Samuel Langhorne Clemens Died today April 21, in 1910, one hundred years ago. If he was alive today Mark Twain would be totally immersed in the covid saga. It would not have been his first pandemic, in fact he wrote about his experience in Germany.
According to Wikipedia:
”American author Mark Twain, an avid traveler, visited Hamburg during the cholera outbreak, and he described his experience in a short, uncollected piece dated “1891–1892”. Therein, he notes alarmingly the lack of information in Hamburg newspapers about the cholera event, particularly death totals. He also criticizes the treatment of the poor, as many, Twain says, were getting “snatched from their homes to the pest houses”, where “a good many of them … die unknown and are buried so”. (Blount, Roy K. (2010). A tramp abroad ).
Twain concludes by lamenting the lack of awareness worldwide, especially in America.”
In the The Innocents Abroad, Chapter XXX, he paints a portrait of Napoli and its inhabitants that would be less than politically correct today, but worth reading if one wants to understand why epidemics rage against elbow to elbow gatherings. Mr. Twain did not think twice about breaking a quarantine in Greece, to visit the Parthenon under moonlight clandestinely, after bribing the guards, almost getting picked up by the police.
The international cholera pandemic Mark Twain experienced lasted fifteen years and killed over a million people. Still, the same resistance to civic duty flourished then as it does in our pandemic.
An article published in the New York Times in 1893, during the cholera pandemic, describes in bloody details the mobs protesting the health measures:
”HAMBURG, Oct. 10.—Another fatal riot occurred last night in St. Pauli, a suburb of this city, growing out of the attempts of the sanitary officers to enforce the regulations for the prevention of the spread of cholera. As in the previous riot, when a policeman was brutally kicked and stamped to death, the scene of last night’s trouble was in one of the districts of the village inhabited entirely by the poor and ignorant classes, who seem to have a horror of being compelled to observe cleanliness and the ordinary sanitary regulations. When the sanitary officers attempted to put extraordinary regulations enforced trouble at once resulted. The sanitary officers were accompanied by a number of policemen, but the presence of the latter had no deterrent effect upon the violence of the mob that quickly gathered when it became known that the officers were about. The mob made a descent in force upon the police, stoning them and using clubs. The policemen were unable to quell the rioting; in fact, they could make no attempt to do so, being compelled to fight desperately to protect themselves from the fury of the rioters. While some of the mob thus engaged the police, others devoted themselves to a furious onslaught upon the sanitary officers. One of the latter was captured by the crowd. His comrades could make no attempt to rescue him, as they had all they could do to defend themselves. The officer in the hands of the mob was struck on the head with a large stone and knocked, to the ground. Then the mob jumped on him and kicked him about the head and body until life was extinct. In the meantime the crowd had succeeded in knocking a policeman down, and he, too, soon met his death, the rioters kicking his face until it was a pulp. Even after he was dead some of the mob danced upon his body. The fight was waged desperately, with the odds in favor of the mob, when a detachment of troops, who had been hastily dispatched to the scene, arrived. The officer in command ordered the mob to disperse, but it paid no attention to the command, and continued its attack upon the policemen and sanitary officers. An order was given for the troops to fix bayonets, and when the gleaming steel blades were fastened to the muzzles of the rifles, the soldiers were ordered to charge the mob.
With bayonets lowered, they moved forward on the double quick, and the rioters, seeing a bristling wall of steel advancing upon them, attempted to disperse in short order. They ran in every direction, save in the direction of the troops, and disappeared in alleyways and the doorways of the tumble-down tenements with which the district is filled. Many of them, however, were not quick enough to escape the police, who began to chase them the moment they saw the crowd beginning to break up. At least a dozen of the mob were arrested. The bodies of the policeman and sanitary office; were taken to the police station. Since Oct. 6 there have been reported at Grimsby, Lincolnshire, five cases of choleraic disorders. Two deaths from the same cause have occurred there since the date mentioned.”
I’m sure Queen Victoria did not encourage the Grimsby, Lincolnshire populace to revolt against the town elders’s measures to fight cholera. If a real Queen would not do it, why should a wanna be king do it?
Carolle is watching Der Rosenkavalier. The comic opera by Richard Strauss has the familiar disguise trick with a twist, the young lover part is a pant role (in the later interview backstage “trousers” was used instead of “pants”), who disguise “himself” as a maid to confuse a rival. Opera never ceases to amaze me, it really brings one to alternate reality, something dearly needed these days. Before she settled I changed the two old outlets by the kitchen counter. I was surprised to see that they were two different lines, each with its own breaker. Not that it changed anything, but with only twelve inches between the two, it seemed redundant. The first part of the job was the hardest and most frustrating, with the top retaining screw of each cover stuck in the outlets. The bottom screw were fine and a couple of screwdriver turns did the trick, but the top ones took ten minutes of my time. Mind you, I have adequate tools, so the problem was not the tools. After two or three turns of the screw driver, the screw froze and refuse to move further until I applied pliers to it, it took a couple of minutes each screw. When I finally extracted the nuisance it came clear that the screw did not come from the manufacturer, longer and with a different thread, it had been forced in and jammed tight for the next guy to deal with. As it turns out, I was the chump.
