Rockaway Park NY, March 17, 2012 in the 41st year of the Society All Hail the Lord-Baron in Fullosia!
The Gentlemen of the Rockaway Park Philosophical society bid you greetings on St Patrick`s Day.
Each St Pat`s Day, The Society begins a new philosophical year. 2012 is its 41st with but nine years left on its 50 year mission.
The problems of 1971, as bad as they were, seem miniscule by comparison to the dilemmas of today. Yet as we continue to plot the decline
we are cheered that our pessimistic views in 1971 were correct.
The Setting Sun
Downton Abbey is a British T.V. period drama series, created and written by Julian Fellowes. Ostensibly set in the county of North Yorkshire in the North of England (I was raised in West Yorkshire), it was in fact filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire in the South of England with extra on-location shots at the village of Brampton, Oxfordshire, also South of England, with the servants` quarters etc. filmed at Ealing studios near London. However, to the English, North Yorkshire and its moors are captivating and rural so this is where `Highclere Castle` was re-`located`.
In the leading roles, Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham and Cora, his American wife (Elizabeth McGovern) are played remarkably convincingly. Otherwise, the series premiered on ITV1 on 26th September 2010 (Independent television is the alternative to `Aunty Beeb`, the BBC or state-owned station). A second series aired in autumn 2011 and a third is projected for the fall of 2012. It was well-received in the US with an estimated audience of around six millions but slightly less than the British audience of upwards of nine million (32% of the viewing public). It sold to over a hundred countries. It won very many awards including the award for Best Drama Series, Best Writer and five Primetime Emmy Awards. But at a cost of £1 million per episode, it had to bring home the bacon.
The first series covers the years from the sinking of the Titanic in April, 1912, to the outbreak of the Great War in August, 1914. Due to the sinking of the Titanic, the male heir to the Grantham estate is lost. Since the estate is entailed to a male heir, only a male can inherit. He it was, who would have married the heiress (one of the Earl of Grantham`s three daughters) and kept the house and the estate within the family. Now after the Titanic, all is again at sea and the estate will pass to a distant heir in Manchester, Lancashire (also bordering on North Yorkshire), who is a lawyer. He has to be gotten into marrying one of the Grantham heiresses so as to keep the house and estate in the family.
The second series runs from the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to the `flu pandemic of 1918. During this period, the hall is transformed into a hospital for soldiers and their war wounds. In fact, however, the hospital is entirely for officers (enlisted men are not welcome). However, the house is thrown into chaos due to the influx of guests, who are not members of the nobility.
Series three scheduled for the fall of 1912 is planned to run in the 1920s. Not much is known about it to date.
So that, in short, is the story of Downton Abbey. Actually a fictitious place somewhere in North Yorkshire, but filmed mainly in the sumptuous surroundings of Highclere Castle in the South of England. It is a period piece and a period piece done well in the best British tradition. It has elements of `Upstairs, Downstairs` about it in the cordoning off of the servants` quarters and their wild intrigues regarding the `higher-ups` in society. But a "jolly good show" for the likes of Americans interested in the dying days of Empire and the aristocratic traditions that once made Britain `Great`.
~ Geoff Jackson
So Says Destiny
It was prophesized,
that the Sun adorned
the heavens with stars,
before all others was the guardian,
the dogstar, many other gods,
he created, as well,
who were equal in number,
to the opposing force,
where in open space,
they made war.
The Heavens versus the Earth,
milenias would pass,
until destiny would step in,
and announce the time,
when famine and sickness,
shall pass away and disappear.
Ushering in a time on Earth,
of one common toungue,
of one common government,
and the Earth will become a level plain,
and the sages,
all say that one God,
is to overpower,
and each in turn,
for the space of,
three thousand years,
shall one, undo the other.
death passes away,
and the war is,
brought to a peace,
and the people,
will be happy,
they will have, no need,
they shall cast, no shadow,
and the forces that brought,
all of these things into being,
shall pass into a deep slumber,
and then, for a time,
they will be quiet.
Michael Collins is a celebrated film from 1996 starring the Irish hero of the same name. The real Michael Collins was active in the Easter Rising of 1916, interned in Frongoch, Wales, and later active in the Irish War for Home Rule. This terminated in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which partitioned Ireland and led to her taking an oath of allegiance to the British king. Following that in 1922, an Irish Civil War broke out and the upshot was that the real Michael Collins was ambushed and shot dead.
Neil Jordan has both scripted and directed this film superbly. Liam Neeson stars as Michael Collins and brings passionate and inspiring acting to the role. Good supporting roles are played by Harry Boland (Aidan Quin), Collins` best friend and side-kick, and Eamon De Valera (Alan Rickert), the first Irish President. A less convincing role is played by Kitty Kiernen (Julia Roberts), whose Irish accent has been criticized. The photography was seen to by Chris Meyer, who uses fog as well as darkness and shadow imagery to beautiful effect. The soundtrack was written by Elliot Goldenthal and is unobtrusive but always in the background.
