim Beam’s nephew), was hired in 1946 and it only made sense that his son and grandson, Craig, would follow suit. The family trees of the Shapira and Beam families have grown ever more entwined over the ensuing decades as the two clans produced and sold millions upon millions of barrels of American whiskey.

He taught all of us something about grit during the last few years. Most of all, though, he made great bourbon, at a fair price. Can’t ask for more than that. God bless, Parker Beam, God bless.

Daily Beast

Titantic II Is Almost Ready to Set Sail. 

You’ll Be Able to Vacation on a Replica of the Titanic in 2018

106 years after the original vessel sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, a new version of the RMS Titanic is set to launch in 2018.

Australian billionaire Clive Palmer—who has apparently never seen the movie—came up with the idea for the Titanic II, along with his shipping company, Blue Star Line, Palmer announced the project in 2012 in hopes of launching in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s fateful voyage, but the sail date was pushed back due to a series of delays.

The boat promises to be fully functioning replica, looking virtually identical to the 1912 counterpart—save for the fact that it promises to stock enough lifeboats for all its passengers, along with modern marine evacuation systems.

Travel and Leisure 

What This Child Prodigy Has To Say About Her Art More Than A Decade Later. 

Akiane Kramarik is now 21 and her paintings have been selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece.

Around age 4, the young girl realized she had an interest in painting — and within just a few years, she would become one of the most well-known prodigies in the art world. Huffington Post 

“I’m afraid that from 1944 onwards, Hitler did not spend a single day sober”

Dr Theo Morell, Hitler’s personal physician.

 “Germany, land of drugs, of escapism and worldweariness, had been looking for a super-junkie.And it had found him, in its darkest hour, in Adolf Hitler.” – Norman Ohler. NZ Herald 

Millions of drones will fill the skies. 

So many people are registering drones and applying for drone pilot licenses in the U. S. that federal aviation officials say they are contemplating the possibility of millions of unmanned aircraft crowding the nation’s skies in the not-too-distant future.

In the nine months since the Federal Aviation Administration created a drone registration system, more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft have been registered with the agency.

New registrations are coming in at a rate of 2,000 a day. By comparison, there are 260,165 manned aircraft registered in the U.S. NZ Herald

Tribeswomen escape back to forest

In December 2014, three “non-contacted” Amazon tribespeople – a young man, his mother and an elder female relative – were led out of the forest they had lived in their whole lives and taken to a village. A year and a half later, in an extraordinary twist, the two women have escaped back to the forest – taking just an ax, a machete and their pet birds. NZ Herald

Amid the horror of 9/11, taking this photograph changed my life

​Fifteen years after the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, a photographer tells the dramatic story behind her famous image of the day all hell broke loose. The Guardian

Burritos in the Sky

“It’s real customers that are working and need lunch and want it delivered by drone.” Stuff

Cop hunts down her childhood abuser. 

And in 2014, more than 15 years after the abuse, she arranged a meeting with him and secretly recorded their conversation. She had a recorder stashed away in her bra, capturing the entire traumatic conversation. On that two-hour tape, he described to her, in detail, what he did to her. He blames her for it. He tells her she wouldn’t understand because she doesn’t possess male genitalia. He praises himself by saying that at least “I kept you a virgin, didn’t I?”

NZ Herald – http://bit.ly/2c3j0xM