Historic Places in South Jersey

Historic Places in South Jersey - Places to Go and Things to Do

A discussion of things to do and places to go, with the purpose
of sharing, and encouraging exploration of South Jersey.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

So sorry - it didn't work. The old blogspot format just deleted all my paragraphs and my attempt to enlarge the font.

Pandemia Journal - My Blogger book club - The Janes 8/5/2020

Don't know if there will be another blog post after this one. There is a "new and improved" format for blogspot that no longer allows me to post so this may be the last one. I can only do this one because there was an allowance to use the old format one more time, however the old format was not the one I used and it doesn't allow me to make the text larger - sorry! So, I can barely see this type as it is. Maybe I can type it on 'pages' and past it in - I will try! Blog Post - My blog book club and my invisible friend. Recently, after spending a few evenings watching El Chapo as part of my Latin American experience, i watched one episode of Immigrants, a series on illegal immigration and the ICE debacle. I got so depressed by the brutality and heartlessness in both of these series, that I needed to take a break and visit a gentler, simpler, imaginary place - AVONLEA, Prince Edward Island. When I was a confused, terrified, misfit child, I found Anne of Green Gables in my Grandmother Lyons’ basement bookcase. As I have said before about this bookcase, I have no idea why it was in the abasement and no one but me had any interest in the books at all. I don’t know whose they were originally, although my Uncle Joe Lyons told me the Tarzan book was his father’s, my grandfather, Joseph Lyons, Sr. Anyhow, there, I found a girl like me, a dreamer, a book lover, a storyteller, who was humiliated at school, and traumatized in a number of ways in ordinary life. Anne showed me you could survive and thrive despite it all, and I did! Watching the series again, with new fresh eyes, I realized what a profound impact the book had on my life. My lifelong interest in one-room schools, my 35 year career as a teacher, my love of writing, and so much more (my love of trees and my feeling of empathy and comradeship with animals.) This time, I noticed how as my life moved on, so I became other characters in the story - during my motherhood/teacher years, I became a kind of Marilla, and now in my old age, I have softened into kind of Mathew. It came to me that the delicious details, the deepening profundity of the simplest dialogue, the momentousness of ordinary little things, came from a world where a woman was so confined by culture, community and law, that she was forced to ponder and use for her resources, the long littleness of life. Then I thought, how much L. M. Montgomery, Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Austen had in common. Their focus on the psychology of the intimate life, the customs, the hypocricy, the conventions in constant jousting with human nature, was created by their very confinement within the Victorian cage of their times. If I had a book club this would be what I would like to discuss. But being a freewheeling, follow my own trail kind of reader, I don't join book clubs. Last month would have been the start of a long period of Latin American authors. Well, I hope something gets improved so I can continue to talk to you, my invisible, imaginary friend. You are like the imaginary friend in the china cabinet that Anne Shirley spoke with in her years of solitude -Katie in the clock! Happy Trails, Jo Ann

Monday, August 3, 2020

Pandemia Journal - Mexican politics in the El Chapo era

Perhaps you, too, are watching the Netflix series on EL CHAPO.  Probably, I wouldn't have been watching this if it weren't for my recently re-discovered interest in our southern neighbors.  In fact, at the time when El Chapo was in the headlines, I was already disturbed by a kind of 'Robin Hood' 'Pirates of the Caribbean' mythology that was growing up around him.

After we all saw the bodies hanging from the overpass in Juarez, we began to become aware of the murderous pathology that had infected the politics and economics of Latin America.

It was a sad eye-opener to watch the three season series, which was about 30 episodes and very detailed.  It was all far far too complicated for me to try to summarize, by the way the corruption spread upwards like a kind of social gangrene, was interesting to see in a map kind of way.  

Needless to say there were many profound thought inspiring aspects to this film series as well as to the political and social world the series portrayed.  It is a work of art, not a documentary, but sometimes they are the very things which touch on the ineffable, the hard to see, hard to comprehend things.

One repetitive aspect that was occurring to me was the answers to the question:  What is the best way to live to be happy?
To the drug lords, it seemed to reside in willful domination over others, power through emotional manipulation and intimidation as well as bribery, expensive accessories such as Rolex watches, sports cars, the acquisition of as many 'prize women' as possible, into a kind of harem with beautiful models and celebrities at the top of the list.  The material goals were far more than these, and so were the desperately clever strategies to capitalize on an opportunity to achieve the means to get those goals.  A big one was the goal to be "The Boss."  Kind of like a one god only model.

I couldn't help by contrast that philosphy with more Eastern ones like Buddhism, where the main goal is to recognize your mind, comprehend your thought patterns and de-throne them so that you can achieve peace through inner power rather than outward materialism.

And then, the other contingent weighs in, the reformers who devoted their lives to worthy causes to support and assist their fellow human beings. 

The same argument falls into the history of the Quaker religion, when the individual spirit, direct communication to god from within, revelation oriented Quakers came to debate with the orthodox Quakers who wanted a kind of imposed conformity and a profession of spirituality through action rather than say, meditation.

I don't claim to know the answer or to even think there is one, but I have tried most of these approaches at some point in my life and I have become what I am, a simple, solitary, somewhat materialistic human (as in I have a house and a car and pets), and I do manage to fall into periods of meditative state periodically throughout my day.  I have felt spiritual yearning from time to time in my life, but conventional denominations and church groups were unappealing to me and I have serious and well-thought out opinions on such things as 'holy books' or 'spiritual leaders,' or even the 'one god' concept.  I can appreciate it as a unifying force in society but utterly irrelevant and superstitious seeming to me.

What would I think is a good life at this moment?  Well, I try to think of the things I have done that I feel were good - my long career in education, raising my daughter, managing to independently buy a small, humble, but utterly comfortable house, I got educated and I still educate myself,  I seek to understand other people and the world around me and I have values I hold to be high oral ones that eventuate in good for the most people, abstract concepts that reveal themselves in law such as justice, equal opportunity, fair play, honor in making agreements, and so on.  Also I believe that right behavior begins at home in kindness and compassion towards the animal companions who come into your life, understand an support for family and friends. 

Well, I didn't want this to get too long, so that's a good enough start.  By the way, we don't have the old standard "Crime Doesn't Pay" for no reason.  Depending how things evolve over time, I believe that crime doesn't pay in the real things like peace,, happiness and a sense of self worth.  I am sorry for those who are denied by circumstance the opportunity to have a long relationship with the joy of those things.

Happy Trails,
Jo Ann

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Pandemia Journal - Taking a Lessons from Home-schoolers: Education in the Pandemic

History teaches us so many things, not least of which is the long evolution of education.  A perfect and local example  is the Clara Barton one-room school in Bordertown.  In the Colonial period, children were taught at home by both their at-home parent (usually a mother) and hired tutors.  

In 1852, an ambitious and high motivated young teacher came to Bordertown, New Jersey, from Massachusetts.  Her name was Clara Barton.  The community gave her a ramshackle little one room building to begin the first public school.  On the first day six children showed up and they all pitched in to clean up and ready the school for more.  Clara Barton's efforts eventuated in 500 students.  She was so successful, that she was put under the supervision of a male administrator which outraged her, as it should, so she left to found first the registry of wounded and dead during the Civil War, and finally the Red Cross.

My point with this blog entry, however, is that there were models available to us to use as temporary solutions during the pandemic.  
My idea is that a group of PTA type parents and retired educators could form a cooperative.  If there were, say four teachers, on hourly tutoring wages, and a set of perhaps ten parents, A teacher could meet at the backyard of the Brown family on Monday and tutor in (if it were me) English, Art, and History.  On Tuesday the small group of 5 to ten students could meet at the Green family backyard for Math and Phys Ed.  Whys Ed could be croquet, while ball, bad minton, and if there is a pool, swimming and pool safety.  
On Wednesday, a parent volunteer and chauffeur could help the tutor take the children on field trips to, for example, Red Bank Battlefield for a history lesson, Bivalve for a science lesson, Funny Farm for a lesson in science, the planetarium (I think there is one at Glamssboro) for astronomy, There are literally hundreds of small museums and historical societies and nature centers like the Palmyra Nature Center, that could be used as learning destinations. 

