Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saga of A Male Rape Victim in an Alternate History

If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fall, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. ----  Winston Chruchill
Nowadays, it is fairly easy to find references to prison rape in popular literature.  One of the most common is its use by police and prosecutors as leverage to gain cooperation.  Works that are about prison, fiction or nonfiction, will almost always refer to it, even, if only to claim that its prevalence is exaggerated, as does the author of Newjack.  The Children’s War stands out in the way in which the subject is integrated.  The principal character is a male prison rape survivor.  The rape and its after effects are a key element in the plot, yet it is not a book about prison rape.

            The Children’s War is of the genre known as alternative history.  The concept is to set a story in a world that is the same as ours, except for some historic event or events that turned out differently.  The author will sometimes posit a mechanism, such as time travel or parallel universes, which causes some of the works to be classed as science fiction.  In others, it is simply a “What if?” with no mechanism for getting there.  The works of Harry Turtledove, perhaps the premiere practitioner of the genre, illustrate both types.  In the Guns of the South 20th Century white supremacists travel backward in time to provide the Confederacy with AK-47’s.  In Turtledove’s multivolume World at War series, the starting point is a different outcome for a civil war battle with the implications playing out to a World War I that rages across North America with the Confederacy allied with Great Britain and the Union with Germany.

            The Children’s War is of the “What if?” variety.  It is set in a roughly contemporary time in which Germany won WWII.  It might be compared to Fatherland  , a murder mystery set in a 1960’s Berlin built as Hitler and Speer dreamed.  One of the biggest challenges to this type of work is the manner in which the different time line is revealed to the reader.  In the Children’s War, the only information about the “big picture” that is not revealed through the interplay of the characters is a political map of Europe showing the domination of Nazi Germany.

Several characters that will ultimately meet and interact are followed.  Since the primary character is a slave laborer, who knows very little about “the big picture”, we also learn about it slowly.  We also learn about his story in a non-linear fashion as he reveals it to others and learns it himself.  Much of it is told through dreams and flashbacks.  We first encounter our main character after he has been kidnapped after having escaped to Switzerland.  The various circumstances surrounding the escape are revealed much later in the book.  Only when his life is a stake, is he willing to reveal that he was raped by the commandant of his prison camp.

Peter or Alex, as he is variously known, took up with the English resistance as a teenager.  His group was betrayed and rounded up.  He was the only one to escape.  He was ultimately picked up not for his resistance activities, but rather for having failed to provide the six years of mandatory labor required of English youth.  Englishmen have some hope of being accepted as being worthy of Reich citizenship, the path chosen by Peter’s father and brother.

He ends up in the type of labor camp he would have served in, but for a longer term.  Being older, he takes on something of a leadership role.  He learns that the commandant has been raping the young men in the camp.  He challenges him and the commandant agrees to stop.  He does stop raping the young men, but now turns his sights on Peter, who ultimately complies.  The sexual abuse by the commandant and learning that his sentence is effectively indeterminate motivate Peter to escape to Switzerland.  In Switzerland, he is kidnapped, which is where the story begins.

Peter’s life is now forfeit.  He will be allowed to live only as a slave.  At his new camp, he is made something of a project. It is thought that he can be turned into an automaton through torture and psychological manipulation. The project is deemed successful and he is sent to live with a family as a domestic slave.  There are several other stories being told that will ultimately converge.  The author signals a shift in viewpoint by including a fragment of the closing sentence of one chapter in the opening sentence of the next chapter.  This rather cute device is the only thing about the book that I find tedious.

We also follow the career of the man who will be Peter’s master for a period of time and, more significantly, members of the resistance.  We learn that a remnant of the Polish Home Army has survived in a mountain redoubt and lives in an uneasy, unofficial truce with the Reich.  Both sides refer to it as the protocols. They have managed to plant hidden bombs in key German installations which gives them a small amount of leverage.  The Germans leave their mountain redoubt alone.  They have a quasi judicial process for determining when particular Germans have violated the protocols.  They then assassinate them.  Children raised in the redoubt are taught to speak formal unaccented German to facilitate infiltration.  A few members are in very high positions in the Reich living a complex and dangerous double life.

            Peter contrives an escape from his current master, a low level functionary.  He steals his car and just keeps driving.  He stumbles on the mountain redoubt of the resistance.  It is touch and go as to whether they will shoot him or not.  Finally he is tentatively accepted.  Along with the rest of his story he tells about having been raped.

            The reaction of the Resistance members to him and his story are quite fascinating and give the story more “realism”.  His integration with the Resistance people is not purely a matter of them getting to trust him.  From time to time they are outright mean to him, merely because they don’t like him.  He is from time to time taunted about having been raped.  While he is on an undercover assignment his female companion asks him if he was dreaming about the Commandant.  When he replies that he wasn’t she says that she thought he was because it seemed like he was enjoying his dream.

            In the future, or present actually, envisioned by the author, America is like our culture on steroids.  Peter is brought to America as something of a publicity stunt to talk about being a slave in Germany.  In America, cigarettes are illegal.  You can, however, buy them if you are a certified addict.  Visiting Europeans are routinely granted the addict certificate, since Europeans are known to smoke like chimneys.  Peter is cautioned not to talk about being a rape victim.  A man saying he was raped would likely offend women. Peter goes on a talk show with a black woman college professor. She lectures  him that he could not possibly understand what it means to be oppressed since he is a white male.  Her experience of slavery is more valid than his.

            As the story unfolds, we will learn that Peter’s experience with the Commandant is not his only sexual relationship that was less than consensual on his part.

            Despite some points where the willing suspension of disbelief is severely strained, The Children’s War is well worth reading.  Besides showing the disabling results of rape, both from his own reactions and those who know what happens to him, it will help us to appreciate that we in fact live in Churchill’s “broad sunlit uplands”.  It takes a glimpse of the new dark age in the light of a perverted science to appreciate it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Four Per Cent Solution

Provided, nevertheless, that capital shall never receive profits exceeding an annual amount equal to six percent per annum simple interest for the whole time of its investment in the funds of the Community.

                        Initial Constitution of the Fraternal Communion
Rule 97
            Enough is never enough.
Rule 242
            More is good ….. all is better.

             Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

            A few times, I’ve been asked how I ended up doing what I do.  My most common answer is poor guidance in high school.  At the end of my freshman year in high school, having done well, I was allowed to choose whether I should go into Classics Honors or Science Honors.  This being a weighty decision for a fourteen year old, I asked the advice of my homeroom teacher.  Mr. Lux was a scholastic, a step in the arduous process of becoming a Jesuit priest.  He advised me to go for Classics Honors.  Years later it dawned on me that not only was he my homeroom teacher, he was also my Latin teacher.  Thus I ended up going to a liberal arts college, with a liberal arts major, English, which I subsequently switched to History.  I had to give up on English, because I thought Moby Dick was a book about guys involved in the whaling industry.

            After graduating, I was a VISTA and a graduate student in history.  Being a graduate student in history was an iffy proposition in the 70’s, but I had developed a back up plan.  One of my roommates was an accounting major.  The college periodically thought about getting rid of its accounting program, as it seemed inconsistent with its liberal arts philosophy to have a major that qualified you for a decent job without going to graduate school.  I noted, however, that my roommate and his pals were getting good jobs and that they didn’t seem brighter than me .  I guess they got good guidance in high school.

            Thus, at the rather advanced age of 27, I found myself at an interview to commence my career in public accounting.  (Years later I would have reformed hippies, somewhat older than myself reporting to me as they commenced in their late thirties or early forties).  I was being interviewed by two partners in one of the largest accounting firms in the city of Worcester.  One was the managing partner and the other was the most junior of the then 5 partners.  Subsequently after years of observation, I realized that the managing partner had synthesized 35 years of business experience into two fundamental principles “Money coming in is good.  Money going out is bad.”  At my first meeting with him I did not recognize the brilliant simplicity that he embodied.  He asked me two questions to test my knowledge.  The one that is germane to our topic today was “Someone buys a piece of equipment for $10,000.  What is the most depreciation that he can take in the first year?”

