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What The Tyranny Of An Occupying Government Really Means To Freedom

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in his lost diaries.  Here, as the learned Doktor of Laws from the big city, he has been asked to speak to the citizens of the small village of Zurau, where he is living with his sister.

He is talking about the end of the Empire that the townsfolk have been living under all their lives. The Empire, the Emperor, and the civilization they know, is soon to be swept away. Will their lives go with it?

Kafka speaks the truth, and Kafka avoids the truth.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall, taking notes. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?”

This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skillful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.)

“What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?”

And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin.

I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands. Look after each other.

16 January 1918

I did not tell them that war is the end result of injustice and arrogance, and that it is oftentimes necessary. I did not tell them that when the natural balance is upset by human action, the cost of righting it must be made in human payment. I did not tell them that a country where neighbour is cruel to neighbour is a country mean for war.

In February, Kafka Ponders The Role And Duties Of The Citizen

In real life, Kafka recorded the beginning of the First World War in his diary this way:

August 2, 1914: Germany has declared war on Russia. Went swimming in the afternoon.

That was it.

But, regardless of his lack of enthusiasm, Kafka believed in the duties of the citizen. He tried to join the army to fight. In fact, he tried to join a number of times. He was always refused because the government deemed his civil/government job was too important for him to relinquish.

But, near the end of the war, when Kafka was so sick he had lengthy periods of leave from his job to recuperate, the army came calling.  Kafka had to appear before authorities with medical proof of his illness.

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I ‘fill in’ one of his diary entries describing such a situation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

07 February 1918

              I find I must go to Prague at the end of next week. Such knowledge is proof that one should not open one’s mail. The Military yet again wishes to snare me, and I must once again prove that my hide is not worth the effort.

     There were time (very rare) when my father would despair. Not his usual anger at the general incompetence and perfidy of the world around him, but a resignation to the belief that things would never get any better.

     “If they want to drag me down,” he would say, “Then I may as well join them. I’ll go out into the street and let myself be swept away by the mob. I’ll become part of their common, grubby life, and let them wipe their boots on me.”

     That is much as I feel right now. Let the army take me, dress me in their uniform, point me toward the Americans, and have some cowboy shoot me. Going into battle could be no worse than going into Prague.

Leonard Cohen’s Birthday And A Trudeau Election In Canada

I take advantage of the fact that there was a federal election in Canada yesterday, featuring a Prime Minister Trudeau, and today is Leonard Cohen’s birthday. I present this excerpt from my novel, Fame’s Victim, when Cohen was still alive and attending the funeral of a former Prime Minister Trudeau.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt from Fame’s Victim

ST is present-bound enough to be aware when the end of the funeral arrives. Vested clergy group at the front of the church and the RCMP poll bearers again emerge. To the mournful strains of the organ they begin to slow-march the coffin along the aisle. He has no desire to mill about to meet the family for he has never met any of them before. He only encountered Le Monsieur the one time, but it was obviously significant for the older man.

     This ceremony of death makes everyone equal, and ST takes his place comfortably among the hundreds of other mourners who begin to leave the Basilica. Their progress along the center aisle is orderly but slow and he has time to inspect the interior of the building. As he looks at statues and woodwork and stained glass, a hand taps him on the shoulder.

     “That’s one of my favourites.”

     ST turns to see Leonard Cohen nodding and pointing to the left. He follows the other man’s finger and eventually perceives a somber painting enlivened with splashes of mystic colour.

     “I see ecstasy.” Cohen’s voice is a low murmur.

     “So do I.” ST immediately understands what the quiet voice means. “It breaks out.”

     “The way death should be.” The poet glances at ST with a half smile. “Something to look forward to.”

     “I’ve never doubted that.”

     “Ah.” Cohen shrugs. “If Pierre could only speak to us now.”

     “Do you think it possible?”

     “No.” His eyes hold ST. “Not the way I mean, at any rate.”

     “The tongue stilled.”

     “Something I will regret.” He leans toward ST. “Do you have plans after the funeral?”

     “Not really.” ST keeps to a muted tone. “I thought I’d look around the city. I don’t leave until this evening.”

     “Then perhaps we could take a noontime stroll to a place of refreshment.”

     “I don’t want such public exposure.”

     “This is the Prime Minister’s day in Canada.  It is understood why you’re here, and you will be left alone.”