I think this could actually be done with three tutors!  Possibly even with two!  I know I, personally, could do History, Art, Literature and Language Arts, and probably lower level Science.  A Science tutor could perhaps handle pays ed.  

The Home Schooling folks could teach everyone a lesson in how to do education on your own.  Don't get me wrong, I think children are better off in school and that home-schooled children miss a o, including exposure to diverse cultures and personalities, however, in times of pandemic, home-schooling could offer us a way out of children not having any education.

And by the way, home tutoring was the only education until the 1800's.  One room schools came next.  

Some of the advantages of the home-tutor idea aside from safety from the danger of large groups confined in building which we know makes a perfect way to spread corona virus, would be children would have more one to one attention, and tutors with small groups would be better able to get them to wear masks!  Taking temperatures could even be a way to teach health and science!

Heaven knows there are plenty of talented teachers who have retired who may be willing, on a temporary basis and hourly tutoring wage, to do such a thing.  Detrimentals would be the fear of litigious and fault finding parents.  There would have to be some legal involvement to begin with because there is always a parent who would become aggrieved over something or other who would see an opportunity to go to court like going to the bank.  

The parent group would have to be carefully selected, as would the tutors.  There would have to be some protection for the home-owners as well for the same reason.  And there remains the bathroom issue.  My suggestion would be a team of parent chaperones who could help with bathroom issues and lunch (although a brown bag from home would be best for this, especially in view of nut allergies and so on).  

In the Sunday New York Times today there was an article on POD SCHOOLS which sparked my idea of home-schooling models.  If the tutors were paid even a generous hourly wage, it could be supported by a contribution arrangement, so for example, a $50 an hour, could be covered by - well, I can't teach math and trying to figure out that cost per 10 families, for example, is already making my head tired.  We would need a treasurer/accountant.  If you had a truly cooperative group, probably most supplies could be individually supplied by the parents for each child and some plan for students who have low income families like a scholarship.

Needless to say there would be some risk for the tutors even with such small groups and if a teacher is retired, she or he probably is old enough to have some of the health concerns related with aging, high blood pressure and such.  Lots of legal releases would need to be drawn up and signed.

Just an idea that creative and energetic parents and teachers might like to consider!  I have always loved the one-room school model in education history, and I have done a bit of tutoring for enrichment, privately, as well as the full range of home-tutoring when I was still employed  I did English as a Second Language, home-bound tutoring for students absent for medical reasons, and many community ed night classes as well as Lab School experience.  One of my favorite courses at Glamssboro State College for my first Bachelor's degree was in ALTERNATIVES IN EDUCATION!  Back in the 1970's this creative approach was very popular and many models for learning came from it.

Happy Trails!
Jo Ann
wright45@yahoo.com   (my e-mail)

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Best Day in 6 months - BIVALVE, NJ

A TRUE FRIEND - If you are like me and fall in love with PLACES, you will understand how happy I was today when a true friend volunteer to take me to visit a place I loved from the first moment I laid eyes on it:  BAYSHORE DISCOVERY CENTER, in Bivalve, New Jersey.

At one time, Bivalve was a busy, wealthy, thriving community of oyster fishermen, and rich people's summer vacation homes.  Hundreds of box cars rolled in and out of Bivalve each day carrying oysters to Philadelphia and New York.  It was a golden harvest until the mid 1950's when a bacteria was brought in via bilge water in ships and infested the oysters and killed them.  Almost overnight the devastation destroyed the oysters, the communities that built up around the harvest of them.

My dear friend and fellow history buff, Barbara Solem volunteered to drive me down to Bivalve to see the new exhibit, a temporary exhibit of relics brought up from shipwrecks along the coast.  Some of the most interesting items pointed out to us by the tour guide were round bottom bottles designed to keep the corks wet by not standing upright on flat bottoms, and a ships telephone in almost pristine condition, giant lobster claws as large as baseball its, some beautiful china, cutlery and many other items of interest.

I didn't think I would ever get back to Bivalve because it is an hour and a half from my house and not many would be willing to go there.  In the past, when I drove, I could persuade people to go with me but now that I can't drive that far (old car - 14 years old and 200,00 miles on her) it isn't possible for me to go to many of the far away places I once loved.

I was a tour guide at Bivalve for a couple of years till my car began to suffer from its old age and I didn't feel safe driving so far anymore.  

BIVALVE is a kind of ghost town with a boardwalk and a series of old shops for sails, ships engines, a post office, a shucking shed and an oyster cafe among others.  That's on the land side, on the water slide there are decks and we were able to sit at a table out there and eat the lunch we bought at a Wawa we passed when we hit the bottom of Route 55.  It was so cool on the docks, a brisk breeze came in off the water and we sat beside the remains of the old masted schooner CASHIER which has been slowly and sadly sinking into the mud and disintegrating.  The wheelhouse of the old Cashier was rescued, but sadly there was never enough money to dryadic the Cashier itself and make the necessary repairs which became or of a millions of dollars project of replacement than repair.

Fortunately, this being as Saturday, we did not run into shore traffic.  The tour guide told us the traffic is mainly bad on Friday nights and Sunday nights.  We hit one or two slow spots due to a flat tire repair in one lane, and a bottle neck where 55 forks and the left side becomes 322 to Denisville.  The way home was entirely traffic free.

Something about the lonely, even ghostly quality of the place spoke into my heart and I became infatuated with that place.  I read everything I could get my hands on about it.  Many of my old entries are about books I read abut this most southerly part of New Jersey, the old SOUTH JERSEY magian the history one, not the new travel one, and many books like MAN, THE SEA AND INDUSTRY, andTHE MAURICE RIVER.  I was captivated by the story of the old man who all his life wove the baskets they used by the thousands in the oyster industry.  I saw a photo of him from the WPA days, sitting in front of his little one room house, weaving the baskets.  For some years I tried to find one of those baskets to buy but no luck.  When I found them on-line, they were too expensive.

As much love and happiness as I experienced there was also a feeling of sadness for the day when I was a volunteer there and got to go every week and spend time there.  It made me aware of how trapped I have been during the pandemic, and even before, by my failing eyesight, bad knees, and old car.  My roaming and adventurous days have come to an end and I miss them.  

When I went there in the old days, I took all kinds of turns and side streets to explore the area, I roamed freely with hours of free time since I was retired and had no reason to hurry home, no dog waiting for dinner, no schedule to keep, such freedom,  It was one of those times you think will never end but they do.

Much thanks to the generosity and friendly love that brought my friend Barbara Solem to volunteer to take me there and share the day with me.  As we ate lunch on the dock, the cooly elegant Meerwald schooner came slowly gliding along like a swan.  I took photos and after I rest up, I will post some here.

If you haven't been there, you should really go - you won't be sorry, and there are no crowds!  But you must wear a mask!  Entrance fee is $5 for seniors and $7 for general public.  If you aren't vegan or vegetarian, you might want to have lunch on the docks with something from the oyster Cafe' which is what the family we saw visiting that day were doing.  Other than that family lunching on the docks it was quiet there as I always remember it being, and peaceful.  What a lovely day and a great friend to spend it with.

Barbara Solem is the author of three books on the history of the PineBarrens so we share a love of old places and history.  Other places I miss dreadfully are Pakim Pond, and the Maurice River Bluffs where I used to hike and take Captain Dave's boat ride. "Those were the days, my friend I thought they'd never end..."

Happy Trails!
Jo Ann

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Pandemic Journal, July 30, 2020 President Obama delivers Eulogy for John Lewis

Just after having read the Mary Trump book TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH, I put down the book feeling frightened and sad about our future as a country.  Then I turned on MSNBC and heard President Barack Obama deliver his eulogy for the enormously effective and courageous activist John Lewis.  President Obama renewed my faith that someone we can pull ourselves out of the quick sand that is this period of Trump and the Pandemic and the looming economic collapse.

