Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Martin Henry Dawson : The Agape Naturalist

In WWI , Philip Bent VC and Henry Dawson MC displayed great physical courage under enemy fire when they put themselves in lethal danger to rally their men to close a dangerous break in the Allied lines.

This was 'agape' valour in that they did not risk their lives simply for the men in their battalion whom they knew well (kith and kin) but rather they selflessly risked their lives for the entire overall Allied cause.

In WWII , Dawson displayed agape physical courage and moral courage .

Agape physical courage in the sense of selflessly sacrificing his health (and hence his life) to help total strangers.

Agape moral courage in the sense that his opponents were no longer the Hun but rather his own subculture of Allied doctors and scientists who were strongly opposed to his 'wasting' his (agape) penicillin on young people judged to be useless militarily.

But what did Dawson do in the 1920s and 1930s, between these two wars ?

I argue he was an agape naturalist in those years .

Perhaps because he was educated during the years of Alexander MacKay's regime as Superintendent of Education for Nova Scotia , Dawson displayed a wide catholicism of interest in the microbe world compared to other medical scientists and doctors of his era.

They tended to see microbes only as as bad germs to be ruthlessly eliminated or harmless avirilulent germs to be totally ignored.

Superintendent MacKay had gotten all Nova Scotia's rural and small town school children to regularly catalogue the start and end of seasons as marked by the first bloomings or first arrivals etc  of the various flora and fauna.

MacKay wanted to show how the life cycle of all life was affected by variations in the non-living world - the timing of the various seasons affecting directly when the first mayflower of the season appeared for example.

Perhaps this unique 'phenological' effort mentally rubbed off on the young Dawson - leading him to see life on Earth as sharing in a basic global commensality together.

Because during the 1920s and 1930s , Dr Dawson didn't just selflessly help those chronically ill humans dismissed as basically useless and worthless by most other people. He also regarded them as worthy in and of themselves , as they were.

He showed the same evenhanded regard for all when it came to all the 'odd' , 'useless' , 'unworthy of study', 'avirulent' microbes he chose to study at great cost to his career.

For just as he valued the great plenitude of human types, so he felt the same about the great variety and plenitude of non -human life not matter how useless they appeared to be to the rest of humanity.

Simply put,  I am saying that plenticide and selfishness and narrow group-love are much the same, just as support of plenitude  and commensality and agape love are basically the same.

With the sixth mass extinction - happening now - we are practising plenticide on a huge scale - and once again only the agape love of the agape naturalist will halt this madness .....

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Moral Courage --- this doctor tested on himself first - not on some helpless dying woman ...

First to receive penicillin needle : Henry Dawson, October 15 1940, Columbia Presbyterian medical center, New York

Despite this, Canadian-born (Martin) Henry Dawson wasn't actually a patient.

He was instead the lead investigator of this particular American penicillin research team.

He was merely following an old tradition that says a truly caring doctor doesn't first test a potentially dangerous new therapy upon his patients , but rather upon himself.

It is a tradition that Dawson's main penicillin rival, Australian Howard Florey - entirely in character with his self-serving nature - declined to follow.

Just one of many reasons why Hollywood producers find the idea of a penicillin drama featuring Florey as the lead to be box office poison for the women viewers who form the bulk of the audiences for medical dramas.

Dawson's other penicillin rival, Britain's Alex Fleming , like Florey was consistently unwilling to do anything that might risk his own neck - like fight in the Boer War - and he too never gave himself a needle of his own penicillin to test its safety.

Dawson, by contrast, was a decorated front line war hero and equally heroic in the front lines of peacetime medical laboratories.

The first patient to receive a penicillin needle in an effort to save their life was Charles Aronson, at the same hospital, one day after Dawson survived that very first needle of antibiotics....

Finally ---- a penicillin movie with a genuine hero - a North American hero to boot !

My book series will be the first books - ever - about the dramatic events of wartime penicillin that will feature a North American, Canadian-American Martin Henry Dawson, as its chief protagonist.

And it will thus be the first ever to feature a genuine hero as its chief protagonist.

Give credit to your typical cigar-chomping Hollywood producer - they have consistently seen what 75 years of academics have failed to see : that the proposed 'heroes' of an wartime penicillin film, Alec Fleming and Howard Florey, are in fact pure box office poison to the women who form the bulk of the audience for any medical drama.

By contrast, Henry Dawson looks like the self-less medical hero from classic Hollywood central casting -  but on steroids : this truth being stranger and stronger than any possible fiction....

Penicillin G : its very low price has given all of us a quasi Herd Immunity against many once endemic infections

I would claim my book a complete success if it only got a single favourable review on - if that review came from Ramzi Yousef himself.

Recall that in 1993, Ramzi became the first to attempt to blow up the World Trade Center, hoping to kill tens of thousands to revenge those killed by the Atomic bombs of the best known wartime Manhattan Project.

I want Ramzi Yousef and others akin to him worldwide to see that like most things in life, Manhattan is Janus-faced.

Yes it has a Gordon Gekko side, but it also has its Emma Lazarus side.

Plutonium 239, with its half life of more than 24,000 years is atomic Manhattan's dubious gift of death that keeps on giving.

But inexpensive natural penicillin ,the wartime gift from the other face of Janus Manhattan, is a gift of life that just keeps on giving.

Beginning in 1940, in a selfless act of Agape, a dying Manhattan doctor, Henry Dawson, sacrificed his own life to try and save the lives of ten others, insisting (against the Allied governments' dictates) that wartime penicillin should be produced and released in quantities enough for ALL humanity.

Since 1940, Martin Henry Dawson's selfless act has indirectly benefited ten billion of us -- all through a form of quasi Herd Immunity against formerly dreaded bacterial infections.

Because of Dawson's moral argument,  penicillin G is today not just our best loved and most effective lifesaver.

It is also are cheapest and this has allowed poor people not normally treated for lack of money to be cured .

This in turn means that the untreated don't act as reserve pools of virulent strains that have kept these dreaded killers endemic or epidemic for millenniums.

Dawson's gift should go on benefiting billions more, in the years ahead.

Ten billion (plus), all freely benefiting from a single act of selflessly helping ten : 'Bread cast upon waters' indeed !

Matter over Mind - Wild over Will , decided WWII

Germany : lost a war it should have won through inefficiency or lost a war it couldn't have won at 110% efficiency ?

The majority of old school (modernist) authors on WWII (men mostly 70 years or older) will go to their graves unbending from a belief that human factors, not material factors , decided WWII.

Because basically they are still modernists at heart and that is what modernists do - or did .
The modernists thought that modern technology had solved most 'natural' issues and so they saw the material world as a largely inert backdrop to WWII's ongoing human drama over unresolved human issues.

Younger writers - post-modernists in spirit - once again appreciate that there distinct limits to human abilities and that natural cum material reality is not something to be underestimated.

So we are more open to evidence that the German Empire used what scant resources it had as least as good as the American, British and Russian Empires used their far more abundant ones.

But the German resource base (conquered lands and peoples and all) was still far too weak to beat off all three of its major opponents at the same time.

It once again lost a long slogging match in a war of attrition.

It had tried and won a war of blitzkrieg on nine of the eleven european countries it attacked, but then tried and failed a war of attrition on the tenth, the UK.

As a result of that failure in September 1940, Germany had to divide its forces between the various UK fronts and the Russia front when it tried to brazen out a blitzkrieg war upon Russia in June 1941 -thus ensuring its ultimate defeat.

It simply could not front-load its Russian effort strong enough to sustain an assault on Moscow against what should Germans should have expected as resistance from Nature and Russian, given their nine earlier risk-filled blitzkrieg experiences.

Too many skilled men and too much good war material had already been lost on various other war fronts since 1938 and the replacements were simply coming in too small and too slow.

But even if Germany had conquered the British Isles and European Russia - what then ?

The Nazis were not racists - defenders of all the White Race or even defenders of just Western Europe.

Rather they were extreme nationalists who couldn't much abide even their own Italian and Hungarian allies or their closest Aryan cum Nordic cousins like the Dutch and the Norwegians - let alone any true 'outsiders'.

They quickly offended all their potential allies - mostly by being forced to be greedy with others' human and material resources, because their own country was too small in population or natural resources to sustain its war empire.