     They come out into the sunshine. Media attention is heavy, but it is directed elsewhere. ST is pleased to discover that his companion is adept at quickly moving through crowds. They descend the steps and start along the street, garnering glances but no intrusions. They turn a corner, cross another street, and traverse a Square that leads to a narrower street. ST notes it is Rue le Royer and the pedestrian traffic is slight.

     “A restaurant or an outdoor café?”

     “I’d like food and to be outside.” ST speeds up to keep pace. “But I’m not sure about a public display.”

     “There is a favourite place of mine. We will be left alone.”

     The street enchants ST, much as many of the ornate, narrow streets of Europe do. He can imagine himself standing on one of the small, door-sized balconies looking down as pedestrians, such as two, black clad men, scurry along below. In a few minutes they come into the direct sunshine of a broad avenue. They are on Place Jacques-Cartier, and it is ringed with cafés and restaurants. There are also hundreds of people milling about in the crisp October day.

     “There might be the occasional ‘hello’.” Cohen glances at ST. “Nothing more than a smile is required. Most of these people are on their lunch hour, intent on a bite and a glass.”

     “I’m certainly intent on a glass.”

     “That’s where we’re headed.” He doesn’t point but starts across the square. “There are many tables still free.”

     ST again keeps pace, walking beside the other man as they go up the hill. People do indeed notice them, but after an initial surprise comes a look of understanding. The day still belongs to Le Monsieur.

     The outdoor café has hanging baskets of flowers, many in robust bloom. The tables are of ornate wrought iron and have burgundy table clothes. The chairs appear to be actual wooden kitchen chairs.

     “Perhaps that corner.” ST points to the back.

     “But – non.” Cohen smiles as he grabs ST’s arm. “Here – at the front. We are to watch the street go by in all its tousled glory.”

     “Will they not be watching us?”

     “Give and take.” He begins to steer ST to a table. “We will be taking more than they.”

     A couple of the tables have wide umbrellas open over them. ST prefers one of these but instead is gently nudged to the street front. All of the other patrons do look as they walk among them, but although their eyes linger no one says anything. At the table ST begins to pull out a chair which will put his back to the street, but Cohen clicks his tongue and moves the chair until it is nearly beside the other.

     “We’ll sit together. We’ll twin their delight.”

     “If they approach . . . “

     Cohen winks. “You won’t have to sing a note.”

     ST settles beside the poet and gives himself up to the street scene. Regardless of the chill in the air most of this early afternoon crowd have made little concession to the time of year. The women especially seem as fashionably and attractively attired as he has seen in any public place.

     “The ladies are alluring.” ST smiles.

     “Antidote to the black of funeral garb.”

     ST notes the usual ‘double take’ of those pedestrians who happen to look their way. Barely is eye contact made however before it is quickly removed. Couples immediately chat together, but there is not one finger pointed in their direction.

     “What would you like to drink?”

     ST looks away from the street and smiles as an unexpected thought takes him.

     “Champagne.”

time?” Cohen glances at his watch.

     “Will they have something decent here?”

     “They will offer a selection.”

     With a half-raised arm and the gesture of a finger the waitress is summoned. Upon hearing the request she lists a half dozen champagnes. ST chooses one he knows will be as crisp as the day.

     “Any food?”

     “Dear God – yes.” ST smiles at the waitress then glances at the other man. “Any suggestions?”

     “They stuff a chicken breast here with portebello mushrooms, feta and wild rice.” He touches his lips. “With a Greek salad it is a meal to embrace.”

     “That sounds fine.” ST looks back to the waitress. “But bring the champagne now.”

     “Are we to toast?” Cohen watches the waitress walk away as he speaks. “Or are we to mourn?”

     “I less and less mourn the dead.” ST also watches the waitress leave. “They are lost to us but they are not lost to time.”

     “Then we acknowledge?”

     “Yes.” ST turns to the street. “The only time I met the Prime Minister – mere months ago – he desired we have champagne. It is a memory to share.”

     “Memory – the ghost at every table.”

     The noontime crowd has run its course and, just as with the café clientele, the number of people on the street become fewer. However word-of-mouth has spread and everyone makes a pass of the café. Other than being the object of glances and smiles, the two men are not interrupted. Pedestrian traffic does slow however when the bottle of champagne arrives.

     “They want a show.” Cohen runs a finger over the cold bottle.

     “There’s a proper way.” The waitress is winding a white napkin around the bottle.

     “In tandem, don’t you think?” The poet glances at ST.

     “That will make the news of the world.” ST indicates the number of cameras and video recorders among the crowd.