The film opens with Kitty KIernen being consoled on the death of her lover and husband-to-be, Michael Collins. Immediately, there is a flashback to the end of the Easter rising of 1916, where many Irish leaders were summarily executed and where others such as Collins and Boland were sent off to Frongoch, a detention camp in Wales for Irish prisoners. De Valera, however, gets off lightly with a prison sentence as he is an American citizen.
In fact, the movie makes little note of life at the detention camp, although it must have given Collins plenty of contact with the others in the Irish freedom struggle and also have led him to conclusions as to how to fight a war against the British. It is a sad remark about the camp that little attention is paid to it nor to the seminal role it played in Collins` later career. In particular, it is here that Collins must have thought up his strategy of flying columns and hit-and-run ambushes. But back to Ireland. Collins is released from Frongoch as part of a general political amnesty and returns to Ireland, where, left now in command, Collins orders the IRA to begin raiding police barracks for weapons. He also begins a new tactic, which may be defined in today`s terms as urban guerilla warfare. He organized the assassination of the infamous G-men, men, who worked for the British as informers. He also organized his own intelligence network e.g. Ned Broy (Stephen Rea) in the British police. Certain elements of history are distorted e.g. the far too negative portrayal of Eamon De Valera. He is pictured as a "weak, mannered, sniveling prima donna", which is hardly a good picture of the man, who became the Irish leader for many decades. It is also suggested in the film that he had something to do with the killing of Michael Collins, but in reality De Valera probably did his best to stop it and was seriously aggrieved by the news of Collins` death. In addition, Harry Boland met his death in a skirmish with Irish Free State soldiers and not swimming the River Liffey (which runs through Dublin) as the film suggests. However, these relatively minor matters may be seen as being put in as part of artistic license, and, of course, the film does not purport to be a real-live account of the life and times of Michael Collins. Otherwise, however, the movie is fairly true to life.
The final episode in Michael Collins` life is that De Valera sent him to London to negotiate an Anglo-Irish Treaty. Collins returned with a paper partitioning Ireland and subjecting her to an oath of allegiance to the British crown. Almost immediately, an Irish Civil War broke out and Collins himself was killed in it, meeting his death at the age of thirty-one. We have not dealt either with the love triangle of Harry Boland, Kitty Kiernen and Michael Collins but this element of romance tends to get played down in the movie and does not detract from the main thrust, which has to do with the struggle against the British for a united Ireland.
All-in-all, this historical topic, written and directed by Neil Jordan, was a block-busting success. It was a multi-national enterprise, partly financed by Irish companies, the Irish State and American money, and a great box-office success. It put Neil Jordan up amongst the world`s best film directors and established a framework for other Irish directors to follow. Above all, it established Neil Jordan as an Irish film-maker and not the British or American film-maker he had been. For lovers of a bygone age, the movie is still available on DVD.
~ Geoff Jackson
Progress Isn`t Always Forward
Progress Isn`t always forward
and change not always best.
Sometimes progress stalls
and takes a turn,
sometimes a backward step.
Sometimes what seems new and shiny
is antiquity disguised,
replacing what had earlier been replaced.
Progress often is confused with profit,
and we disparage and abandon truth
for a way more lucrative, more effortless,
more swift. It becomes an errant train
that never tires or derails, but bulls ahead,
crushing and consuming both good and bad,
banishing hardship and endeavor,
making life more routine with little of benefit
to do in a growing leisure.
Breton Nationalism During World War ll
Little Brittany. Sixth among the Celtic nations (Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and the Isle of Man). What a sad war Brittany had in comparison to all the other areas of France. It was a record of collaboration with the Germans for the whisp-o`-the-will of Breton nationalism.
During the `phony war`, the Germans favored the nationalism of the liberated peoples against the French, in particular Flemish and Breton nationalism. However, after the very rapid defeat of France, support for Breton nationalism was quickly forgotten in favor of supporting Vichy France. After the Conference of Montoire, where Hitler and Pétain (the leader of Vichy France) met, the nationalist movements were merely tolerated but not supported. Separatists were withdrawn from the leadership of the Parti National Breton and the prospects of an independent Brittany under German protection receded. The action of the Resistance was to murder and assassinate leading members of the Breton movement, which threw them into disarray and further into the arms of the Germans.
The Breton nationalist movement was very anti-French and pro-Nazi. In particular, the Breton National Party was strongly anti-democratic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic. It was influenced by German racism and all the varieties of European fascism. According to the ideology of the Breton National Party, the Bretons were a pure strain of Celts, who had retained their Nordic qualities and were therefore related to the German `master-race`.
