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Charleston South Carolina

 

On the news we'd been watching Charleston beset by yet another Hurricane and storm surge so we weren't sure what to expect.  As it turned out the harbour wall had been topped by the storm surge but apart from reeds washed over the wall there seemed to be little other physical damage except to a couple of the large houses exposed to the sea.

 


Charleston - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

Charleston too began as a British settlement.  It was founded earlier than Savannah, in 1670, as Charles Town, after King Charles II.  The town commands a large harbour and was sighted with fortification in mind, originally surrounded by a wall and a moat.  The longest street in town remains King street. 

Some of the early fortifications are under the present city and are of interest to archaeologists - and to tourists like us.  These historical artefacts illustrate the history of the city from its inception. 

American Indians had long been exported as slaves by the Spanish and French.  Within ten years one of the principal trade goods of the new colony was slaves, initially American Indians sold to the West Indies. But Africans were more submissive and better workers and soon preferred both as house servants and for heavy work.  When reading the contemporary sources they might be discussing breeds of cattle rather than other human beings.  By 1708 slaves outnumbered the European population in Charleston.  This black majority continued right through until modern times when the ratio slowly reversed, until today whites outnumber blacks two to one.

I first visited Charleston in the late 1970's and was appalled to see the concrete boxes, like storage units, that served as black housing in rural areas while the city boasted some of the finest mansions in America.  This time I was relieved to see that this is no longer the case, although we did see a black woman entering a garden gate dressed exactly like the servants in the movie: The Help.

Charleston played an important part in the American Revolutionary War.  The City did a great deal of trade with Britain, at first exporting hides and tobacco, followed by rice and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) used for fabric dye before synthetic dyes were developed.  Cotton followed, made more economic by Eli Whitney's 'Cotton Gin'.  These raw materials all helped to feed Britain's ravenous (or were they Blake's) 'dark satanic mills'.  Thus the American loyalists and British forces imagined that the burghers of Charleston would support them and oppose the revolutionaries, when it came to the test.   But this was not to be.  London was not popular. They'd tried to constrain the City's principal business - slavery.  The burghers and country squires sided with their slave owning fellow revolutionaries.  Nevertheless Charleston was besieged and fell to the British in 1780 and was occupied for nearly two years. The old Exchange and Provost, that is now a museum, was used as a gaol.  

In 1794 the slave trade was prohibited in the Atlantic and in 1808 all importation of slaves was banned in the US.  But American ships refused to permit British inspection and slave smuggling remained a profitable enterprise.

According to Wikipedia:

The city's commitment to slavery was the primary focus of writers and visitors:
a merchant from Liverpool noted in 1834 that "almost all the working population are Negroes, all the servants, the carmen & porters, all the people who see at the stalls in Market, and most of the Journeymen in trades"... Slave-ownership was the primary marker of class and even the town's freedmen and other people of color typically kept slaves if they had the wealth to do so..."
Visitors commonly remarked on the sheer number of blacks in Charleston.

 

So you can understand that when that northern upstart Lincoln proposed the very thing for which they had taken up arms against the British, they took their bat and ball and went home.

Those of you who read my short history above will know that the Confederate States of America was declared on the eve of Lincoln's inauguration and that the Civil War began in Charleston when the local militia decided that it would be fun to take over the land based forts and begin shelling the Fort Sumter, the island that was still in Union hands. 

Given the present enthusiasm for pulling down statues of Southern heroes it's odd that one still stands in the park on the point facing the fort, celebrating its subsequent defence against the Union. The inscription reads: "To the Confederate defenders of Charleston - Fort Sumter 1861-1865 - Count them happy who for their faith and their courage endured a great fight".  

Most striking is the male figurer's camp pose.  The artist's boyfriend perhaps?  And who is the larger protective female/goddess behind him - his mother? 

As war memorials go it's so unusual I took several photos of it and looked it up.  It was erected in 1932, nearly 70 years after the Civil War had been lost, and was unveiled by four virtuous young 'Southern Belles' from Confederate families.  I wonder if they blushed when the sheet came off? 

Clearly the 'great fight' was still alive in the minds of the eight thousand people of Charleston who attended its dedication.
 

 


The Confederate defenders of Charleston - Fort Sumter 1861-1865
Part of the United Daughters of the Confederacy marker series
 

 

In addition to enjoying a harbour walk, we made a tour of the historic mansion area and visited both the Exchange and Provost Building, now a museum, and meeting place for the Daughters of the Revolution (or is it the Confederacy) and the old Slave Market, that I talked about the history above.

 


Charleston Museums - Click on this picture to see more
 

 

Our next flight would be to New Orleans where we would then pick up another car to drive to Lafayette, Houston and Dallas

 

 

 


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Travel

Turkey

 

 

 

 

In August 2019 we returned to Turkey, after fourteen years, for a more encompassing holiday in the part that's variously called Western Asia or the Middle East.  There were iconic tourist places we had not seen so with a combination of flights and a rental car we hopped about the map in this very large country. 

We began, as one does, in Istanbul. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Skydiving

 

 

On the morning of May1st 2016 I jumped, or rather slid, out of a plane over Wollongong at 14,000 feet.

It was a tandem jump, meaning that I had an instructor strapped to my back.

 


Striding Confidently Before Going Up

 

At that height the curvature of the earth is quite evident.  There was an air-show underway at the airport we took off from and we were soon looking down on the planes of the RAAF  Roulette aerobatic display team.  They looked like little model aircraft flying in perfect formation.  

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Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Emergency

 

 

 

emergency
/uh'merrjuhnsee, ee-/.
noun, plural emergencies.
1. an unforeseen occurrence; a sudden and urgent occasion for action.

 

 

Recent calls for action on climate change have taken to declaring that we are facing a 'Climate Emergency'.

This concerns me on a couple of levels.

The first seems obvious. There's nothing unforseen or sudden about our present predicament. 

My second concern is that 'emergency' implies something short lived.  It gives the impression that by 'fire fighting against carbon dioxide' or revolutionary action against governments, or commuters, activists can resolve the climate crisis and go back to 'normal' - whatever that is. Would it not be better to press for considered, incremental changes that might avoid the catastrophic collapse of civilisation and our collective 'human project' or at least give it a few more years sometime in the future?

Back in 1990, concluding my paper: Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis I wrote:

We need to focus on the possible.

An appropriate response is to ensure that resource and transport efficiency is optimised and energy waste is reduced. Another is to explore less polluting energy sources. This needs to be explored more critically. Each so-called green power option should be carefully analysed for whole of life energy and greenhouse gas production, against the benchmark of present technology, before going beyond the demonstration or experimental stage.

Much more important are the cultural and technological changes needed to minimise World overpopulation. We desperately need to remove the socio-economic drivers to larger families, young motherhood and excessive personal consumption (from resource inefficiencies to long journeys to work).

Climate change may be inevitable. We should be working to climate “harden” the production of food, ensure that public infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, utilities and so) on are designed to accommodate change and that the places people live are not excessively vulnerable to drought, flood or storm. [I didn't mention fire]

Only by solving these problems will we have any hope of finding solutions to the other pressures human expansion is imposing on the planet. It is time to start looking for creative answers for NSW and Australia  now.

 

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