Tag Archives: Marcus Rediker

Notecard of Knowledge: peal

peal – 1. a loud, prolonged ringing of bells  2. a set of bells tuned to one another  3. a series of changes rung on a set of bells  4. any loud, sustained sound or series of sounds, as of cannon, thunder applause, or laughter

Hence the importance of habeous corpus, or freedom from imprisonment without due process of law, the deepest tone in freedom’s peal and fundamental to sailor, slave, and citizen.  (Linebaugh & Rediker 2000, 236)

If anyone is interested in revolutionary thought and history I highly recommend the Linebaugh & Rediker book.  It is not a book that would jump out at you, but it is well worth it. I am so glad Dr. Greene made it required reading. The Haiti discussions are particularly interesting and revealing.

The problem, of course, with habeous corpus is its reliance on due process.  Sometimes there is nothing due about the process.  It can be capricious and arbitrary.  Just because it has been vetted doesn’t make it just.  There are some particular cases I am thinking of in this case.  But there is an important lesson for radicals in my rant: we need political capacity and cannot rely upon fundamental protections.

In many cases this concern for political capacity can be considered a ‘base’.  It used to be that a jury would acquit in the kinds of actions we carry out.  Now that is in doubt as the nation falls deeper into fear: fear for our children, fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants.  The state has even outmaneuvered dissent to disallow a jury in some cases.  And these cases NEED NOT be violent.

Peal.  The problem is that radicals used to be part of a series of ongoing dissents.  Now, however, those dissents are dampened into Tea Party anger at life’s disappointments instead of real struggles.  The peal is now those people living afraid in their gated communities fearing those of us outside the fence.  My little rant, hardly a peal in and of itself.

Linebaugh, Peter & Marcus Rediker.  (2000).  The many headed-hydra: Sailors, slaves, commoners and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press.

Polysyllabic Spree

She [the Minerva] floats only because boys mind her pumps all the time, she remains upright and intact only because highly intelligent men never stop watching the sky and the seas around her.  Every line and sail decays with visible speed, like snow in daylight, and men must work ceaselessly worming, parceling, serving, tarring, and splicing her infinite network of hempen lines in order to prevent her from falling apart in mid-ocean with what Daniel imagines would be explosive suddenness.  (Stephenson 2002, 217)

That’s a marvelous passage and needed applause.  Only one adverb to detract from its beauty.  Few adjectives.  Plenty of descriptive verbs.  It also acknowledges the infinite struggle against nature for technological stasis.  More importantly, it does not chalk up the struggle to labor, but highlights the labor intensiveness of the struggle.

I am reminded recently of a talk by Alan Weisman, author of The world without us, where he remarked about the popularity of his book among conservative talk shows.  He had anticipated being lumped into the tree-hugging environmentalist camps, but was instead surprised that the conservatives glommed onto his praise of the common laborers.  The book does, after all, read like the show Dirty Jobs would.  Not that Stephenson has never been suspected of not being a friend to labor.  But why is labor friendly to the conservatives?  A question I have yet to find a satisfactory answer for.  False ideology, sure.  But how does it work?

What is also interesting about Quicksilver is that much of the beginning is set aboard the Minerva.  At the same time I started this tome I also started and finished another book which involves the Minerva. Only a few chapters of Linebaugh and Rediker’s The many-headed hydra were assigned, but I had to read the whole thing.  It is about the role of sailors, slaves and commoners in the revolutionary Atlantic.  Tracing labor through the major struggles, it was a fascinating read.  Its dovetails with Quicksilver were too odd.  Nearly sublime.

While I am speaking of sublimity, I am really excited about the latest book I just started reading to-day: Massumi’s Parables for the virtual. All four of these writers are extremely gifted and I have no doubt that had their interests changed any, had their body-sites been repositioned slightly on the grids of identity, then they all could have been best of friends.  Or competitors.

This clearly was not labelled as a post about reading and yet I can do nothing but think about what a strange confluence these three books have created for me.  Especially in such a short period of time.  I know I will be speaking more about the Massumi book as I already have some ideas to knock around before I take them to the faculty.

And…notice the comment Stephenson makes about the snow melting in the sunlight?  I have never really seen it at work until to-day.  The past few days were spent in delirious moments of waking between naps as I slept off illness.  Watching the icicles dissolve was fascinating.  But seeing the snow on the ground recede to the shade line was doubly amazing to-day as I trounced around the city celebrating the new warmth. It was a good day to be alive and in Minneapolis.

Linebaugh, Peter & Marcus Rediker.  (2000).  The many-headed hydra: Sailor, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press.

Massumi, Brian.  (2002).  Parables of the virtual: Movement, affect, sensation. Durham, NC: Duke UP.

Stephenson, Neal.  (2003).  Quicksilver. NY: Harper Perennial.

American Revolution NOT as it was

In his famous but falsified engraving of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere tried to render the “motley rabble” respectable by leaving black faces out of the crowd and putting in entirely too many gentlemen. (Linebaugh et al. 2000, 233)

Sailors and slaves, once necessary parts of the revolutionary coalition, were thus read out of the settlement at revolution’s end.  Of the five workingmen killed in the Boston Massacre of 1770, John Adams had written, “The blood of the martyrs, right or wrong, proved to be the seed of the congregation.”  Yet had Crispus Attucks – slave, sailor and mob leader – survived the fire of British muskets, he would not have been allowed to join the congregation, or new nation, he had helped to create.”  (Linebaugh et al. 2000, 240.)

Linebaugh, Peter and Marcus Rediker.  (2000).  The many headed-hydra: Sailors, slaves, commoners, and the hidden history of the revolutionary Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press.