            I pondered the question.  My fate hung in the balance.  The managing partner was heading to the conclusion that I was too ignorant to work for his firm.  The young partner said, “What are you thinking about?”  I replied, “I’m trying to tell whether sum of the years digits is faster than double declining balance.”  At that moment, I established myself as a deep thinker, with all the good and bad things associated with that.  I was the last person to ever become a partner in that firm and am now a partner in the successor firm, which is one of the largest in the region.

            I was most interested in American history in the 19th Century.  I was a member of the Unitarian Congregation of Mendon and Uxbridge for 15 years.  My career in public accounting commenced in part from my knowledge of a somewhat obscure method of depreciation.  From these elements come my fascination with the story of Adin Ballou and his community.

            If Adin Ballou had never lived and somebody made him up in an historical novel, I would end up scoffing at it.  This is another one of those books where everything that happened happens to somebody in the book.  Like War and Remembrance where you have a Holocaust victim married to a US submarine skipper, whose father goes to the Soviet Union to check on Lend lease after the ship he was supposed to command was sunk at Pearl harbor, not to mention the mother-in-law having an affair with somebody involved with the Manhattan project.  With Adin Ballou its temperance, pacifism, abolitionism, communal experiments, spiritualism, capitalism, the Civil War and on and on.  He was a Universalist and a Unitarian, 100 years before the merger.  You can accept him knowing William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas and all those guys.  They didn’t exactly hang out together, but people went from one community to another.  Fine, that’s believable.  But Tolstoy.  That’s a bit of a stretch.  But here it is in the Kingdom of God is within You, one of the three books Gandhi followed in his non-resistance campaign, with regard to non-resistance “Ballou’s work confirmed me still more in this view.  But the fate of Garrison, still more of Ballou, is being completely unrecognized.”

            The real punch line for me though is the depreciation.  Brilliant as he was, Ballou had no grasp of the eternal truths embodied in the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.  For those of you who do not know who the Ferengi are, a small explanation is in order.  In the future contemplated in the various Star Trek series (Star Trek, Star Trek Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, Abbot And Costello Meet Star Trek) humans have experienced some of the moral evolution hoped for and expected by Ballou and Tolstoy.  People like that can be kind of boring, so some of our more interesting characteristics are laid off onto alien races.  The Ferengi are noted for greed and devotion to profit, to them a religious concept.  They would have felt right at home in the America of the 1830’s which Alexis de Tocqueville observed was like a vast workshop with a large sign reading “No admittance except on business “ and he also observed “An American navigator leaves Boston to go and buy tea in China.  He arrives at Canton, stays a few days there, and comes back. In less than two years he has gone around the globe and only once has he seen land.  Throughout a voyage of eight or ten months he has drunk brackish water and eaten salted meat; he has striven against the sea, disease and boredom; but on his return he can sell tea a farthing cheaper than an English merchant.  He has achieved his aim.  I cannot express my thoughts better than by saying the Americans put something heroic into their way of trading”.  If I remember correctly, the first time Ferengi were encountered, it was observed by Mr. Spock that they were quite like Yankee traders.

Adin Ballou, at least while in his corporeal form, never watched Star Trek. (It may now be one of his favorite shows.  He did think that it was acceptable to gently restrain people, so “Set your phasers on stun” might sound OK to him).  He did meet a Ferengi, though.  Had Adin been familiar with rules 255 and 256, he might have done a bit better.  Those rules, but the way are

A wife is a luxury; a smart accountant is a necessity.  
Accountants do not play the game, they just keep score.

            As the thoughts to ponder and what I have said so far might lead you to believe I intend to talk about Ballou’s economic theories.  It might seem more timely to talk about his pacifism, but his pacifism was much more radical than opposition to military action.  He was opposed to any coercion.  All his principles, though, I think are rooted in his restorationist theology, which has a perfectionist streak in.  Like Tolstoy and Gandhi, he was tells us that Jesus was giving people practical advice about how to live.  The roots of the thinking are probably a bit too deep to go into and there’s a good chance I’ll get them wrong, but in some sense, the message is “Just do it”.  Get a group of people together who agree to “never, under any pretext whatsoever, to kill, assault, beat, torture, enslave, rob, oppress, persecute, defraud, corrupt, slander, revile, injure, envy or hate any human being even my worst enemy”/ (Don’t you love those lists.)  And work out the details as you go.  In my opinion, Ballou did much better on the practical piece than either of his successors.  Tolstoy spent his final years trying to live like a peasant and his friends had to look out for his wife.  It was said that India’s Congress party had to go to enormous expense to maintain Gandhi in poverty.

            Taking from the rich and giving to the poor was not the path chosen, though some advocated it.  Fraternal Communion Number One of the Practical Christian Republic started out with 28 people living in one house.  Despite their sharing high aspirations they got on one another’s nerves.  It was planned that as they were able they would put up more residences.  It was thought by some that the fair thing to do would be to have the people who didn’t put up any money be the first ones to move into individual dwellings.  After all Jesus had said “The first shall be last”.  Instead, the community adopted an economic model that allowed wages up to those paid a first class operative and a return on capital invested of 6%, later 4%.  Thus they avoided the Scylla of Communism and drove some of the Robin Hood contingent out followed not long after by Brian Lamson who insisted that nursing mothers should be credited with 16 hours of labor a day.

The community never became an economic powerhouse, but with tweaking of the return on capital and the rate paid labor, it moved a long quite nicely modeling its principles.  Outsiders had predicted that they would be subject to a rash of thefts by outsiders since the community members were pledged not to defend their property by the threat of violence by either themselves or the authorities.  Events vindicated the community in this regard.  When young people went on a wave of stealing and vandalism, after some initial forays they gave up on Hopedale, because it wasn’t as satisfying to steal from people who weren’t trying to prevent it.

When it came to the way young boys were treated when they left the community, it was a different story.  They were picked on for the odd views of their parents.  Their fate cannot be seen as a refutation of non-resistance, since one of them confessed in his memoirs that when they were arrayed in adequate number they dropped their non-resistant principles.  This was William Draper, who having grown up in pacifist, temperance community, would rise to the rank of Brigadier General and on at least one occasion give his men whiskey to keep them warm on a cold night.

The capital labor issue would not have been so significant, perhaps, had the capital been spread out more.  It was, however, highly concentrated in the hands of Adin’s close friend Ebenezer Draper.  Adin thought that Ebenezer was a great businessman, but there is some doubt on the issue.  He may have been an illustration of the rule that it is better to be lucky than good.  Most of his income was the result of a patent that his father had created.  He was devoted to the ideals of the community and he put his money where his mouth was.

Adin’s brother George, who joined the community near the end, was a different kettle of fish.  He was a great businessman, a Ferengi class businessman.  His wife refused to become a member.  She found the egalitarianism offensive.  Her son related in his memoirs an incident early in her residence in the village.  A group of members came to her house to greet her.  One of them scolded her for having an upholstered chair indicating that most of those in Hopedale made due with much more plain furniture.  William, the son, indicated that his father did not object in principle to the relative egalitarianism of the community, but he was frustrated by the unbusiness-like decisions that the one member one vote system produced.

The crisis that ended the community in its initial form came in 1856.  The initial report from the treasurer indicated that there was a small deficit $145.15.  The joint stock (that is the equity invested by members) was $41,300.  In the History of the Hopedale Community Adin goes on to comment “that a shrewd businessman could or an expert in finance could actually see that the community’s liabilities exceeded its assets by several thousand dollars.”  The two major adjustments to the deficit were the dividend of 4% and an allowance for depreciation. 

            William Draper, in his memoirs, made much of the depreciation .  He makes much of the tale surely handed from father to son of a particular tool.  The tool had not only had no depreciation recorded on it, but the costs of repairing it had been capitalized so that the used tool was carried on the books at substantially more than the likely cost of a brand new replacement.  It’s the kind of thing that got World Com in trouble (Enron’s a different story).  George Draper was willing to step up and pay the other shareholders face value for their stock in spite of this.  What a guy.