And this was a problem that only got bigger, not smaller, with each new "success" .

Without real heartfelt allies, Germany couldn't have defended an empire the size of the USA or the USSR against the rest of the world for long , not on its own national manpower base.

And your own national manpower base is truly a natural  limit - because even an all-out human effort can only increase it in terms of many decades not a few years.

Offending all your potential allies was a human failing of Germany - having too few people and natural resources of its own was a natural failing of Germany : together they doomed its war efforts ....

WWII : high moral action forsaken for high morale puffery

High morals or High morale : diverse ways to win WWII

Where Henry Dawson and a few others differed most strongly from the mainstream of civilian thought in WWII was his concern that his side could best win the war with high morals --- rather than just with high morale.

Not that some very powerful people (like FDR) didn't think that lots of public talk about high moral vales wasn't important for high morale - they just didn't want to see too much explicit talk about details and about implementing those high moral values into low level practise.

Dawson was not black, but the idea of a need for V2 was obviously a big part of his emotional DNA : (1) a domestic Victory as necessary to ensure  (2) a quicker and less bloody military Victory overseas.

Was he right ?

Well, his opponents were obviously wrong : less high talk might have been more , not less , helpful to the war effort.

Because it was the disconnect between high talk and low reality that so depressed most citizens of the Allies, the Axis and the Neutrals.

"We're pretty bad, admittedly, but not quite as bad as their lot - so we need to remain free and they need to be defeated" might have played out better in Moscow, Berlin and New York.

The problem with genuine high moral action in the Allied world was that it would have produced a hot civil war internally as opposed to a lukewarm external war.

Most people , deep down, disliked the Nazis' actions far more than their views : they simply took commonly accepted social darwinism viewpoints too far, repressed weaker peoples too much , wanted colonies too badly.

Only if and when the general population in the Allied world changed this social darwinistic viewpoint , on their own ,would it be convincing to Allies, Neutrals and Axis alike.

Very slowly and very grudgingly allowing women to work and blacks to fight didn't really convince many that the Allies' war aims were much better than that of their opponents.

But look at the diverting of giant war bombers away from bombs to delivering instead  tiny handfuls of scarce drugs half way across the continent to save the lives of even smaller babies ... from no-account families .

The record suggests these acts was truly spontaneous and unexpected enough to be seen as truly heartfelt and as unmotivated by cynical high level 'morale' considerations.

In an Allied war that looks shabbier and shabbier the more the records are researched , spontaneously diverting war material penicillin to save the lives of no-account babies still looks to be the moral high point of the war....

why Henry Dawson rather than Henry Alline

The revisionist's temperament

By my fifth year in school, I found it almost impossible to resist the urge to publicly expose the difference between cherished myth and actual reality, regardless of the negative effect on my already diminished popularity.

This constant urge to revise and to debunk has made me a sort of historian,  at least by temperament.
Revisionism, however, is much more complicated than it may first appear.

For example, in 1983-1984, I worked hard to raise the profile of Henry Alline a Nova Scotian evangelist from the 18th century .

Alline led a major religious "Awakening" in Nova Scotia during the American Revolution (Nova Scotia then being the area that later became the three Maritime provinces).

This Awakening is a major reason - but not the only reason - why the Maritimes remained apart from the other Thirteen Colonies in their efforts to leave the British Empire , thus allowing the possibility for the nation of Canada to emerge almost a century later.

Most people in the UK, USA or Canada still know nothing of Alline, his writings,  his amazing personal odyssey or his impact on the creation of Canada.

I was thus helping to revise existing notions about Alline in the general population, from the outside.

But, at the same time, I was also inside a vigorous small group consensus , because a lot of historians felt as I did and had already done all the hard archival spade work a few years earlier.

I added not a single new bit of evidence to their case - I merely acted as another cheerleader.

So Henry Alline never grabbed me emotionally at least as a revisionist - only rousing another major part of my personality mix : someone who always like to raise the profile of the underdog.

By contrast, I  quickly discovered enough new information my own - thanks to Google - about Martin Henry Dawson's pioneering penicillin efforts to see that a major revision of the broad historical consensus over wartime penicillin was urgently due.

I saw no small group with an already-formed consensus around Dawson's penicillin that matched my own independent conclusions.

So now  I was emotionally engaged , all thrusters on go ...

Thin books or fat journals ? Hard to tell !

For a time I thought my Dawson series of books would come out in parts of a periodical magazine :

Triumph of the NATURAL

"The Mills of Nature" will start up its longer (6000 word) articles with a series that puts together a natural world oriented account of WWII.

If that all sounds very Olympian , rest assured it will be instantly sharply brought down to earth.

That is because the series will be told through the eyes of just a single individual,  who himself barely got out of town during all of WWII.

You will read of the wartime experiences of New York City based Dr Martin Henry Dawson.

Dawson was a decorated Canadian WWI hero and the leading DNA and Penicillin pioneer.

But Dawson couldn't re-join the military in WWII ,as he had hoped , because he was slowly dying of an auto immune disease throughout the war.

But even if he had gone overseas he couldn't have told this big a story.

Because oddly enough , no frontline military general or overly-busy national leader ever had as intimate an overview of the entire war as a well connected and media-hungry New Yorker.

New York city was the world's biggest , richest city and its biggest port.

It was thusthe war's biggest transfer point for both cargo and both in and outbound troops (not to mention all the just-passing-though VIPs).

This alone made it home to the war's best informed and most varied gossip.

New York was also a wartime city with the world's most varied and freest media.

But that isn't enough to pick out Dawson.

Many equally well-read among the eight million New Yorkers would also seem qualified to tell this tale.

However, in what turned out to be an unexpectedly long war of attrition, the question of sustaining manpower numbers and morale became the paramount question above all others - on both sides.

And so as it happened, the very contrary minded and penicillin-pioneering Dawson ended up becoming very close to the turning point of this vital issue.

This chance of fate , combined with his unusually wide WWI war experiences and his endless curiosity as a reader and listener makes him a wonderful subject to tell Nature's side of the war through.

Admittedly, it is a risk to use the eyes of a homebound dying man to tell the story of a war spread over all the world.

But few military events of WWII could have had a bigger impact on our own post war world than the penicillin events personally initiated by this hometown-bound and dying doctor.

His story over that six year period will be told in about sixty vignettes , collected into six series parts , all determined by six decisive breaks in Dawson's actual WWII experience.

Major parts' titles and their individual time periods :

I : Discarding the Small : roughly from the Fall of 1939 to the Fall of 1940

II : Exalting the Small :  roughly from the Fall of 1940 to the Fall of 1941

III : Betraying the Small : roughly from the Fall of 1941 to the Fall of 1942

IV : Agitating the Small : roughly from the Fall of 1942 to the Fall of 1943

V : Denying the Small : roughly from the Fall of 1943 to the Fall of 1944

VI : Triumph of the Natural : roughly from the Fall of 1944 to the Fall of 1945

story papers as model for 21st century books

 21st century U-print 'story papers'

I worked long enough in bookstores to realize that our current book publishing system is very badly broken and probably the most climate-destroying of all the culture industries.
Its sins are many: 'bulk up' the contents of books to be far bigger than necessary ,  print far too many copies, send them out and back in gas-guzzling trucks and then end up pulping most of them anyway.

Luckily I am in the periodical end , not the book end, of the word business.

It is true that the magazine trade , floppy covers aside, differ little from the book trade.

Magazines too have the wasteful practises of 'ship too many and pulp too many' --- in fact, the magazine business invented this method and then taught it to the book trade.

But one part of the periodical trade has always hinted at a better way : thestory-paper.

What really makes newspapers unique from books and magazines is that they are not bound - not secured by staples or sewing or glued cloth.

Instead each newsprint sheet is merely folded into one another and the whole thing holds together by the cumulative friction of rough paper on rough paper.

This system is low tech , trouble free, very fast - and very cheap.

It obviously works - the vast percentage of words printed throughout history have ended up on unbound but folded sheets of newsprint , not on bound book paper.

Some canny publishers in the 19th century  decided to kick the news out of the newspaper format and replace them with stories - anything fact or fiction that was not time-sensitive , anything from short essays to long novels.

It thus became the content of a typical magazine , but in the format of a newspaper.

