Boston State

I went last weekend, after umpteen years, to Boston.  It was not the real purpose of the trip, but a side visit, to my cousins condo.  Ophelia has lived there for several years, I think it’s about 6 now but I could be wrong.  She moved there when she, a rather ironic sidenote, got evicted from her apartment in Charlestown, in the Italian North section of the town, near the Navy Yard.  I was there, just once.

20160116_180433.jpg
Kendall Square, Cambridge Massachusetts, at night.

 

I mentioned Ophelia a long time ago on this blog, even I do not know know exactly when, but I doubt it was favourable even then.  She is at best a difficult lady.  At worst she’s a total narcissist.

I did not realize, and no one mentioned this, that Springfield Mass, my real destination for this trip, is 90 miles away from Boston.  I had thought about 50 and so was willing to make the journey.  Once I heard 90 I was rather peeved as that was almost halfway back home, but I was committed to the trip so I went.

I got committed because Ophelia was supposed to just meet me in Springfield and bugged off suggesting, very nonchalanatly, to come and visit.  She put it so innocously that I figured it was a short hop.  She didn’t mention time or distance, so I thought it made sense.  So instead of Ophelia meeting me in Springfield, she got out of that, and I already driving 4 hours was now going another 1.5.  Of course the logic sounds dicey, but if no one tells you, how would you know?  Everything was so trivialized that objections sounded outrageous and I found that they just wouldn’t come out.

So I drove to Boston.

It seemed like an easy drive, straight across Massachusetts, on the Pike.  No problems right?  Well TomTom started giving me troubles halfway there, blinking in and out, but I ignored it as I figured I knew the Pike and by the time I got actually to Beantown, it would be recharged.  I was thinking that the cold got to it.  Another bad idea.  By the time I got to Boston and paid the omnipresent EasyPass Tolls, TomTom was no longer recalcitrant, it was dead.  Black as night, with the charger staying “Green” I was stunned.  I noticed that my phone was also dead, so I unplugged the TT and put in the SamSung and looked for signs saying Brookline.  Zip.  I was not sure if that meant I was so farawy that it was not yet pertinent or that I was there.  With no GPS, no 4G and just a tunnel in front of me, I couldn’t tell, so I took it.

The tunnel is great.  3 lanes and brightly lit.  NYC should have something like this but some Nixon appointed fool from Upstate felt that the darter fish would be threatened and we did not get it.  I guess Boston does not have a darter and so instead they have the Williams tunnel.  I do not know who Williams is.  They never told me that either.

Out of the tunnel and into dark Boston and really no signs and really no exits either and with the final blow to my independence, I was running low on gas.  No filling stations either.  I must have passed the Boston Conservatory 3 times never seeing Fenway next door (she claimed she lived near that), because it was dark and unlit.  I drove up and down always stopping at the tunnel and making another round while my phone charged.  With no traffic on a Saturday night a trip up and down that highway can go pretty quickly, which was another thing that got me — all these brand new roads and no traffic.  NYC has antiqudated roads and lots of traffic; Boston has the good life with I think one-tenth the population and no darter fish to boot.

Life is good in Boston except for one thing, I noticed, of course as always comparing it to NYC, there are no filling stations, and no houses. Zip.  There are high rises but further in land, along that highway there is nothing but bit commercial enterprises one after another.  No stores either that I could see.  Signs to hospitals, to universities, most of which I did not recognize, and most of them all new, but where did the people live?  It was not until I got off the highway and took some road going to the Charles River that I saw horrific apartment complexes, tall mega skyhouses, row upon row, with shorter and smaller hotels near by, that I realized that this was the Liberal Dream that we all live in these megapolis buildings, cities unto themselves, in 1000 square foot rooms and I remember the distinct feeling of panic.  This was not the Boston I had known and to be honest, this was not a Boston I would like to know.  It felt too claustrophobic and too controlled and far too new clean and neat.  There were no vagrants, no litter and nothing nothing old except for squat buildings on the other side of the Charles.

I should have left right then and there, but I didn’t.  Instead it was 5:30, I was tired and feeling very lost and dropped into the DoubleTree Hotel at Cambridge…another mistake but minor in the scheme of things, in retrospect what I should have done was gone in and gotten wifi so I could have some sense of my location, but I didn’t and stayed in the back parking lot and waited in the dark.

Pictures of  the hotel , are here thanks to TripAdvisor.  Alas there is no parking.