            Well, 146 years too late, I’d like to be Adin Ballou’s smart accountant, the one he would have had if he followed rule 255.  All, I’ve got to go on is the balance sheet in the History of the Hopedale Community that shows assets at 12/31/1855 of $65,275.09 Included in making up this total is box branch tools of $290.25, less than ½ of 1% of the assets.  Auditors have a word for a number like that.  Immaterial.  Besides, when you go into liquidation mode, book value goes out the window; you look at fair market value.  Is their some chance that perhaps the $59,000 book value of real estate had appreciated?  Perhaps a “shrewd businessman” might have factored that in to his decision-making.   .  . I mean this was a fellow who would subsequently buy his brother’s half of the business and sell it to his son at a profit.  (William resented this at the time, but in retrospect felt that it had helped build his character) Rule 256 had been violated.  In pointing out these issues George was acting as the scorekeeper, while he was playing the game.

            Tocqueville asked an American sailor why American ships were built somewhat shoddily such that they could not be expected to last a long time.  The sailor replied that advances in navigation and ship design would make them obsolete before they wore out.  Capitalism is dynamic.  It creates by destroying.  You can’t put it in a stable 4% box. Originally, the 4% was a ceiling, but in successive changes to the charter, it became a guarantee.  Adin thought that by making people certain of the 4%, they would be content with it.  It was a profound misunderstanding.

            Ballou and Tolstoy thought we were getting better.  Some times I think we are getting worse.  I call us the cash out generation.    Philanthropic innovations of the 19th Century such as mutual savings banks, mutual insurance companies and not for profit hospitals have been gobbled up by the Ferengi.  Even the public accounting profession cashed out to some extent, but at that point capitalism becomes like a snake eating its own tail.  But ___ I often think that people who believe we are living in the worst of times just don’t history very well.

            At a meeting once I referred to Adin Ballou’s spirit being among us.  Someone said, “Of course, you mean he lives on through us.”  I meant it literally.  I don’t hear voices, but there is not much point in hearing voices.  They’re as likely to be feeding you bad information as good information.

            William Draper paid for a statue of Adin Ballou (after making sure others were acquiring the land and grading it).  When we look back on the time of Adin Ballou, we are horrified that our country had an economy of which slavery was a significant part and our deeply disturbed by the virulent racism.  It is really hard for us to appreciate that the people who were in favor of the immediate abolition of slavery and racial equality were far out extremists.  Adin Ballou was even further out than they were, because non-violence was part of the package that they were willing to release, but he wasn’t.  One dead soldier for every six slaves freed left a legacy of bitterness that we still deal with.

He also thought the economic beast could be tamed by moral suasion rather than coercion.  The legacy of the community lived on in the welfare capitalism of Draper Industries that made Hopedale a model well into the 20th Century.

We really are getting better.  Just do it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Schlep Factor

I have read that it is generally preferable to use words of Anglo-Saxon origin when possible, ignoring of course those concerned with procreation and elimination.  Words of Anglo Saxon origin tend to be less pretentious or you might say stuck up.  Also, they tend to be shorter.  The core of English vocabulary is an artifact of the Norman Conquest.  High status fancy words come from French, the language of the conquerors.  Down to earth words tend to come from Anglo Saxon and Celtic, the language of the conquered.  The word for an animal (e.g. sheep) is nothing like the word for the meat from the animal (i.e. mutton). 

A lot has happened since the Norman Conquest.  Among other things English has diverged somewhat so that even only considering “standard English” there are differences between the USA and the UK (e.g. elevator v. lift).  More significantly many foreign words have been incorporated post 1066.  One of the reasons for this was the 120,000,000 people (more or less) who moved from Europe to the Americas in the 19th Century.  It was the greatest movement of peoples in the history of the world.  Many came to the USA, the overwhelming number of them not from England.  Those of Celtic origin arrived already speaking English, more or less, others not at  all.  Learning to speak English was part of the process of assimilation. Assimilation worked both ways.  Words from the immigrant’s vocabulary worked their way into the language either because they described something previously unfamiliar (e.g. lasagna) or they somehow added an additional punch that was untranslatable.  The immigrants didn’t give those words up and the rest of the culture adopted them. (There are a host of other complications.  Spanish, some French, Dutch and the language of the indigenous peoples have a different, often less happy, route into English.) The implicit deal was “You learn to speak English.  Close to 100% if you want to get anywhere, but all of us will learn a tiny bit of your language.)

One language that has given us quite a few words that are valued for their punch is Yiddish.  There are other words that might be used, but for some reason the Yiddish word works very well.  There are a couple of levels to this.  Presumably there are people around that are fluent in Yiddish.  Then there are American Jews who only speak English.  Every once in a while a word will slip in.  You may be able to figure it out from context.  You may let it pass by or, being willing to show your ignorance, ask what it means.  I have never gotten anything but a positive response from asking.  Occasionally, someone might ask you if you know what_______ means.  If you don’t, they explain it, before using it in a sentence.  Clearly using the Yiddish word communicates emphasis.  The “Do you know what ________ means?’ is sometimes a rhetorical device.  They want to explain it regardless of your previous knowledge.  It makes the point stronger.

Finally, there are words from Yiddish that have become part of Standard English or are well known enough to be part of the vocabulary of  a very large group of English speakers (such as New Yorkers).  Some of them such as “mensch” are commonly known to have originated in Yiddish.  Others are less obvious such as shtik and nosh.  Nosh has been thoroughly Americanized.  If you asked the average person where the word nosh came from, he is more likely to say Chinese than Yiddish (That would have been my guess anyway). 

All of which brings me to one of my favorite words from Yiddish.  Schlep, also spelled shlep.Schlep, I think falls somewhere between “mensch” and “nosh”.  It might be considered a New York expression, but that could mean that it came from Dutch, like stoop.    Why when you could accurately say “I was going from here to there and there to here”, you might choose to say “I was schlepping back and forth between here and there.”  Going back and forth means that you were in motion beginning at one place, ending at another and returning, in an amount of time that is greater than instantaneous.”  Schlepping “ communicates that besides the movement there was aggravation (or possibly “tsures “ and hardship

The original meaning of schlep involved dragging, so that to say you were only schlepping somewhere if you were carrying a heavy burden.  At least in my experience, it is not necessary to be transporting anything other than yourself to consider the journey schlepping.  What distinguishes schlepping from mere traveling is the implied frustration with what geographers call the friction of space.  I believe that it is possible to measure this phenomenon.  Certain forms of movement have the potential for being considered schlepping.  For those forms of movement we can compute a Schlep Factor.  Whether the particular movement constitutes schlepping or in the more extreme cases “really schlepping” will be determined by its schlep factor exceeding a certain value.  That value will vary from person to person based on three other criteria, one easily measured and the other two fairly  subjective.  The objective factor is the total amount of time spent schlepping there, being there and schlepping back.  Generally this will vary inversely with the tolerable schlep factor.  The hardship, difficulty or unpleasantness of the schlep is the next factor.  The schlep threshold will vary inversely with this also.  Finally there is the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with “being there”.  This will affect the schlep threshold in many cases.  This will vary from person to person possibly based  on character.  The sign of this value will not have an effect, it will be based on absolute value.  That is to say, extreme anticipation or extreme dread of “being there” can blot out any impression of the dread.  It is conceivable that either anticipation or dread might raise the schlep factor, the joy of anticipation, the desire to put it off as long as possible.  It might also lower the schlep factor as in “Can’t wait to get there” or “Putting it off as long as possible”. 

One of the definitions of shlep is “an arduous journey”.  Arduous might be a bit strong in current usage.  I believe it is used for journeys and journeying that is being done solely to be at the place where something else (call it “the activity”) can be done or returning from same “shlepping back”.  The activity is viewed as something important or pleasurable. The journey itself is not. The Lewis and Clark expedition, arduous as it was not shlepping.  When you are on a cruise ship, you are not shlepping.  Non shlepping movement does not have to be of great significance   A security guard making his rounds is not shlepping. 

