Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society / Social Order / Civilization / Law /
@ K. 1997
Mission: to point out inconsistency, convenience, and hypocrisy with regard to law: One of my original Society modules, too important, too fundamental to ever get finished properly. Most of its points have been made by me repeatedly since: here, at other blogs, in other domains.
Lazy or desperate politicians routinely dedicate themselves to law and order in their electioneering. A solid majority of their public is secure in their feeling on the subject. We’ve always just fallen out of a golden age in which there was law and order and if only we break a few heads, we can return to paradise.
The appeal repeatedly succeeds because of our convenient habit of making history whatever we’re proud to remember. It’s rationalists, not the public, not public figures, who probe their beliefs, ever testing for quality.
Law and Order. When? Certainly the government has always respected convenient laws. Don’t we all? What’s our record with inconvenient laws?
Where was the gold found that started the ’49er rush? That’s like asking who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb: any school boy will answer “Sutter’s Mill” in a second. OK: tell us more about Sutter’s Mill.
Uh … Blank.
1998 05 20 I now notice a few errors note in the version I jotted last autumn. Hell, it had been thirty years since I’d had the source material in my hand.
German speaking, Swiss born, Sutter came to the United States and headed west. He blazed new trails through previously impassable territories. Unable to interest local peoples in helping him to develop the Sacramento Valley, he set sail and found willing labor in Hawaii. Proud of his family’s ties with Switzerland, he called his empire New Helvetia and sought to protect his future by negotiating treaties with Mexico, the United States, and Russia. The new potentate was soon thriving. Having first dubbed himself Colonel, he eventually promoted note himself to General.
2012 09 20 I add that Sutter wasn’t the only one: rank inflation is common especially among Germanic cultures: Mr., already a flattery, what are you “master” of? isn’t good enough: Herr Doktor Professor General … Look at Emile Janning in The Last Laugh, see how he wears his doorman’s coat, he’s utterly devastated when they put him in the men’s room wearing a simple white jacket.
Reminds me of one of the best insults I’ve ever heard:
“I left your fee in the mens room.”
Being on the lookout for new resources to develop was a responsibility shared by Sutter’s large family and his workers. When gold was found it promised quality, abundance, and ease of harvesting. But Sutter was an unusually sensible man: finish the new mill, he said, and then we’ll deal with the gold.
Word got out, and that was the end of Sutter’s kingdom. The ’49ers killed his cattle for their own mess. Sutter’s soldiers and workers saw how things were going and joined the mayhem.
During its war with Mexico, the United States grabbed California. California of course contained the much-imposed-on sovereign state of New Helvetia.
In 1851 Sutter sued the usurping government. A court in San Francisco found for Sutter, agreeing to a recompense of $275,000,000: $200 million for the land, $25 million for his streets, bridges, and canals, and $50 million for the cattle, buildings, factories and machines. The people stole the court records, destroyed the court house, scattered the judges, and marched on Sutter. Whatever Sutter had recovered or rebuilt from the couple of years before was now destroyed totally. His eldest son died by his own hand as his siblings were being murdered.
Whew! That ought to show him about law and order.
Laws do not persuade just because they threaten.
Sutter spent the rest of his life unsuccessfully petitioning Congress for a pension. Niente. (The City of Sacramento did build him a statue though.)
We all know about slavery. But that was supposed to be constitutional then. Besides, they was n-s. [Bowdlerizing K., 2016 08 03 Offensive terms go dosido in fashion.]
Many of us know about Wounded Knee. Eh, injuns.
We all know about treaties with indigenous tribes. (How many know that the practice hasn’t changed much?) Eh, injuns again.
The function of law is
to protect the successful
thefts of the past
from present ambition.
But Sutter was a white man note by anybody’s definition. He’d done everything by the rules. Yeah, but he had gold. We wanted it. QED.
How many of you learned this history in school? In college? In graduate school when you were specializing in American History? Unless you were in an exceptional school, I wouldn’t expect it was mentioned at all. But look it up. If you don’t find it in histories in print in the US, look abroad.