The struggle has gone on and must continue to go on in order to ensure that all American citizens can access our legal rights and participate in our Democracy.

What a stark contrast between President Obama's diligent preparation for his job leading our country, his measured and intelligent leadership as well as his inspirational honor and goodness.

A merciless pirate has captured our ship of state and done everything in his power to divide us, crush African American citizens, women, the rich immigration flow that has kept our farms thriving.  He has used the office of president to enrich himself personally and to crush everyone else.  Mary Trump did a plain spoken but informed portrayal of the pathology in the father and son relationship between Fred Trump and Donald that created the monster who roams the halls of the White House today.  Fred Trump made his fortune off taxpayer money through FHA funded housing developments and made sure he didn't pay a penny in taxes off his profits.  

When his eldest son couldn't follow in his footsteps and didn't want to, Fred Trump destroyed his son with constant humiliation and shame and made of him a depressed alcoholic who died at 42.  The younger son saw all this and protected himself from his father's fury with defensive lying, disembling, casting blame on others, and hiding his failures under bluster.  Fred Trump put all his hopes on his second son teaching him that empathy was weakness and that the only thing that could be considered success was amassing wealth.

When his second son failed by buying an setting up three casinos which then competed with one another and drove each other out of business, Fred bailed him out, over and over again.  Donald began funded by his father and his father kept him afloat through all his failures.  His father used Donald's penchant for self promotion to achieve his own ambition of fame.  Their name became label, a brand.  

Having made many loans to Trump to keep their own investments from being lost when he went under, the banks and investors continued to prop up Donald through four bankruptcies.  Donald never learns from his mistakes because his insecurity cannot allow him to accept that he has made mistakes.  He just lies, casts blame, and then fortifies the delusion that what he did was actually a success, even a great success, and then, the greatest success.

We need the example of truly good, brave altruistic men like John Lewis and Barack Obama to remind us that they exist and are not simply hero myths.  

Thank you President Obama for renewing my faltering faith in my fellow man!

Happy Trails, John Lewis, after a life well lived.
May we all find the courage inside ourselves to do the right thing, which might be to look at our own attitudes and behaviors and change them to make us better people so we can make the world a better place.
Jo Ann

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pandemia Journal - Portland Moms

Today, something happened that has never happened to me before.  I was reading THIS WEEK news magazine and I read a column on the Portland demonstrations.  A group of Portland Mothers made a protective guardian line to protect the protest marchers from assault.  Armed militia clad in camouflage gear in unidentified vans, allegedly sent by the Federal Government attacked them.  They shot the mothers with rubber bullets, giving one mother a fractured skull, and they tear-gassed them.  The Veterans came to protect the mothers too and then the husbands formed a group and came with leaf blowers to blow away the tear gas and protect the mothers and the vets.  

First, when I read that they had shot that unarmed and non-violent mother in the face with the rubber bullet, I spontaneously fell to tears -it just spilled out of me, a result I think, of an overflow tank of anxiety and fear and sorrow that has come about since the destabilization of our country from the pandemic, the obviously unstable and irresponsible president and his gang, and from the violence against citizens caused by our increasingly militarized police force.  

Watching the end of the new series on the Russian Revolution, I saw this same hatred, and cold hearted violence when Marxists murdered village people suspected of giving horses to Leninist groups who stole the horses and burned down the peasants homes and fields.  They lined up and shot whole families from the littlest, not even walking yet, to the oldest grandparents.  Same thing in Germany, Poland, and Cambodia.

An elderly Cambodian woman my sister has worked with on the 'Meals on Wheels" food assembly line in Pa.,  told her than the Kmer Rouge attacked her village and slaughtered everyone except her.  She was 5 years old.  They killed her parents in from of her and disemboweled them.  They left her there alone, stripped naked, amidst the dead bodies.  I don't now how she got rescued, but she eventually made it to America.  

You have to ask yourself who can do such things?  And then, here we are in America and a camouflaged militia man shoots a Mom in the face with a rubber bullet and fractures her skull.  She could have been his mom.  What goes wrong with that individual man that he could do such a thing.  No one made him shoot that older woman in the face.  It is so hard to understand the "blind and ignorant thing"* in the heart that would allow someone to overcome their lifelong acculturation to protect elderly women, mothers and grandmothers, and actually shoot one in the face. 

 *The quote above came from a novel I used to teach when I was an English teacher.  It was called A SEPARATE PEACE, by John Knowles.  It was a classic coming of age novel set in World War II and it asked that very question, how could someone do such a dastardly thing and Knowles wrote that it was a blind and ignorant thing in the heart.  I think of it more as a compartmentalization of the heart - a wall between what you know is right and what some barbaric and savage spurt of destructive impulse escapes and allows someone to do a savage act.  

To think that an American man could shoot an American mother in the face with a rubber bullet - but then, too, to think an American policeman could kneel on an American man's neck until the life was crushed out of him, or to think that in an American town a mob of men could beat an American Man senseless and torture him and hang him until the life is strangled out of his body, it is too hard for me to accept.  

Usually, at this point, I say "Happy Trails" but today it is a trail of sorrow.  Sorry to drag you into my morning gloom, but I had to write this down to escape it.  Usually I put these things into my daily journal which I have kept for more than 50 years, but increasingly I have come to talk to this blog in the same way.

Jo Ann

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Pandemic journal July 26th, 2020 -FEAR - REVOLUTION - and a RESOLUTION

In my world, I have learned so much from movies and often movies have sparked an interest that burned throughout my life.  It may have been Dr. Zhivago, Pasternak's great novel turned into a masterpiece of a movie, that inspired me to learn about Revolutions.  Also, it taught me to fear them.

The aftermath of the heady days of the Russian Revolution the time after  poets, writers, thinkers and hopefuls all over the world celebrated like people in love, was horrible.  Not only the immediate aftermath but all the succeeding decades were torturous, and not at all what people hoped for and expected.  It took a lot of people a long time to realize how totally the Communist Revolution had not only failed but had become a murder machine of the magnitude of a weapon of mass destruction.  After the Civil War between the Marxists, Leninists, Bolsheviks, when the Stalinists took over, people were killed by the millions in purposeful famines and forced evictions.  An entire generation of artists, writers, thinkers, and scientists and other professionals, were imprisoned, tortured and killed and freedom in most forms was trampled to dust.

The times after a revolution are always so hard, all the rebuilding of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, the collapse of food economies, the collapse of law and order.  Not much has been written about the aftermath of the war on the ordinary people; where is the great novel about the ordinary people trying to re-establish the world on their farms and in their burned out shops?

Watching a new Russian tv series on Netflix about the Russian Revolution, I suddenly was able to empathize with the feelings of fear and disapproval of so many people in regard to the massive protests for BLACK LIVES MATTER. I think they are afraid all that collapse will fall on us next.  

The missing piece is that there are so many opportunities for reform through negotiation, compromise and redress, that it doesn't have to go that way.  The blessed placid beauty of peace and order can be maintained by a governing body that is ready to listen and understand the needs of the people, the proletariat.  It takes wisdom and nobility and empathy for that to happen, but it is the way to peace and transformation with destruction and death.  

Our leadership now is so blockheaded and inept, that all it can see is DOMINATION.  What is needed is COOPERATION.  When I was a teacher I took part in a program called Peer Mediation, and it so interested me in the visible efficacy of its principles and practices that I began to do a little study in CONFLICT RESOLUTION.  I was convinced then and I remain convinced that this could be the most important course any individual could take and if enough people learned it, we could make a better world

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Pandemia - Toxic Masculinity and Trump

It is Saturday, July 25th, and on my morning dog walk, I was pondering 'Toxic Masculinity" and our current president, which isn't to say he is the only president that I would say had been infected by some aspect of T.M.

Toxic masculinity as I define it would be an overt drive to dominate others by verbal abuse or physical force, combined with a devaluation of human traits considered 'female' such as sesitivity, empathy, compassion, hence the use of pejorative gender based terms such as 'pussy' to denote cowardice and weakness.  An added third part of my definition would be a celebration of men, male brotherhood, and the segregation of the sexes.

