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When Peace Broke Out


ww1British and German soldiers made history in 1914 when they stopped shooting and started to sing carols and play football together.

The facts almost beggar belief. At the first Christmas of a hideous war, Germans and British sang carols to each other, lit each other’s cigarettes in no man’s land, exchanged souvenirs, took group photographs, even played football. Some sort of accommodation with the enemy, from cheerful waves and shouted greetings to full-scale fraternisation, took place over two-thirds of the 30 miles of the western front held by the British Expeditionary Force.
On Christmas Eve at Plugstreet Wood, Germans put Christmas trees on the parapet of their front-line trench and sang Stille Nacht (Silent Night), then largely unfamiliar to British ears but instantly acknowledged as a carol of extraordinary beauty. Moved to respond the territorials opposite struck up with The First Noel. So it continued until, when the British sang O Come, All Ye Faithful, they heard the Germans joining in with the Latin words Adeste Fideles. Recalling the event many years later, one former soldier commented: “I thought this a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of the war.”

A memorable joint burial service between the trenches on Christmas morning offers another uplifting detail. The prayers and readings were spoken first in English by a battalion chaplain and then in German by a young divinity student. “It was an extraordinary and most wonderful sight,” wrote one witness. “The Germans formed up on one side, the English on the other, the officers standing in front, every head bared. I think it was a sight one will never see again.” To deal decently with the dead was one powerful motive for establishing a truce. The Christmas spirit provided another. “It doesn’t seem right to be killing each other at Xmas time,” a Tommy noted in his diary.

Details which seem almost ludicrous enrich the story. A British Tommy met his German barber from High Holborn in London and had a short-back-and-sides between the lines. A German who had raided an abandoned house strutted about wearing a blouse, skirt and top hat and sporting an umbrella. After a bout of between-the-lines photography, one officer wrote in a letter home that another truce had been fixed for new year’s day “as the Germans want to see how the photos come out”.

Not everybody approved. One officer, ordered to prepare a more usable pitch by filling in shell holes, angrily refused to comply. This must surely be a very early case of a failure to create a level playing field. The proposed match did not take place. Some Frenchwomen, hearing of the goings-on at the front, spat at members of one battalion next time they were in town. The medical officer of a non-trucing unit, furious at the unsoldierly behaviour of a neighbouring battalion, approvingly reported “a bit of a scrap” between his men and theirs. He wrote home: “We aren’t here to pal up with the enemy.”

Yet the general reaction was one of amazed acceptance of a happening that delighted far more than it dismayed. Letters home confirm the incredible nature of the occasion. “It would have made a good chapter in Dickens’s Christmas Carol,” wrote one soldier. “Just you think,” mused another, “that while you were eating your turkey I was out talking with the men I had been trying to kill a few hours before! It was astounding.”

The truce was not organised, nor, as it might be assumed, contagious, with units catching the spark from their neighbours. Rather, it was the spontaneous product of a mass of local initiatives. Thus peaceful areas were interlaced with “business as usual” zones where hostilities continued. This could have unhappy results. One sergeant crossing no man’s land to offer cigarettes to a friendly German regiment was shot by a sniper from a regiment not observing a ceasefire. He was officially described as “killed in action”, his “action” being the distinctly unmilitary one of attempting to carry Woodbines to the enemy. The Germans sent across an apology.

At a time when the world is yet again at war, this strange event of 1914 – with its message of common humanity and goodwill between enemies – has a special relevance. Far from losing its attraction, it is a story that seems to gain in resonance and potency as the years go by.

Excerpts from Malcolm Brown Sunday December 23 2001 The Observer

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There’s no denying how science describes global warming

Letter to the Editor, The Times of  Gainesville, Georgia
October 24, 2013

The letter by W.T. Hinds in The Times on Friday cannot be permitted to stand unanswered. His inaccurate and distorted description of this year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is breathtaking.

