Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Nice to be home

Leaving Bay of Naples
One of the nicest things about exploring far-away places is coming back home to Maine. A week and a half is about my limit for traveling. After ten days comes a point of diminishing returns after which the excitement of seeing new places is eclipsed by the desire for home and familiar routines. Perhaps if I were younger I would enjoy it longer but, like many, I couldn’t afford to travel then and was way too busy with work and family to get away.

This was my fourth trip to the Mediterranean and I can see why western civilization originated there. Compared to northern Europe where my barbarian ancestors came from, the living is relatively easy. It seldom snows except in the high mountains. In late April there was still snow in the Pyrenees and in the Alps, but it very seldom snows at sea level where we spent most of our time.

Lobsters? Barcelona market
The markets were full of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. They grow year-round in most areas, unlike here in northern New England where farmers must rush to plant, tend, and harvest as much as they can between frosts, and where too much rain, too little rain, a late frost, or an early frost can wipe out everything. Then farmers have to wait a whole year before gambling on it all again. In the old days of subsistence farms, that could mean the difference between eating or starving.

Our ship/city
My small town of Lovell has barely over a thousand people, but there were four thousand passengers on our enormous cruise ship, not to mention fourteen hundred crew. It was a floating city with several restaurants, theaters, bars, a casino, and I don’t know how many staterooms. It pulled into bigger cities each night where it tied up near other huge, floating city-ships. Local guides waited next to tour busses each morning to show us all around their native habitat as we walked down the ramps.

Walled town in Tuscany
Clearly those guides loved their homelands as much as I love Maine and their pride was evident as we followed them around and they explained what we were seeing. One theme every guide mentioned was the need for security. Over there, they measure history by millennia whereas the history of North America is measured in centuries. Every place on earth is equally old, of course, but if history is defined as the written record of events, the record of the Mediterranean Basin goes back far longer. And, as Karl Marx observed: war is the locomotive of history. There’s been plenty of that throughout the region.

Being one of ten or fifteen people in each tour group, I mostly listened. Guides explained their cities were once fortified — surrounded by high walls and always expecting attacks. Traveling through interior Tuscany our guide pointed out hilltop villages surrounded by walls, each with a tower inside where someone was constantly scanning the countryside for invading armies or roaming hoards of bandits. Earlier there had been a long period of relative peace when the Roman Army was so strong it could protect its provinces from outside attack — The Pax Romana, or The Peace of Rome.

When Rome collapsed, Europe went into the Dark Ages — a period when no one was in charge for very long and various tribes battled for dominance. There were was no common law and few authorities to enforce it if there were. Life was tenuous and people didn’t travel much. They ventured into the countryside to tend crops and animals, but didn’t stray far from the fortress back to which they would flee if invaders appeared.

After the Dark Ages came the Pax Britannia during which England ruled the seas and few could challenge it — until the World Wars of the 20th century. Most of you reading this have grown up in a time and place during which there has been no invasion of hostile forces bent on rape and pillage. We have lived during the Pax Americana. No armies, no navies, no hoards of bandits have dared molest Americans because they knew they wouldn’t survive if they tried. We’ve been unusually fortunate to have lived peaceful lives here but how many of us realize that?

Monaco street
While most of Europe was made up of small kingdoms during the Middle Ages, or Dark Ages if you will, nearly all merged into nation states by the 20th century. One that remains is Monaco which we visited last Friday. It has been ruled by the same family since the 13th century and it’s a rich little principality of less than a square mile and over 38,000 people. It was preparing for the May 27th Grand Prix while we were there.

Naples fortification
It’s a nice place but much too crowded for me. I like Maine.


Anonymous said...

"We have lived during the Pax Americana. No armies, no navies, no hoards of bandits have dared molest Americans because they knew they wouldn’t survive if they tried."

That is not necessarily true with the rise of the Caliphate and the hijra to Europe and America through refugee resettlement. We don't necessarily need walls for protection since the Left has enabled civilization jihad to take place through their willful blindness.

Many reading these comments will think I'm an Islamophobic, fear-mongering conspiracy theorist. I actually hope that they'd be right, but what if I'm right and they're not?

Anonymous said...

Charles Martel, your fears are somewhat overblown. The US has always had immigrants: Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and yes, the Middle East. As far as Muslims, they have been in this country since the very first slaves.