The denigration of women and female culture and characteristics, is  apparent throughout our culture.  As with the subjugation of other races, the subjugation women has always depended on economic dependence as well as uncontrolled pregnancy and motherhood.  
Throughout history, economic depravation has forced women into sexual subservience.  Starving, hopeless women, often with suffering children to care for, have been forced to allow the brutalization of their bodies for money to survive.  Likewise, women in abusive marital circumstances have often been forced to accept the violence in order to stay alive and to keep the children alive.

Each day, I await the arrival of the newly released book by Mary Trump, a doctor of psychiatry who has written about the poisonous family dynamics that have erupted in the disaster of Donald Trump.

Wikipedia defines toxic masculinity, which is a term that originated in the 'men's movement as:
The concept of toxic masculinity is used in academic and media discussions of masculinity to refer to certain cultural norms that are associated with harm to society and to men themselves. Traditional stereotypes of men as socially dominant, along with related traits such as misogyny and homophobia, can be considered "toxic" due in part to their promotion of violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence. The socialization of boys in patriarchal societies often normalizes violence, such as in the saying "boys will be boys" with regard to bullying and aggression.
Self-reliance and emotional repression are correlated with increased psychological problems in men such as depression, increased stress, and substance abuse. Toxic masculine traits are characteristic of the unspoken code of behavior among men in American prisons, where they exist in part as a response to the harsh conditions of prison life.
Other traditionally masculine traits such as devotion to work, pride in excelling at sports, and providing for one's family, are not considered to be "toxic". The concept was originally used by authors associated with the mythopoetic men's movement such as Shepherd Bliss to contrast stereotypical notions of masculinity with a "real" or "deep" masculinity that they say men have lost touch with in modern society.
I am familiar enough with toxic masculinity in my own life which, no doubt, has caused me to have a lifelong interest in gender politics.  
My father was a complex and confusing person.  His own father was somewhat of an absentee dad being a Merchant Marine who was mostly away at sea until he was killed in Baltimore in an alleged hit and run incident.  The death of his father plunged my dad into a mostly male world at a vulnerable age.  After his father died, my grandmother and her mother kept the family together with work as seamstresses and money from boarding roomers.  When his grandmother suffered a catastrophic stroke, living at the seashore with her son, my grandmother was forced to leave her youngest, Joe (my father) on his own at age 16 in order to care for  her totally paralyzed mother.  I don't know why she didn't take my father with her, maybe it was too much to take care of a 16 year old boy and a paralyzed mother, while trying to work and make enough money to stay alive, but at any rate, my father ended up joining the Civilian Conservation Corps and working on Skyline Drive.

That work experience set him up for his next, predictable, career choice, to follow in his father's footsteps and join the Merchant Marines. Both of these experiences put my father squarely into gender serrated circumstances for the next 10 years of his life since the Merchant Marines led into the United State Navy in time for World War II.

When my father came out of this period of his life into marriage and fatherhood and a job in the civilian sector, he was still in a gender segregated career in Ironwork and Structural Steel.  A young man surrounded by hardened older men on whom he must depend for his safety and survival under the most dangerous of circumstances, will learn and adapt to their cultural expectations.  My father became a hard-working, hard-drinking 'man's man.' 
He was complex however, because he was also affectionate, devoted to family, I would even go so far as to say enamored of family life.  He reveled in it.  His fatherhood began with me, his first born daughter, when he and my mother were only in their twenties.  

My father was never abusive towards my mother and I think it was because of his relationship with his mother, but he was abusive towards his first two children, me and my brother Joe, and particularly abusive towards my brother, a small, pale, sensitive boy who my father seemed to feel he had to "toughen up" in order for my brother to survive in the man's world.  When I say 'abusive' I mean he hit us and he beat us with a belt, not frequently, but often enough to terrorize us.  My father was in many ways like the fairy and folk tale characters I read about.  He was the giant ogre at the top of the bean stalk that Jack climbs, and he was the sad beast in Beauty and the Beast.  

One of the movies that I felt reflected his personality changes when he got drunk was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  My brother wasn't the only one who got a view of my father's outlook on what you need to survive.  Once after a particularly angry quarrel in the kitchen of our row home in Phila., dressed in a little white petticoat, I stomped my foot and declared I was going to run away.  I headed upstairs to pack a little suitcase and my father said "Don't bother.  Nothing belongs to you.  I worked for it, paid for it, and it all belongs to me but you can keep your petticoat."  I never forgot that lesson and it was a base for the many additional lessons I learned about independence and money.  I always worked and I always paid my own way.  I never wanted to be vulnerable to any man.

But it happened anyone when I got married to a man who was drafter and I became an army wife living in a foreign country.  My husband's mood swings weren't caused by alcohol but by mental illness.  He was later diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.

Throughout my marriage, I was 'groomed' to perceive myself as lesser, as less intelligent, less competent, less capable, inferior.  These lessons were subtle and often disguised as affection as in his nicknames for me which were like the names you give a dog "Sport" and "Ace."  Having learned to live with my father's personality changes when he got drunk, I soon adapted to my husband's personality changes when he became enraged.  Again, I protected myself as well as I could by placating, avoiding, ignoring and after a dozen years, escaping.

Both in childhood and later life, I did meet men who were gentle and kind, non-threatening and reliable in the sense that their personalities stayed stable.  My godfather was one.  He was the most sensitive, kind, attentive man I ever met.  He had no hidden agenda.  I never had to fear him or be wary with him.  My maternal grandfather was similar.  He was kind, patient, paid attention to me, a child, never threatened or frightened me.  Both of these men had also been in the military during war, my grandfather in WWI and my godfather in WWII, but somehow they had evaded the indoctrination into the kind of masculine behavior I later came to call 'Toxic."

They never used genderized terms to insult people such as "sissy" or "pussy" and neither of them drank to intoxication.  My godfather worked in an ice cream factory and my grandfather was a postal carrier in Philadelphia.  Frankly I don't believe I ever heard either of them raise their voices.  They could be shelter in the storm, though neither would ever intervene when my father was on a rampage, no one did.  No one protected us, not my mother nor any other relative ever said that beating us was wrong.  In our South Philadelphia working class culture, it was a norm, so was weekend drunkenness and so was physical violence both in the family and in the community, in public and in private.

This seeping poison of toxic masculinity has been bubbling up again as a reaction to the rise of feminism and gender equality.  I feel such empathy for the fear that African Americans must overcome in the face of the proven danger of racism, because I have lived with the fear of sudden unbounded violence all my life.  It wasn't the police who harassed or beat me, it was closer to home and more complicated because my father was also devoted, loyal, and supportive in surprising ways.  When the last of us was born; there are five of us, we could all say with certainty that our father and mother loved us totally and would do anything for us.  We didn't suffer what children of absentee fathers suffered.  My father was a good provider; my mother didn't want to work and she didn't have to, although she WORKED, in fact, about 15 hours a day cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, sewing, raising children, making a beautiful home for my father to come back to.  And he appreciated it!  He always told my mother what a wonderful meal she had provided, and they were affectionate and playful with one another.  She always reminded us if we dared to complain, "You father works his fingers to the bone to provide everything for us.  Be grateful!"

From the interviews I have heard with Mary Trump so far, it appears the patriarch, Fred Trump, was an intimidating, abusive, and cruel man who destabilized his eldest, sensitive son, to such an extent that he was dead at 41 from alcoholism.  I have seen this father to son emotional abuse at close hand, the father is always more competent, the son is always incompetent, father holds all the cards.  Father sets the standards to which the son must conform, regardless of his own traits or desires.

My favorite educational philosopher, Gardner, said "Don't ask how smart a child is, ask how is that child smart."  

No one was asking any such thing of Trump's sons.  They had to follow the path to get the money and any variation to the plan brought painful repercussions.  Frightened children, will, of course, lie and dissemble to save themselves from pain and punishment, so did enslaved people, so do women.  Donald Trump's constant shifting of responsibility and blame is to save himself from the humiliation he always feels coming.  