The story paper was far and away the cheapest form of literature for more than a century until steady book trade propaganda killed it.

I have merely brought it back for the frugal and green-minded 21st century.

Most readers will prefer to read my short articles (about 600 words each) online in The Mills of Nature blog.

Some will even wish to read the longer articles (about 6000 words) online in The Mills of Nature website.

But for many others, a quarterly print version (of about 60,000 words) of The Mills of  Nature that combines the best of both the short and long articles would be nice.

But not via the typically messy collection of letter sized pages printed off the web, with lines of print far too wide for easy comprehension.

Today all home computer printers can print professional quality fonts legibly and do 'double- sided printing' - some by design, others by an easy workaround.

The only thing holding them back from printing unbound magazines of about 60 to 80 pages in length from online PDFs is the fact those PDFs are not normally imposed.

Imposing is what  magazine printers do to ensure that the first printed sheet of a 60 page book has on one side has the back cover to the left and the front cover to the right, while on the back side, page 2 is on the left and page 59 is on the right and so on right through the entire magazine.

Once printed and folded into each other, all the pages end up right reading automatically.

Today this slog can be very easily done by quite reasonable priced software (I use and recommend Cheap Imposter if you own a Mac).

So I will provide online a pre-imposed PDF file for each quarterly issue ofThe Mills of Nature so you can, if you wish , download and print out on your work or home printer, fold and read.

A magazine delivered to your door electronically night or day and around the world, but only if you want it.

Now I can imagine others selling their version of a pre-imposed PDF , but in my case, the file is totally free - in fact totally in the Public Domain.

As the file is free, the only cost for a sixty page magazine delivered to your home printer is about sixty cents in your paper and ink.

In a sense it is the 21st century system of distance manufacturing, but applied to the word business.

I'd hate to claim that I am the first to come up with this - my local library already prints off every morning selected out-of-town newspapers on a cheap tabloid sized computer printer for its patrons.

The result is a side stapled 11 x 17 page sized broadsheet newspaper that actually reads quite conventionally despite being almost laughing low tech.

 The book trade , together with its spawn the bookseller and book reviewer , always claims that anything but a big fat hardbound book, with fully-justified paragraphs and evenly trimmed pages and published by a big publisher from New York, Toronto or London , simple isn't a 'real book'.

Who cares ?

Not if they don't go on to claim that only literature and  academic/scientific knowledge that is to be found in a hardcover book is actually real.

In the past most literature began in periodicals (think of Dickens' novels or of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novellas) .

Even today, most academic work is first published in periodicals.

No, the big city centred book trade merely made their claims that the only acceptable model of a book was something that had to be printed, bound and cut by huge highly expensive and highly complicated equipment, to virtually ensure that none of the legions of small town job printers, editors and authors could become their competition.

Just because a cartel says something doesn't make it true : do you believe everything Big Pharma or the Big Telecoms tell you ?

In fact, in terms of handling and readability , any aging reader with weak hands and fading eyes will tell you that the easiest book to read by far is a relatively thin (and hence light) paperback or magazine, stapled in the middle so it opens fully and can't 'break its back' and with left justified type so there is no unnatural word spacing.

This is why magazine readership remains high in the over fifty set even as they bail out from horrible-to-read 'mass paperbacks'.

Most children with small hands also agree and children's books reflect this.

In short, in no other culture industry is there quite as much cant and humbuggery about their main product as in the book trade - even Hollywood can't come close.

As a periodical publisher , I  don't intend to be part of this scam.

But since my magazine work is all in the Public Domain, others are perfectly free to perpetuate the book trade's wasteful and distorted standards by getting it published by one of the remaining Big Five FourThree Publishers.....

WWII as a preview of the Sixth Extinction

The most frequent contribution most of us (scientist or laity) make to the public debate about the Climate is to discuss our beliefs about changes that may  (or may not) happen sometime in the future , when human hubris collides with natural reality.

Unfortunately , that leaves more than enough "ifs and maybes" for many other citizens to permanently tune out on this all important public debate.

By contrast, The Mills of Nature discusses what actually did happen in the recent past , when pure human hubris really did get seriously stuck axle deep in the dirt of natural reality.

To protect the guilty and the inept , WWII history has normally been told back to front : 'the Allies won the war in 1945 --- and here is how it all happened'.

It becomes distilled down a human drama between six extremely ham-ish actors, all judged more than capable of eating the scenery.

Cue the headline : "Scenery Eating Actors"

Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, FDR and Tojo were still better known for extraordinarily skills in speech-making and morale-raising than for any administrative prowess they might have had. 

But the current historical consensus about WWII argues they were just the kind of leadership needed to fight this sort of war.

So we end with this intimate human drama , a clash between the six men fronting the six biggest civilizations, played out for us above the footlights .

Meanwhile, far back at the ranch , Mother Nature is nothing but an uninteresting and inert painted backdrop.

However, there is another way to tell the story of WWII.

It proceeds more conventionally, from front to back, detailing what Allies, Axis and Neutrals actually thought would happen, day by day, and then contrasting that with what actually did happen.

As a result, it ends up telling a far more downbeat story.

Now we can clearly see human ambitions, on all sides, stymied time and time and time again by natural forces.

 And  by humans that each side regarded as less than fully civilized and thus less than fully human - people in some sense also seen by most as 'just another part of the natural world.'

Nature (and 'these people of the natural world') turned out to be very far from inert --- for six long years it resists Civilized Man's vaulting ambitions at every turn.

So for but one example , over and over again a bad - natural - harvest of the lowly potato in Germany led to the human decision to see that more Slavs and Jews further East were starved or shot to death.

Even now, few us really believe it was Generalissimo Stalin , rather than General Frost and General Mud, who really saved Russia in 1941.

So once again cue the headline : "Scenery Eating Actors".

But this time , read it with the accent on scenery and not on actors .

I hope you find this Green history of WWII  a humbling and healing affair.

Yes it does cut us down to size before the vastness of an ever turbulent Mother Nature .

But hopefully it will also help us give the lesson on the dangers of Climate Change, before we get to the final exam....

WWII : the warlords as scientists ...

Nature Resists, 1939-1945 : science proposes, nature disposes

The Allied-Axis started out fighting one enemy and ended up fighting a totally unexpected enemy.

Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini and Tojo were all well known for having a strong personal interest in science and technology.

FDR had none, but he was astute enough to know that he needs lots of science and technology and astute enough to give it a free hand.

Willing indeed to risk public ridicule by requesting 50,000 planes a year from the 1940 American economy.

Planes, planes and planes enough to tell the world America was going to fight, if it had to, with high tech machines not low tech doughboys.

So a science war, even a scientism war ; a war exclusively fought between the world's top high tech manpower.

And Nature ?

Yawn !

An inert, passive backdrop.

Or was it ......?

Homo Proponit

Man Proposes ,1939 - 1945

The wars and the killings started by the Axis began in 1931 in Manchuria and carried on in full flood until at least 1946-1947,  as it played itself out in a series of local but bloody civil wars or wars of national liberation.

At least fifteen full years of non-stop bloodletting somewhere in the world, directed or started by the Axis.

Despite all of this, what makes the very much shorter six years of WWII (September 2 1939 -September 2 1945) truly unique in humanity's long run of war and violence is not the record number of people who died, nor the attempted industrial mass murder of all Jews, all Romas and all Slavs.

Rather it is most unique for the fact that it was history's only true world war : combat conducted 24/7/365 all around the world, in all extremities of heat, cold , distance and remoteness for six long years.

High in the Poles, mountains and skies; deep in the ocean depths , in watery trenches and  hot swampy jungles - and in the driest of sand deserts.

WWII can't just be another property from Central Casting ; it is all of Central Casting  - and more.

So what started out as a human drama - an intra-species family fight within the human race - unexpectedly became as well a war of Human versus Nature.

It is fair to say, that as a result,  the long term consequences of WWII were not something any leader in any nation in 1939 - Allied, Axis or Neutral - had any reason to suspect , fear or welcome.

Homo Proponit indeed ......

the mysterious ways of Martin Henry Dawson ...

God Only Knows why Henry Dawson did what he did - because no one else does ... probably not even himself 

Next year will be ten years that I have been at it, trying to figure out why Henry Dawson did what he did and I am still no further ahead.
Consider this :

In late December 1940, Dawson got both some very good news and some very bad news from the doctors.