Islamic extremism that leads to global terrorism comes out of Saudi Arabia. Note that the US and the Saudis started the pipeline of funding radical Islam as a tool to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. Saudi funding of extremism still continues today.

You may hear a lot of fear-mongering in the news currently about Iran but Iran doesn't threaten the US mainland - it threatens Israel. And yes, that's a problem but it's not one that affects Americans on American soil. Saudi-funded extremism is a different story. Remember that 15 out of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Bin Laden was Saudi. It is Saudi Arabia that continues to fund extremist rebels in Syria.

So let your fear of Muslims abate. And recognize that the US and our ally Saudi Arabia need to own some responsibility for Islamic terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Martel I see little difference between Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists in their actual beliefs. Blasphemy I know. They all believe in God, Abraham, Moses, Jesus. In fact it is quite possible that Islam as the newer religion is a correction to the errors in both Judaism and Christianity.

The big difference in modern culture is actually between those who are religious and those who are secular. That's a much bigger difference than Christian vs. Muslim.

In any event the Muslims I've met have been very nice people.

Tom McLaughlin said...

One who is too afraid to post his/her name claims:

"Mr. Martel I see little difference between Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists in their actual beliefs."

Wow. You've got a lot to learn. Charles Martel is exactly right, but you're too ignorant to understand and, even though I like teaching it would take much too long in your case. And I don't believe you want to learn because you think you already know.

Mr Ed said...

Most be nice to have such disposable income that you can take so many expensive trips.

No kids? two incomes? Old money? frugal? or just better piss it all away before the financial collapse comes? I've often thought that my desire to be frugal so I could support myself in my declining years was foolish. Candle at both ends, might be the way to go.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I've paid off all my debt some years ago, Mr. Ed, and I hope to avoid borrowing ever again. I've worked at least two and sometimes three jobs for much of my life and I still have the jobs I worked while I was teaching. I've always been frugal and still shop at the Salvation Army and Goodwill. My kids are grown and on their own. We like to cook for ourselves. Our only expenses now are taxes and utilities.

With four kids, we lived under the federal poverty line for years. Keep up your frugal ways and pay off your debts asap. Then enjoy what you earn yourself.

Anonymous said...

Religious extremism is religious extremism. The KKK was and is an explicitly Christian organization. Is the KKK somehow more moral than its Muslim counterparts?

The difference between Muslim extremism and Christian extremism is that in the past Muslim extremism was more supported by the mainstream Muslim than Christian extremists were supported by the Christian mainstream. Much of that is due to the fact that most Christians were in first world countries and Muslims in third world countries.

A lot of the difference in the U.S. is the news. If a Muslim is accused of killing a bunch of people, the headlines read Muslim terrorist. If a Christian kills a bunch of people and they openly and regularly say that they are going to kill a bunch of people for Jesus, the headlines read, mentally ill man kills people.


P. C. Poppycock said...

We've spent two weeks in Italy twice, both times in Tuscany. With friends, we stayed in a great apartment in Montepulciano, a walled medieval village. It was grand....we took day trips, and alternated between cooking at night with the best simple ingredients and going out.

It was the most transcendent travel we've ever done. We fell in love with the whole package of Tuscany, and would have moved there in an instant if it was feasible.

As to that ship of yours, that's some vessel. More than twenty years ago, I attended a Navy Destroyer commissioning in the port of Fort Lauderdale. There were several of the newest cruise ships in port, and seeing them from all angles was astonishing in scale compared to the Navy ship. The most glaring fact is that they look like they are exceptionally top-heavy.

Caused my to go back and review what I knew about stable and unstable equilibrium.

Quite an engineering feat to make such a ship viable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

I'm the one that said there is not a lot of difference between Christian extremists and Muslim extremists. I'll add Jewish extremists and Buddhist extremists to that statement.

Go ahead. Educate me. I'm listening.

But do know I am pretty well-educated and well-travelled. You're going to have to give it a real go. Let's hear it.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Maybe I didn't make myself clear: I don't want to make the effort.

Anonymous said...

Well then I'll make a small effort to educate you :)

Quick Overview of the similarities and differences between Islam & Christianity

The religious folks coming out of the monotheistic traditions of the Middle East have far more in common with each other than they do with scientific atheists.