 

 

 

Isaiah Berlin: Marx & Socialism

Marx wrote that Socialism does not appeal, it demands.  While it speaks of rights, it also, assumes a new life form, liberated from constraints of the previous historical social structures and the old social order that it has destroyed.  Instead, moral, political & economic conceptions have altered the very social conditions from which they sprang, and to regard any previous incarnations as either universal or immutable is tantamount to believing that they —in this case the bourgeois order—are eternal i.e. always a possibility; that to Marx underlies both the ethical and psychological doctrines of idealistic humanitarians (fools all).

 

Reading Das Kapital is a rather vigorous affair.  Contempt and loathing poured from Marx’s pen, as he attacked the assumptions made by liberals and utilitarians, that since the interests of all men are ultimately, and have always been, the same, that a measure of understanding, goodwill and benevolence on the part of everyone may yet make it possible to arrive at some sort of general consensus satisfactory to all.

 

Marx countered, that such nonsense was not only impractical but foolish, because if the class war is real, and it most certainly was, that much was obvious, then those benign and benevolent interests were absurd because how could a class system have evolved in the first place? If everyone is caring for one another, then there could be no social injustice, could there?  Denying this canonical fact by the questioner was either stupid or cynical, and it was this particular vicious form of self-hypocrisy that needed to be exposed.

 

This fundamental difference in outlook, distinguishes Marx sharply from the bourgeois radicals and Utopian socialists whom, to their own bewildered indignation, he fought and abused savagely for more than forty years. He truly gave the enemy no quarter, and if you did not agree with him totally, you were the enemy.

 

Marx detested romanticism, idealism, emotionalism, and most of all their humanitarian appeals, and, in his anxiety to avoid any appeal to the idealistic feelings of his audience, he systematically tried in his works, to remove every trace of the old democratic rhetoric from the propagandist literature of his movement. He neither offered nor invited concessions at any time; he did not enter into any dubious political alliances, since he despised all forms of compromise.  You cannot compromise when you are right otherwise you are betraying your ideals.

 

The manifestos, was his and subsequently his supporters’ profession of faith and so also programs of action.  He appended his name to them, but they contain scarcely any references to moral progress, eternal justice, the equality of man, the rights of individuals or nations, the liberty of conscience, the fight for civilization, and other such phrases which were the stock-in-trade (and had once genuinely embodied ideals) of the democratic movements of his time; he looked upon these as so much worthless cant, indicating confusion of thought and ineffectiveness in action; in short they obscured the true message.

 

Since the war, his war, must be fought on every front and all the time, and, since contemporary society is politically organized, a political party must be formed out of those elements which in accordance with the laws of historical development are destined to emerge as the conquering class. They must be taught that what seems so secure in existing society is in reality, doomed to swift extinction, a fact which men may find it difficult to believe because of the immense protective façade of moral, religious, political and economic assumptions and beliefs, but this is because the moribund bourgeois class consciously or unconsciously creates it, and so blind itself and others to its own approaching fate.

 

It requires both intellectual courage and acuteness of vision to penetrate this smoke-screen and perceive the real structure of events. The spectacle of chaos, and the imminence of the crisis in which it is bound to end, will of itself convince a clear-eyed and interested observer—for no one who is not virtually dead or dying can be a disinterested spectator of the fate of the society with which his own life is bound up—of what he must be and do in order to survive.   This cannot be a subjective scale of values revealed differently to different men, determined by the light of an inner vision, but instead must be knowledge of the facts themselves, that everyman can easily discern and know, and so must, according to Marx, determine their rational behavior

 

A society is judged to be progressive, and so worthy of support, if it is one those institutions who are capable of the further development of its productive forces without subverting its entire basis.

 

A society is reactionary when it is inevitably moves into an impasse, unable to avoid internal chaos and its ultimate collapse in spite of the most desperate efforts to survive.  Those very efforts are what creates the irrational faith of its populace in its own stability, it is the anodyne that all dying orders use to conceal the stench of death, from themselves.

 

Nevertheless, what history has objectively condemned will be inevitably swept away:  and to say that something ought to be saved, even when that is not possible, is to deny the rational plan of the universe.

 

 

===========from the book by Sir Isaiah Berlin, Marx’s Life and his Environment.

Tough medicine indeed.

 

Marx: Identifying the Struggle

 This part of the book details Marx’s delineation of the Struggle.  He saw it as an ongoing, rational war between the compliant and self satisfied bourgeois and the underclass that gave their work away for pennies.  Berlin skips around a lot, and so it is possible that this section will be updated and revised as excerpt further along; he does not adhere to the system of chapters that he himself devised.  He seems to feel that that too is petty and bourgeois and so he roams around Marx’s life and view, scattering them helter-skelter throughout.