During the overrunning of France, many Breton Prisoners of War had been detained. They were thought to be responsive to nationalist propaganda and placed in separate camps such as Luckenwalde. Célestine Lainé, a leading nationalist, found himself liberated from a five-year prison sentence and became one of the central committee members of the Breton National council set up in Pontivy in July 1940. However, already at that time, the policy of cooperation with (Vichy) France proper was taking over in the German occupier`s mind from the dismemberment of France. Consequently, the Germans demanded that the more radical elements of Breton nationalism be extirpated. Lainé meanwhile was becoming more esoteric in his thinking, developing notions of northern Celtic nations related to the Germans as distinct from the inferior Latin races.
The most controversial of all the undertakings of Breton nationalism was the founding of the Bezen-Perrot (Perrot Unit) to fight alongside the Germans. The Germans, meanwhile, were becoming desperate to find counter-insurgents to combat the growing French Resistance. In particular, the most controversial issue relating to the unit was its uniform of German SS Feldgrau (Field Gray) with no insignia of Breton allegiance. It was listed in the German Army as the Bretonische Waffenverbande der SS `Bezen-Perrot` (Breton Weapon Unit of the SS, the `Perrot Unit`). Its members did not see themselves as collaborators; rather they viewed themselves as a nationalist force continuing Breton military resistance to France. Originally, the Bezen Perrot had about thirty members, which enlarged to about sixty or seventy at its peak in December 1944, and reduced to around thirty again at the end of the war. Meanwhile, from early to mid-1943, the Bezen Perrot provided invaluable help to the Germans in their campaign against the French Resistance, particularly as their members spoke Breton, the language of the French Resistance in Brittany.
Toward the end of the war, the Bezen Perrot was wound up and many of its leading members found their way either into conquered Germany or across the waters to free Ireland. Many of the Breton nationalist leaders were executed either by the Resistance or the newly emerged French government. They were shot as collaborators.
In fact, many more Bretons went over into the French Resistance rather than fight for the cause of Breton nationalism. It tended to be the will of a radical splinter-group of pro-Nazi fascists, some of whom in the Bezen Perrot, were willing to follow the Third Reich to the end.
~ Geoff Jackson
Not to Be
I took delight in a book as I sat against
A shaded tree. "Not to be" said the wind as it blew
Upon my pages. "Not to be" said the flies that swarmed
Upon me and invited the mosquitoes to join in their
After some time, I was left in peace to continue
My reading. The enticing climax of the book was
About to approach, but not to be as a stranger`s
Dog barked at me with contempt. Not be as the
Drizzling rain began to seep from the leaves of
The willow tree.
I took delight with a book in nature`s nest,
But nature didn`t appear to take delight with me.
Jean d Arc Visionary or Mad?
Joan of Arc was burned by the English at the stake in Rouen in April 1431. Her charge was cross-dressing or transvestism. Probably she cross-dressed as a man to prevent rape or other forms of molestation. A posthumous retrial occurred in 1456 at the end of The Hundred Years` War, when an appellate court declared her innocence on the 7th July. She was canonized and became a saint in 1920. She has subsequently become the symbol of French resistance to foreign aggression and plays a large role in the propaganda of the far-right, the Front National under Marine le Pen. Nonetheless, other French political figures such as the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, have attempted to take her over and make her a symbol of the entire French nation.
But was Joan of Arc (Jeanne d`Arc or in medieval French Jehanne Darc) a visionary or an insane person? She first experienced visions from the Archangel Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret as well as other occasional visions from other saints such as the Archangel Gabriel at the age of twelve around 1424. These visions instructed her to raise the siege of the English at Orleans and go on to crown the Dauphin, King of France, at Reims. Was she then mad? In fact, she was probably both healthy and sane. Some modern psychiatrists have argued that visionary and creative status can include hearing voices. She is unlikely to have been schizophrenic (schizophrenics also suffer from auditory and/or visual hallucinations) since her actions show her to have been particularly astute in answering the questions put to her at her trial. A schizophrenic would have been at a severe disadvantage in such a situation and would not have been able to answer the charges cogently. Moreover, Charles Vll, the Dauphin at the time, would have been able to recognize madness as his father, Charles Vl, suffered from it and would not have entrusted Joan with leading his troops.
The Maid of Orleans began life as a simple peasant girl in the town of Domremy in eastern France. Born in a large family to Jacques d`Arc and Isabelle Romée, her father owned just fifty acres of land and supplemented his income by being a minor French official in the local village. Joan claimed to be just nineteen years of age at her trial in 1531 so that puts her date of birth at around 1412. Her first visions were around 1424 at the age of twelve.
She claimed to be under divine command to lead the French army to important victories over the allied English and Burgundian forces. She made the journey to the Royal Court of the Dauphin at Chinon in male disguise. There the Dauphin had her examined for witchcraft and finding none, put her in charge of the royal forces and sent her to raise the siege of Orleans. Orleans was an important fortress in the north of France commanding the Loire Valley and its loss to the English would have confirmed them in their position as controllers of the whole of northern France. France at the time was ravaged by The Hundred Years` War. The English had been using scorched earth tactics, the population of France had not yet recovered from the onslaught of the Black Death in the preceding century and French merchants were cut off from foreign markets. So, all was not well – to say the least – in the kingdom of France. At the outset of the siege, England had nearly achieved its objective of a joint monarchy of England and France.