2008 06 17 I’ll try to make time to recompose all the mentions of Sutter at Knatz.com, make a separate module for him, and streamline this to be more simply about the titular subject. Meantime I must note: Sutter was the first white man to find an overland route across the Rocky Mountains. The ’49ers not only stole his gold, but they also used his path to steal it!
Do away with the Law
Nature’s laws are enough.
When one stumbles into another’s space, one excuses oneself. When we fumble a word, we say, “Pardon me, I meant …” When a gentleman brushes against a strange woman’s elbow, he apologizes, perhaps with specifics: “Excuse me. I didn’t mean to brush your elbow.” If your hand has inadvertently been pushed against a stranger’s breast, neither you nor she are likely to say anything.
In Romancing the Stone Michael Douglas lands at the bottom of a mud slide with his face in Kathleen Turner’s pussy. Even the audience waits until it can whisper in the bar about that one. How about when you let slip the world’s most wicked fart as you escort your daughter down the church aisle for her wedding? Right, you keep mum. Everyone in the church will cooperate: gagging and holding their breath, they’ll force some sort of tortured smile to replace the real one of moments ago, and they’ll avoid looking at you. No: small trespasses are acknowledged; we never admit the big ones.
Yes, when politicians talk of law and order, we’re with them. After all: we’re Christians, citizens of the noblest republic that ever existed, the Good Guys. It’s those infernal foreigners that don’t respect law and order.
OK, that’s one example, from one hundred fifty years ago. Here’s one that’s contemporary. R. Buckminster Fuller developed geodesics: more strength, less material, less weight. He had numerous patents. Until he was past retirement age, Bucky was always scratching for resources with which to work, to live. The post-war United States military started employing patented Fuller geodesics like crazy. Did they commission them from him? Did they come to him pleading poor mouth, appealing to his patriotism? Did they send him a thank you note? An explanation for the “borrowing”? National security? No, nothing. They just stole them.
Perhaps it was unintentional. Perhaps they didn’t know the designs were patented. No, Bucky protested to them for decades. Intellectual n-s, geniuses especially, have no rights in a kleptocracy.
Gee, the government pays Lockheed, doesn’t it? Didn’t the government buy enough software from Ross Perot to make him a billionaire? (Have you ever actually seen any of that software? Only a government lifer would tolerate it.) don’t the poison-makers get rich? Why pick on Bucky for the military’s kleptocopia?
Politics makes sense. But its a sense you need an anthropologist to explain rationally, not a lawyer. Read Frazer, read Freud.
1998 05 20 A few months ago I was fishing on Little Charlie Bowlegs Creek when a young couple came by. Chatting about this and that, it came up that the fellow’s field was history. I asked him what he knew about Sutter. I told him that my only source for the foregoing story was a little booklet I read in German decades ago. One should always have multiple sources before trusting anything too much. He promised to inform me if he ever ran across anything on the subject. A few days later the Feb-Mar issue of American Heritage Magazine arrived. It featured an article on the Gold Rush. I read it eagerly. It mentioned New Helvetia but said nothing about Sutter’s treaties. It mentioned that Sutter was ruined by law suits; nothing about how just decisions were overturned by a populace who wanted no part of laws they had to pay for. I wrote to the editors, printing out my then-version of this page.
Editor Richard Snow writes back, “I don’t believe his sons were killed, and the story of the judges being murdered and mutilated after finding in his favor, [sic] to the best of my knowledge, fantasy.” note
Could my history be wrong in a detail or two? Sure. No history is infallible. It had been thirty years since I’d read it. And no history learned while teaching yourself another language from scratch can be entirely trusted.
So I dig around and find my original source: Sutter, Cultural Graded Readers, German Series: I, C. R. Goedsche, Northwestern University, W. E. Glaettli, Centenary College for Women, copyright American Book Company, NY, 1963.
I reread it, chipping rust from a never fluid facility. Sure enough: I’d drifted some facts. Sutter was German, not Swiss-born; his sons were killed after the court’s finding, not during the height of the Gold Rush … Otherwise, if there are errors, they are errors I inherited from Goedsche & Glaettli and the American Book Company.
