Dreary Monday Reads: Je prends le Maquis


There are many things going on in the world today. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was just shot in Ankara and the hope of the majority of the USA rests on faithless electors since our election system rewarded the minority this year.  Here is a state by state list of when they vote. You can follow it if you still have the nerves for it.  I frankly don’t.

Today is the day we formally begin our resistance here in La Nouvelle-Orléans.  I’ve been following more than just a few folks familiar with the last fight against fascism in keeping with my Mood Indigo. I’m also reading about the other places it’s popping up in an area of the world that should know better. Take Poland for example.

Cheered on by religious conservatives, the new government has defunded public assistance for in vitro fertilization treatments. To draft new sexual-education classes in schools, it tapped a contraceptives opponent who argues that condom use increases the risk of cancer in women. The government is proffering a law that critics say could soon be used to limit opposition protests.

Yet nothing has shocked liberals more than this: After a year in power, Law and Justice is still by far the most popular political party in Poland. It rides atop opinion polls at roughly 36 percent — more than double the popularity of the ousted Civic Platform party.

“The people support us,” boasted Adam Bielan, Law and Justice’s deputy speaker of the Senate.

1_123125_2161048_2208217_2231918_091030_spec_arendttn-jpg-crop-promo-mediumlargeI continue to be shocked which is why I have dusted off my old university Philosophy books and sought out the writings of Hannah Arendt.  I find I am not alone.

“Origins,” first published in 1951, was based on research and writing done during the 1940s. The book’s primary purpose is to understand totalitarianism, a novel form of mobilizational and genocidal dictatorship epitomized by Stalinism in Soviet Russia and Hitlerism in Nazi Germany, and it culminates in a vivid account of the system of concentration and death camps that Arendt believed defined totalitarian rule. The book’s very first words signal the mood:

Two world wars in one generation, separated by an uninterrupted chain of local wars and revolutions, followed by no peace treaty for the vanquished and no respite for the victor, have ended in the anticipation of a third World War between the two remaining superpowers. This moment of anticipation is like the calm, that settles after all hopes have died . . . Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena — homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth . . . Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest — forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.

How could such a book speak so powerfully to our present moment? The short answer is that we, too, live in dark times, even if they are different and perhaps less dark, and “Origins” raises a set of fundamental questions about how tyranny can arise and the dangerous forms of inhumanity to which it can lead.

I just wanted to also explain a bit about what “I take the Maquis” means in terms of history and metaphor. I know I’m getting obsessive about how to resist the incoming Ugly American and his band of Robber Barons but I’m truly worried.

Take to the maquis” became widely known in World War II, when French guerrillas, called “the maquis,” carried out … The literal translation is “take the bit in the teeth,” the explanation behind this phrase reflecting the behavior of horses.

The Maquisards were a group of French Resistance Fighters in rural South France during the NAZI occupation.  We’re going to need all the help we can get so I am White Rose Society and I am Maquis.  I love how the Big Dawg put the situation into perspective:

President-elect Donald Trump “doesn’t know much,” former President Bill Clinton told a local newspaper earlier this month, but “one thing he does know is how to get angry, white men to vote for him.”

Clinton spoke to a reporter from The Record-Review, a weekly newspaper serving the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York, not far from the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York. The former president held court on Dec. 10 in Pleasantville, New York, where he took questions from the reporter and other customers inside a small bookstore.

imagesThe electoral system was made to protect white men and it still appears to do its job.  The Civil war is being fought again. Paul Krugman opines today on How Republics End.  As you can see, this is very much on my mind.

Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.

But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

freres-d-armes-france-3-addi-ba-evade-puis-maquisard_news_fullI’m not sure we will even be able to maintain the facade.  The Republicans have been rewarded for stalling all processes for 8 years. All political norms were called off the day Obama took the oath of office.   I doubt they’ll miss the opportunity to tear it all down and put up something fiercely oppressive to women and minorities of all types. Meanwhile, Orangeholio and his cabinet of Robber Barrons will loot us. Beware the pennies on your eyes!

Here is a link to “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” I sincerely it hopes us all.

Je prends le Maquis!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?