Once Marx  identified the struggles of his own time with not only his native German proletariat but all the workers of universe, he then devoted the rest of his own life to their planning.  Their victory was secure, but human courage, determination and ingenuity could bring it about nearer and thus make the ultimate transition less painful.  This would mean less friction and also less waste of human substance; which of course meant that that that too would be good.
Henceforth, he positioned himself as a commander,  and felt that he was actually engaged in a military and political campaign.  As such he did not feel that he should continually call upon himself and others to show reason for engaging in a war, or for being on one side rather than the other: the state of war and one’s own position in it are given; they are facts,  not to be questioned, and endlessly examined but to be accepted.  One’s sole business is to defeat the enemy; all other problems are academic, and so beside the point.
Thus,  the almost complete absence in Marx’s later works of discussions of ultimate principles, of all attempts to justify his opposition to the bankrupt bourgeoisie. The merits or defects of the enemy,  is of no interest during the battle; they are a given. To introduce them during the conflict, was not only irrelevant issues but would  divert the attention of one’s troops (supporters) from the crucial issues with which, whether or not they recognize them, they are faced, and in doing so not only weaken their power of resistance, but possibly subvert it.

So the questioning of motives was ignored by Marx.  Instead he concentrated on  knowledge of one’s own resources and of those of the adversary; he  assumed the rest as it was naturally apparent.   To him, knowledge of the history of society, and the laws which govern it, was  indispensable to this end and Das Kapital is an attempt to provide such an analysis.

The almost complete absence  of an explicit moral argument, or f any appeal to the moral conscience or the underinnings of a principle was unique.  Equally striking was the absence of a detailed prediction of what will or should happen after the victor; all the focus instead was on the practical problems of action and war.

Marx wrote that Socialism does not appeal, it demands; it does speak of rights, but of a new form of life, liberated from constricting social structures, before whose inexorable approach the old social order has visibly begun to disintegrate. Moral, political, economic conceptions and ideals alter with the social conditions from which they spring: to regard any one of them as universal and immutable is tantamount to believing that the order to which they belong—in this case the bourgeois order—is eternal, which is underlies the ethical and psychological doctrines of idealistic humanitarians (fools all)  from the eighteenth century onwards.

Contempt and loathing poured from Marx’s pen,  upon the common assumption made by liberals and utilitarians, that since the interests of all men are ultimately, and have always been, the same, a measure of understanding, goodwill and benevolence on the part of everyone may yet make it possible to arrive at some sort of general consensus satisfactory to all.

Marx countered, that if the class war is real,  and it most certainly was, these interests are totally nonsensical as how could a class system have evolved in the first place?  A denial of this fact canonly because the questioner was stupid or cynical and totally disregarded the truth, which he felt was a peculiarly vicious form of hypocrisy or self-deception repeatedly exposed by history.

This fundamental difference of outlook, is what distinguishes Marx sharply from the bourgeois radicals and Utopian socialists whom, to their own bewildered indignation, he fought and abused savagely and unremittingly for more than forty years.

He detested their romanticism, emotionalism, and humanitarian appeals of every kind, and, in his anxiety to avoid any appeal to the idealistic feelings of his audience, he systematically tried to remove every trace of the old democratic rhetoric from the propagandist literature of his movement. He neither offered nor invited concessions at any time; he did not enter into any dubious political alliances, since he despised all forms of compromise.
The manifestos, was his and subsequently his supporters’ profession of faith and so also programmes of action.  He appended his name to them, but they contain scarcely any references to moral progress, eternal justice, the equality of man, the rights of individuals or nations, the liberty of conscience, the fight for civilization, and other such phrases which were the stock-in-trade (and had once genuinely embodied ideals) of the democratic movements of his time; he looked upon these as so much worthless cant, indicating confusion of thought and ineffectiveness in action; in short they obscured the true message.
Since the war, his war,  must be fought on every front and all the time, , and, since contemporary society is politically organized, a political party must be formed out of those elements which in accordance with the laws of historical development are destined to emerge as the conquering class. They must be taught that what seems so secure in existing society is in reality, doomed to swift extinction, a fact which men may find it difficult to believe because of the immense protective façade of moral, religious, political and economic assumptions and beliefs, but this is because the moribund bourgeois class consciously or unconsciously creates it, and so blind itself and others to its own approaching fate.
It requires both intellectual courage and acuteness of vision to penetrate this smoke-screen and perceive the real structure of events. The spectacle of chaos, and the imminence of the crisis in which it is bound to end, will of itself convince a clear-eyed and interested observer—for no one who is not virtually dead or dying can be a disinterested spectator of the fate of the society with which his own life is bound up—of what he must be and do in order to survive.   This cannot be a subjective scale of values revealed differently to different men, determined by the light of an inner vision, but instead must be knowledge of the facts themselves, that everyman can easily discern and know, and so must, according to Marx, determine their rational behavior
A society is judged to be progressive, and so worthy of support, if it is one those institutions who are capable of the further development of its productive forces without subverting its entire basis.
A society is reactionary when it is inevitably moves into an impasse, unable to avoid internal chaos and its ultimate collapse in spite of the most desperate efforts to survive.  Those very efforts are what creates the irrational faith of its populace in its own stability, it is the anodyne that all dying orders use to conceal the stench of death, from themselves.
Nevertheless, what history has objectively condemned will be inevitably swept away:  and to say that something ought to be saved, even when that is not possible, is to deny the rational plan of the universe.
===========from the book by Sir Isaiah Berlin, Marx’s Life and his Environment.
Tough medicine indeed.

