International Volunteers in
Nationalist Spain during
The Spanish Civil War,
1936 - 39
(Hambledon Continuum)According to historian Judith Keene, Francisco Franco was a strange duck. He saw the democratically elected government --- the Second Republic of Spain, which came to power in 1931 --- as an "international Masonic conspiracy" powered by "Freemasons, Jews, and Bolsheviks." They were all classed as "Reds," and their goal was to weaken Catholic Spain. He held special scorn for the separatist Basques and Catalans to the north, who wanted to destroy the "one, united, and great" country.
More than a creature of his caste, however, Franco ... was a complex character: puritanical, ruthless and secretive, driven by a personality in which instinctive caution coexisted with almost unlimited ambition.Those who met him saw a "shyness and prudery that was manifested in face-to-face relations and which some who met him thought bordered on effeminacy."
Despite this, Franco was able, with three other generals, to foment an uprising against the Republic. It began in the Canary Islands, moved to Spanish Morocco, and then, in full scale war, managed to defeat the Republican forces in the mainland in 1939.
Those of us who have some fondness for participatory democracy wax quite sentimental over the Spanish Civil War, which is often characterized as a prelude to WWII. Even now, seventy years after the fact, we can thrill to the tales of an impoverished Republican Army, aided by revolutionaries from all parts of the western world, fighting against the forces of repression. As we wrote in our ancient review of Heart of Spain,
Was it the murder of Federico García-Lorca, the imprisonment and death of Miguel Hernández, the exiles of Luis Buñuel, Pablo Casals, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Luis Cernuda? Was it the writings --- those of Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, W. H. Auden, C. Day Lewis, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood? Was it Pete Seeger --- one of the "International Brigade" --- singing "Los Cuatro Generales," a scratchy 78 rpm record, recorded in the hills of Córdoba? It was their special war, and, perhaps, ours. And we lost.
§ § §
The Republicans enjoyed massive publicity in their vain battle. More than forty-thousand volunteer soldiers came in from all over the world. There was a counterforce, however. According to Keene, there were almost 100,000 "volunteers" --- mostly professionals who came in from other countries to fight on the Nationalist side. There were at least 70,000 Italians, 20,000 Germans, plus countless Portuguese and the so-called "Moorish Guard." As she suggests, it was not just a Spanish Civil War, it was an European Civil War.
Not surprisingly, there were a few volunteers from democratic countries. The French contribution numbered 500 in the "Joan of Arc" company. The Irish Brigade consisted of 700 or so "Blueshirts" who were fighting for "the faith of our fathers. Over a hundred White Russians appeared, left over from the losing side of the Revolution, as did a few of the Romanian "Iron Guard."
Ms. Keene's book --- stolid and fact-filled at best --- demonstrates the frustration that faced so many of these Nationalist volunteers: language barriers, prejudice of them by the professional Spanish soldiers, prejudice by them of the "lazy," "cowardly" Falangists. But many of the volunteers were faith-driven. Like many who believe that god has invested their cause, they came to protect the Iberian Peninsula against the heathen.--- Diego RuizThe Collected Poems of
Janet E. Kaufman
Anne F. Herzog
(University of Pittsburgh Press)
Distributed by Dufour Editions
Chester Springs PA 19425)Muriel Rukeyser is one of those vague poets that you have vaguely heard of and sort of know that she is supposed be famous, or rather somewhat important in the world of Semi-Important Poets ... the middle (or muddle) of the middle, as it were.
Somewhat like May Sarton and May Swenson and Marge Pierson and Derek Walcott and Phyliss McGinley, ones that might have turned up in an anthology you read ten or twenty or forty years ago so that if someone says, I read this poem by Muriel Rukeyser so you won't be thought a total idiot you can say, O, yes, I've heard of her (or at least think you heard of her) and you search your memory to see if anything pops up and the only thing you can think of is that you once had a sister named Meriel but that isn't Muriel at all and sister Meriel certainly didn't like the name "Muriel." She thought it sounded cheap.Anyway, the University of Pittsburgh Press thinks enough of this Muriel (Rukeyser) to pull out a fat 600 page volume with 600 or so of her poems beginning with her earliest volume of poetry, Theory of Flight from 1935 down to her last which came out in 1976 The Gates plus some odds-and-ends left over. And we have spent some time rummaging around here breathing a sigh of relief thinking about the advantage of reviewing book of poetry or essays over a 600 page novel, because you can poke around in a fat volume of poetry and it's like being at a farmer's market, you can pinch the merchandise but you don't have to buy anything if you don't want; you can pick and choose and in the case of one of these not-so-well-known poets you can get at least some idea of what he or she thought he or she was about and what he or she wanted to get across and how good he or she was at it.