Does it make any difference to know these things about him?  I think we should all be more aware of psychology as well as the way it informs and propagates feelings and attitudes in our society. We need to think about the things we say,  the words we use and their impact on impressionable children.  We need to protect vulnerable boys from bullies in the playground and in the gym, and the kitchen.  Our culture has to shift and we need to open the windows and doors and allow the sunshine in to dispel the long built up mustiness of restrictive and punishing racial and gender behaviors.

Happy Trails!
Jo Ann
ps.  When I bought my house, myself, with my own money, my father said he had never been more proud of me.  He bought me a sander, a skill saw and an electric drill/screwdriver.  He also helped me finish the attic over a long grueling hot summer.  He taught me how to drive a car, and when I didn't have a car of my own, he drove me to all the places I needed to go for documents to buy my house.  My mother gave me her car!  Today would have been my mother's birthday.  I am the age she was when she died.  My father lived on 14 years after my mother died, but the light had gone out of his life.  My brother went to live with him.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Weekend Fun for July 24th weekend.

This just arrived by e-mail - "the Craft Co-Op is still having Christmas in July until July 26th!! Get a jump on your Christmas shopping...lots of amazing Christmas goodies here!  Our summer hours are Wednesday - Sun 10-4.
Also, the Rancocas Woods Craft and Antique Show will be held this Saturday, July 25th 10-4.
The last 2 shows have been awesome, great vendors, food, entertainment, great shops and food establishments! Show starts at 10am and ends at 4pm!  Hope to see you then!!"

I would like to add that if you decide to go, please wear your mask and keep social distance.  New Jersey has stabilized in regard to the corona virus, let's keep it that way!

Happy Trails, 
Jo Ann

Latin American History - very short, very brief

Apologies right out front:  This brief summary is ONLY my understanding of what I have seen and read from the Simon Bolivar 60 episode series, the documentary on Mexico's history I wanted last night, and various other informal and short sources.

This is meant only as backdrop for the reading and reviewing of the novels I mentioned previously by famous Latin American authors.

As I see it, England, France, Spain (and less importantly for my purposes - Belgium, Holland and Portugal) great empires of the 17th and 18th centuries, began initiating trade with the indigenous people of the Americans in the 1600's. - Spain and France via the Caribbean and then South America, France also in Canada (the fur trade) and Britain in what is now US.  
1.My impression is that Spain wasn't initially about colonizing, mostly they went to the Carribbean and South America to extort gold and silver from the indigenous people through hostage taking and conquest.  At the same time, they brought diseases from Europe to which the indigenous population had no immunity and hence wiped them out in untold numbers.  
2.Second phase, the Spanish invaders realized there were crops to be made profitable and they established plantations and turned the peasants into forced labor and also imported vast numbers of African people into slavery on the plantations.
Primogeniture:  Since only the eldest son could inherit according the long tradition in Europe, second sons often were forced to go into the military or the church.  Here was a whole new avenue for these second and third sons - they could run the hugely profitable plantations - sugar, coffee, cocoa.  
Along with the Spanish aristocrats running plantations, Spain sent the church to convert the survivors of the epidemic of European diseases, to Catholicism.  And along with the church came the traders and bureaucrats to control the import and export of these new plantations and the colonies developing around them  Interesting note:  Because the church was so prevalent and powerful, the church records became the ONLY records of births, deaths, marriages, and were vitally important in social organizing.
Eventually, even beaten down people reach a point where they can no long go on with the existing system and so the slaves, tired of murder, rape, exploitation and discrimination while doing all the hard work, rebelled.  Let me interject here that we rarely learn about the very many slave rebellions that were occurring in the Caribbean and South American, or for that matter in our own South in America.  There were many!
The overtaxed, exploited and restricted village peasants (made up of indigenous people and Spanish who fell down the financial ladder, as well as small merchants and artisans) joined with the slaves under the leadership of Simon Bolivar.  His personal charisma, gifts of rhetoric, and personal beliefs were enough to pull all these angry factions together to form an army with the purpose of 1.Kicking the Spanish out of South America, 2.gaining control of the markets, trade, and the bureaucracy, 3.bringing a more equitable system to serve the largest number of people, a kind of Socialist system, 3.Uniting the different colonies into one South America.
Against all odds and anyone's predictions, Simon Bolivar and the peoples' army succeeded through super human effort and infinite dedication to the cause, to drive out the Spanish rulers.  Soon, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia (named for Bolivar), Peru, all the coastal colonial port city colonies, were cleared of Spanish forces.
But new destructive forces came into play:  Greedy merchants saw this as an opportunity to take over with them at the top and continue squeezing the population to afford their wealth accumulating efforts.  They took over the old bureaucracy and used it to defraud people of inheritance, to steal property from widows and elderly vulnerable people, and to tax again the peasants and the poor to support the separate units of military that were developing under individual war lords.  
In the end, the states were never brought together, and instead became autonomous countries, each with its own economic and political system, which is the state of these countries today.  The war between rapacious capitalist business practices and the need to provide for the needs of society at large are still at war.  And you can see the results of this continuing struggle in what has happened in Venezuela today.

Indeed this is very instructive to understand what is going on with most of the countries that were colonies and that took back their land and expelled the colonial overlords.  A very similar pattern emerged in Mexico (Benito Juarez the emancipator) with a succession of profit motivated leaders followed by leaders who promised social reforms and a socialist system to serve the needs of the people.  These two forces seem to alternate back and forth.  Much the same has happened in Cuba.  

Needless to say, we could examine this pattern in Africa as with the Algerian take back from France, but I don't want to get off topic.

So, all this constant flux and disorder made opportunities for ambitious criminals such as the drug cartels which came in and, in some cases, took over entire countries such as Columbia.  Drug trafficking, building on those ancient trade routes, has become the new national economy of Columbia and is swiftly trying to take over other countries as well.  Now drug lords force peasants to grow the crops they need for the drug trade, and they kidnap and enslave the youth of the peasants to work in their criminal gangs.
If the peasants/farmers resist, they kill them and destroy whole villages.  Hence our huge population of Hondurans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Colombians attempting to escape and come to Norte America.  
None of this in any way suggests that I have ideas about how this could be fixed.  I do not.  It takes a lot of money to support a Socialist system and people must be altruistic enough to be willing to pay into taxes more than they may realize they are getting back.
If people don't want to pay into the pot, then big money cannot be amassed to support public needs such as highways, bridges, a defense army, police forces, a bureaucracy to keep the records and make strategy.  Any successful Socialist/Democracy requires a heavy tax load, which in successful S/D republics like Sweden, the people are willing to pay because they see that they reap the rewards of their sacrifice in a better society.  

Now you know roughly what I know and with that in mind, I begin my next phase of exploring Latin American literature.  I am going to read Sandra Cisneros THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET.

Happy Trails,
Jo Ann            wrightj45@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Archaeology Day at Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield Coming Up!

James and Ann Whitall House, Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ

Archeology Day will be Sunday, August 16 from 12pm-4pm. We have a number of activities planned:

  • SJ Archeology Society will provide displays of artifacts sourced from local sites.

  • We will be busting out our brand new museum cases to display items from our museum.

  • SJ Archeology will be offering a metal detecting demonstration.

  • Archeologist Jesse Walker will be offering a talk on his work studying Native American sites along the Delaware River.

Masks will be required and social distancing enforced! 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Pandemia - If i had a book club.....Latin American authors

If I had a book club, it would be about big themes.  For example, my previous period of reading would have had the theme of Big Thinkers of the 21st Century - Amos Tversky, Danny Kahneman, and Yuval Harari.  The first book in that reading list would have been Michael Lewis's book THE UNDOING PROJECT, in which he breaks down and popularizes the economic/psychological theories on decision making.  As I have mentioned before the simplest and fastest way to explain their far more wide sweeping theories about decision making were that sometimes people (and in particular leaders) make decisions based on gut instinct which is always heavily  tilted from previous personal bias and emotional reaction rather than basing their decisions on information gathered and evaluated.