At age 45, he would be a father for the third time : Hurray !

Albeit his wife was in her forties , was physically handicapped and earns only a small salary.

This matters, because Henry had also just been told he has Myasthenia Gravis, a very serious auto immune disease that in the early 1940s generally killed within four and half years.

However, if he kept shorter hours, cut back on his stressful activities, stopped working around strong chemicals and ate and slept healthier, he might eke it out until better treatments came along.

Instead, Dr Dawson chose to plunge in ever harder into his self-chosen war task: bad chemicals, lots of stress and all.

He was trying desperately to save the lives of "The 4Fs of the 4Fs" : young people needlessly dying of the disease SBE,  because they were judged by the powerful to be only a burden in a time of Allied Total War.

Dying because the medicine that could save them (penicillin) was being reserved instead to use as a weapon of war.

If this sounds eerily like a more subtle version of Hitler's infamous T4 Aktion, you won't be far off.

Dawson's tiny little project was a sort of Aktion 4F, a moral counterblast at both the Allies and the Axis.

Now Dawson had a great moral right to do what he did with penicillin (including stealing scarce government-issued penicillin in a time of war !) because he was the first person in history to use it to try and save a life ( actually two : two SBE patients) - penicillin he had grown and processed himself.

This happened before America was at war, but at a time when the nation's medical and scientific leadership was hardening its heart in preparation to be as ruthless as Hitler, when and if Congress ever chose to fight him.

I believe Dawson reacted against this moral hardening of the arteries, seeing it as the absolutely worst way to win the "hearts and minds" battle against Hitler's ideas.

 Dawson was cautious, modest and retiring - his High School yearbook would have voted him "The Least Likely to Rebel".

His own field of expertise was miles and miles and miles away from SBE (Subacute Bacterial Endocarditis - a then invariably fatal heart disease).

He had never before ventured into making and purifying a brand new unknown drug.

He was regarded as a bit of a cracked pot by his colleagues with regard to his own personal research projects, which tended to limit his ability to draw in people into this Aktion 4F project.

This project of altruism literally killed him in the end - but he was not a religious believer so the basis for his extreme act of alturism is hard to find.

So why did he do it ?

I don't know.

But I do know he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

SBE became one of the most curable of fatal diseases, thanks to Dawson's pioneering efforts.

But he did far more than that.

His project forced the Allies to change their War Aims - to stop treating penicillin as a weapon, kept in short supply only for curable Allied frontline troops.

Instead he forced them to seriously mass produce it and to start treating it as something that should be available for all, regardless of race, color or war status.

By late 1944, penicillin had become the ultimate symbol of that highly elusive "good" the Allies had been promising would surely come about , if only all the neutrals of the world got off the fence and helped defeat Hitler.

One explanation on why Dawson did it and how he did it, is  that God sometimes picks cracked pots and non-believers ,together with the weak and the foolish, to do big things and confound the Mighty and the Wise.

Dawson seems to fit all four categories.

And certainly the Age of Modernity, the Age of WWII, was the most hubris-bound age ever ; if any age ever needed confounding it was that one.

Dawson and God and penicillin and 4Fs : it just sounds like a Match made in Heaven to me ....

1870s Modernity -- fluid or rigid - or both ?

Modernity: Have we got it Wrong ? Rigid not Fluid ?

The usual claim that Modernity represents an extraordinary degree of change and dynamic uncertainty must butt its head against the co-current rise of hyper-rigid nationalism in the same time and space.

This newly reified term, nationalism, was generally based upon a single ethnicity, which was usually coded at the time, incorrectly, as "race".

No longer were all citizens of France or Germany regarded as French or German by simple reason of being legal citizens.

Instead a hopelessly il-defined and yet paradoxically rigid  innate quality made you either part of The Glorious French Race or not.

Not, meant you belonged to another nationality slash ethnicity cum race.

You had no choice to say that you shared a number of different groupings varying upon your politics, religion, main language , place of birth and parentage.

Individuals effectively ceased to be individual and had to be members of , and hyper-loyal to , a particular block of humanity, the Italians or French, etc.

Contrast this to the Middle Ages's Christians who saw the Jews not as a solid group to be put to the sword, but as a group of individuals - some sinners and some saved - depending upon whether or not they individually accepted Christ and were baptized.

So WWI's vestiges of chivalry and empathy and altruism were not crowded out by old fashioned and immoral individual selfishness ( which was not any more common or any more popular than it has always been).

No, they were replaced by a new supposedly highly moral form of group selfishness.

People protested that concern for your kin had always been ruled morally legitimate - all that had changed, under Modernity, was that there were a lot more kin in your vastly enlarged German/British/Russian family.

By contrast, a pretty Russian or a handsome German was no longer a possible marriage mate for a French youth , as an attractive fellow human being who just happened to - currently - speak different and go to a different church.

Now different ethnicities might as well been different species and marriage with other ethnicities seem dangerously close to bestiality.

Not only were you rigidly placed in one ethnicity - from birth and fixed rigidly for all time - but your entire ethnic group was also rigidly and permanently set in a hierarchy of worthiness, from valued to useless.

So, regardless of the actions of individual Italians,  individual combat units or individuals battles, Italians as a group were dismissed ,in advance, as permanently bad soldiers.

In this bizarre moral universe of Modernity,two billion human beings around the world saw the big nations beat up the little nations and did nothing, but each rushed loyally into  fearsome combat the moment their own nation was itself attacked.

Each warrior felt he or she was on some moral high road but they were not.

For if Hitler hadn't attacked Russia and declared war on America, Europe would probably still be under his descendants' heel.

Altruism was at a very low ebb between 1931 and 1946 and so all the more reason to honour it where ever and when ever it was found...

WWII's war of the 1As upon the world's 4Fs

The Jews in the mind of the  Nazis : not un-natural but rather  hyper-natural

WWII started out , on all sides, with at least this in agreement : in part, it was to be a military conflict fought out exclusively between various groups of physically healthy, literate , law-abiding,  heterosexual, white men.

Which is to say, the military part of the war was to be exclusively between 'civilized men'.

All the rest of us, the vast majority of us : children, women, 4Fs, colored folks of all kinds, queers , cripples, crooks - on and on - were to remain nearly inert and invisible : acted upon rather than actors.

Just part of the neutral (natural world) backdrop to this ongoing human drama happening under the stage lights.

Let us look , for an example, to what the Nazis deliberately chose not to call Jews.

For the Nazis clearly regarded all Jews as un-human,  but not un-natural.

So, the Jews were never referred to as Robots for example - though this was a very hot social meme in the very years the Nazi ideology was finding its feet.

Instead they were consistently referred to as Bacteria.

Curious that.

Because not only are bacteria very much a part of the natural world , they were believed then (as we do today) to be the very founding fathers and mothers of all life - civilized man included !

In fact, a consistent way to belittle any group of humans that you feared but didn't dare to publicly admit that you feared them, was to describe them in terms of being outside the civilized world and part of the natural world.

For robots might not just kill today's humans, but also represent the future form of advanced humanity.

By contrast, bacteria can kill today's humans but represented a supposedly simpler  'natural' past.

This allowed civilized man to have his cake and eat it too : simultaneously describe the weak as both dangerous and yet simple and harmless.

So women, for example, were associated with (and consigned to) the damp, dirty, bodily functions civilized man had reluctantly retained - for now - from their origins in the natural world.

Childbirth, child rearing, washing up , house cleaning : diapers and dishpans and floor mops.

As long as women were kept in the kitchen and washroom or in industrial settings very much like kitchen or washroom, civilized man was safe from them.

As a result, during WWII , women are the only ones photographed tending to the hands-on growing and nurturing of the slimy smelly natural penicillium in small milk bottles.

By contrast, men were the only ones photographed tending the dozens of instrumentation dials remotely governing the actions of the enormous 'deep tank' penicillin machines.

So it was in September 1939 that it seemed that civilized man had all the innings as headlines screamed "German tanks maul Polish horses".

The newspaper world clearly saw the German Aryans as unvaryingly associated with high tech mechanical world of tanks, just as the Polish Slavs were inevitably twinned to the natural world of horses.