One of the most common forms of shlepping is also called commuting. It would generally not be used to characterize a short pleasant commute. Many forms of amusement involve shlepping, the trip to the ball game, the amusement park, the Caribbean island.  All these are shlepping.  You could expand the definition to all preparatory activities, but at that point it loses meaning.  Shlepping does not mean continuous movement.  Some of the most annoying shlepping times are those spent in anticipation of movement.  Stuck in traffic.  Sitting in the airport.

Shlepping always occurs in a context.  You could view all the journeying you have ever done as shlepping to the point where you are reading this sentence. That is way too philosophical. The “shlep” you are currently involved in is what you would answer if you were asked “Where are you going?”  It is possible to have shleps within activities and activities within shleps.  It is a matter of context.

A trip to Disneyworld might be used to illustrate the above point.  Assume you live in New England.  You get in your car and start the engine.  The shlep to Orlando has commenced, as has the lesser shlep to the airport.  You could get picky here.  Some might argue that the shlep to Orlando is complete when the wheels of the plane touch down.  Personally, I do not really feel I am  there until I have waited in line to get off the plane, rode on the goofy train, picked up my luggage, taken the bus to Alamo, become enraged at the clerk for trying to frighten me into buying insurance costing at least half the car rental and driven out of the agency.  At that point, the shlep to Orlando is complete.  The shlep back on the other hand commences with hotel checkout, even though the shlep there ended before check in.

Now I am “in Orlando”.  My measurement of the time of that activity “being in Orlando” has commenced.  Within “being in Orlando”, there will be shlepping to Disneyworld.  Within Disneyworld there will be shlepping to Space Mountain which may include the time spent waiting in line.  The actual movement through space involved in the ride is not shlepping.  The ride is pure activity.

The above journey can be used to illustrate the computation of the shlep factor.  Say for example that I spend all of Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday in Orlando.  I drive out of Alamo at on Monday.  I check out of the hotel 8:00 AM on Friday.  I left my house at on Monday and arrived home at on Friday.  I spent 8 hours shlepping to Orlando and 8 hours shlepping back.  I was “in Orlando” for 84 hours. That is a shlep factor of 9.5.  The shlep factor is the time spent shlepping “there” plus the time spent shlepping back divided by the time spent in the activity times 100.  If you spend 10 hours “at Disneyworld” the shlep factor of the activity within the activity is 20 assuming an hour each way (included in the shlepping to Disneyworld is time spent on the silly tram and waiting in line at the gate, included in the shlep back is time spent looking for your rental car; it is probably more than an hour.) 

Strolling around in Disneyworld, taking it as it comes, is not shlepping.  Heading directly for Space Mountain is shlepping.  Even if one incurs no shlep time in getting to the entrance and when getting off are “back in Disneyworld’ immediately, the shlep factor can be quite high, because of “waiting in line”, an excruciatingly slow form of shlepping comparable to “stuck in traffic”.  For a popular ride, this could easily be an hour and a half.  Allowing ten minutes “on the ride” (probably high), we arrive at a shlep factor of 900.

This brings up one of the interesting differences between mature adults and children of all ages.  When an activity is proposed, adults will note, often with dread, the shlep ratio of the activity.  Many of them do not enjoy being in an amusement park.  For them, the entire “activity” is saying to the kids, on arriving home. “Are you happy, now, you have been to Disneyworld?”, which takes less than a minute, but let us assume it is said very slowly and does in fact take a minute.  That one minute is “the activity”.  The 100 hours spent in Orlando and traveling thereto and there back was shlepping.  This creates a truly fantastic shlep factor of 6000.  There is something of an exaggeration there.  The key is that few people are entirely mature adults.  When considered in pairs, it is exceedingly rare that both of them are mature adults.  To the extent that one of them approaches mature adulthood, it is probable that the other leans toward being a child of whatever age.  More significantly, “the activity” to which ones schlep does not have to be pleasurable.  It can also be classified as “an activity” by its importance.  It is important to take your kid’s to Disneyworld.  I don’t know why, but I am sure there is a reason.  Therefore, restricting the activity to the one sentence on return is a gross inflation of the shlep

The prospect of shlepping in no way disturbs a child.  The child is focused on how marvelous the activity will be.  Paradoxically, tolerance for shlepping, while shlepping, is much lower in a child, at least overtly.  An only child will ask “Are we there yet?” approximately 50 times an hour, as opposed to 20, on average for other children.  The reason for the difference is that an only child does not have parents as well trained in either ignoring whining or dealing out consequences of more or less harshness for it.  In addition the only child is denied the diversion of tormenting siblings, one of the most surefire ways to alleviate the agony of shlepping.

Our trip to Disneyworld could illustrate this dramatic difference in shlep factor perception.  The child does not exactly want to go to Disneyworld.  The child wants to ride Space Mountain.  The child was unmoved by the prospect of 100 hours of shlepping and shlepping back required to ride Space Mountain, if riding Space Mountain was defined as the activity.  Subconsciously realizing this the child lobbies for a “trip to Disneyworld” .  By making the journey part of the activity, the shlep factor is reduced dramatically.  It may be that only the drive to the airport is accounted as shlepping from the point of view that the child is pitching.  The child has proposed an activity with a shlep factor of 2.

Bait and switch.  The only point to the trip is to ride Space Mountain.  All else is shlepping.  The child is unfazed by the prospect of a shlep factor of 2,000.  At some level the child realizes the parent’s point of view.  Somewhere deep in the subconscious is the voice of the parent “You mean we shlepped all this way, never mind the expense, just so you can go on one stupid ride”.  The child knows that there will be no adequate answer.  The diversionary tactic of arguing about the stupidity of Space Mountain will be of no avail.  The child will face the parental rage triggered by four figure shlep factors.  So we call it a trip to Disneyworld.  Heck with my first plane ride thrown in and when we drive to the airport we get to go through that cool tunnel.  Despite their own feelings parents are convinced that the child’s shlep factor has been reduced to 0.  Given that the child’s perception dictates the importance of this activity, the parents also assign a shlep factor of 0.

There are some difficulties in adequately planning the operation. There must be positive response to the tunnel and excitement about the plane.  The child is shlepping, but he can’t let on.  The parents are not shlepping.  The plane ride and experiences like harassing the bomb sniffing dog make them believe that they dove right into the activity, when they started the car.

Finally we near the moment of truth.  They run through the park to get to Space Mountain early.  The line is only half an hour.  The factor of 600 is tolerable, when applied to an interval less than hour.  Then that longed for ride with or without accompanying parents (barring a catastrophic outcome such as not being tall enough to get on the ride, or becoming frightened.  The moment of truth comes as the child leaves the ride and speaks to the parents.  Broadly speaking there are three possibilities (each can have endless variations.)

  1. Space Mountain was even better than anticipated.  We must spend the rest of the day either waiting in line to ride Space Mountain or, for a considerably lesser time, actually riding it.  Food and bathroom breaks are negotiable.

This result while somewhat annoying will probably not have a serious affect on the shlep factor.  The child acted as if he was not shlepping on the way here. It may be that only the return trip will be shlepping, which yields a factor of 8.  There is always the highly improbable chance that he will sleep on the plane

  1. Space Mountain was OK.  A schlep factor in the thousands is not justified by an activity that is OK.  There is the possibility that other aspects of the stay in Orlando are of sufficient interest to still qualify it as activity.

  1. The third possibility is that Space Mountain totally sucked and the child wants to go home right now.  There are a number of possible responses.  The most reasonable is, while the child is in the bathroom, to leave as quickly as possible.  Although establishing new identities in another part of the country will be challenging, you can rest assured that your child will grow up in a foster home with seasoned parents who won’t take the kind of crap that you do
In the military they don’t call it the shlep factor.  They call it logistics.  Not only do armies and fleets and air forces often have to shlep considerable distances to wreak the havoc and destruction for which they are designed, there is the matter of all the stuff.  Food, ammunition, fuel, cigarettes, condoms.  The list goes on and on.  All that stuff has to be shlepped to where it is needed.  Some of the more critical military events were all about shlepping.  The Battle of the Atlantic.  What was that about ?  Increasing the shlep  factor for supplies going across the Atlantic. Winston Chruchhill once commented that for some reason the fate of empires was tied up in some god damned things called LST’s.

