Friday, September 30, 2016

Tonto Will Not Ride into Town for You

North Dakota authorities using heavy handed tactics on Water Protectors. Photo: Facebook / Sacred Stone Camp, Rob Wilson Photography.

This week combined, heavily armed paramilitary forces with armored vehicles, helicopters, and sound cannon attacked a large unarmed prayer service at a Construction site on the Dakota Pipeline.  Construction workers had abandoned their equipment and fled as Native Americans led by the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies approached the site.  There were reports of teargas canisters being dropped from the helicopters.  27 were arrested in one day.  It was a dramatic escalation of the use of state power against on-going protests which have resulted in an unprecedented unity between Native nations from across the U.S.A., North America, and Latin America and support from aboriginal peoples across the globe.
 Photo by my old college pal Bill Delaney at Art Alley Gallery in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Something very important is happening for the Earth, the environment, and for the Tribes and Nations who the exploiters and despoilers were once confident had been ground into helplessness.
In their honor, I have committed poetry.

Tonto Will Not Ride into Town for You
For The Camp of the Sacred Stone 9/30/2016

Tonto will not ride into town for you, Kemosabe,
            and be beat to pulp by the bad guys
            on your fool’s errand.

Pocahontas will not throw her nubile, naked body
            over your blonde locks
            to save you from her Daddy’s war club.

Squanto will not show you that neat trick
            with the fish heads and maize
            and will watch you starve on rocky shores.

Chingachgook will save his son and lineage
            and let you and your White women
            fall at Huron hands and be damned.

Sacajawea and her babe will not show you the way
            or introduce you to her people,
            and leave you lost and doomed in the Shining Mountains.

Sitting Bull will not wave and parade with your Wild West Show
            nor Geronimo pose for pictures for a dollar
            in fetid Florida far from home.

They are on strike form your folklore and fantasy,
            have gathered with the spirits of all the ancestors
            to dance on the holy ground, the rolling prairie
            where the buffalo were as plentiful
            as the worn smooth stones of the Mnišoše,
            the mighty river that flows forever.

They are called by all the nations from the four corners
            of the turtle back earth who have gathered here,
            friends and cousins, sworn enemies alike,
            united now like all of the ancestors
            to kill the Black Snake, save the sacred water,
            the soil where the bones of ancestors rest,
            and the endless sky where eagle, Thunderbird, and Raven turn.

Tonto has better things to do, Kemosabe…

—Patrick Murfin

Thursday, September 29, 2016

They Found Answers at the Office of Addresses and Encounters

Mid-17th Century London, London bridge on the right.

On September 29, 1650 Henry Robinson, a noted religious dissenter, philosopher, writer, merchant, and sometimes government official, opened the Office of Addresses and Encounters, a brand new and unusual business on Threadneedle Street in London.
At the office, for a modest fee of sixpence individuals and businesses could record their addresses, what services they could offer, and list what needs they might have.  The poor could use the service without charge.  Employers could offer jobs, and seekers find them.  Real estate including country houses was offered but lodgers could also find accommodations.   Hard to find merchandise was matched with buyers.  It is said that occasionally the lovelorn sought companionship or prostitutes discretely offered their comfort, leading some later historians to conclude that it was some sort of dating service.
Leave it to humans to make every sort of information exchange about sex.
Most commonly it functioned as what the Brits call a labour exchange or on this side of the puddle call an employment service—the first in England. 
In Paris Théophraste Renaudot, a physician, philanthropist, and journalist had operated the bureau d’adresse et de rencontre since 1630.
Robinson got the idea from his good friend German born Samuel Hartlib, another one of those geniuses-at-large.  Today we might call both men public intellectuals.  Hartlib had a grander vision for adapting Renaudot’s idea to England.  He wanted a much larger undertaking sponsored by the government as a central repository for all useful information.  In addition to the exchange, he wanted a staff of the leading experts on every topic to be available to answer any question a member of the public might have—a kind of living encyclopedia or Google.
Not surprisingly no one at any level of government was interested in such a grand and expensive project.  After the idea had been kicking around for a few years, Robinson decided to go ahead with the more modest core of the idea as a private enterprise.  The project did not last long during the turbulent years of the Commonwealth which directed energies elsewhere.  But it was long remembered and has been cited as the inspiration for various public information projects on both sides of the Atlantic.
Merchant class and gentle folk like these would have been the primary users of the Office of Addresses and Encounters, but mechanics and other laborers seeking employment could register at no charge as well.
Robinson as a bright young man was educated at St. John’s College, Oxford and was admitted to membership in the Worshipful Company of Mercers, the premier Livery Company of the City of London, a kind of privileged trade association of general merchants especially exporters of wool and importers of velvet, silk and other luxurious fabrics.  That made him a wealthy man.
Wide travel, especially to Holland which nurtured religious dissent, a spirit of tolerance, and unencumbered commercial business, made him a vocal advocate for all sorts of change in England.  He began to write widely on economic matterstrade policy, interest rates, naturalization of foreigners, redistribution of trades from London center, and inland navigation.  When Parliament and Cromwell came to power ideas he advanced in his pamphlets influenced policy.
In recognition Robinson was appointed to administrative positions, dealing with accounts and sale of former Crown lands, with farm rents, and acting as secretary to the excise commissioners.
But Robinson is best remembered as a strong advocate of religious toleration.  He believed that “no man can have a natural monopoly of truth.”  Of course, he meant toleration within a range of Protestant beliefsCatholics and Jews need not apply.  He later fell out of favor with the Puritans for opposing the establishment of a new National Church based on Presbyterianism for fear that it would lead to religious persecution of dissenters.
Robinson was also a pioneer writer against censorship anticipating and informing the views of John Milton.
Robinson died at the age of 64 in 1664 after the Restoration had destroyed his public influence and put his personal safety at risk.