That is life changing idea if you give it a chance to expand in your mind and even apply it to your own decision making process.  The book shows the ways that the theory was applied to, for example, baseball player recruitment and evaluation, see the movie MONEYBALL.  

Yuval Harari wrote SAPIENS, a history of human kind which traces his perspective on the long march of civilization, and the social, economic, religious, environment, and epidemic events that helped shape it.  His book is a big investment in time and concentration but well worth it.  Harare has appeared on BBC World News as a commentator and my favorite quote from an interview with him was when a journalist asked him what his predictions are about the aftermath of the pandemic.  He said, and I paraphrase from memory, 'The one thing I can tell you is that it is unpredictable because everything will be changed, everything will be different and new.'

In regard to the Michael Lewis book and the decision making theory, the obvious poster child for our current uninformed leadership in the person of Donald Trump is a man who scorns the educated and the informed, feels threatened by facts and information, and wants his own emotional state to rule public perception and policy.  He wants what he wants regardless of what the data suggests, hence, he urged his followers in the Southern states to ignore the pandemic and open early without masks or protections.   They did, and now we reap the deadly harvest as our numbers of new cases in those states, particularly Florida,  rise to the highest level to date.

My next book club theme would be Latin American Authors beginning with Isabelle Allende.  I read her book ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA, and gained so much insight into the history and spread of slavery in the Caribbean, in particular Haiti/Dominica, and she takes the story to New Orleans, La., after the revolution that eventuated in those countries throwing off the French and Spanish colonial rule and becoming independent nations.  The story of the main character, an enslaved woman, is emblematic of the experience of so many women in that world, although, of course, the main character is privileged in ways that field slaves were certainly not, and therefore her story could go on longer.  Field slaves had something like a 6 year life span once they entered the fields.  Between the heat, the fevers, the  malnourishment and resulting weakness and susceptibity to deadly fevers, the violence and the wide variety of deadly snakes and insects, the plantation workers in the Caribbean had little chance for long life.

Isabelle Allende, although she lived in several countries, was a native of Chile, so if you wanted a broader, pan South America survey, you would want to add these authors:
Mario Vargas Llosa, from Peru, I read his book THE STORYTELLER
Jorge Luis Borgas - Argentina
Gabriel Marcia Marquez, (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature) most famous book:  LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
Christina Peri Rossi-Uruguay, short stories, poems, 
Gabriel Mistral, (another Nobel Prize winner) SONETOS DE LA MUERTE
Sandra Cisneros, Mexican, THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET

Needless to say, when I looked up most famous Latin American authors the list was all male, and I had to go to a list of female Latin American authors to get the women authors listed above.  That is very odd because at least two of the women authors have received international acclaim and popularity, Cisners and Allende.

I have already read on Isabelle Allende book and one Mario Vargas Llosa novel, because I knew their names and ordered their books, but yesterday I ordered three or four more books, one of which just arrived, the famous LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA.  That is the book I will begin reading next. 

If it were my book club, I would ask each member to choose an author to read and then we could all trade books and at the next meeting people could compare their reactions.

Well I don't have a book club and I don't want to be in a book club of the type that are popular with my friends.  I don't want to waste time, at present, on 'only entertainment' reading, which is what is most popular so far in these clubs.  They read the best seller pop novels.  I need to read by a theme, like in education.  I want to learn.  That doesn't mean that I disparage entertainment reading in general.  I love various authors in the 'chick lit' level of writing and that would even make a great theme, however at present, I feel the need to learn and fill in the gaps in my personal education.  

By the way, I have three college degrees, the first was in Literature (no women authors included and no authors from South America, Mexico or Canada, our closest neighbors).  All my lit courses were still totally tethered to European literary history and tradition and classic American lit often ending in the 1800's, just like the history we took in high school which never seemed to get beyond the Civil War, if it reached that!

What kind of book club would you like?

Happy Trails,
Jo Ann

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Pandemic July 18 - The Revolution

Watching a marvelous Netflix series - an epic biography of Simon Bolivar, I have to note how many parallels there are to our Revolution and yet in how many ways we differed.

South America is our close cousin, so to speak.  We share so much history and geography and yet how little history the average American knows about South American or Mexican history.  

Really really short intro (in my own prose style):  Simon Bolivar united many rebel factions of the under classes in several provinces in Spanish controlled South America.  He pulled together over-taxed farmers,  small merchants, and enslaved African plantation workers.  Together, under extremely unbalanced conditions in regard to organization, supply, weaponry, experience and discipline, these rebel factions under Simon Bolivar defeated one of the great empires of the time, the Spanish Empire and drove them from South America.  

So therein lies one of the fascinating divergences.  Bolivar's army was largely populated by African workers freeing themselves and joining up.  The structure of enslavement must have been much different here to cause so few African soldiers in the American Rebellion.  Although I do know enslaved people in the plantations of our South were used as pawns by the British with false promises.  It may be that we (or I) just don't know enough about that subject to have encountered information about it.  I know of a few instances here and there of a regiment as in Rhode Island, but Bolivar's entire army was completely integrated.  I do not recall an African officer, however; I would have to look into that.

The Colonial Revolution in South America, which included Venezuela, Columbia, Peru and Bolivia, happened two or three decades after our own and lasted thirteen years.  Africans were freed fifty years after the Revolution, about the time of our own Civil War.  There is awareness of the injustice in the tv series and sometimes a Creole or Indigenous soldier will ask an African one if he has been freed or if he freed himself.  

Confession:  I have not yet read any on-line reviews of the authenticity of the history in this Netflix series BOLIVAR, however, generally I can be trusted to go on and read from several sources when I get interested in something and the South American Revolution is very interesting.  I think I started to get interested after a novel by Isabelle Allende which was set in Santo Domingo/Haiti.  Then I saw several documentaries about the Cuban Revolution and Che Guevara, so BOLIVAR was a natural transition.

An aspect that I find engaging, is the portrayal in BOLIVAR, of the lives of ordinary people (if any such thing can be said of a telenovela type show as this).  But any glimpse back into history that is alive and moving, in color and plausible costuming) is a big treat.  It is intently interesting to observe the gender politics of the time and place as well, not that things were that much better for women in the US in the last decades of the 1700's and the beginning of the 1800's.  Our rebellion was yet to get off the ground.  In both countries no woman had autonomy either legal or social.  Legally, marriage itself, for women, was a kind of indentured servitude "to death" before it ends.  The more entrenched patriarchal social environment of the Catholic Spanish countries however, was always a more complete and brutal suppression of women.  

The writers of BOLIVAR in their attempt to give us women some same gender interest have made many clever female characters who use the traditional movie and literary seductive charms to get information and influence men in power.  That is the only road to freedom.  How explicit it is portrayed in the overtly transactional dialogue in the series makes it all so obvious.  The male character in power promises to see to it that something is done that a woman wants done, and she in turn promises to have sex with him.

The Mid-Atlantic former Colonial colonies in which I grew up and which had so much influence over the society of the Revolutionary period here, were Quaker colonies and had the influence of Quaker values of equality.  Even the puritans were not as restrictive as Spanish society after the period of Inquisition era Spain.

It has been a long slow climb out of gender and racial domination to the place we have reached, however, we have come far and have far to go.

Happy trails through history, the woods, books, however you travel!
Jo Ann

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Pandemic - the Global Community

Just took a break from watching Netflix tv series BOLIVAR, to wonder - Why do we all know the phrase "Hannibal Crossing the Alps" and we do not know about Bolivar crossing the Andes? 

Mexico and South America are not just our neighbors, we are one large connected body, along with our closer cousins, the other former colony, Canada.  We know so little about them, and by 'we' I mean me and anyone and everyone I have ever known.  

The only people I ever knew who knew any history South of the Border, were artists who knew Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.  

It is as though they are our cousins, through geographical marriage.  They are the cousins spawned by the Spanish Empire's conquest of the Americas.  We speak a different language.  But all we know is about land grabs like the Alamo.  All the U.S. Government wants is what it can take - land or labor - a very exploitive and parasitic relationship.  And build a border wall!  Our southern neighbors are our family, the ones we find difficult.  