Why did the Allied advance stall in 1944 ?  Fuel (The anti-shlep drug).  Solution.  Paratroopers.  They can be flown hundreds of miles cutting the shlep factor enormously.  Problem.  Logistics.  Shlepping them is quick, though dangerous.  Shlepping them their stuff is an entirely different proposition.

One of the most famous shleps was led by Moses.  Forty years is a long time, but in reality the shlep factor was tolerably low if viewed in a multi-generational perspective.  History is replete with similar shleps, long and ardurous, but offset by the length that future generations occupy the land.

We might want to consider one of the most ancient stories that we have.  The Odyssey.  When you hear the word used today it usually is a metaphor for some great exploratory journey.  The Odyssey of the Mind or some such tripe. Whoever came up with that metaphor doesn’t know the story, has forgotten it or is relying on the fact that most people don’t know the story The story is called the Odyssey after the main character, Odysseus.  

Odysseus was some sort of low rent king in a place called Ithaca.  There was some other slightly higher up king type that had a really hot young wife.  This other guy told her that he had a promise from a goddess that she should be his main squeeze because she was so hot.  Now is that a great pick-up line or what ?  Anyway it would be kind of inconvenient shtupping her around her husband, those ancient greeks were cool about being gay, but not about adultery.  So they run off to his hometown.

The aggrieved husband, Menalaus, goes to his big brother who is really big time king.  This is where it gets really weird.  Your kid brother comes and tells you your sister-in-law has run off with some good looking punk.  The only thing to discuss is whether he should take the bitch back if she returns.  If you're rich you get together with the lawyer to see how this affects his pre-nup.  If he doesn’t have a pre-nup, the numbskull who thinks with his dick, you figure out how to start hiding his assets.

Not Menelalaus’s big brother, Agamemnon. No.  He says we have to get her back.  Not only that, we have to start a freaking war about it.  And the other guys are willing to fight about it.  Hector the big brother of Paris, the guy who is now happily stupping the hot broad actually ends up getting himself killed over his chuckle-headed brother.  There is a moral here.  Don’t leave your Playboy magazines laying around where your kid brother can find them, so he ends up being a horny bastard and get you both in trouble.  At any rate Agamemnon, the big shot king, tells all the other little half ass kings they’ve got to go fight at the city where the babe is hanging out now.  Her name is Helen.  I’ve never seen a girl named Helen who was good looking, but that’s neither here nor their.

So Odysseus tries to convince Agamemnon that he is crazy (Like Yosarrian in Catch-22).  It doesn’t work.  When you consider what the other ones are up to you’d have a hard time proving you were crazier than they were.  So off they all go to Troy.  You know what they call the guys they are going to fight – Trojans.  Really something people named after rubbers.

Well the war goes on for 10 freaking years, until finally Odysseus figures out a trick to win it, which is not the point.  It is then that the story called the Odyssey really begins.  (The actual poem starts near the end of the story and a lot is handled by flashback)It’s all about what happening at Odyseeus’s home (talk about weird crap) and all the problems he has getting there.  And believe me there are problems.  Don’t get me started. It takes him ten freaking years (although a few of those years are spent stupping some broad on an island, but she was making him do her.  Yeah right.  Try that excuse and see how it works when your significant other finds the Trojan package in your car).

So what would the subtitle of the Odyssey be if we were being really accurate – Schlepping back from Troy.  One of the oldest written stories handed down verbally for hundreds of years before it was written down and its about schlepping.  How about the Bible ?  What’s the second book ?  Exodus.  What does exodous mean ?  Schlepping Out Of Egypt. Now there is an interesting point about this.  Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad is following a group of tourists to the Holy Land around 1870 or so.  This was one of the high points in what is sometimes called the Transportation Revolution.  It takes longer to go across the continent now than it did 10 or 15 years ago.  Whatever technological progress there is has been offset by security issues.  Still if you told somebody 150 years ago that you could get up early in the morning in New York and be in California before the sun went down and they believed you they would be impressed.  Nonetheless it was the people alive around 1870 that had seen the really big drops in travel time.  Our parents may have seen it drop from 5 days to five hours with the advent of aircraft, but 19th century people saw it go from three months to three weeks (and then to five days).  The first big drop was more infrastructure than technology..  At any rate the pre-railroad Western transportation entrepreneur was Ben Holliday whose stage coachs with regular places to change horses seemed to fly across the country.

Here’s a story Mark Twain told :
No doubt everybody has heard of Ben Holliday--a man of prodigious energy, who used to send mails and passengers flying across the continent in his overland stage-coaches like a very whirlwind--two thousand long miles in fifteen days and a half, by the watch! But this fragment of history is not about Ben Holliday, but about a young New York boy by the name of Jack, who traveled with our small party of pilgrims in the Holy Land (and who had traveled to California in Mr. Holliday's overland coaches three years before, and had by no means forgotten it or lost his gushing admiration of Mr. H.) Aged nineteen. Jack was a good boy--a good-hearted and always well-meaning boy, who had been reared in the city of New York, and although he was bright and knew a great many useful things, his Scriptural education had been a good deal neglected--to such a degree, indeed, that all Holy Land history was fresh and new to him, and all Bible names mysteries that had never disturbed his virgin ear.
Also in our party was an elderly pilgrim who was the reverse of Jack, in that he was learned in the Scriptures and an enthusiast concerning them. He was our encyclopedia, and we were never tired of listening to his speeches, nor he of making them. He never passed a celebrated locality, from Bashan to Bethlehem, without illuminating it with an oration. One day, when camped near the ruins of Jericho, he burst forth with something like this:
"Jack, do you see that range of mountains over yonder that bounds the Jordan valley? The mountains of Moab, Jack! Think of it, my boy--the actual mountains of Moab--renowned in Scripture history! We are actually standing face to face with those illustrious crags and peaks--and for all we know" [dropping his voice impressively], "our eyes may be resting at this very moment upon the spot WHERE LIES THE MYSTERIOUS GRAVE OF MOSES! Think of it, Jack!"
"Moses who?" (falling inflection).
"Moses who! Jack, you ought to be ashamed of yourself--you ought to be ashamed of such criminal ignorance. Why, Moses, the great guide, soldier, poet, lawgiver of ancient Israel! Jack, from this spot where we stand, to Egypt, stretches a fearful desert three hundred miles in extent--and across that desert that wonderful man brought the children of Israel!--guiding them with unfailing sagacity for forty years over the sandy desolation and among the obstructing rocks and hills, and landed them at last, safe and sound, within sight of this very spot; and where we now stand they entered the Promised Land with anthems of rejoicing! It was a wonderful, wonderful thing to do, Jack! Think of it!"
"Forty years? Only three hundred miles? Humph! Ben Holliday would have fetched them through in thirty-six hours!"
The boy meant no harm. He did not know that he had said anything that was wrong or irreverent. And so no one scolded him or felt offended with him--and nobody could but some ungenerous spirit incapable of excusing the heedless blunders of a boy.

I thought that that was really good point, though.  So I asked somebody about that.  He explained to me that the point of the 40 years was so that nobody born in slavery would enter the Promised Land (kind of mean if you ask me)  Anyway we could look at them not schlepping across the desert.  Rather they were wandering in the desert. Wandering, when not used ironically, is not schlepping. When you are wandering the movement is the activity.  Wandering is exploring without an agenda.

The Exodus story and the distorted view of the Odyssey provide the key to eliminating or greatly reduce schlepping.  The Odyssey that Odysseus was on was schlepping.  Every other “odyssey” has not been schlepping because the journey is the activity.  So you are not schlepping when you are on a cruise line or exploring or patrolling.  Why ?  Because the journey is the activity.