Jean d`Arc arrived at the siege of Orleans on 29th April 1429. She quickly assumed leadership of the French forces – in spite of being excluded from war councils – and putting aside defensive tactics went onto the offensive against the English winning over a number of small forts surrounding Orleans and going on to rout the English army. She followed this up with a vigorous campaign to capture several small towns and entered Reims on the 16th July 1429. She was successful in crowning the Dauphin as the King of France and went on to assault Paris in the heart of English occupied territory on 8th September. However, a skirmish on 23rd May 1430 led to her capture by the Burgundians, who handed her over to the English for a sum of money. They put her on trial for heresy by an ecclesiastical court and legal proceedings commenced on 9th January 1431 at Rouen, in northern France and the headquarters of English rule. It is one of the fullest medieval documents relating to a trial that we have. The trial was politically motivated. She was the only witness at her own hearing. She was cross-questioned and many questions were put, which showed them to be particularly trick questions. Much was made of her `voices` and if they came from God or the Devil. Eventually the charge of cross-dressing was the one she was nailed under. She was burned at the stake in the main square of Rouen. To make sure of the case, the English re-burned the bones to reduce everything to ashes and prevent any part of her being used as a `relic` later. That was the end of the brief history of Jean d`Arc, the Maid of Orleans. In fact, however, her name was to live on and she became a great and potent French national symbol. She became the symbol of a country torn by civil war and re-unified and healed by a glorious military campaign. In fact, The Hundred Years` War did not come to an end for a further twenty-two years but the way was paved for ultimate French victories and the restoration of the Crown of France.
~ Geoff Jackson
TRICK OR TREAT?
"Good Christians" warn that Halloween`s
A festival of Satan,
When nothing`s standing in between
Your soul and its damnation.
For centuries, they witches burned
With little provocation.
Eternal fire claimed they`d earned.
For mercy -- strangulation!
The Inquisition paid you well
For friend`s denunciation,
Provided friend was rich as hell
For Church`s confiscation.
The "Day of Saints" to honor dead
Was Christian celebration,
Till Celtic lore imposed instead
Samhain* their harvest holiday
Ere winter`s hibernation,
When eating, drinking, sped the way
Of spirits to salvation.
Both ghosts and goblins walked the earth
In Celts` imagination.
But Church saw little room for mirth
In such abomination.
Samhain became "All Hallow`s Eve,"
A night in preparation
For praising saints, which they believed
Would minimize temptation.
But medieval Church obsessed
With total domination
Of Europe, therefore, had to wrest
Control of cerebration.
So demons lurking everywhere,
Their clever postulation,
With witches flying through the air
And cloven fornication.
On Halloween, they focused all
Their hate and trepidation.
Condemned it as a hellish ball
Of evil`s culmination.
Removed they "undesirables"
By faulty accusation,
Preserving "Christian principles"
`Mid purging conflagration.
At last, in eighteenth century
Such nonsense met cessation
When rational humanity
Now Fundamentalists dismiss
A child`s anticipation
Of Halloween by calling this
Like Torquemadas vivified,
They thrive on condemnation
Of challenge to their narrow lives
Of mental constipation.
So on October 31st,
Keep kids in isolation,
Lest pumpkin carved or mummy cursed
Be devil`s invitation.
AWESOME David Lawrence:
I Didn`t Vote
Back in the eighties I actually didn't vote. I thought Carter was a disaster, exacerbating the Iranian situation, pushing up inflation and raising gas prices. I thought that Reagan was a war monger who would lead us into World War III. Little did I know that he would end the Cold War and defuse a possible atomic war with the Russians. Little did I know that he would help tear down that wall. But in those days I was a naive liberal who knew nothing about history while I clung to a pacifistic ideology rather than a pragmatic reality. I gave myself kudos for not wanting war while I pushed us further towards war by not voting. Thus I did nothing to defeat Carter, a faux saint on gasless wheels. He seemed to be a gentle man while he inadvertently promoted jihad in the Moslem world and turned the Cold War into ice. He so inflated money that he left the planet of reality in the Wizard of Oz`s balloon. When he was gone we were free to experience Reagan`s pragmatic approach to improving the world. Thank God for Reagan. How was I such a dope to not vote for him? Well, what about the fools who voted for Obama?
Rhodesia (Zimbabwe): The Last Colony
Freedom is worth fighting for. Racism is a thing that all should be against. But what if your struggle for liberation and fight against racism end you up in a morass of corruption and dictatorship beyond bounds? What if you jump into the clutches of a man so evil as Mugabe? This is the really interesting point of how a society balanced on a fragile basis of law and order could break down into the chaos that is Zimbabwe today.