One of the unexpected delights of watching the Netflix  series Bolivar, which is subtitled, is when I understand a word here or there from the Spanish speakers.  Or when I figure out a word from its Latin roots.  One of my three unfulfilled hopes/dreams/fantasies, however you choose to look at it, was that I always wanted to learn Spanish, if not fluently (I know how hard that is) at least moderately.   I had three years of it in high school and I remember the title of the textbook was El Camino Real.  I liked the illustrations.  I love listening to the Spanish speakers in the tv series.  I find it a beautiful and interesting language.  

When you study another language, you become intimate with the different sounds that are used, different from your native tongue.  The Spanish have the trilled 'r' and the Germans have the two different sounds for 'ch' - Those are the only languages with which I have any familiarity,  The song quality of a language is interesting too, like bird song.

Also, when I was very young, around 19 I guess, I went to Mexico with a girlfriend from work.  We flew to Texas and took buses as far as Guadalajara.  We wanted to go to Acapulco but it was closed for some natural disaster involving the water, no tourists premise.

One of the great joys of the life of the mind, is intellectual curiosity which when combined with attentiveness, can bring about a kaleidoscopic vision of how things fit together, how they are the same, related, woven into one another:  the themes of history and personal life.

Our current state in the U.S. reminds me of the early boiling points in all the documentaries and books I have read that featured revolutions.  The slow fracturing that begins with some natural disaster such as a weather anomaly, drought, volcanic ash covering the sun and creating an endless winter, earthquakes and so on.  The lowest level of the society, or civilization, begin to suffer below survival level, and leaders among the begin to speak out.

In the revolutionary stories I have been following, perhaps throughout my life, colonists rebelled against the control of the Empire which established them, or peasants rebelled against feudal overlords, or slaves rebelled against their human traffickers.  But sometimes a country can be rent by a deep fissure such as the divide between the culture of the slave trafficking south in the United States and that of the industrialized, wage-worker, immigrant fueled society of the north.  The racism embedded in our own struggle here in the U.S. has made the long lasting fissures that are splitting their way across the land at present.  It is like one of those frozen lakes in Canada where the ice road truckers take goods over the frozen land in winter; the truck is a bit too heavy and the ice begins to creak and split.

We are cracking and splitting over living wage inequities, corruption throughout the government and the companies that control our nation.  We are dividing over the old complaints too, racial divides: people who still feel the need to claim racial superiority over others, people who want to use violence to exert dominance over their fellow citizens.  

This is a frightening time, a time of foment and unpredictable change.  

I take hope in what Yuval Harari said on BBC World News one night when asked what the future will be like after the pandemic:  "There is only one thing we can say for sure, it can't be predicted, it will be completely new."

I would like to say "Viva la Revolution!" but although I recognize the need for it, I am too aware from history of the wreckage that follows such large social upheavals.

It is a challenge to be face, not unlike facing into the unpredictable world of old age and disorganizing physical systems.  All I can do in the face of any of it is keep observing, keep learning, absorb as much useful information as I can.

It's a long and winding road.....
Jo Ann

Monday, July 13, 2020

Things to do July 2020

Looking for something safe, fun and educational to do?
Come to the Gloucester County Butterfly Festival on Saturday, July 18th from noon to 4 pm at Red Bank Battlefield Park! The Butterfly House will be open and you can view several native species of butterflies in various stages of their life cycles. There will be kid-friendly presentations on Bees and Bugs, free take-home craft kits for kids, live music, food vendors and craft vendors. Wear your wings or antennae and join in the Bug Parade!

We will be practicing social distancing in all areas including demonstrations, the parade, and the butterfly house. Masks are required. Hand sanitizer will be available in many locations throughout the event.

Pandemic - Great Thinkers Who Changed the World and Saw it as it Really IS!!

Perhaps it is simply superstition but sometimes random events fall into place and propel a series of other actions.  I had company last week and somehow in the process of imposing a new order on my living room/library/studio/office/study - I found a book on the floor.  THE UNDOING PROJECT, BY MICHAEL LEWIS.  

I read this book when it was newly published in 2017, because it was highly praised in all the review I read in my regular weekly reading:  The Sunday New York Times, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Harpers.  

There are some thinkers whose ideas throw a spotlight into the dark of mysterious existence, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Margaret Sanger, Howard Gardner, Carl Jung, Karl Marx, Pavlov, Baba Ram Dass, Jesus Christ, to name just a few who changed my life.

I can almost date each of these entering my world - I read Charles Darwin's VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE, and ORIGIN OF SPECIES, when I was twenty-one and on my way to Germany to I've for a couple of years.  Good thing I took these books because it was so long ago, only 25 years after the end of World War II, that English language books were as rare as sneakers or blue jeans in Germany.  

I read Betty Fridan and Gloria Steinem in the 70's and they gave me a view of the hold of patriarchal traditions on the lives of women.  In college, I read Gardner, Jung, Pavlov and Marx, and in the years after, returned to Baba Ram Dass's book BE HERE NOW, regularly for a mental tune up.

Let me tell all of those who proclaim, "They live in American now, let them learn English!"  It is not easy to learn a new language even if you are young, intelligent and have a talent for languages.  When I was living in Germany, I tried to learn enough to read in German but never succeeded.  The more I learned in my German language classes, and the more I tried out my new skills, the more I realized how far it is to fluency.  I had a great accent but it was terribly difficult to memorize all the vocabulary we take for granted in our native languages.  Reading the newspaper was impossible let alone trying to read a book in German.

Anyway, reading Darwin on the long trip to Germany in 1967, introduced to me the idea of evolution and adaptation in particular. That concept changed my world view. increased my understanding of how things get to be the way they are.  All of my life, I have directly AND inadvertently studied why things are the way they are and how they got to be that way, and similarly with people, why we behave the way we do and how we got that way.  All the thinkers and writers listed above, not to mention all the great authors I have read and loved and who have taught me about the world, were all both students, and analysts of human behavior and the authors went even further and used their discoveries and observations to create spell binding story art.

It may be a bit more difficult to read the historians and theorists than the literary writers, but I have found that if you can manage it, they each inform one another in remarkable ways.  For example, historical studies of slavery and the Underground Railroad and the civil rights movements give you one perspective on slavery in America, while literature like GONE WITH THE WIND, or NEVER CAUGHT (the story of Ona Judge, enslaved to President Washington) gives you another view, an insider view, you might say, and then if you read Frederick Douglas, or the WPA slave narratives, or you watch a documentary on the development of the blues and jazz from field call and response singing, you get whole new windows onto that world.  Then you can read modern writers and bring it all up to date, like with Tony Morrison, Te Nahisi Coates, and Isabelle Allende (who writes stories that speak so eloquently about slavery in South America and the plantation system there.  Finally, more contemporary biographies on leaders such as Malcolm X and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., can help you comprehend the context of the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement of our current period.

But one of the books that has made the most difference in my understanding of things currently is THE UNDOING PROJECT, because it speaks to the motivations of the figures who are in fact, running the world right now in the midst of a pandemic.  Tversky and Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize for their work in BEHAVIOR ECONOMICS, talk about what they learned about how people make decisions, and how leaders make strategy and policy.  To radically simplify and summarize what I learned from them, often leaders fall into the lazy and ego driven habit of feeling as though they know so much they don't need the data, they can go on instinct and gut reaction.  They ignore the information that may be newly coming in to them in favor of old attitudes and previous patterns.  Sometimes that approach brings disaster, as is the case with our current president and the Covid 19 pandemic.  Not only the American president, but also the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson - (architect of the removal of Britain from the EU) and the Brazilian president Bolsonaro, who went so far as to take off his mask to tell the world he was infected with coronavirus, after downplaying it and pretending it didn't exist until his country was third from the top of the list of nations in danger from poor strategy in controlling the spread.  At the top of that list of nations in trouble, is the United States, where so many mistakes were made and the virus is on the upswing, and Great Britain with another autocratic anti-information  populist prime minister made the same awful errors in judgement.

