The People of the Abyss

Jack London

Jack London (Photo credit: ex_magician)

The People of the Abyss by Jack London. In 1902, author Jack London of Call of the Wild fame journeyed to London on assignment as a war correspondent to cover the Boer war. He was on his way to South Africa where he might have met Winston Churchill, two years his senior, also working as a correspondent. Similar professions and similar writing ability, the two men could not have been more different. Churchill was born with a whole silver service, spoon, knife and fork, in his mouth while London was born poor and remained in debt his entire life because of his generosity to friends and acquaintances. London’s assignment to South Africa was cancelled, and since he was already in London, he decided to go undercover in London’s East End to see how the poor really lived. A change of clothes was all he needed since by 1902, London had lived rough for all of his 26 years.

London was a socialist when socialism was reviled everywhere by capitalism and its minions. If you read The People of the Abyss, you will be horrified at how England treated its poor, its elderly and its sick. No Social Security, no Medicare and no Affordable Care Act. The elderly relied on their children for care in their old age. If you had no children to care for you or they predeceased you, you were out of luck. Shelters for the poor demanded work from the able-bodied, were overwhelmed by the numbers seeking shelter, and provided inadequate food. The poor were not allowed to sleep on the streets or in parks at night and must walk from shelter to shelter since they could not seek shelter in the same place for more than two nights running. Australia had a similar system during the Great Depression where state assistance could only be obtained if the applicant kept moving from one town to another. Kyle Tennant in The Battlers tells that story eloquently.

London reports what he saw in a clear, straight-forward style and what he describes is just awful, my word, not his. The residents of East London were paid a pittance for physical labor. Once past their prime, they were replaced by younger and stronger workers, frequently immigrants from a healthier lifestyle in rural areas. London blamed the fact that 25% of Londoners died destitute on the capitalist system that he saw as heartless. Workers were drained of their vitality and then discarded. Crowding, poor food, lack of shelter and disease quickly disposed of excess population. The poor lived an average of 30 years; better-off Londoners lived to age 55. It was social Darwinism at its worst. For additional information about the life of Jack London, I recommend Irving Stone’s loving biography, Jack London: Sailor on Horseback.

According to Jack London, the poor in England were worse off than the poor in the United States, but by how much, he does not say. It was the Gilded Age in the US, and the GOP are intent on maintaining the 1% during this, the second Gilded Age. The question before the American voter is, will we accept this state of affairs?

Promises, promises

Dome of the Rock North through Arcade

Dome of the Rock North through Arcade (Photo credit: betta design)

Mitt has just finished speaking for about 20 minutes in Jerusalem, which he recognizes as the capital of Israel. Next it is dinner with Benjamin Netanyahu and then off to Poland tomorrow. I wonder what he will promise to the Polish people?

Reportedly in London, he told the City bankers, their version of Wall Street, that he opposed financial regulation of their industry, as in Dodd-Frank. In Jerusalem, he promised Israel support if they decide to use the military option against Iran.

The crowd size in Jerusalem was about 150 hand-picked guests. Probably more security people than guests in the crowd. Mitt used two teleprompters, and it was obvious as Mitt’s head swiveled from side to side during the speech. It was almost as if he were at Wimbledon, watching a tennis match.

Foot in mouth disease

Olympic flame during 2002 Winter Games in Salt...

Olympic flame during 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. From the Navy website: Salt Lake City, UT (Feb. 8, 2002) — Members of the 1980 Gold Medal U.S. Olympic hockey team stand below the Olympic flame at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The team had the honor of lighting the cauldron to invoke the official start of the competition. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poor Mitt, he has a bad case of foot in mouth disease. His comments on the London Olympics were not agreeable to the British. If he made similar comments in the US that received criticism, he would just change the comments and all would be well. That approach is not working well in London.

Before we decided to move to St. George, Utah, we spent a week in Park City, Utah, just before the Winter 2002 Olympics. I had a chance to examine the venues in person and I am acquainted with how much London differs from Salt Lake City.  David Cameron, British Prime Minister, made the implied comment that running a winter Olympic in an isolated city is much different from a summer Olympic in one of the world’s great metropolises. Let us hope that Mitt gets his act together for the more serious stops in Poland and Israel.

US Olympic uniforms

London 2012 banner at The Monument.

London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The US Olympic uniforms for the 2012 London games were made in China, stirring controversy. Mitt Romney was asked for his opinion and skirted the issue. The games are all about the athletes, he said. Of course, he would not criticize Ralph Lauren for outsourcing because he is an outsourcing pioneer.

My solution, not to be taken seriously, is to let the athletes compete in the nude. It would boost ratings, and that is the way the Greeks competed in the original Olympic games.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Cover of "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"

Cover of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday is an excellent novel made into a movie which my wife and I saw last evening. The movie version is very funny and I recommend it highly. It is a bit changed from the book. Unfortunately, the movie is not getting the attention it deserves. There were only four of us in the audience.

Most of the action in the movie takes place in London and Scotland. Only a small portion of the movie is in Yemen, which is too bad. Americans need to know more about the country that produced the bin Laden family and is the home of 20 million warring tribesmen, each having an average 4 guns apiece. Think of Afghanistan as the birthplace of the Taliban and Pakistan as the incubator for producing more Taliban. Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of al-Qaeda and Yemen is the current incubator for producing more members of al-Qaeda.

Yemen is rugged, desert country with much life and natural beauty in certain valleys. For about a year now, it has lacked an effective central government to maintain peace and order within the country. The Yemenis are a hospitable people with a custom, shown briefly in the movie, that I especially respect. Travellers are greeted with a chilled drink of water whenever they appear and however far the bearer of the water must go to offer the drink. Just think of the effort required to carry a heavy jug of water over a distance in the often blazing heat of midday in a Yemeni summer.