Let`s turn the clock back. The year is 1965 and UDI, the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, has just been declared. Actually on Remembrance Day, the day to remember the veterans of World War l and ll in which the Rhodesians bravely fought shoulder-to-shoulder with the British. But UDI declares a state in which the white domination of Southern Rhodesia (now Rhodesia) is going to rule the roost. The police and most of the Army is in white hands. So also is the Parliament . UDI envisages a benign, paternal rule by the whites over their benighted black neighbors. An `Uncle Tom`s Cabin` type of society. The white minority of around 270,000 will rule the black majority of just over 6 million but will rule well with justice and paternal wisdom.
Yet this was not to be. Britain had a policy of handing over African states to Africans in a situation of "one man, one vote" and plainly the "white Supremacy" that Ian Smith and his party, the Rhodesian Front, stood for could not be reconciled with this.
Britain meanwhile sought the help of the United Nations. They pretty well with one voice approved measures to apply economic sanctions against Rhodesia and isolate her from the rest of the world. Only Zambia (which protested its opposition to Rhodesia), Mozambique and South Africa stood with the new country. Gradually, this bloc loosened and especially Mozambique fell out due to the Portuguese withdrawal from that country.
Moreover, the Rhodesians found themselves fighting a vigorous Bush War against both ZAPU and ZANU guerillas. These guerillas operated from bases out of neighboring countries but, at first, restricted in their operations, they spread and spread. Soon Rhodesian troops were putting up a fight to control roads and other vital control posts throughout the country. At one point, the oil depot in Salisbury was set light to and burned for several days before it could be extinguished. Essentially, the country lost half its oil supplies in that one attack and something had to be done quickly.
In 1979, new elections were held under a new constitution. The black population not involved in the freedom struggle and the whites elected a Parliament in which about one-third of the seats were reserved for whites and the rest belonged to the black majority. It was essentially a power-sharing arrangement. Abel Muzorewa became the country`s new Prime Minister. In early 1980, after the Lancaster House Agreement, new elections were held and these were won by Robert Mugabe. His ZANU guerillas had been responsible for much of the fighting and Mugabe had appealed for help to the Chinese and the Russians.
In the early 1980s, the Gukuruhadi sweep by Zimbabwe security forces was held. They are estimated to have killed up to 10,000 civilians. In fact, estimates vary from four thousand to forty thousand. In the years after independence, sixty per cent of the white population migrated mostly to South Africa and Great Britain.
Zimbabwe, moreover, once considered by many to be the breadbasket of Africa, now became a net importer of foodstuffs. The food sector and agriculture in general has suffered due to the re-allocation of land to black veterans, who simply did not have the know-how to farm their plots effectively. The net yield from arable land has simply declined by as much as half.
Inflation also shot up. It was 32% in 1988 but rose to 11,200,000% by 2007 or a price-doubling every 1.3 days. Unemployment was running at around 80%.
Meanwhile, the slums and black ghettoes around the major cities were to be cleaned up. Operation Murumbadvina simply turned people out of their squats and they had no place to go to. It left people homeless and was initiated at the start of 2005. Of course, Mugabe may have wanted to clear out a potential hot-bed of discontent but he threw the urban poor back on nothing.
Life for the average Zimbabwean is now considerably worse than it ever was under the white supremacist rule of Mr. Smith. The economy had collapsed, inflation was astronomical, homes were being torn apart and their people being turned into the street, and unemployment was running at around 80%. Living standards, it has been calculated, were at the level of 1953. But for many, they may have been much lower.
Finally, government and politics were characterized by vote-rigging, election fraud and intimidation. There was nothing honest about the elections. Even the first one, which returned Mr. Mugabe, was informed by intimidation. Finally, the situation with regard to human rights is frightening. There are widespread reports of a systematic and escalating disregard of human rights in the country of Zimbabwe under Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF.
The economy was dependant on three things: the production of food for export; mining; and tourism. Mineral exploitation of platinum reserves and diamond mines continued as before. However, tourism suffered drastically. Deforestation etc. laid bare a lot of the areas of hitherto undisturbed national parks and tourists were just not interested in coming. Most of the major airlines – Lufthansa, Quanta`s, and eventually BA – discontinued flights into Harare. This down-spiral in the economy has been attributed to the mismanagement and downright corruption of the Mugabe regime.
In addition to everything, by 1997, an estimated 25% of the population had been infected by HIV, the AIDS virus. Life expectancy fell till under 40 for men and just over 30 for women. It was the lowest in the world.