I have no notion of his intent in describing the IPCC Report as a political document. IPCC, a body established by the United Nations, has been a driving force in asking questions and urging scientists to do the research that can answer the critical questions about the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere and its waters, which was first reported in 1979. Reports are summaries, analyses and predictions derived from thousands of scientific studies.

The IPCC is meticulous in reporting level of certainty for all data and conclusions reported. The information is collected and made available to governments (political entities) so that they may develop remedies and prepare their nations for the radical changes coming. Science, the journal of record for general science states: “The latest assessment includes plenty of highly confident statements about how humans are messing with the climate… In fact, the new report presents the consensus range (how much/how soon) with far more certainty than ever before.” The full report and the excellent summary may be found at www.ipcc.ch.

Mr. Hinds quotes a single meteorologist known for years for his stance denying the facts of the Earth’s changing climate. Highly compensated by carbon-based energy industries, Dr. Richard Lindzen’s claims that the Earth is no longer warming have been readily refuted by many. This from the National Geographic website: “‘If you take 1998 out, there is no pause,’ (Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) said. According to NASA data, the 10 hottest years since 1880 have all happened since 1998, with 2010 being the hottest of all.”

The falsehoods repeated by Mr. Hinds and his selected mentor, Lindzen, are not simple differences of opinion. They rise to the level of psychological denial and are an invitation to dangerous willing ignorance.

W. Lorraine Watkins

More on violence

I don’t believe limiting or at least delaying access to lethal weapons will resolve all or even most issues of alienation and violence. I also don’t see how unlimited access is related to freedom.

Knowing of and fearing violence in this country has already led to severe limitations on travel and full joyful participation in certain public events and the fear continues to spread.  Now every time I shop at the Gainesvile  PetSmart I wonder if the people in front of me are likely to pull out guns as they did a few weeks ago. Now I find myself being less trustful and friendly in chatting with strangers standing in line.

While individual pursuits bring their own esteem and joy, participation with others in common ventures and goals bring trust and the sense of importance and belonging. It diminishes the feelings of alienation that drives the rage at and fear of faceless others (the public) that creates mass killers.  IMO we as a culture have tipped the balance too far away from public projects in favor of privatization of enterprises which by definition lead to a less cooperative and more competitive, even dangerous social atmosphere. Inevitably there are those who become so excluded by lack of power, fraud, random chance or incompetence that they become alienated and fodder for violence.

Average people living in nations that have public spaces and shared activities along with a modicum of decent conditions of living are just more peaceful and happier. The need for collaborative national events, projects and goals is proven in the very fact that “terrorism” is defined as violence against the public and those episodes do bring so more widespread reactions than “private violence.”  About the only projects of any size the citizens in this nation have shared in for years is the violence of war.

Something to Think About

Oklahoma: Something to think about: The massive rains that flood Oklahoma today came from a heating Gulf of Mexico putting increasing level of moisture into the atmosphere. under the best of circumstances there is no doubt this will continue to increase for many years creating events on land of greater frequency and severity. Check out the news as to what now the capital of Oklahoma and metro are are dealing with today.

Query: Just how long can Oklahoma continue to operate as a civil entity while having to deal with the chaos of weather events?

Also as the jet stream changes in response to the warming and melting in the Arctic it is predictable that these kind of events will be brought to wider areas of the country. Climate change is not just another “shock” for business to profit from.

President Promises Perpetual Chaos.

Maybe we won’t notice the foxes raiding the hen houses. Sooner or later, we will notice.

I can’t believe what I just heard! Obama is guaranteeing perpetual chaos, violence under oppression of the American people. It is disgusting that he could with such banality make such statements. Their hatred of us is arising de novo. We are just innocent victims of inexplicable ideology held by what he chooses to call an “organization.” (If he has been so successful in destroying al Qaeda leadership and their families and neighbors ;why is there still an “organization”?

The voices of the “terrorists” and their grievances are out their and clear. He is choosing and calling on Americans to ignore them.