The markets are open today and US oil prices plunged falling below $0 a barrel. I assume that people are not driving as much because of the covid restrictions. I can only imaging the phone calls from the oil industry’s big wigs to the White House, crying that they are too big to fail. In the meantime folks are still trying to secure loans to save their businesses. In a good and inspiring gesture towards fairness, one of the large New York restaurant chain with more than 500 employees is giving back the 10 millions stimulus check they had received. Their numbers of employees technically above the quota. Another company in the same bracket has not returned the 20 millions they received. A bit of hope amongst all the discouraging news assaulting us daily, hope that there will be enough of these loop holes loans returned to the proper beneficiaries. Only a president can do that, if not congress should. We will see were greed leads us. I searched online for “Mark Twain & greed”, curious about what our famous Dead of the Day thought about “greed”. This one sums it up for me:
“A little more kindness, A little less speed, A little more giving, A little less greed, A little more smile, A little less frown, A little less kicking, A man while he’s down, A little more “We”, A little less “I”, A little more laugh, A little less cry, A little more flowers, On the pathway of life, And fewer on graves, At the end of the strife.”
Double checking on the veracity of that quote and the tie to Twain, I found the same quote, verbatim, in a 1924 issue of the The Conductor and Brakeman, Volume 41, page 464, credited to E. J. Stiles, Southern Labor Review, and under the banner “What the Brotherhood Members Should Practice”. A pardonable plagiarism, when a bit of research shed light on the possible culprit. There is a E. J. Stiles found in Civil War records, enlisted in 1865 in the Missouri Confederate Army, Third Battalion, Infantry, P-Y, Third and Fifth (Consolidated) Infantry. If he enlisted at twenty in 1865, or perhaps even younger as the military was always looking for warm bodies to feed the carnage, he would have been no older than seventy-nine in 1924, the years of publication of the trade union magazine. The old man must have been moved by it. It would not be surprising for someone, who may have witnessed brothers in arms slaughtering other brothers arms in the killing fields, to have adopted that Mark Twain quote. Even if he was never at the front, a possibility in view of the late enlisting date, the magnitude of the desolation was his daily panorama, the disfigured and dismembered survivors burying their dead while the town was burning. Is this what our president wishes for?
Not if our Governors have any say in it, and they are not backing down, that’s the good news. The bad news is, our state is in the mist of the president’s calls to insurrection with protesters brandishing “My body my choice” signs. It’s the same folks denying women their choice for their bodies, treating women like vessels to carry babies for their religious agenda but taking no responsibility as a society, to ensure that the child is fed, housed or that the mother can provide for it while having to work as soon as possible after giving birth. The hypocrisy stinks to high heaven! So far only seven states have mandated wearing a mask in public gatherings, the folks pushing against that mandate should think about the parents of the five year old girl, the daughter of a First Responder, who died on a ventilator, nursed by a helpless and distressed human been dressed in a hazmat suit. With no human warmth and comfort, can anyone imagine the fear this poor child must have experienced, the only contact with her loving parents through bandwidth. It’s not a question, when the resistance brandish slogans like “My body, my right”, they should be told ‘what if she was your child’, or your brother or sister’s child, or spouse, wouldn’t you want to do anything in your power to make sure they don’t catch covid?
I keep on checking the town official site only to find it unchanged, I have the feeling that I was told of changes just to shut me up, that obviously would be a mistake, as I plan to be vocal about it and press further for action. I am firmly convinced that I am doing the right thing, to ask that town officials inform and educate citizens while explaining what’s at stake. Information is the most important weapon against covid and the most important figure in a small town, is the mayor. It’s the person citizens go to when in trouble, they to Town Hall. They go to pay taxes, get permits or announce events, it’s the center of a town life. A detailed message with recommendations from the mayor on the first page would make an impression on people, perhaps then, would they take the pandemic seriously and start protecting themselves and others from catching covid. I have a hard time understanding why that would not be a benefit to the community. Unless of course, politics are involved. If that’s the reason, I’d like to know what politics have to do in a state of siege, because, like it or not, that’s where we are now, in fact, isolated and deprived of liberties, not by another human, but by the vicious covid virus.