I hate to have a sappy conclusion, but the conclusion is sappy.  Life is the journey not the destination.  When you stay in the moment you are never schlepping.  The activity is wherever you are and whatever you are doing in the moment.  You are always in the activity and so never schlepping

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Colonel and the Pacifist

Women’s suffrage, temperance, pacifism (called non-resistance) and communes (called “associationism”.  The 1840’s can seem a lot like the 1960’s.  Except for the temperance part.  The connection was most obvious in quotation from Henry David Thoreau that became quite popular.  In the 1960’s everyone was marching to a different drummer. Often it was the same different drummer, but life is full of those types of paradoxes.  “Reform” in the 1850’s, though started focusing on one all consuming issue.  Slavery.  Temperance and women’s rights went on the back burner.  Associationism was all but forgotten or converted into corporate paternalism.  Non-violence was, for the most part, entirely abandoned, with violent means being actively embraced.

Two Unitarian ministers illustrate this transition in two critical events.  They are Thomas Wentworth Higginson, the colonel and Adin Ballou, the pacifist or as he put it, the non-resistant.  They had a lot in common.  Their lives spanned most of the 19th century.  Higginson, born in 1824, was a generation younger than Ballou, who was born in 1802. The generational difference was a factor in their different views.  They both lived long lives Ballou dying in 1890 and Higginson in 1911.  In the roll of Unitarian Ministers, they might each get an asterisk.  Higginson was a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, but he only served two parishes for a total of eight years.  Newburyport, where he was dismissed for his anti-slavery views and “The Free Church” in Worcester, which he left to enter military service. After the war, he did not return to ministry but made his living as a writer.  His writing career was distinguished and it appears that he barely missed being included in the canon of 19th Century American Literature that included his friends Emerson and Thoreau.

Ballou spent almost his entire adult life in the ministry much of it as a Unitarian.  He was, however, a Universalist.  He came out on what was then the wrong side of the Restorationist controversy.  The Restorationists held that those who were sinful in this life would go through some sort of process rather than everyone going straight to heaven.  The Restorationists  position was sarcastically summarized by his older and more distinguished, at least with in the denomination, cousin Hosea as “So you think they need to be smoked a bit.”  Adin was also upset to observe Hosea manipulating two congregations into something of a bidding war for his services.  So on top of everything else, cousin Hosea must have been better paid.  At any rate, Adin’s heretical views caused him to leave Universalism and become a Unitarian.  He was not overall impressed with Unitarianism or Unitarians, but he appreciated the non-creedal principles that allowed him to belong.

Ballou was also a writer.  For many years, he published a newspaper to promote the Restorationist viewpoint.  In his later life, he supplemented his income by writing, producing the tomelike History of the Town of Milford and the even weightier, literally, History of the Ballous in America.  The former is prized as a collectible, at least in the Blackstone Valley.  The latter is, I understand, a heritage item among the numerous Ballou descendants of today. I own both.  I am not planning on reading them anytime soon.

His works of more general interest were his Autobiography, The History of the Hopedale Community and Christian Non-Resistance.  Adin Ballou was in no danger of being part of the canon that Higginson barely missed.

There are several important differences.  The age difference can account for their different views on non-resistance, which was generally rejected by the second generation of abolitionists, much to the chagrin of William Lloyd Garrison.  Their other major difference is their relationship to the intellectual life of New England.  Higginson, although not wealthy, was an insider.  His father had been treasurer of Harvard.  He attended Harvard himself having a distinguished academic career.  He was one of the founders of Atlantic Magazine and a frequent contributor.  He lived much of his life in Cambridge and Newport.

Ballou was untouched by academic training at the college level.  Although he did not grow up in dire poverty, his father was too cheap to send him to college.  I suspect that if he had gone to college, we might have lost one of the 19th century’s most original thinkers. Except for a brief time in Brooklyn, he spent his career in the Blackstone Valley serving in Milford, Mendon and Hopedale (Hopedale being the town that his community morphed into).

What I have identified as the critical events for each of them occurred around 1855.  In the grand scheme of “Reform”, we might consider Higginson’s life leading up to his event as a prequel.  His event marks his movement into the center stage, although never quite in the starring role.  Ballou’s long life after his event might be viewed as an epilogue.  Each of the incidents occurs around 1855.

There has been a somewhat tedious debate as to whether the American Civil War (or whatever else you might want to call it) was about slavery of “states rights”.  The debate can sometimes take the form of “Tastes Great” “Less Filling”.  I believe the answer is simple the war was about a state right, the right to secede from the Union.  If, however, you read the South Carolina Secession Ordinance and the Constitution of the Confederacy, it is hard to discern what secession is about other than slavery.  Much of the state’s rights part of the ordinance has to do with the federal government not cracking down on the states that allowed people to agitate against slavery and interfere with the return of fugitive slaves to their masters.  To the extent, we can take the Ordinance at its face value; we have to view Higginson and his ilk as a serious aggravating factor.

By 1854, Higginson was well established in Reform circles.  When a major temperance convention refused to allow women on its executive committee, Lucy Stone and he led a walkout.  He was one of those who called for a national women’s rights convention in 1850.  Although, he did not attend, he among those who did attend were Lucy Stone, Abby Kelley, Frederick Douglas and William Lloyd Garrison. 

The event in 1854 was quite dramatic.  Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave, was being held in Boston.  Attempts at legal redress had failed.  The Fugitive Slave Law was biased in favor of the claimant.  On top of that Burns had made a tactical error in admitting that he was the slave in question and coming up with a story to justify his trip north (He fell asleep on a ship that he was working on).  Extralegal methods were required.  Not long before a fugitive named Shadrach was freed by a group of black Bostonians walking in one end of the courthouse and out the other with Shadrach in their company.  Even in 1854, disunion was in the air.  The failure of Northern states to honor the constitutional rights of southerners to recover their rightful property was a provocation that must be suppressed.  It is estimated that the federal government ended up spending $50,000 on the rendition of Burns including a specially chartered ship and a company of marines (The rendition of Anthony Burns, unlike the recent Halls of Montezuma did not work its way into their hymn.  It seems that not all our country’s battles are worth remembering).  The amount spent was so far out of proportion to Anthony Burns’ economic value that a Richmond newspaper commented that more such victories would bankrupt the South.

The attempted rescuers of Burns faced several obstacles.  A rescue attempt was expected, so he was in a third floor room with barred windows and armed guards.  Most of the crowd were non-resistants.  Their “plan” was to stand in the street pointing and yelling “Shame, shame” as Burns was escorted to the ship by a motley crew including the Leathernecks.  Higginson and some others thought more direct action was required.  The final problem was that they were not very well organized or disciplined.  At least that was the view of the future Colonel of Infantry.

Signals got crossed and the group that battered down the door of the building where Burns was being kept was not as large as was hoped.  There was a confused struggle and one or more gunshots.  In the end, Burns was not rescued and James Batchelder was dead from one of the bullets fired.  If you look at the website of the US Marshals, you will see the roll of honor, marshals killed in the line of duty.  The second name on the list along with the date of death (May 24, 1854) is James Batchelder.  Unlike the fallen marshals to come in the next 50 years he was not killed in the Wild West by desperadoes.  He was shot a short distance from Faneuil Hall in Boston by otherwise respectable people.  He was not maintaining law and order on the wild frontier.  He was returning a runaway slave.

I don’t fault the marshals for counting Batchelder on their roll of honor.  The law is the law.  Marshals are marshals.  Dead is dead.  The killer of Batchelder, who, at least by his own account was not Higginson was never brought to “justice”.  If he had been clearly identified, there would not have been a Massachusetts jury to either indict or convict him. It was a bit, like what went on in Mississippi one hundred years hence.  Only they finally got those guys.  Higginson suggested that they take up a collection for Batchelder’s widow, but the suggestion didn’t get very far

After the attempted rescue of Burns, Higginson just went from bad to worse as far as the defenders of the status quo were concerned.  Because of the Fugitive Slave Law, runaways were not really safe until they reached Canada.  Higginson declared that form henceforth Worcester would be Canada.  A slave catcher did once attempt to operate in Worcester.  He only got out of the city alive because Higginson and a group of abolitionists escorted him to the railway station.  One of the escort group kicked the guy in the ass every time Higginson wasn’t watching.