Fortunately , the rest of us (together with our (?) brother and sister beings in the natural world) pushed back, resisted and acted-up against the efforts of civilized man to re-make our world .

And by early 1945, Polish horses were hauling German tanks, well and truly run out of the fuel of hubris.....

1939-1945 : scenery chewing actors ...

1939-1945 : 'civilized men' battle each other to divide the natural world - but then , totally unexpectedly , it resists...

"1939 -1945 : Scenery Chewing Actors" is a wonderful ambiguous title.

Does it mean ham actors like Hitler, Mussolini and Churchill tore up the natural world, in passing,  as they struggled to lead all humanity ?

Or does it mean does it mean the best laid plans of mousy prime ministers and ratty war lords are blunted and broken when the neutral seeming natural backdrop to their human-only drama turns out to be very much alive around and willing to bite back ?

Or perhaps, that a lot of both can be found in the actual events of that six year long war.

A 'civilized men' upon 'civilized men' military conflict,  mixed in with the natural world exhibiting unexpected 'push back'  against the pretensions of those 'civilized men' , right across the globe....

Ramzi Yousef : here's the beatific side of wartime Manhattan ...

When asked why he hoped his 1993 bomb inside Manhattan's World Trade Center would kill all of the 50,000 people at the complex, the chief planner of the attack, Ramzi Yousef, said the planned massive carnage was partly to avenge the 250,000 Japanese killed by the bombs of the Manhattan Project.

It is true that the current wartime image of Manhattan does present a particularly Mars like character.
Pre-1945 Manhattan was not just the birth place of the technology that fuelled the Cold War atomic arsenals, it was also the financial and intellectual home of Eugenics - which culminated in The Holocaust.

But Manhattan is Janus-like as we all are, as the whole world is.

Within it are found big and small, good and bad, Eugenics and Emma Lazarus : indeed Venus, as well as Mars.

Venus even in, particularly in, times of war - seemingly the natural home of Mars.

Martin Henry Dawson's Manhattan Project , to liberate natural penicillin from corporate greed and eugenic medicine so that it could bring succour to the poor, the tired and the huddled in a war-torn world, saved far more lives than The Bomb ever lost.

If  Ramzi Yousef had only known the full (in the round /the 360 degree) story of Manhattan, he might have thought twice about planning that 1993 bomb.

Much the same goes for those who planned 9/11 and those planning future assaults on Manhattan.

I am not a Manhattanite and reluctant to blow someone other city's horn unasked : but I simply feel that the world - and that included Manhattanites - must know more of the long ago wartime days when 'Manhattan was from Venus' , as well as from Mars....

God's mysterious - not to say even humorous - ways ...

A Presbyterian with a Monstrance of Penicillium Mold

Devout Presbyterian layperson and wartime penicillin researcher Gladys Hobby recounts in her book "Penicillin : Meeting The Challenge" of  her rounds carrying a petri dish containing a big circular 'wedged' penicillium mold, every day through the wards at Presbyterian-Columbia Hospital.

This daily pilgrimage served no medical or scientific purpose, but it did serve the moral purpose of helping to sustain the spirits of the young SBE patients there.

They all knew that they faced imminent and inevitable death from their disease, unless the tiny team of which she was a part of could produce in time enough of the natural penicillin to save their lives.

Anyone who has even seen an artistic rendering of  such 'wedged' penicillium mold and an artistic rendering of a Monstrance is immediately struck, as I was, that the two paintings are very hard to tell apart.

As a Catholic, I particularly relish the image of a Calvinist Protestant dutifully carrying a monstrance, so alien to her religious traditions ( and albeit a monstrance of penicillin-hope), daily through those pain-filled wards.

Truly, God works in mysterious ways ....

when chickenhawks fantasize about war ...

War medicine was from Mars, Social medicine from Venus ?

The very word "war" medicine seems to stir something vaguely Mars-like, deep within the soul of the chickenhawk doctor or scientist.

Successfully conceiving ,in an academic lab at the University of  Chicago, a way to reduce combat deaths from shock seems to transport one almost up to the frontline evacuation hospitals, directly under hostile fire.

Being there, doing it, roughing it , all sweaty and virile-like : medical science with the smell of the locker room and the men's shower stall about it.

By contrast, what can any doctor - any real doctor - actually do about those dying of subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE) ?

These hopeless cases shouldn't even be occupying an acute hospital bed - particularly in wartime.

They should be handled by women - nurses - in a secondary hospice or in a palliative care situation at home.

And arthritis 'care' - not really medicine is it ? Helping impoverished old ladies too frail to bend over properly to get dressed and to do their toiletry.

Again - women's work. A job for personal care assistants and social work case workers. Social medicine.

But (Martin) Henry Dawson persevered , hung on in there , all through the war, treating those chronically ill with arthritis and the very 4Fs of the 4Fs, those dying of SBE .

Perhaps because he was that rarity : an American medical researcher in 1940 who already had a stirling war record in the front lines (in the medical corp, infantry and artillery), with a medal for valour and two serious war wounds to back him up.

The Military Cross winner from Venus, as it were ......

the fit warring upon their opponents' "unfit" : WWII in a nutshell

Eugenically speaking, WWII was a Proxy War.

Opposing groups of the high tech 'fit' warred mostly upon their opponent's low tech 'unfit' population.

All in the hopes this would cause their opponents to surrender without much direct (dysgenic) combat between the opposing 'fits'.

So - for example - German civilians on German soil were bombed for six full years before British troops* finally fought a badly faded German Army on German soil,  in the dying moments of WWII.

The wealth needed for the fit to be able to undertake these high tech 'proxy fights' was disproportionally taken from the politically weak on each side.

In the case of Germany it was the Jew ,Slav and Western European in that order of severity.

Great Russia took all resources , below a very low minimum, from its entire population ,below a tiny elite.

In terms of severity : first, above all , the peoples of its westernmost dependencies --- the result of Great Russia's decision to limit the fighting to there.

They did not just go hungry and cold the most - they also died the most - by far.

Then, on the Great Russia home front -- those with low technical skills and the elderly and unwell.

For the Japanese elite, the peoples of the occupied lands (the Chinese always getting it worst) and then the Japanese working class : rural, urban and soldier.

The politically powerful German working class ate well right into 1945 while Jew and Slav slowly starved to death and even Frenchmen went around hungry all the time.

The equally politically powerful working class people of the UK always ate well during WWII - many ate much better than during the best years of the Depression, let alone the worst.

So the people of the British Commonwealth (sic) who ate worse (admittedly not all did and not all the time) were the native darkies of their colonies.

Being far wealthier, the British didn't need to steal as ruthlessly as the desperately inefficient food-producing Germans did.

But when things did get tough (Bengal and in parts of Africa) they proved to be as amoral as the Nazis in spirit,  if not in letter of application.

And when it came to starving Occupied Europe, the British were as unbending as the Germans --- if not more so - as the case of the Greek and Dutch famines can attest.

Lesser known is their deliberate starving of Channel Ports held by the Germans and occupied by tens of thousands of trapped French and Belgian civilians.

Not just food and fuel in short supply was diverted to the fit away from the unfit - so too was medicine and medical care.

The politically weak were subjected to dangerous medical experiments without genuine informed consent.

None of the young healthy doctors who performed these experiments upon them thought to do the experiments upon themselves as some of an earlier generation of doctors had done.

Nor did these healthy 1A doctors go into combat zones.

As I say, eugenically it was a Proxy War designed to ensure that win or lose, the fit survived.

My blog posts have laboured long on just who got and did not get penicillin - I needn't remind faithful readers of just how unfair to the politically weak the whole process was.

In terms of death and suffering those judged unfit died out of all proportion to their percentage of the world's population - the eugenicists won this battle.

But they lost the war -- because none of the fit got at the end of the war what they expected to get at the beginning of the war.

Instead the will of the fit was blunted over and over by the wild and the weak ....

* The number of British Commonwealth army troops who died combat deaths on German soil was a tiny tiny percentage of the total British Commonwealth military and civilian dead.

WWII's middle class delusion - that only the morale of less civilizied is easily broken

Morale-krieg : breaking the will or the wild ?

Diving Stukas , sirens wailing , bombing city bus stations or strafing refugee columns.

