Posted by: Harold Knight | 12/22/2010

Baggage, Eclipse, Raging Capitalism, and the Savior of Christmas

Apersonal ramble about a couple of concepts I can’t wrap my mind around in which I allow myself to be in writing as sarcastic as I am in thought. It’s my blog and I’ll snipe if I want to.

As Ruth says, lighting a cigarette in front of the Amish girls in Plain and Fancy (Broadway, 1955), “I’m a Baptist, and we’re allowed.” I used to be, so I’m allowed. If you don’t want to read the early morning disjointed ramblings of someone who can’t not write, stop here. (I have, at the very end made a point, which I generally seem to do, obscure though it may be.)

My friend will pick me up in five hours to take me to the airport. My stuff is not packed. I don’t know what suitcase(s) I’m going to take. I have to carry medical equipment (it’s too dramatic to say my life depends on it, but it does), I have to have this computer (my emotional life depends on that), and I need clothes for nine days. Here I am writing instead of packing. I can’t not.

My situation vis-à-vis flying and packing is not unusual. Everyone (except those who  travel to further the cause of capitalism—keeping the poor in their place—who have suitcases packed to leave home at an instant because home is wherever they can make money for the rich) has some special  need  when they travel. The airlines, designed to make more money for someone already rich, are not a service industry. We have to pay and pay and pay for convenience and necessity. I don’t have a clue how I’m going to pack. My medical equipment in one bag. My computer in another. My clothes in another. I have a suitcase that’s also a computer case, but it’s not big enough for nine days. So I have to check a bag and pay $25 for the privilege.  You’d think they’d give a little quarter for necessary medical equipment.

I heard a capitalist apologist (Tea Bagger?) on the radio explaining it’s time to “privatize” (that is, give someone the opportunity to seize them as a cash cow) the Interstate Highway  System. Why? It needs repair, and the way to do that is to make toll roads—and the American people won’t mind paying a private company making lots of money off of them, but they wouldn’t let the government collect money for driving on highways that “We, the People” built.

We’re not that stupid, are we? Religion used to be the “opiate of the people.” Now willfully kowtowing to the rich is the opiate of the people. Everyone thinks she’s going to be one of the rich someday. She needs to get a life.

The moon was eclipsed and I missed it. I wish they’d plan a lunar eclipse sometime other than 2 AM. My sleep patterns do not permit my being up at that time. Two hours later, yes. I’m right here every day at 4 AM. Everyone knows this was the historic one. On the Winter Solstice. Hasn’t happened since 1638 and won’t happen again until 2094.

A great mystery to me is how astronomers and mathematicians can figure that out when eclipses will happen. They’ve been doing those calculations since long before Galileo. Herodotus, the Greek historian, says Thales predicted a solar eclipse in 585 BC. Probably just a lucky guess. Stopped a war.

In about 1825 the students in Henry Kemble Oliver’s School for Young Ladies in Salem, Massachusetts calculated all of the eclipses for the rest of the 19th century. That means they had studied some kind of math—or astronomy, or both—that would simply be beyond me (I haven’t taken any course in any field of math since I was a junior in high school). One would think if a bunch of high school kids in 1825 could do the calculations, I could. One would be wrong.

Another one of the interesting facts of the Life and Musical Influence of Henry Kemble Oliver is that he was the first manager of the Atlantic Cotton Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts. I hate to admit it because he seems to have been such a noble prince of a man, but Henry Kemble was the agent of one of the first conglomerates of Robber Barons in this country. Of course the mill was necessary for the burgeoning Industrial Revolution—but it was also dependent on cotton from the South which Henry Kemble detested for slavery—and worked as an abolitionist. Great irony, no?

Another great mystery to me is how the sentence, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth,” translates into reality among the people who believe it.

libidinal affects which do not particularly require the Western theological ideology

libidinal affects which do not particularly require the Western theological ideology

Yesterday my cousin—who thinks I’m a Christian the same way he is—e-mailed me the following proclamation from the extremist (Tea Bagger?) Governor of Arizona:

An Executive Order that I issued last year encourages the celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah and prohibits any censorship of these religious holidays. As you may know, in the past, state and local officials in Arizona (and elsewhere) have attempted to strip both Christmas and Hanukkah of their meaning, including establishment of policies forbidding state employees from placing religious items of celebration at their desks, re-naming of Christmas trees as “holiday” trees, and renaming of Menorahs as “candlesticks.” Under my administration, I will call things what they are…a Christmas Tree and a Menorah… and will gladly allow both Christmas and Hanukkah to be celebrated at the State Capitol. I encourage my colleagues and fellow elected officials to do the same.

What she doesn’t understand—and wouldn’t acknowledge if she did—is that (assuming she’s a Christian) she is not, in fact defending her religion. She is demeaning it by making public her belief that her religion needs Her State Government to survive. I thought I read somewhere that the guy her religion is based on said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So this Incarnate Son of God depends on the Governor of Arizona to protect him? Some Son of God he is.

In an article in the New Left Review, Frederic Jameson writes

[The confusion of sex and pure Christian love] was surely one of the flaws that bedeviled Wagner. . . for it is not at all clear why the spiritual purity associated with Elisabeth. . . should be identified with the church and with religion as such. The sex drive. . . or release from it, are libidinal affects which do not particularly require the Western theological ideology of sin and redemption for their justification. (1 – Be sure to read footnote.)

Our Saviour's Saviour

Our Saviour’s Saviour

And over-reaching, all-consuming capitalism, the opiate of the people, does not particularly require Governor Jan Brewer’s religious fervor to justify it, either.
(1) Jameson, Frederic. “Regieoper, or Eurotrash?” New Left Review 64 (July/Aug 2010): 112. The only surprise about my subscription to the New Left Review is that it comes from Great Britain; no American would dare publish such an intellectual rag.


  1. […] Kemble Oliver (1800-1885) was a Salem, MA, church musician, educator, and politician. In the 1840s he was one of the civilian overseers of the US Military Academy at […]



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