So, let us return to the opening question of this essay, "whether `tis nobler in the mind to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them" or whether to do nothing, to hang around like Hamlet with no goal or purpose. Liberating the government from white supremacy rule was achieved but at what price. The country was simply handed over to a bunch of brigands, who exploited it by means of a growing reign of terror. Instead of the reasonably harsh regime of the whites, power slipped into the hands of the venal, corrupt and torturing blacks. Which is to be preferred? Misery under your own people or thralldom under that of a foreign yoke? It has been in the case of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia a moot point. She is now excluded from the Commonwealth on the charges of violations of human rights. She is nearly as isolated in the international community as the old Rhodesia was. The wheel has come full circle and is back-breaking to those, who have to live with the terror of Robert Mugabe.
~ Geoff Jackson
Saint Patrick was not born an Irishman. He was a Welshman, born in Wales in about 385 A.D. and died March 17, 461 A.D. His given name at birth was Maewyn. When he was sixteen years old, he was sold into slavery by Irish marauders after they raided his village. During his captivity, he changed his name from Maewyn to Patrick. He became a Christian during his enslavement, and after six years returned to Gaul and studied in the monastery for twelve years.
He discovered that his calling was to convert Pagans to Christianity, so he returned to Ireland to fullfill his mission. The Celtic Druids who had their own religion, opposed his conversion plans and arrested him many times. He used the shamrock in his teachings to explain the holy trinity. The three leafs represented the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all separate elements of the same entity. There were no snakes in Ireland, but the expression "driving the snakes out" could have been a metaphor for driving the Pagans out of Ireland.
The Saint Patrick`s Day celebration first came to America in 1737 and was celebrated in Boston by parades, music, and heavy drinking. It seems that Saint Patrick`s Day, a Catholic holy day, is sharing the same fate that Christmas is becoming; secular holidays. The original conception of why the celebrations came about have become overshadowed by influencial sentiment. I hope that in time the reason for their observance won`t become lost completely.
SYMPOSIUM ON THE EAGLE AND THE CENTURION
BEHIND THE VEIL OF CIVILISATION
Sons and daughters of Erin and wannabe Irish at least for a day, the 2011 film The Eagle (90 Minutes) may add to your celebration of St. Patrick`s Day. Based on Mary Sutcliff`s novel The Eagle of the Ninth, the movie was directed by Kevin MacDonald and produced by Duncan Kenworthy, respectively. It features Channing Tatum as Marcus Flavius Aquila a young Roman legionnaire, Jamie Bell as Esca a young Gaelic slave, and Donald Sutherland in a supporting role as Aquila`s uncle.
In a fierce battle with a Gaelic tribe in 140 AD Aquila`s wounded. During recuperation he saves Esca`s life acquiring him as his personal slave. Twenty years earlier Aquila`s father`s lost 5000 men and a golden eagle, the symbol of the Roman Empire. Wherever the eagle was, there was Rome. A lost eagle diminished the glory of Rome. Recovering the eagle will restore his fathers` reputation and the families tainted honor. No Roman can survive north of Hadrian`s Wall. All Gaelic tribes were not equal. Some were easily subdued by the legions. Others fiercely resisted them. Ironically Hadrian`s Wall (~74 miles from coast to coast) was constructed to keep out the fierce northern tribes initially provoked by the Romans. The latter got more than they bargained for. Aquila`s uncle vainly tries to dissuade the perilous journey. Aquila and Esca venture north of the Wall. Esca`s knowledge of the terrain, culture, and language subtly shifts leadership to the slave.
They encounter a survivor of the lost legion. Aquila presses the man for information about his father. The man acknowledges he fled from the field. Aquila dismisses the deserter who will play a significant role later. After surviving several brief and violent encounters with Gaelic tribesmen the duo is captured by the Painted Seal People. Esca a Brigantine is accepted as a guest. He identifies Aquila as his personal Roman slave to save his life. The master-slave relationship has been completely rearranged. Esca learns the tribe has the lost eagle. They manage to recover the eagle and flee south.
Weakened by heavy labor, beatings and malnourishment Aquila can go no further. He orders Esca to leave. Esca defies the order because as a slave he?d vowed to protect Aquila`s life as the latter had earlier saved his. He will only leave if Aquila frees him. In the films most moving scene both men realize that no culture has a monopoly on honor and sacrifice. Esca leaves and Aquila resolutely awaits his fate from the hotly pursuing Seal People. The movie distinguishes itself from other historical sagas in several ways.
MacDonald presents a level of cultural detail normally missing from or superficially portrayed in such movies. There are the rigorously trained, highly disciplined, fully equipped legionnaires, double marching in line to battle, producing a testudo or a circle of shields and swords facing outward, facing the fierce Gaelic tribes wearing no protective gear, fighting with a variety of inferior weapons, randomly charging with reckless abandon, relying more on numbers than tactics or equipment. Still one element in their war chest surprises the Romans.
The second half of the film provides a strong cultural flavor featuring the Gaelic language with subtitles accompanied by Irish music. Coming of age ritual of boys to warriors was draconian. Loyalty was preeminent. An attention grabbing scene witnesses the war leader killing his own 5 year old son as a presumed traitor. Sources of food from hunting and fishing and meager agriculture together with the earthen lodgings of the day were consistent with their mode of life.