Paratroopers and Fifth Columnists popping up out of nowhere, guns ablazing.

Hard-charging Panzer tanks crushing civilian cars and people while un-announced U-boat attacks in the night sink civilian liners filled with women and children.

Blitzkrieg was clearly Terror-krieg and Morale-breaking-krieg.

But whose morale exactly ?

The British establishment made it very clear that they believed that the working class poor could least stand modern warfare.

This is why they provided their own working class poor with with no deep shelters during the Blitz , convinced they'd never come out to work in the factories if so provided.

And why they focussed their own later air raids on 'de-housing' the German working class.

The other Allies supposedly focussed instead upon hitting factories , all the while full knowing  that they usually missed their intended targets and so hit nearby housing - of the working class poor.

Same dif , in other words - just a little less honest than Britain's Butcher Harris.

The Germans, Italians and Japanese also diverted much of the efforts of their supposed 'military' machine during their Blitz wars towards terror attacks on the clearly non-military : stay-home 4Fs, women, children and the elderly.

(No class bias was evident in the Axis targets - they still aimed for the weak but here the weak were defined as those who weren't adult-healthy-males and thus by definition, already in the armed forces.)

Terror attacks were also directed against those they judged weaker 'races' (ie ethnicities) : the classic example being 1930s Italian gas attacks from the air against rural tribes in Ethiopia .

(A lesson they had learned from pioneering British efforts done against Iraqi tribes in the 1920s.)

So were all these air terror attacks on columns of people on roads really aimed at 'breaking the will' of those Modernity judged fully capable of having a will : adult educated white males ?

(Men who should have been found , by that point of the war, mostly in military encampments.)

Or were those attacks aimed at 'stampeding the primitive flee instincts' of those Modernity judged incapable of having a fully formed will : such as horses, darkie natives, Slavs, the poor, children and elderly women ?

To the educated male white elite of Modernity, all sorts of humans were judged to be closer to mankind's primitive origins than themselves : such as children, the poor and uneducated, the primitive nations, women - even the very elderly of both sexes.

In terms of numbers, they sawing those incapable of exhibiting full will and rationality as varying from 65% to 90% of an individual nation's population : in all cases forming a clear majority.

Panic and stampede the wild majority and the rational minority would be like generals all dressed up for war but with no troops left to command.

It is a cliche of metaphorical speech to say that the Germans treated the Poles 'like animals' , but few realize the Germans meant to do so literally.

When Man first domesticated wild dogs, he probably began by killing the Alpha male dogs so that Man himself could be regarded as the new Alpha male.

So too the Germans , within minutes inside Poland, systemically began killing all the intellectual and leadership Poles, 'the smartest ten percent' .

They intended not to kill the rest, but to treat them as a slave labour pool for generations and generations to come : human work animals, fully domesticated.

Unfortunately these wild animals refused to stick to the script the Nazis had written and the Polish Home Army was the earliest and most effective resistance against Hitler.

Modernity's propaganda said that at the war's beginning, modern German machinery (tanks) had mauled those relics of the wild - the Polish calvary and their equally wild horses.

By war's end, wild Polish horses and their wild drivers were hauling modern (but fuel-less) German tanks , disguised as piles of wild hay,
to meet their doom before the incoming wild Slavic invasion.

WWII  : Wild one , Will nothing ....

Philip Bent VC : physical courage of the highest order

Agape Valour has no 'hometown'

The idea that most VCs had one and only one hometown - pace UK Local Government Minister Eric Pickles' idea that their one and only hometown should have a government subsidized cobblestone to mark the one hundredth anniversary of WWI - is factually wrong.

Moreover, it goes against the firm ideas of the lady who set up the standards of the Victoria Cross - Queen Victoria herself.

She felt their true hometown was the entire British Empire .

And the lifestories of most VCs shows they frequently travelled and worked widely across that Empire -- before often joining up far from their birthplace to fight and perhaps dying on behalf of it.

Moreover, true valour, like agape love, is distinguished above all by its open-heartedness.

It is above all else that brave willingness to lose one's own life trying to save the lives of others you often do not know and often may not even like if you did.

The standard talk about 'I just did for the lads in my unit' is just that : talk.

Most military units are not even initially set up upon the idea that all its members were to be drawn from just one locality.

Even the few locality-based combat units in existence generally have such heavy casualties early on that they are eventually mostly made up of replacements drawn randomly from all over the nation.

And there is rarely much time in real war to truly bound into the legendary 'band of brothers'.

Replacements are killed or wounded-out before almost anyone even knows their name or hometown.

No, the brave never liked to admit it publicly, but they general acted to save wider visions : the Allied cause or the American way of life or simply to save a bunch of fellow human beings.

Valour wants nothing to do with hometown turf wars....

remembering when wartime Manhattan was from Venus

Now I am become Hope, the Healer of Nations

Thanks to John Gray I can say, in a sideways allusion to his famous book, that wartime Manhattan displayed both a Mars and a Venus side to its Janus-like character and everyone instantly knows what I mean.

This is a lot easier than saying Manhattan have a Social medicine and War medicine side to its character and then have to offer up a few thousand words and a long history lesson, just to explain what I really mean.

Similarly the made-up quotation that heads this blog post is another sideways allusion --- this time to a very well known quote about Manhattan's best known wartime Project : the death-dealing Atomic Bomb.

Robert Oppenheimer, a Manhattan born and raised boy himself, defined the Bomb's nature (and America's newfound military and diplomatic power) by intoning a famous quotation from Hindu scripture :
"Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds"
Manhattan never itself intoned those words or the words at the top of this post - it can't .

But poetically, we can at least imagine that between 1943 and 1945 it did intone both....

the Venus side of wartime Manhattan

In her time - during and after WWI  - nurse Edith Cavell was as famous as Oscar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg and all the other WWII "Righteous Among the Nations" combined.

She devoted her life to nursing, mostly in Belgium though she was British herself, and didn't see why WWI should interrupt her practise of trying to save all patients, regardless of whether they were German, Belgian or Allied.

She was shoot however , by a German firing squad, for the war crime of helping Allied soldiers to escape the brutal German occupation forces enslaving Belgium.

Britain has claimed it had gone to war precisely to defend the right of neutral little Belgium not to be over run and then brutally enslaved by her bigger neighbours.

But many in her political and military elite thought it was right and just for the Germans to shoot her - they would have done the same - in fact did the same to Mata Hari.

World public opinion decidedly thought otherwise and her death became a big factor in turning neutral America to the Allied cause and for inspiring tens of thousands of youth in all the Allied countries to immediately join up as medical workers or soldiers.

News of her execution hit North American newspaper readers October 16th 1915.

It immediately inspired Martin Henry Dawson to become a medical orderly oversea.

He subsequently changed his life career plans and became a doctor.

On October 16th 1940, exactly 25 years later to the day he entered the medical world, Dawson ushered in one of those sort of earth-shaking events that only happens once every few centuries.

He gave two dying young men some of that elixir of life, natural penicillin, and so began our present Age of Antibiotics.

Neither man was Belgian, but for Dawson the principal was still the same : the small were being crushed beneath the interests of the big and he was as determined to fight that outrage as hard in WWII as he had in WWI.

These two men were being neglected by a medical community and drug company industry that had become focused on profitably war medicine for the 1As of the world , not on 'socialistic' social medicine to aid the 4Fs of the 4Fs.

Dawson saw that solely a military effort to defeat the Nazis or the Huns was never going to be enough, not if there was no moral battle behind it.

Sinking to the level of the Prussian military mindset, in WWI London or in WWII New York  he saw was no way to win the hearts and minds of neutral nations - or even for retaining the loyalty of one's own citizens.

So, no Dawson did not go forth into battle on behalf of Mars in this second world war as he had eventually in the first.

He stayed home and treated only people too '4F' to ever be useful for military duty or even for the fast pace and long hours of munitions factory work.

He worked on the Venus side of Manhattan exclusively and his direct war impact was limited to filling the hearts of people all over the world with renewed hope.

But I believe that his efforts saved far more lives ,and probably won the war quicker, than The Bomb ever did.....