The next step in the radicalization of Thomas Wentworth Higginson was the Kansas issue.  The Missouri compromise, which had dictated the legality of slavery in newly admitted states based on their geographical relationship to the Mason Dixon line, had been superseded by the concept of “popular sovereignty”.  The residents of the territory would vote on whether slavery would be allowed.  The slaves didn’t get to vote nor did women for that matter.  In practice, though there was a significant liberalization of electoral qualification.  For practical purposes, you didn’t have to be a resident.

This gave the pro-slavery forces an edge.  They could just stroll over from Missouri, vote and go back home.  Abolitionists, on the other, hand actually had to go to Kansas, which is somewhat further from New England than is Missouri.  They went there to stay.  There was a New England Emigrant Aid Society to help them on their way.  The situation in Kansas became a violent convoluted mess.  It was referred to as Bleeding Kansas and Bloody Kansas in reference to the violence, but it could well be called bloody Kansas in the English sense of an annoying mess.  There were two legislatures for a while.  It became a sacred cause of democracy to not require that the constitution created by a convention elected through clear fraud be not put to a vote of the present residents.  This of course was coming from people who thought that their equal rights were being infringed because they couldn’t take their slaves wherever they felt like taking them.

Higginson went to Kansas and wrote about his adventures there.  He befriended an abolitionist notorious from what was called the Potawamie massacre.  Higginson would ultimately write an article for Atlantic on the man’s family.  More significantly, he befriended him and helped support his next enterprise.  Thomas Wentworth Higginson, along with Theodore Parker, was one of the “Secret Six” that helped financing John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.  Besides throwing a scare into the South, the reaction to the raid in the North where Brown was openly mourned was an outrage.  The raid on Harper’s Ferry is much better known than the Anthony Burns rescue.  It was also botched much more dramatically with several of Browns men killed on the site including one of his sons.  Higginson’s involvement as a backer in the affair gave him the experience of being on the wrong side of the law.  None of the Secret Six were ever prosecuted for what in effect was a treasonous plot.  Casualties on the side of law and order were much lighter but one Marine was killed in the assault on Browns redoubt.  Private Luke Quinn is sometimes considered the first casualty of the Civil War, but, in his auotbiography, Higginson gives the honor to James Batchelder.  The Marshals came on the scene later and picked up the prisoners from the Leathernecks.  It would seem from the Burns incident that they learned to send in the Marines as the first to fight for right (as then understood) if not for freedom.

Higginson was not done. When war broke out, he took a commission as a captain in a Massachusetts regiment.  Soon though he was offered a colonel’s rank as commander of the First South Carolina Volunteers.  He had not switched sides.  FSCV consisted of recently liberated slaves.  Higginson was the ideal officer to command them.  Unlike many white officers, he had developed a high opinion of the fighting abilities of African Americans from his abolitionist days.  He recognized their peculiar speech as a dialect worth studying.  After the war he published a collection of spirituals that he gathered by listening at the fringe of the campfires.  In my opinion this was more important than Emily Dickinson’s poetry probably his greatest source of editorial fame.  Under Higginson the regiment was on the fringe of the war and had no great military accomplishments.  They captured Jacksonville Florida but the high command did not think it was worth hanging onto.  He played a critical roll though.  A more typical bigoted officer might not have had the confidence in his men that was necessary to train them.  He might even have provoked a mutiny.  If this had caused an abandonment of the experiment with “colored troops”, the effect might have been profound.  Over one million men served the Union in what became a war of attrition.  178,000 were African American.

Ballou’s incident is not nearly exciting as the Burns rescue attempt.  As a matter a fact, although it clearly happened in some form, we do not have a good description.  I like to think of there being a meeting although it might have been Adin reading a letter or a memorandum.  What was the topic of the meeting?  Be still my beating heart.  Adin was being taught about “depreciation” a concept he had overlooked not being a person well skilled in finance.  Could three men sitting in a room calmly discussing accounting principles be as fraught with significance as an incident involving a company of marines and the gunning down of a US Marshall?  Well maybe not as fraught, but fraught enough.

The community founded by Adin Ballou was one of several intentional communities founded in the period between 1830 and 1850.  In a bit of hyperbole Emerson wrote that every man had the constitution of a new community in his pocket.  The three most commonly mentioned are Brook Farm, Fruitlands and the Northhampton Association.  Brook Farm is by far the most famous having the luck, good or bad, to be the model for the fictional Blithedale of the Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne, an occasional visitor, who defaulted on his financial pledge to the community.  Ballou’s community ran longer than the three of them put together.  Known variously as Hopedale and Fraternal Communion One (in retrospect Fraternal Communion One and Only) embraced most contemporary ism’s – abolitionism, pacifism, feminism and temperance.  At its core was a Christian Perfectionism that renounced all forms of coercion based on violence.  This did not just mean not serving in the militia.  It also meant not voting, serving on juries or suing.  Ultimately, all “carnal” government rests on force.

The economic system was perhaps the most significant feature.  The community was organized as a “joint stock company” which seemed to have some of the attributes of a contemporary limited liability company.  The organization was meant to navigate the dangerous channel between the Scylla of communism and the Charybdis of unbridled capitalism.  Those who provided capital were entitled to a limited return either 4% or 6% and wages were not equal, but rather were limited to those of “a first class operative”.  After 17 years, the community was doing so well that Adin thought he could hand off the leadership and focus on the Practical Christian Republic, which would be a network of Hopedales, ultimately covering the world.  Grandiose as the scheme may appear, he was better grounded than most such visionaries.  Hopedale was real and it seemed to work.  As a matter of fact, it probably really did work until George Draper convinced Adin Ballou that it did not.  Which brings us to the incident.

On February 5th 1855, the financial report of the community was presented.  It showed assets of $65,420.24 and liabilities of $65,270.09 for a deficit of $145.15.  The community did not have a negative net worth however.  Included in “liabilities” was $41,300 in joint stock.  This was the amount of money that had been contributed by members.  Thus, the community was in a strong position from a balance sheet viewpoint.  In calculating the net income that had produced the small deficit there were payments for labor of community members of about $16,000. 

At our presumed meeting, though, George Draper says to Adin.  Ah Reverend Ballou, but have you considered depreciation?  Depreciation?  Yes, there should be journal entries decreasing the carrying value of tangible assets to reflect wear and tear.  What would your deficit be then?

William Draper, George’s son, in defending what amounted to his father’s hostile takeover of the community made much of the depreciation issue.  He saw that as a reflection of the community’s poor accounting.  He related the story of a tool.  The original cost was never depreciated and even worse each time there was a repair the cost of the repair was capitalized increasing the book value of the used tool.  If you, like I, reminisce about the famous frauds through the ages you will recall that this was what they were doing at World Com.  If earnings were, off they would decrease repairs and increase fixed assets to get back on target.  It doesn’t hold a candle to the complex machinations at Enron, but it got the job done.  The World Com boys wouldn’t have fooled William Draper who learned good fixed asset accounting from his dad, George.  There is one little hole in his analysis though.  Included in the Hopedale balance sheet was about $145 in tools.  If the single overvalued tool that so horrified the Drapers, father and son, were the only tool and it was effectively worthless, the assets of the community would be reduced by less than 1%.

Adin thought that George gave the community a good deal by arranging that none of the members would be responsible for any debts.  Subsequently he bought brother Ebenezer’s share of the enterprise in order to sell it to son William – at a profit.  William resented that at the time but later in life came to believe that it was character building.  You can read about this sad story in a book called from Commune to Company Town.  You must go hunting if you want to find the story of the tool.  It appears in William Draper’s autobiography, which is not easy to come by.