Although this may not have been MacDonald`s intention, the movie suggests another provocative theme. While the Pax Romana was considered manifest destiny for the greater honor and glory of Rome, it was in many cases Pox Romana for invaded populations. WW II witnessed Hitler`s Master Race and 1000 year Reich over Europe`s sklavinfolk and Stalin`s engulfment of eastern Europe.
Tatum and Bell convincingly perform the physical demands of their roles. The revelation scene stands out. More of this communication would`ve lightened the grim mood of the movie. Several supporting roles made significant contributions. Some stories are character driven, others are plot driven. The latter prevails for this movie. For action fans there is a substantial level of fighting. For historical epic fans the movie provides a realistic and provocative glimpse of ancient Gaelic culture.
The Eagle: A Review
`The Eagle` is based on a novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe, `The Eagle of the Ninth` (1954). She was mainly a writer of children`s and young person`s books and this probably explains why there is no romantic sideline. It is a historical epic movie based around the relationship of Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman centurion and his British slave, Esca, the son of a Brigantes chieftain. Esca owes his life to Marcus Aquila, who saved him from a gladiatorial contest.
In 140 AD, the young Marcus decides to set out north into the unchartered regions of Caledonia (Scotland) to recover the Eagle standard lost by his father twenty years previously. He is accompanied by Esca, his British slave, as an interpreter into the wild country of the Picts. There they travel to the far north of Scotland to meet the Seal People.
Language proved a little bit of a problem. There are no surviving members of the people, who spoke Pictish. Gaelic probably entered the area around the fifth century AD. Only 1% of the Scottish people speak Gaelic so that in order to find a boy to play the role of one of the Seal People, the Director eventually offered the role to a nine-year old boy from Belfast, who had been educated in Irish Gaelic.
However, back to the plot. Aquila is living on his uncle`s (Donald Sutherland`s) estates near Calleva (modern Silchester) in southern Britain. There he is recovering from a severe leg injury incurred while saving the garrison from being overrun by hostile Celtic tribesmen and has received an honorable discharge from the Army. However, giving no heed to his uncle`s or other Romans` warnings that no Roman can survive north of Hadrian`s Wall and having heard that the Eagle of the Ninth is to be found, somewhere in Caledonia (Scotland), he sets off in quest for it accompanied by his faithful slave, Esca.
After some weeks of travelling through the northern wilderness, Esca and Aquila encounter Guern, one of the survivors of the Ninth Legion, who has been saved due to the Selgovae tribe. Guern recalls that all but a small number of legionaries had been killed and that the Eagle is now in the hands of the Seal People. Esca is welcomed by this tribe and passes off his master as his own slave but then explains that the whole is a ploy to fool the Seal People. Esca and Marcus manage to reclaim the Eagle and head off south with the Seal People in hot pursuit. Marcus and Esca join up with remnants of the Ninth Legion and, in battle, the Seal People are routed.
Principal photography for the film began in Hungary on 24th August 2009 but then in October filming moved to Wester Ross and Loch Lomond, among other locations in Scotland. McDonald (Director) described his view of the Seal People as follows: “They were a more indigenous folk than the Celts, who were from farther south…They were probably small and dark, like the Inuit, living off seals and dressed in sealskin. We are going to create a culture about which no one knows much, but which w will make as convincing as possible. We are basing it on clues gained from places like Skara Brae and the Tomb of the Eagles in Orkney…” The Romans are played by Americans with Jamie Bell (Esca) using his native Sunderland Mackem accent as Scots Gaelic standing in for Pictish. ‘The Eagle` received mixed reviews with audiences scoring it as C+. In particular, the role of Channing Tatum (Marcus Flavius Aquila) was marked down as uninspiring. Otherwise Channing Tatum has had an interesting (?!) career as male stripper, model, diverse jobs etc. before turning to films.
Centurion: A Review
Centurion is a rip-roaring adventure story set in the Roman Empire at 117 AD. It is set in the wilds of Scotland and shot on location in the Scottish Highlands, the south of England and Ealing Studios near London. It is a gruesome blood and guts history of Roman legionaries, who make their way back home after the decimation of the Ninth Legion by Gorlacon, King of the Picts or Scottish Celts. (‘The Eagle’ is the sequence to this.)
Centurion Quintus Dias is the only survivor of a Pictish raid and is taken prisoner. In the meantime, the Ninth Legion is dispatched north and saves Dias, who has escaped. However, Roman forces walk into a trap and are annihilated. Dias with six others evades capture and death. Virilis, the general commanding the Ninth, has been taken captive and the seven decide to free him. They break into the Pictish settlement at night but fail to break the general’s chains. Instead, they kill Gorlacon’s son. The general is killed the next day in a fight with Etain, a Brigantian scout, who is a female and has switched sides from the Romans to the Picts to betray the Romans in their battle.