Campbeltown nee Buchanan , 40

"  I'm a clapped out ship at a Halifax pier , the first of Knox's 'volunteers'  "

HMS Campbeltown - formerly USS Buchanan 131 - hero of the famous St Nazaire Raid
Seventy five years ago next September 6th, the wartime naval base of Halifax Nova Scotia made its biggest ever contribution to military history.

 Without even firing a shot.

All because - ironically enough - it was considered the most suitably neutral ground for two former military enemies to publicly seal a handshake of eternal friendship.

Now professor David Zimmerman did the research first and tells the story best , in his book "Top Secret Exchange".

It tells all about the long series of Anglo-American misunderstandings and disagreements resolved between 1939 to 1940 that finally led to the sealing of those two former rivals' special relationship .

 I merely want to focus one (albeit key) date and location in that whole process.

The "destroyers-for-kitchenware" deal

At about 3:00 in the afternoon of September 6th 1940, a small group of old American four stacker destroyers and the top secret cargo on board the Canadian liner "Duchess of Richmond" (re-badged as a British troopship) met at a Halifax pier.

They were there to seal an emotion-laden transfer that bonded together the Anglo-American coalition that won WWII  ----  and still tends to rule our world.

It is well known that the handful of four stackers were there as the first of fifty such clapped-out destroyers that a still isolationist America had very reluctantly agreed to give Britain in its gravest hour of need as it awaited a cross-Channel German invasion.

Publicly, what had swung the deal in isolationist America was Britain's willingness to grant America naval and air bases in a string of British colonies from icy Labrador to sultry British Guiana, all to act as an outer guard line for America , located safely well beyond its coastal big cities.

The TOP SECRET side of a very public deal

In fact, what had really swung the deal within American government and military circles was that Britain , at the same time as the public destroyers-for-bases deal , also secretly offered to hand over all of its most valuable military cum commercial secrets to America - without reservations and totally for free.

This was to become the famous Tizard Mission --- and its mode of transport was the Duchess of Richmond.

So the Duchess arrives in Halifax Harbour and despite being a military troopship docked - as all wartime troopships did - at the city's southern civilian port facilities.

That was a long mile away the city's famous naval Dockyard in the northern end of the city.

In this case , this distance from civilian to military was like manna from heaven to the British , Canadians and still very much officially Neutral Americans carefully planning the public press coverage of this historical coalition-sealing event.

The Halifax Dockyard had too many unpleasant historical memories for both British imperialist diehards and American isolationists.

But doing the exchange at naval bases in either Boston or Portsmouth England was even more of a political non-starter.

Still, from that Halifax Dockyard , British warships had launched many effective attacks against American shipping during the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War.

And for the British, the Halifax Dockyard was an unpleasant reminder that Britain interests, despite all this, had basically lost all three wars.

But the civilian part of Halifax harbour held nothing but pleasant memories as a way station for both American and British travellers en route to and from the New World.

Nova Scotia had long been a culturally and geographically close "foreign" vacation for many of America's elite from its powerful North East.

So it was neutral ground , emotionally, to hand over America's destroyers.

Similarly, Halifax had remained a British military base long after Canada was nominally independent of the Mother Country.

Many of 1940's British generals and admirals had married young women from Halifax's British-oriented High Society during earlier naval visits or army tours of duty.

To British imperialists, "The Warden of the North" was as comfortable a place as any to hand over what remained of their New World empire and of their Old World science to those damn Yankees.

PIER B and PIER 20

So it was right there at civilian Pier B, next to the SS Duchess of Richmond at civilian Pier 20 , that the four stackers docked.

They watched as a thousand British sailors and officers  poured off the liner * and marched over to the four stackers to begin the training and handing over procedures.

This process was hardly secret to Halifax citizens and the media's Speed Graphic cameras and newsreel crews - and that was the point.

In a sense , this highly public unloading of its human cargo in broad daylight and at a civilian pier was all part of a concerted effort to conceal the truly valuable cargo that the Duchess was unloading that day in Halifax.

A cargo memorably described by the official historian of America's scientific efforts to win the war as "the most valuable cargo ever brought to our shores." 

a CAVITY that for once, wasn't empty

All the more puzzling then that this most valuable object in question was literally "no bigger than a man's hand" and for that it was a extremely Top Secret military weapon during the war, is now found literally in every kitchen in the land.

It is the heart of every $50 cheap microwave oven - the small circular "cavity" magnetron that powers the oven - and still powers all of our most important forms of communication - from GPS to SATELLITE SIGNALS  to RADAR and CELL PHONES.

Small but powerful was its whole point - now the radar station that had occupied acres of British shoreline and soared hundreds of feet in the air could be fitted in any sized aircraft to detect and destroy bombers, panzer columns or U-boats before they saw you.

To complete the subterfuge , the final deceiving touch was exactly how 'the most valuable cargo to ever land in the New World' arrived on Halifax soil.

Can there be anything less warlike than a fussy old solicitor carrying a fussy old battered deed case about ?

Anything less warlike and virile than a middle aged man in civilian clothes carrying a modest black deed case, particularly after you'd just seen a thousand fit young men step about smartly in tight uniforms , just bursting in excessive testosterone ?

A middle-aged civilian , just oozing non-charisma , carrying a small battered black case : "the most valuable cargo ever."

Hidden , in plain sight.

Hindsight , as always , is 20:20

Except that it wasn't seen as particularly valuable - not at the time - amazingly, all its (justified) fame came retrospectively.

Both the British and the Americans considered the other top secret cargo (now being carried off the Duchess of Richmond as part of the scientific baggage of the Tizard Mission) to be much more valuable.

At least the British considered that material to be highly valuable.

Many American military science experts considered Britain clapped out technologically , a loser certain to fall before Germany's superior technology and military prowess and that nothing Tizard could bring could be very valuable.

So all of that disputedly-valuable cargo went off under armed guard - off to Ottawa and then onto Washington.

The cavity magnetron's fame problem was twofold : it had literally just been perfected that summer and it was such an advance in technology that it needed to recognized by the people at the top for the epoch-creating invention it truly was.

That recognition hadn't happened yet in Britain as it was so new.

Alfred Loomis : right man, right place, right time

But it was about to be studied by an American scientist who could see its all its current possibilities and more and who - in addition - had the ear of the Secretary of War and so could jump over the head of hidebound military brass to the very top of the American command structure.

Alfred Loomis was a highly successful wealthy businessman and banker - the sort of chap to instill confidence in the kind of mind that is ever suspicious of long haired ivory tower scientist types.

In addition he was a very brilliant amateur scientist and inventor.

Finally , as a cousin and life long close friend of Henry Stimson, the brand new Secretary of War ( isn't it marvellous how things can all come together at the right time ?) , he could get to the very top of the American political-military world and be trusted completely.

When Loomis saw the cavity magnetron, he saw all its war and peacetime possibilities in a flash (some he later invented himself) and his informed enthusiasm fired up both the American and British microwave radar efforts.

(It is worth remembering that the Allies spent far, far more on radar than they ever did on the atom bomb.)

Far more importantly, his enthusiasm for the wonders of British science convinced most doubting Americans among its elite that Britain might just win the war after all and that as a serious postwar commercial-technological competitor , it won't hurt to keep her close - very close.

Because the other military secrets the Tizard team brought had failed to sway those Americans experts  (not all Americans by a long shot - but a very powerful group nevertheless) who doubted its survival chances.

He even convinced the British that their backroom long haired lab boys might just do what the British Army, Navy and Air Force clearly couldn't do - win the war ---- by winning the science war.

The Boffin moved into the British Cabinet Room and has never really left.

Not bad for a British "invention" that had actually been invented a decade earlier by all leading scientific powers - including backwards Japan and Russia - except for Britain.

The others - and the British experts - simply hadn't seen the potential in what had been discovered.

Beginners' Luck

Britain's luck was the new "cavity" magnetron was casually thrown off by a pair of low level scientists, simply as an unimportant adjunct to their main project.

They had the minor task - as part of a ever so slightly less minor wartime project - to develop a way to detect microwaves.

They simply needed a source of microwaves to test their detector.

Fortunately they knew nothing about microwaves and had no money or time to spend on the effort.

Working literally with a budget of a few pounds and bits of spare wire and copper pipe and a hand drill - things you might have lying around in your own garage -  they invented a penny whistle,  powered by electricity instead of your wind.