     “It should be the news of the world.”

     The waitress is not certain of his intent, but when Cohen stands beside her with a generous smile she hands him the bottle. He lets the napkin fall to the table and holds the champagne – label out – toward the street. ST gets to his feet amid the click-click-click of cameras and begins to remove the wire basket.

     “You can not share my déjà vu but trust me, Time is doubling over with laughter.”

     ST begins to twist the cork, his other hand around the bottle’s neck even though Cohen holds the base. When he feels the cork start to give he puts both thumbs against it and shoves. As it explodes into the Montreal sky the waitress holds the two glasses and, amid the welling applause from the street, ST pours the champagne.

     “We begin to set the clocks at normal.” The poet takes both glasses and the flustered waitress flees.

     “By drinking champagne at noon?” ST reaches for the offered glass.

     “By showing we no longer need to mourn.” Cohen’s smile contains wry triumph. “Time is pulling out of the station and now we need to jump on board.”

     “With a sip of champagne?” ST brings his glass to his lips.

     Cohen gives a slight bow to the street. “The most effective slight-of-hand is the trick that’s seen by all.”

I’ve Been Around The Block A Number Of Times Yet I Still Seem Innocent (If Not Young)

I answered my phone this morning – too early for a Sunday –  and had a voice who (I’ll swear upon any religious tome) sounded like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, informing me that I was being contacted by a Survey/Research company.

The topic was the upcoming Federal election.


The company had a name I recognized, which has the reputation of being legit and reliable.


But there was that “Prime Minister voice”. Such a thing can not be random, and if it was random, then the outfit is inept.


So I was talking to a Robot.


The first three or so questions were about where I live. Now, I figure even a robot, if it already has my phone number, should know where I live. But I was willing to tap the numbers on the phone keyboard to let them figure out where I was. Had they asked my postal code, I would have balked.

I was then asked, if I wanted to have the process they go through to form their opinions, explained to me. I declined. In for a penny, in for a pound.


THEN, I was asked to tell them which party I was planning to vote for.

Gotta say, expecting to tell how a citizen votes is a violation of the rights of the citizen of that country. I was surprised. But I went through the “Press number if” list, so I could decline. There was no avenue given to decline.


Rude or not, I hung up on the Robot.

Dominion Day With Frolicking Beavers In Canada

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Canada is – rightfully – taking a beating with the renewed (certainly not *new*) information and revelations of the horrendous treatment done to our First Nation citizens. This is not only historic, but contemporary, Justice can not help but come too late, But Justice must come.

I will re-post this this story that centres around the country I live in. The human is just an observer.

We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.

But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.

First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.

Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.

And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.

However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.

How I Will Save Canada And Enrich The Nation

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[Rideau Hall]

I am putting myself forward to be chosen as the next Governor General of Canada. I am open to the job in the natural progression of such things, but can be on call to finish off a term if – well – the need arises.

I am a sturdy Maritimer (I think this part of the country could use the boost); have travelled nearly across this fair land; am a successful artist; and am descended from United Empire Loyalists.  I will be more than proud to represent our Monarch.

I also have a stellar idea of how to raise funds for this great country, even in these times of COVID-19 disruption.

I propose to turn Rideau Hall, official residence of the Monarch, into an AirBnB. I’ll be more than happy to live in Rideau Cottage, or even 7 Rideau Gate. I generally live small.

Rideau Hall has 175 rooms and sits on 88 acres. It can easily pass as a Gated Community – with guards. It is set back from the hustle and bustle of the city. Unwanted visitors are removed.

Though it could indeed be party central for the insanely rich, I think more in terms of renovating the interior into a number (admittedly, a large number) of rooms and apartments, suitable for a vast array of the world’s population.

Also, the way things are going, well-done – though admittedly hasty – renovations could turn the building into a grand place for staycations. Proud Canadians from sea to sea to sea can come (eventually) to stay in the nation’s capital. There might be a shuttle service for residents to go to the Byward Market to stock up on provisions.

I throw open this proposal even if I do not attain the high position I desire. It will be a gift to my fellow citizens.

But I think I would look right nifty in uniform

 

[image] https://www.gardensottawa.ca/img/cache/126/261/11/86976117480161100269-0114588001517009332.jpg

Canada Day Is Really Dominion Day – But A Beaver Remains The Same

s-l300

We know that Canada Day is really Dominion Day.