All three of these leaders fear and avoid information and experts.  They are so egotistical and arrogant that they think they know everything and don't need any input from more educated and informed people.  The war between Dr. Fauci and Donald Trump is a perfect example.  Trump spouts off whatever idiot notion has claimed his remarkably erratic attention, sends the country in all the wrong directions and hates Dr. Fauci because Dr. Fauci tries to correct the misinformation and contradicts the fearless leader.  
The latest example was Trump calling for everyone to open up again and get the economy started when Dr. Fauci clearly advised that we reach a period of diminished infections first and that we needed to put into place a safety protocol featuring testing before we opened up.  Trump silenced Fauci and got everything opened up and started a super spread of the disease again.

Everything that is happening right now is described in Michael Lewis's book about decision making and Tversky and Kahneman's findings.  Another great thinker and writer is Yuval Noah Harari, who wrote SAPIENS, the history of mankind.  I have run out of time and will save a discussion of  Harari's book for another time.

Meanwhile, if you are staying in a lot, you may want to consider the Lewis book THE UNDOING PROJECT which I am sure you can find at the library,

Happy Trails, those in the outdoors and those in our own minds!
Jo Ann 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Pandiemia - A Peek at Colonialism through binge watching tv series

During the Pandemic, for the first time in my life, my entertainment/distraction/self-education began to come from watching tv series rather than reading books.  I seem to have lost my ability to focus and concentrate on serious books.

Two series that I watched this week gave me a lot of time to consider the long tentacles of Colonialism in the world.  Last night, I watched an Australian series called Stateless (netflix) which used the plot device of a mentally disabled Australian white woman getting caught up in a dragnet of illegal immigrants coming from Sri Lanka.  She has purposely ditched her identification papers because she has escaped from the mental facility into which her parents had placed her and she doesn't want to be found and re-institutionalized.  She has tried to use an identity she purloined from a German backpacker but the bureaucracy is fully tuned to these amateur attempts at identity scams and so she stays incarcerated.  They don't know who she is and they dimly perceive that she isn't quite right in the head.  Her companions in the detention center are refugees from Afghanistan, and parts of Indonesia.

On the roof of the detention center are two protestor/refugees who refused to come down.  No one can speak their language because they speak Timor.  There were such an array of refugees in this show from places I couldn't even picture on a map even though the names were familiar to me from the news.  I had no idea where Sri Lanka might be located though obviously if a boat could get them to Australia, it must be near Australia.  

So, of course, I googled a map and resolved a couple of other questions I had about countries from other shows I had watched.  Another Australian tv series based on an American data/satellite station in Australia had a big plot line revolving around the Chinese increasingly claiming portions of what had  been designated 'International' waters in the South China Sea.  So I wondered, where is the South China Sea in relation to Australia?

When I really looked at the map I had found on google that showed everything from China to Australia to India, I found all kinds of places I had only the vaguest location for in my mind.  I had learned about the partition between India and Pakistan from a wonderful documentary on Mahatma Ghandi and the struggle for India to become free from English control.  Otherwise, I doubt I would have clearly known where Pakistan was.

So the two threads that tie so many of these topics together are Colonialism and Religion.  The French and Dutch and Portuguese
colonized Indo-China, the English colonized India through trade , and  the populated Australia with British colonists and prisoners and with all that came the suppression of the Indigenous people in all these lands.  Along with the territorial struggles of their war wracked countries, there is the ongoing colonization of the world by the monotheistic religious.  

Once I had the map, I saw where Sri Lanka was and so close to India, you could see how the Sri Lankans appeared both Indian and Arabic.  As it turned out in the series, they actually spoke two different and not mutually understandable languages, Timor and Sinhalese.  

In the news, not recently, but within the past few years, there had been many articles about the Chinese building artificial islands in the South China Sea in order to claim it.  In fact lately there was another little stand-off between China and the United States over Chinese blocked sea routes and we sent some war ships there.  

The night before I watched Stateless, I had watched a soapy kind of telenovela set in Morocco and with that title.  Since I had visited Morocco, I was very interested in this series.  The main plot revolved around a Spanish fort and a border campaign waged by the desert tribes against the Spanish military presence.  Again, a historical event, a whole war about which I knew nothing, the Spanish-Moroccan War!  Apparently there is no set block of time that covers this war since it went hot and cold in irregular spurts, but roughly, it covered the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century and was part of a movement to throw off colonial powers that grew into the Algerian Revolution which drove out the French and put in Muamar Ghadafi as dictator.  

Suddenly I saw a mind map of the streams of refugees from the colonial conflicts that became the rivers of refugees in World War II and the oceans of refugees in our own time.  We have refugees from all parts of Mexico, South and Central America, victims of the drug warlords.  We have refugees from the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon.  And all the European countries are flooded and foundering under the weight of the political storm created by the refugees from Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans.  

What to do?  Now that they are clamoring by the millions to get into European and Western nations, we have a massive dilemma.
A large proportion of the refugees, like the ones before them, are deeply desirous of a better way of life for their families and they are eager to assimilate, educate, and move up the ladder.  A significant proportion, however, are forced to leave their homelands against their will, but hate the countries to which they have had to flee, to some extent because of religion.  The more urgently patriarchal religions create refugees who are hysterical with rage and terror over the personal freedoms of Europeans especially women.  

Sadly a long developed suspicion and fear about cultural expropriation has made a lot of the refugees with stronger religious ties, reluctant to assimilate into the cultures of their new countries.  This makes enormous conflict between the refugees who don't want to assimilate and the host countries who don't want division in their social fabric.  Religious and ethnic ghettos develop and breed extremists.

Just as expanding empires had no awareness or consideration for the damage they were inflicting on the cultures they crushed when they colonized someone else's land, they had no awareness of the damage they did to the environment of the lands they pillaged.
The fur trade drove the beaver almost into extinction and heaven only knows what effect the loss of that water diverting little animal did to the ecology of waters rivers streams and lakes.  And the lumbering - the destruction of habitat, the loss of trees that clean the air.  Even today, as I type, large swaths of the Amazon rain forest are being logged, burned and mined which is the destruction of the lungs of the planet.  What will we breathe when the air is no longer made clean and safe by the trees?  What will we drink when the water is all drained from the aquifers and despoiled in the rivers and lakes with pesticides, acid rain and run off from mining operations.

There are so many many problems facing us in the world today and I am stymied by the complexity of the issues.  Whole regions cannot dump their populations into more stable countries.  Refugees must assimilate in new lands.  I sympathize with the refugees.  Like me they are ordinary, unarmed, peaceful citizens held in the death grip of psychotic drug cartels and despotic rulers.  What can they do but try to escape to somewhere better where their children can grow up and pursue education and careers and not become child soldiers, child brides, child slaves, child criminals and even worse, vulnerable orphans.  

After all, my ancestors all fled from homelands torn apart by strife as in the regional civil wars in Germany during the unification, the colonization and expropriation of land by the British in Ireland and Scotland.  These ancestors fled the dead end they faced and came to America, and here they all learned to speak English and get ahead.

Now the poor peasants fleeing drug wars come to America and end up being incarcerated in detention camps, separated from their families and with no reasonable solution to their plight.

Bad leaders have trapped us in the unending cycle of conquest, war,   and environmental devastation.  How can enough people become aware of this dire situation such that they can create the seismic cultural change that we need.  We are evolving into one world but we can't stop squabbling long enough to make a creative and beneficial transition.  We have made baby steps in the form of the EU, the United Nations and other large bodies created from this new amalgamation that are supposed to help us resolve our differences.  We need more and better particularly in our own individual countries. 

And religion has not done its part to make people more loving and cooperative.  Instead as it becomes more dogmatic and tribal, it divides us even further and leaves no room for negotiation - the gods are jealous gods.

On top of all that, we now have a worldwide pandemic to deal with.  No doubt we will learn something from it.

Happy Trails,
Jo Ann