Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Walk

Dreams of dead friends this morning which seems kind of appropriate for Halloween, still its good to catch up with people whatever the circumstances. Nice two hour walk up over Mutters Moor this afternoon with lots of good autumn colours. These photo's were taken on the high point of the moor looking over Higher Peak towards the west showing Brixham in the far distance. They were taken about an hour ago, just before it got dark at about five o'clock. It gets dark very early now that the clocks have gone back an hour. The first photograph does actually show the Isle of Portland on the horizon but you may need very good eyesight to see it. Nice and calm and very quiet, just the way I like it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Totnes is a small town in the South Hams in Devon which is well known for its alternative hippie scene. There are lots of unusual individual shops in Totnes including a good vintage clothing shop. The market on Friday is well worth a look but for me the main interest is the architecture. Here are some pictures taken on the high street which winds steeply up through the town.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Resist The Beginnings, Consider The End

Here is a large excerpt of writing which has come to me courtesy of Information Clearing House taken from a book called "They Thought They Were Free" by Milton Mayer first published in 1955. He is writing about the rise of national socialism and the nazis in the years from 1933 to 1945. There are some lessons to be learnt here and as always things to watch out for if we do not want to keep repeating the same mistakes of history over and over again.

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.
"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.
"Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late".
"Yes," I said.
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’
"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.
"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.
"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.
"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

Milton MayerThey Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45©1955, 1966, 368 pagesPaper $19.00 ISBN: 0-226-51192-8

Linked to Information Clearing House in the title at the top.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cordwainer Smith

While I am on the subject of science fiction writers I should give a mention to Cordwainer Smith, who is not as well known as he probably should be but is now becoming more popular. He developed a great vision of the future of mankind which is a bit complicated to put into a few words here but I will say that quite a lot of his stories involve cats, which I very much approve of. Captain Wow, his cat in the story "The Game of Rat and Dragon" works as a partner to the pinlighters who pilot spaceships across the great distances of space. The pinlighters discovered that there were hostile beings between the suns and underneath space which would attack the ships and drive the crew and passengers instantly mad, so the cats were used to direct light bombs towards the hostile entities because they were aware of them slightly before the human crew due to their faster reactions. The humans would see the entities as dragons but the cats would see them as giant rats. Anyway, there is a lot more to his universe than I can write about here but I will leave you a small quotation from one of his stories, Alpha Ralpha Boulevard.
"We were drunk with happiness in those early years. Everybody was, especially the young people. These were the first years of the Rediscovery of Man, when the Instrumentality dug deep in the treasury, reconstructing the old cultures, the old languages, and even the old troubles. The nightmare of perfection had taken our forefathers to the edge of suicide. Now under the leadership of the Lord Jestocost and the Lady Alice More, the ancient civilizations were rising like great land masses out of the sea of the past. I myself was the first man to put a postage stamp on a letter, after fourteen thousand years. I took Virginia to hear the first piano recital. We watched at the eye-machine when cholera was released in Tasmania, and saw the Tasmanians dancing in the streets, now that they did not have to be protected any more. Everywhere, things became exciting. Everywhere, men and women worked with a wild will to build a more imperfect world".

Friday, October 19, 2007

Woodbury Common

Here are a few photo's that I took on Woodbury Common a week or two ago. They are of the view towards Woodbury Hill Fort which is the tree covered shape in the distance. It is a nice open stretch of moorland which one of my fellow walkers said reminded them of Africa. What you can't see in these photo's are the very well camouflaged soldiers who are actually all over the place literally crawling around! One of my friends nearly stepped on a soldier because the camouflage is so effective.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick is all over the place these days in that many of his stories have now become big budget movies seen by millions. Unlike many science fiction authors of the past his work seems to be more and more relevant. Like most science fiction authors he was writing about his present as he saw it but it has taken the world a good few years to catch up with his vision. Here is a quote from a 1978 essay. "We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

Photo courtesy of the Philip K Dick trust.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Michael Maier Atalanta Fugiens

I have been interested in alchemical imagery for a number of years and some of the pictures that struck a particular chord with me were the illustrations for Michael Maiers Atalanta Fugiens of 1617. Michael Maiers (1568-1622) was a german physician and a councellor to Rudolf II Habsberg who also spent some time in England at the court of James I. Atalanta Fugiens was published in 1617, it is known as an emblem book.

Monday, October 01, 2007