Marx by Berlin

I’ve been reading Marx his life and environ by Isaiah Berlin because the heat wave makes it hard for this asthmatic to do much more than that.


Chapter 1  is basically an overview of the book.  It’s about 20 pages of which I’ve condensed it into one.  I was lucky enough to get a pdf of the book from my friend MK who was raised a Soviet Communism and knows that I enjoy such books, if only to understand the “other” side.  I do admit that I read Das Kapital when i was about 12. My father bought it for, it was 1.98 in 1973, at Brentanos

It was the  Book Store at Kings Plaza in Brooklyn.  At the time it was the only bookstore that served Brooklyn and had quite a following.  It was later bought up by Border’s in 1982 when it declared bankruptcy, the latter which is now deceased except for a few stores that BAM acquired. 

The picture to the right is a typical Brentanos. They were all walnut and luxuriously decored and were in all the malls in the Northeast from what I can tell.  I loved them.  They also owned Au Bon Pain, a wonderful coffee shop, that served far better coffee and confectionaries than Starbucks.

It’s a confusing book and to be honest Marx does not write so much about Marxism as use the dialectic method  and criticism  other philosophies to show what’s wrong with them.    It is obviously a safe vantage point from which to argue, but it’s hard to pin Marx down on his viewpoint.  That really changed in the “Communist Manifesto” which was written very late in his career.

 Hegel  obviously got this from Socrates via Plato but twisted that concept that there was one “truth” or as you hear today, Your version, Mine Version and the Truth. That comment is pure Hegelianism; the truth is something apart from reality and that one must be taught to see it as your, whomever you are, views without proper education are biased by tradition and culture.


Excerpts from the Chapter (take exactly sans formatting, from the book)

Marx was by nature not introspective, and took little interest in persons or states of mind or soul; the failure on the part of so many of his contemporaries to assess the importance of the revolutionary transformation of the society of their day, due to the swift advance of technology with its accompaniment of sudden increase of wealth, and, at the same time, of social and cultural dislocation and confusion, merely excited his anger and contempt.

This sense of living in a hostile and vulgar world (intensified perhaps by his latent dislike of the fact that he was born a Jew) increased his natural harshness and aggressiveness, and produced the formidable figure of popular imagination. His greatest admirers would find it difficult to maintain that he was a responsive or tender-hearted man, or concerned about the feelings of most of those with whom he came into contact; the majority of the men he met were, in his opinion, either fools or sycophants, and towards them he behaved with open suspicion or contempt.

But if his attitude in public was overbearing and offensive, in the intimate circle composed of his family and his friends, in which he felt completely secure, he was considerate and gentle; his married life was essentially happy, he was warmly attached to his children, and he treated his lifelong friend and collaborator, Engels, with almost unbroken loyalty and devotion.

In opposition to the majority of the democratic theorists of his time, Marx believed that values could not be contemplated in isolation from facts, but necessarily depended upon the manner in which the facts were viewed. True insight into nature and laws of the historical process will of itself, without the aid of independently known moral standards, make clear to a rational being what step it is proper for him to adopt, that is, what course would most accord with the requirements of the order to which he belongs.