But – that said – there is still no better symbol for Canada than the industrious beaver. But even hard-working beavers hard-working beavers need their time at play. This is what I saw.

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise.

It was one of those noises which, when I found out what it was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river.

First there were small rolling noises, as the branch went through its hands.

Then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’.

And then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, until the beaver and I both heard noises in the river.We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and sniffed each other. They then swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver that had first approached rubbed noses once again, then made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see.

However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

Perhaps they had just had a date. Perhaps they had just arranged for a date. Whatever the case, I had the distinct impression they were more than friends.

When They Poured Across The Border / I Was Cautioned To Surrender ~ L Cohen

ctm-0806-canada-us-border

I crossed the border yesterday, in this time of Pandemic. On an intercity bus. Restricted to nine passengers. At least I had a seat to myself.

The last time I crossed a border under threat of reprisal was decades ago. I entered (and left) Czechoslovakia (as it was then called) by train. I had gone to Prague to follow the footsteps of Kafka. Then the concern of authorities  was all about smuggling. Dire consequences that could put you in prison. And, on my way back out of the country, I was subject to a random search. Open my luggage, and spread what items the soldier decreed upon the seat and aisle, as he poked and prodded. He took interest in an object ( I forget what it was) which quite quickly could be seen to be a commercial souvenir. Thankfully. My careful packing had then to be shoved helter-skelter back into my luggage. Better a jumble than a jail.

So, crossing the border in the same country in this time of Pandemic was not as filled with anxiety, though anxious I still was. Although travel restrictions are being loosened and (at least in this neck of the woods) the Curve is being flattened,

Death stalks the Land / and keep washing your hands.

I did change my seat once, because a passenger changed seats to “have a better view”. That seat was across the aisle from me.

I was handed a form to fill out by the bus driver at a transfer station (nearly empty of people) to give to the border guards if they asked. Apparently they did not ask for it all that often. Where are you coming from/where are you going to. Name. Full address. Reason for travel. Do you have any symptoms?

So, with mask in place (well … a lot of the time  – though always when off the bus) I had a reasonably pleasant trip on a reasonably pleasant day. Lots of elbow room. There was an hour’s delay at the actual border. When it was the turn for the bus, no officer actually did board to check us out. Or take our forms. However, the driver handed his PA microphone out the window so the officer could tell us that: “Anyone breaking the fourteen (14) day quarantine upon arrival was subject to a $1,000 fine.”

I’ve got thirteen (13) days left.

 

[image] https://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2018/08/06/8ae2e881-5500-4b09-876f-e1cf5bdecaad/thumbnail/1200×630/bda4ff327e62a7e92030aad7cc2e1693/ctm-0806-canada-us-border.jpg

Hunting For A Mailbox And Finding Jesus

 

The Coronavirus makes strange bedfellows. Or – maybe not. World wide doom, and destruction, and Jesus perhaps go hand-in-hand. The One is there to cancel out the other.
 
At any rate, yesterday I was in search of a mailbox. To mail an actual letter. It is possible it was the first *actual* letter of the year. And a bit time sensitive. There was no going to the Post Office, it being Sunday and a Pandemic to boot. So I went searching for a local mail box.
 
I imagine at the best of times I’m not fully aware of the closest mail box. There used to be one at the closest gas station, but that had been totally renovated and the mail box removed. The next closest was at the local Mall, but walking there revealed the Mall was closed, since everything inside was closed. So a search began.
 
It made sense that any area where there was a grouping of buildings might have a mail box. Passing a Donut Shop (open to take-out only) and a Library (closed) and a bar (closed) yielded nowhere to mail a letter. However – in the distance – down the hill and across the road, there seemed to be a stark red box. It was in front of a large Seniors Complex. Perhaps Seniors mail more letters. Investigation eventually showed it was a Mail Box, and into its maw went my tiny envelope. To be picked up next day. So I hope that has now happened.
 
On the way back, after a well-deserved sit on a bench in a small park (more than two meters / six feet away from anyone else), upon  coming closer to home, music filled the air. Guitars and drums and female voices singing (at the first encounter) what sounded like Joan Baez songs.
 
However, upon entering a new street, it was apparent that the large church, with its commanding view of the city, was having an outside church service in their expansive parking lot. Cars parked a safe distance apart, with men wearing orange safety vests making sure the rules were enforced. The musicians and singers were under a portico at the front of the church, and they were belting out hymns aplenty. Heard, I am sure, across much of the city..
 
I’m sure Jesus was clapping along.

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