Etain pursues the small detachment of Roman soldiers, who at one point cast themselves off a cliff and into a stream. The contingent of Romans left over is now very small especially when it is borne n mind that one is killed by arrows and another two eaten by wolves.
Dias and – by now- his two followers meanwhile happen upon Arianne, who lives in a forest hut. She befriends them and shelters them from the pursuit of Etain. At one point, the Romans are sheltering under the floorboards while she is confronting Etain.
Dias finally escapes with a couple of his comrades to the south and back to Roman Britain. He proceeds to report the situation to the Roman governor, who decides to put him and the other survivors to death so that his own situation is not tainted with defeat. Dias again escapes and this time returns to Arianne to live with her in the forest.
It is a good story with lots of fighting and adventure. It starts out with a long column of Roman soldiers, who get massacred in the forests. Then it goes on with the adventures of a small band, who elude the Picts, the she-devil Etain and all the hardship of the difficult terrain. It finishes with the romantic episode of Arianne in the forest, when Dias, the last remaining survivor, goes back to live with her. A good, rip-roaring yarn for all those interested in such things.
~ Geoff Jackson
The Troubles - as they were called in Northern Ireland – had no real beginning and no real end. In as far as they had a beginning, this may be traced to the violence of the mid-sixties and in as far as they had an end, this could be the last remnants of violence put up by the ‘Real IRA’ today. Along the way were the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement of 1998 and the St. Andrews Agreement of 2006.
Let us start with the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. Essentially, it convoked a ‘Conference ‘for both Ireland and Great Britain to evaluate the affairs of the province of Ulster (Northern Ireland). A certain body was set up from both sides of the border and a series of procedures were adopted, whereby the affairs of the province would be safeguarded.
This Agreement galvanized the Unionists into action. Massive protest demonstrations were held all over Ulster at what was perceived as the treachery of the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher and her ‘sell-out’ of Protestant ‘Unionist ‘ interests in Northern Ireland. A mass rally outside Belfast City Hall on 23rd November was attended by a group of people 35,000 strong according to the Irish Times, a hundred thousand according to the News of the World, the Sunday Times and the Sunday Express (three British newspapers), 200,000 according to one independent witness, Arthur Augley, lecturer in politics at the University of Ulster and 500,000 according to the organizers of the rally. Whatever the number, it was a terrific turn-out of all those opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It marked a turning point also in attitudes amongst the Unionist, loyalist and Protestant majority, who increasingly came to see themselves as a beleaguered majority in their own state. Many of them were determined not to give up without a fight and the result was the operation of a small number of Protestant militias aiming at murdering Catholics in what these groups saw as reprisals for Protestant murders. The death toll in Ulster due to sectarian killings continued to rise.
On Good Friday of 1998, the Good Friday Agreement or Belfast Agreement was set up to ensure the functioning of the province. It was set up due to an understanding between Britain and Southern Ireland (Eire) but also due to negotiations between Britain and six other Northern Irish parties – all except for the Democratic Unionist Party, or Protestant party, which objected to it. The Agreement set out the future status and system of government for Northern Ireland, the relationship of institutions in both Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom and Eire, human rights, the principles of respect for each of Northern Ireland’s communities and their traditions, the decommissioning of arms held by various paramilitary groups, the release of paramilitaries from prison and the normalization of British security within Northern Ireland. The Agreement was approved at a referendum held on 23rd May, 1998, while on the same day, in the South, a referendum to amend the constitution was held, whereby the Republic of Ireland would give up its claim to be master of the whole of Ireland. Northern Ireland’s devolved system of government based on power-sharing and a joint executive of Catholics and Protestants came into being. The whole was to come into force on 2nd December, 1998.
However, problems due to decommissioning meant that there were in fact many delays in the implementation of the peace process. This, however, was finally achieved in the St. Andrews’ Agreement of 2006. Finally, the power-sharing came into force with both the Protestants and the Catholics represented in the system of government. The Agreement signed in St. Andrews, Scotland, was between the two governments and all the major parties in Northern Ireland, including the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein. It resulted in the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the formation of a new Northern Ireland Executive and a decision by Sinn Fein to support the police service of Northern Ireland. The two new ministers to take part in the Executive were Ian Paisley for the Protestants as First Minister and Malcolm McGuiness for the Catholics as deputy First Minister.
What is easy to forget is the role of America in bringing the parties to the conference table and getting them to sit together to discuss their differences. Various Presidents, starting with Bill Clinton, adopted the role of honest broker, and also a number of American multi-billionaires took over the talks. Even the Irish American Association was on the list of leading organizations to be welcome to the table. The point was that power had shifted in the world. We no longer had two super-powers. There was just then one. In this situation, it was only natural for the Irish leaders to feel both flattered and honored by the reception they obtained on the other side of the Atlantic.
~ Geoff Jackson