I am certain the oligarchs of power through the plunder of chaos are reassured.
The rest of us must be very concerned.

The Worship of Violence

I have for some years of watching life be lived come to the belief that, whether the individual or the society, what prevails is what we admire.  Our lives, and those of our progeny,  become the beneficiaries of the values we hold dearest.

These comments are prelude to the most recent visitation of mass violence in Boston. The specific victims are just that and not to be the recipients of “blame” but, at most, hubris. No one jumping to his death from a high widow can be other than a tragic ignorance of the working of nature.

We may decry the viciousness of violence and mourn those among us who become its victims; but our laws and ideologies are formed from the  claimed virtue,  the “right” to bear lethal weapons and use them at a hair trigger provocation.
“Due process” has become bypassed and perverted to the point of meaninglessness through the process of preemption; preemptive killing, whether in preemptive wars, targeted individuals on the basis of “signature” behavior  or defense of home and property when believing they might be in danger.    There is little suggestion that in practice consideration is given to the rights of targets or to their impact on world opinion.
These rights to lethal weapons and their use  are so admired they are extended to virtually every individual in the nation based on the notion that the Constitution endows each of us with the inalienable right to commit violence even  in the cause of sedition and rebellion.  When will sanity prevail?

Book Review: What Kinship is and What it is Not.

This is a two part essay by Marshall Sahlins, well regarded anthropologist who recently resigned from the National Academy of Sciences  in protest of the body’s election of Napoleon Chagon to membership.  The NPR account of this caught my eye and I picked up the book.

For me this was a difficult read but I am not an anthropologist and have difficulty understanding why they all seem to need to make their points through observations of marginal societies on the verge of extinction. But it’s their Petri dish.  The author’s use of metaphor created from these observations is quite skillful. His conclusions regarding the place of genetics and culture in determining and forming the institutions, in particular kinship, that are so characteristic of humans are compelling.  We are born into a kinship that is defined by how we label and share experiences with others. We are not born with a pre-determined  pattern of social behavior.

Chagnon’s work is not the topic of this book but it is worthy of commenting on in this review because his theories tend to sustain the politically motivated ideology of radical individualism through violence that beginning with among others Ardrey and his The Territorial Imperative has biased much of the thinking in this area over the past 60 or so years.

What Kinship is and What it is Not may be found in Amazon Books 


The Fundamentalists – Billy Graham

Comment on Joan King Column — Defining the nature of our reality. April 3,2013


At the risk of banality; living life is a pretty complicated process.

I think Ms. King is describing the Rev. Graham columns as stimulating her thought processes as to religion. She incorporates his ideas along with her experiences and learning over years in expanding insights.

There is a certain comfort in Rev. Graham’s messages that remind many of us of our childhood Sunday School understanding of how things are. It was so simple and safe, wonderful for the growing child. But as Paul says, “we must (some day) put away childish things.” I personally am offended by those who who so debase my human capacities for nuance, complexity and potential for great achievements. And not just for technology, but also for a life of moral decision that nourishes and enhances the joy of the gifts of the earth, including its people.

Most accept that the ability to determine reality and act “logically” is in a large part learned as well as determined by availability and grasp of information provided by the senses. It is highly influenced by the internal processes of memory and what we call “education.” By far more often than not, concepts and actions that are judged by others to be irrational adhere to a perfect rationality when understood in the context of information held by the individual or group.

It is disturbing to contemplate that Christian fundamentalists such as Graham insist on their concrete, minimalist interpretation of Biblical literature being the sole source of information for living, for decisions of not only personal morality but the very truths of reality that science, and education in various other disciplines brings. How flat the earth for the man who has never known the joy of autonomy and mastery. It is also guaranteed that in such a world rational decisions become even more rare.

The question lingers, Why? Mr.Graham had access to great educational opportunities. His capacity to put on a show are evidence of his intellect. As a self-described minister and counselor to the common and the uncommon men of his era, why would he choose to preach this infantilizing philosophy?