After the war, Higginson mainly focused on his literary career.  He made some trouble on the Newport school board when he tried to get them to integrate.  He served a term in the Massachusetts legislature where he worked for woman’s suffrage.  Some New England abolitionists put their belief in equality aside when dealing with the Irish immigrants in their midst.  Not so Higginson who also campaigned to not force Catholic children to read the King James Version of the bible in the public schools.  One of the first instances of intolerance that he had witnessed as a child was the torching of the Ursuline convent in Charlestown.  Higginson’s consistency on human rights issues produced an interesting result.  When one of his proposal for woman’s suffrage was introduced, two Irish legislators walked off the floor.  When he asked them later why they had done so the answer was that they didn’t agree with his proposal, but they could not bring themselves to vote against him.  In the twilight of his life, he spent time opposing the new imperialism of the US coming out of the Spanish American War.  He died in 1911.  At his funeral there was an honor guard of African American soldiers.

Ballou spent the rest of his life as a minister.  He wrote several books including a History of the Hopedale Community in which he confessed to his ignorance of fixed asset accounting to be a major factor in its downfall.  He died in 1890.  William Draper paid for a statue of him to be erected.  Before funding the statue Draper made certain that, other people were paying for the land.  Hopefully whoever owns the statute has been recording appropriate depreciation deductions.

In terms of the advancement of human rights it is hard to not believe that the violent means advocated and practiced by Higginson accomplished much more than the non-resistance of Ballou.  The war, which Higginson gives himself a lot of credit for winning (Without Higginson, First South Carolina fails.  Therefore Union does not have 178,000 “colored troops”, which arguably tips the balance) gave us the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. The latter two were not, however, well enforced until the 1960’s.

Ballou in the introduction to his autobiography wrote:

Times and generations are coming that will justly estimate me and my work, and assign both to their proper place in the providential plan for the progress and redemption of humanity.  For them, as it has proved, have I lived and labored, rather than for my contemporaries.  To them I appeal for vindication and approval; to them I bequeath whatever is valuable and worth preserving of my possessions
It can sound like the sour grapes of “I could have been a better leader if they had just given me better followers”.  However, there is actually something to be said for his view.

The image I like to pick to support his thesis is a Norman Rockwell print.  We see a little black girl surrounded by four men in suits.  To emphasize the difference in size we do not even see their heads.  They are wearing yellow armbands.  The yellow armbands were to identify them as US Marshalls.  They are escorting Ruby Bridges to her first day at school.  What would James Batchelder or the marshals that took John Brown off the hands of the marines had thought?  I would like to think it would be “Marshalls are Marshalls.  The law’s the law.”  No Marshalls went on the role of honor that day.  No marines were required, although in a similar drama at a high school in Little Rock paratroopers were brought in.  By truck.  Oddly enough this particular struggle had begun in Kansas over school integration.  It was definitely less exciting than the violence in Bleeding Kansas, but the Brown decision is today better remembered.  The Supreme Court had gotten into the act contradicting Justice Tawney’s holding in the Dred Scott decision that African Americans had no rights a white man was bound to respect.

When we think of the civil rights struggle of the fifties and sixties the figure that comes to mind is Martin Luther King, who preached not “non-resistnace” but rather non-violent resistance.  The people who fought with him faced violence.  The faced it unarmed.  Some of them died.  By the reckoning of the civil rights time line on Information please there were 11. 

I’m sure with careful research you could come up with more, but surely nothing like the 600,000 that died in the war.  Or even the five thousand that fell on one hot day in a place in Maryland called Antietam or Sharpsburg depending which side you were on - even after 9/11 the deadliest day in American history.  Probably not even the 150 Harvard graduates that Higginson helped memorialize.  It is counter intuitive that unarmed resistors were much less likely to be killed than those who were armed, but that is how it worked out.  What does this have to do with Ballou?

It is fairly well know that Martin Luther King followed the lead of Gandhi.  Gandhi was influenced by one of Higginson’s friends Henry David Thoreau, but more so by Leo Tolstoy.  However, who influenced Tolstoy ?  In the Kingdom of God is within he tells us

Another champion of non-resistance has been overlooked in the same
way--the American Adin Ballou, who lately died, after spending
fifty years in preaching this doctrine.  Lord God, to calmly and
meekly abide the doctrine.  How great the ignorance is of
everything relating to the question of non-resistance may be seen
from the fact that Garrison the son, who has written an excellent
biography of his father in four great volumes, in answer to my
inquiry whether there are existing now societies for non-
resistance, and adherents of the doctrine, told me that as far as
he knew that society had broken up, and that there were no
adherents of that doctrine, while at the very time when he was
writing to me there was living, at Hopedale in Massachusetts, Adin
Ballou, who had taken part in the labors of Garrison the father,
and had devoted fifty years of his life to advocating, both orally
and in print, the doctrine of nonresistance.

Tolstoy goes on to quote from Ballou’s work extensively concluding

I mention all this to show the unmistakable interest
which such works ought to have for men who make a profession of
Christianity, and because one would have thought Ballou's work
would have been well known, and the ideas expressed by him would
lave been either accepted or refuted; but such has not been the

Ballou died in August, 1890, and there was as obituary notice of
him in an American journal of Christian views (RELIGIO-
PHILOSOPHICAL JOURNAL, August 23).  In this laudatory notice it is
recorded that Ballou was the spiritual director of a parish, that
he delivered from eight to nine thousand sermons, married one
thousand couples, and wrote about five hundred articles; but there
is not a single word said of the object to which he devoted his
life; even the word "non-resistance" is not mentioned.

Two ahisotorical thought experiments come into my mind when I think about this.  One is the pragmatic one.  Although it involves throwing around some arbitrary numbers, it is within reason that you could have bought all the slaves for what the war cost.  One of the reasons that this would not have happened is that many of those opposed to slavery were only against its expansion and actually, they were as opposed to having free blacks move into their states and territories, as they were opposed to slaves being brought in.  Nonetheless, it has a special irony.  One estimate of the total value of all slaves was 1.6 billion dollars.  The war cost the Union in current money alone on that order.  Towards the end, it was running a million dollars a day. (This with privates earning $13 per month, unless they were black). Imagine if those resources had gone into building infrastructure instead of destroying it.   

The other thought experiment has somewhat more plausibility, though not much.  It was dangerous to be an abolitionist, but it really depended on where you lived.  It was not much of a problem if you lived in Worcester Mass, but Charleston SC was a different story.  The Grimke sisters decided to make themselves scarce from their native city.  To go to Charleston, stand on the church steps, and give a speech that said slavery was wrong would have been suicidal.  The thought experiment is to ask what would have happened if they had done it any way.  They wouldn’t have hung William Lloyd Garrison.  Hanging would have been much too good for him; something particularly gruesome would have to be thought up on the spot. Run of the mill abolitionists though would probably have been hung after maybe being given a chance to learn their lesson with a good thrashing like the one Charles Sumner received on the floor of the Senate.  But what if they kept coming?  Would they have hung the Grimke sisters and Abby Kelley? If we were to start in 1855 say how many people they would have been willing to hang every day in Charleston just for saying they thought slavery was wrong ?  If they hung 100 per day for the next ten years, they still would not have come close to the lives that the war took. 

Of course, you could not find the 365,000 people that it would take to do that although I think they would have stopped well before that.  But they were able to find over 1,000,000 men to go down there armed which, again counter intuitive as it might seem, was probably even more dangerous. 

A contemporary Unitarian Universalist  parish would probably have no qualms about hiring somebody like Thomas Wentworth Higginson.  He would fit right in.  Ballou’s brand of unbending Christian Perfectionism would probably not go over all that well.  His poor record of fiscal management would probably not be held against him though.  But when the country picked one African American to honor with a holiday it was not someone that Higginson celebrated in his series of articles on slave revolts  like Denmark Vesey or Nat Turner.  It was Martin Luther King whose principles trace straight back to Ballou.