But the ancient musical principle of creating a strong pure note by carefully placed holes in a tube still held.

This clean pure note could detect a submarine conning tower ,in a sea of spray, from miles away in the dark.

And today, any high school shop class can build an equivalent of the original cavity magnetron in an afternoon .

Dead easy - once you know how.

Genius - by design or by accident - is like that.  It isn't a question of simply throwing tons of men and money at a problem but of being clever - first.

Their names,  Randall and Boot,  still remain unknown : gentlemen take a bow.

Too bad Stan Rogers isn't here to write a ballad

So : a nondescript 'Halifax pier' as the site where fifty desperately clapped out destroyers were exchanged for the electronic bit that powers that microwave in your daughter's college dorm.

It seems a very inauspicious spot to seal a 'special relationship' between two former hot rivals that has endured for seventy five years and still largely rules our world.

But I think it is a spot - and an event - worth celebrating : what do you think ?

* The human cargo the Duchess of Richmond returned to Britain with in September of 1940 was notable too : it included a very young officer cadet named Hampton Gray , who later earned a VC  for Canada on the last days of the war....

Monday, May 26, 2014

Do Nova Scotians still have moral courage ?

I originally wrote this as a 'letter to the editor' to the Halifax Coast Magazine , over the public being offered a chance to name the new city ferry...
"The best test of a truly world-class city is not in the height of its skyscrapers but in the self confidence, cheekiness and swagger of its ordinary citizens: one has only to think of the character of your typical Berliner, Cockney or New Yorker ("Two decades of world-class delusions," Coast feature by Tim Bousquet, July 11 2013).
Now we have been asked to suggest a name for the new harbour ferry and I would like to see it named The Roue. Partly because I think it is a truly catchy name like "the loonie," but also partly to demonstrate that underneath all their bluster, our world-class-obsessed elite are actually far too chicken to swagger.
William J. Roue, who designed the famous Bluenose, also designed many of our harbour's earlier ferries and rode them daily as well, as he lived most of his long life in Dartmouth but worked in Halifax, making ginger ale by day and designing boats by night.
But as francophones and those with an interest in literature will recognize, roue is also a word adopted into English to describe our complicated feelings about someone who is a rakishly attractive, free-wheeling ladies' man. We shouldn't really like him but we have a sort of sneaking admiration for him (or her) all the same.
Imagine when our sophisticated friends come here, on vacation, from the truly big cities of the world and we oh-so-casually suggest that we "take The Roue to Dartmouth." Let them go back home and tell all their friends that the citizens of Halifax have the nerve to call their harbour ferry The Roue!
Would the Nova Scotians of today have enough swagger to carry this off ? Maybe not. But years ago, after watching William J. Roue's first successful design beat the pants off America's best, one humble deckhand boasted - in the best Sam Slick fashion - "the timbers that'll beat her are still growing in the trees!"
Now there's confidence and swagger that's truly world-class."

 —Michael Marshall, Halifax

Agape Love as "brave compassion"

It is unusually difficult to be compassionate when one is also under attack.

I mean not just when enemy bullets are winging your way but also when your entire society, including all your friends and family around you, is seemingly opposing your compassion.

Being brave and compassionate under fire , when your nation expects all soldiers to be so , certainly requires a lot of physical bravery (after all , most VC recipients died while earning it).

But it rarely requires any real moral courage.

By contrast , opposing your own society to display compassion doesn't always require physical bravery - but it certainly requires a great deal of moral courage.

Henry Dawson's wartime compassion meant both having the physical courage to accept that his actions would only hasten his death from Myasthenia Gravis and the moral courage to deal with hostility from his colleagues, employer and national government.

This is why I think it useful to contrast Dawson's WWII Agape valour with the Agape valour he and fellow Nova Scotian Philip Bent VC displayed in WWI...

Agape compassion is easy - but Agape valour is very very hard

Agape love is not just 'compassion' - it is selfless limitless compassion for others (including enemies) even onto death.

By definition it seems to be more about limitlessness (of selflessness onto death) than mere normal (limited) expressions of compassion and mere normal (limited) acts of compassion.

Demands that we display agape love thus becomes one of Christ's notorious 'hard' sayings.

Despite this, the term 'agape' is most commonly found coupled with bog ordinary 'compassion' and very, very rarely with concepts like 'valour' (courage and bravery under conditions of likely death).

Valour seems to have become too associated with the wounded soldier awarded a VC for picking up a gun and going off by himself under heavy fire to kill a group of enemy machine gunners.

Valour seems to confined to an extraordinary activity redolent of offensive , aggressive , violent warfare.

The only military valour most of us like to applaud is that of the man who leaps on a live grenade, dying to save the life of his comrades.

Or even better, someone who goes back time and time again into a burning plane to pull out his friends - only to die himself when the plane explodes.

Brave onto death while saving others.

But true Agape valour - in Christ's sense of the term - might actually only fully apply to that rare soldier who dies trying to pull enemy soldiers out of their burning vehicle.

But no nation ever gives out medals for that --- and more's the pity.....

Sunday, May 25, 2014

WWII plenticide and agape penicillin were made for each other : chalk and cheese, matter and antimatter , oil and water

WWII saw an unusually high number of civilians and POWS die in a war supposedly fought between modern civilizations : why ?

Out of thousands of possible drug choices, penicillin , dramatically emerging late in WWII , remains our best loved and best known medicine : why ?

I think these two unusual events are in fact closely linked : (behavior on both sides in) WWII being the disease and Agape penicillin being the cure.

Agape penicillin's plenitude curing plenticide against life and of compassion....

Scandal : Writers Union of Canada rejects BLOCKHEAD

Great news !

The Writers' Union of Canada has changed its membership requirements and I am still not allowed in.

For a few weeks there , I feared I might be.

I am still not allowed in , but it is not because I am female or black or gay  --- writers' organizations have never been accused of arresting anyone for DWB (driving while black) .

No, it is because I have committed the ultimate taboo in the Union's eyes : I try to do good, as a writer, for others without expecting a reward in return.

I write without commercial intent.

WWCI : 'writing without commercial intent'

Oh , the horror of it all !

As a writer, I am , as Samuel Johnson famously noted , a blockhead : I do not write for money.

I do not copyright my writing (I release it fully into the Public Domain without any sort of reservations) and I give my works away as either e-books or as downloadable print books.

Tractarian ?

Regard my comparatively short works as Tracts or Pamphlets and thus not real books - call me a Tractarian or Pamphleteer - as Eva Tanguay sang , "I don't care, I don't care, I don't care !"

How could I even think about selling my work for self gain when my books (Tracts/Pamphlets) are all about Agape selflessness ?

Did Dr Martin Henry Dawson or Philip Bent VC give up their lives, just for the money ?

So why should I write about their selflessness, for my selfish gain ?

The Writers' Union decision was widely reported and commented upon, in Canada and abroad.

But not once so far have I come across a negative comment on the Union's continued need for their potential members to want to make money off their writing.

Negative comments aplenty for sure from many independent authors.

But only over the Union deciding it had to vet the self published for quality control while letting in those published with someone else's money without any need to meet quality standards.

No one seems to think that working hard and skillfully at your occupation without expecting financial gain - much like the medical professionals in 'Doctors Without Borders' - is a worthy human activity.

Indeed since very few people these days agree to head up a 'professional' charity without being very well paid for doing good , why should professional writers feel any different ?

Right then - as an amateur (someone who does something out of  love ) - it seems only appropriate that I call myself a proud amateur writer - and a 'blockhead writer' to boot ...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

His agape love had no hometown....

(Martin) Henry Dawson was born in Truro but spent his formative years going to school in Halifax and Montreal or saving lives and fighting Huns in World War One France.

He later worked in hospitals in Kentucky and in New York City.

In WWII, he gave up his own life to try and save hundreds of thousands of people - people totally unknown to him and from all over the world - who were dying (needlessly) of subacute bacterial endocarditis (SBE) .

His actions ultimately has benefitted ten billion of us , so far, since 1940 - via a form of herd immunity generated when penicillin, thanks largely to Henry, became a inexpensive public domain lifesaver.

Whatever Henry did, Henry did by himself - it was not done by the community of his birth, Truro.

So honour him in Truro, if you want ,  but also honour him everywhere valour earns acclaim ...