Socialism does not appeal, it demands; it speaks not of rights, but of the new form of life, liberated from constricting social structures, before whose inexorable approach the old social order has visibly begun to disintegrate. Moral, political, economic conceptions and ideals alter with the social conditions from which they spring: to regard any one of them as universal and immutable is tantamount to believing that the order to which they belong—in this case the bourgeois order—is eternal. This fallacy is held to underlie the ethical and psychological doctrines of idealistic humanitarians from the eighteenth century onwards.

He detested romanticism, emotionalism, and humanitarian appeals of every kind, and, in his anxiety to avoid any appeal to the idealistic feelings of his audience, systematically tried to remove every trace of the old democratic rhetoric from the propagandist literature of his movement. He neither offered nor invited concessions at any time, and did not enter into any dubious political alliances, since he declined all forms of compromise.

His attack upon bourgeois society was made at a moment when it had reached the highest point of its material prosperity, in the very year in which Gladstone in a budget speech congratulated his countrymen on the ‘intoxicating augmentation of their wealth and power’ which recent years had witnessed, during a mood of buoyant optimism and universal confidence.

In this world Marx is an isolated and bitterly hostile figure, prepared, like an early Christian, or a French enragé, to reject boldly all that it was and stood for, calling its ideals worthless and its virtues vices, condemning its institutions because they were bourgeois, that is because they belonged to a corrupt, tyrannous and irrational society which must be annihilated totally and forever.

In an age which destroyed its adversaries by methods not less efficient because they were dignified and slow, which forced Carlyle and Schopenhauer to seek escape into remote civilisations or an idealized past, and drove its archenemy Nietzsche to hysteria and madness, Marx alone remained secure and formidable. Like an ancient prophet performing a task imposed on him by heaven, with an inner tranquility based on clear and certain faith in the harmonious society of the future, he bore witness to the signs of decay and ruin which he saw on every side. The old order seemed to him to be patently crumbling before his eyes; he did more than any man to hasten the process, seeking to shorten the final agony which precedes the end.

 

Memorial Day & Arlington Nat’l Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia


Thousands of visitors come to America’s most hallowed cemetery on Memorial Day for one of two major annual observances; the first on the calendar is Memorial Day.   The other is Veterans Day, November 11.

Over 300,000 veterans have been laid to rest here since the property was seized from General Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, ranging from President John F. Kennedy to the unidentified soldiers in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Most people do not know the difference between the two holidays but it is easier than you realize:  Memorial Day honors the American fallen while Veterans Day celebrates the living who served.
Here’s a nice photo essay from the Washington Post (WaPo)  on Memorial Day at Arlington today.Click here.

How Cadbury makes those Easter {Creme} Eggs

The factory goes through a ton of chocolate a day and they use chocolate liquor  and not as I thought chocolate powder.  

Chocolate liquor is is not the “alcoholic liquer” of the Godiva chocolate brandy, but a liquid made by grinding the nib, meat, of the cocoa bean and then heating up to its liquidification point, because it’s really about half cocoa butter and half cocoa solids (cocoa solids are what remains when the bean is ground and the cocoa butter is removed).

Chocolate liquor is also called unsweetened baking chocolate. I never knew that.

Bright Days

Bright Week is the first week that follows the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and ends the next Sunday, which is also called “St. Thomas Sunday” (in commemoration of Apostle Thomas’ request for physical proof of the Resurrection of Christ). For Orthodox Christians, Bright Week is the beginning of a celebration period that lasts for fifty days from Easter to Pentecost, which marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

Bright Week is a triumph of the light and the first divine service of this period begins with the words ”Come ye and receive Light!’ Christ emerges from the grave shrouded in the holy light of His Godly nature. From Resurrection night till the Lord’s Ascension to Heaven on the 40th day of Easter, the community in church sings “Shine, shine, O New Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you,” with the new Jerusalem signifying the eternal eschatological Jerusalem.

Bright Week services are celebrated with the Holy Doors wide open, so that nothing impedes the gaze into the altar, which symbolizes the door rolled away from the Saviour’s grave, but also the top-to-bottom tearing of the curtain of the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Redeemer’s death, as a prefiguring of the establishment of the Kingdom of Grace.

In the first centuries of Christianity, during Bright Week, the catechumens (those preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism) were baptized on Easter night, and wore white robes as a symbol of the joy of the Resurrection.

The most important holiday during Bright Week is Healing Spring Day, celebrated on Friday, and which highlights the position and role of Virgin Mary in the work of Salvation.

The customary greeting for Christians during Pascha is “Christ is Risen!”, followed by the answer “Truly He is Risen!”; on Ascension Day, the salute is ”Christ is Ascended!”, to which the response is “Truly He is Ascended!”