(Rereading here means relearning. Doing so induced the sum total of the German of my childhood to flow back into my head.)
Jock und Jill gennaft dein hill
Their buckets wassess aholen
Jock und Jill kamt down der hill.
Freut sich semicolon …
(My father may have known no more “German” than this himself.)
His grandson now alerts me to Ken Burns’ current shenanigans. PBS posts far more on Sutter than did American Heritage Magazine. (The link I had no longer works, but you can search from pbs.org.) I note minor inconsistencies (such as the place of Sutter’s birth) wherever the same material is covered. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have slightly different versions of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount; but they both report such an event and have him say similar if not identical things; but what would we think if one of the gospels omitted the crucifixion? Would we therefore believe that there wasn’t one?
Did Goedsche & Glaettli just make their version up? Was it some evil machination of the Communists to slander their Capitalist enemy? I don’t say that’s impossible: but show me something. Something responsible. Something historically valid. Don’t just sit in some executive suite of the Forbes Building and determine whatever you know nothing about to be fantasy.
1998 06 02 A new letter arrives in which Editor Snow tells me that Sutter’s eldest son became US consul in Acapulco and that none of his siblings were murdered. If that proves true, then my original source is definitely wrong in at least that part of the story.
I’ll go on checking this out. So should you.
2000 10 04 I add a note about Sutter in relation to kleptocracy in my module on Government. Sutter didn’t steal his country; it was stolen from him.
[sic]: Executive Privilege
I guess if you’re the editor of a slick magazine you don’t need to put verbs in your sentences.
Many a man has promoted himself: great men and fools: the practice does not in itself place one in which category. Hokusai, long a great artist, now old, still crazy about painting, renamed himself Hokusai: literally: old man, crazy about painting. Pablo Picasso Ruiz gradually became Pablo Picasso, finally, just Picasso: a promotion that defines itself.
Napoleon grabbed the emperor’s crown from the bishop at his coronation and placed the crown himself on his own head. What else should a megalomaniac do? Who else was worthy to place the crown? the silly bishop? God himself? How could there be room for God in Napoleon’s universe?
That’s a good one, and straight from history. But my favorite is fictional.
I never wasted my time seeking porn, but at several times in my life porn has been thrust upon me: as a kid some other kid shoved a photo at me of some girl blowing a horse. Some other kid described a photo to me of a girl jerking a guy off into her Coke glass: to flavor her beverage. (I puked over that one for a long time: partly imagining the Coke’s effect on the poor sperms!) But my first flood of porn came when I foolishly agreed to read my (step)father-in-law’s mail while he was in Switzerland. Lord have mercy. But: it did put in my hands a great novel. The plain brown wrapper, the return address, said porn; but the author proved to be Apolonaire! So I glanced and the first paragraph: and kept reading.
The Pole gone to Paris entered a bet: who could write the filthier novel. Apolonaire came up with The Debauched Hospidar. It’s hysterical! Find it!
The protagonist is a Pole, likewise gone to Paris. He finds it inconvenient to be ordinary in a society so vertically classed, a society where the resources distribute to the narrow top, not the broad bottom. He scans his family history. The best any of his ancestors has done in terms of kleptocratic labels was to work in a bureaucracy, attaining the pitiful grade of hospidar. The protagonist is the more chagrined that hospidar, like the military’s Spec4, is not a hereditary rank. So, upon thinking if over, Mr. Vibiscu titles himself Prince Vibiscu!
I’m still laughing: three and a half decades later. I bet that “Vibiscu” paired with the French for prince is funny in French; but I can’t imagine it being any funnier than it is in English.
2012 09 20 Puleeze read the two books by Sarah Vowell that currently have me prostrate with admiration: and laughter. This Cherokee survivor’s insults to kleptocracy are as incisive as mine and maybe funnier, at least on occasion.
Actually I bet lots of people laugh at her ironies but only growl at mine, and want me dead.
Law & Order Scrapbook follows.