Sometimes these junkets to the streetside Book Dumps pay off. Big. Awhile ago, we came across a collection of the poems of Howard Nemerov and we were moved to write
It's the first time since college that I took a book of poetry to bed with me: that's how chummy we got, me and this Nemerov. I read him through, first to last; slept, woke up, read it back to first, marking the pages, wondering "Where has he been all my life?"
However, not to wax too hopeful in the junk-yard of our lives (and verse ... and vice-versa), not long before that we had a quite dissimilar visit with Yvor Winters who, despite all the tweeds and pipe-smoking and the end stop lines and smoky fall weather and pensively falling leaves in New England was, we concluded, a humbug ... no poet at all.
§ § §
Before we go on with Ms. Rukeyser, we have to tell you that we have fallen in love. With a certain Gabriel Rosenstock.
We would also like to say that we regret, deeply, the demise of Ms. Rukeyser, in February, 1980. Because we would like to have had a chance to introduce her to Rosenstock:
I open my poem to bright things
here come oranges, dandelions,
take a seat
I'll be right with you
into my poem
comes a lovely cuckoo snow in its beak
oceans of sunshine
I open my poem to all this is
that will be that was
that should be
an old cat
a pigeon's leg in its mouth
sit yourself down
mind the cuckoo
it's got snow in its mouth
make room for yourself
the oranges and the dandelions
where are you from your catself?
where's the rest of the pigeon?
I open my poem to all the elements
alive and dead and
some ivy comes in trailing
its own wall
the wall falls on the cat
this poem is a tragedy
somewhere in the world
a wall is falling on a cat
on a child
I open my poem again to bright things
but there's nothing left
Now here I was, about to give you a few lines of Rosenstock from his book entitled Rogha Dánta (it's an en-face edition with Gaelic to the left) ... as I say, I was going to give you a few lines, and then I got started and I couldn't stop. And the question I came up with was maybe it's just me but why, in all the time I was paging through Rukeyser's volume I never found one poem or stanza or even line that stopped me, making me say to myself I should really get this into the review somehow, it's too rare. I try to do my job, I'm a polite guy, I don't hand out insults for fun, if there is something good to be said about someone or something, I'll do it at the drop of a hat. That's the type of guy I am (or think I am).
And I swear I couldn't find anything in the six-hundred or so poems of the lady whose name is so much like my sister's, I couldn't find anything that, as we used to say in the group therapy business, I wanted to share with you. Nothing. And here I am in love with this beatnik-hippy roughhouse Rosenstock, and I am thinking he has got the Muse.
And Muriel? Maybe she never thought about it, although she seems honest enough, I am sure she thought she did. Have the Muse, that is.
And neither the critics nor the poetry-people nor the publishers nor I hope to god she herself: no one figured it out that she didn't have in her little finger what this Rosenstock throws out so easily; for instance, what he called the "Apology," that says in nineteen lines what I have been trying to say here all along:
I'm sorry to have to say
That I didn't really get your poem.
Maybe the fault was my own.
I understand every word of it.
Nothing at all in the syntax
Threw me, I must admit.
Rhythm and expression, needless to say,
Were spot-on for the times we're in.
What's wrong with free verse?
Formality, after all, has bowed out.
But what I didn't quite get was this:
Why did you write it in the first place?
It carries no trace at all of midnight
Sweat, or terror, or exuberance
Nor of your being unable to touch base again
Until your poem was safely on paper
And you had hoarsely called back
Your soul, that, like a Daddy-Long-Legs,
Had gone cavorting high up in the firmament.--- L. W. Milam
The Stories and Their Meanings
John Harley Warner,
(The Johns Hopkins University Press)
According to the editors, the history of medicine is very sick, shows a recurring temperature spike, perhaps is about to expire. The disease? Something new, perhaps retrograde, certainly something very critical. It's known as the Foucault Syndrome. It makes professionals wring their hands and shake their heads and turn strange. They go into snits.
Foucault Syndrome is quite simple, really. It infects one's belief system. The ideas of history, the educational establishment, the penal system, psychiatry, democracy, even language are involved. They were not, it is presumed, conceived and set in place for justice, for the benefit of all, for a just and orderly system of communication, fraternity, rationality.This viral attack out of the intellectual charnel houses of Paris! "Everything you believe is wrong," it says. "It's all about power," it says. "And sexuality." The "facts " have been dandied up in the name of control. The very words you use are shaped to further an elitist power. That which grew out of what they call "The Age of Reason" was just cooked up to make you part of the system, even a slave to it. When you do bad --- at least by the rationalist definition of "bad" --- we have no choice but to incarcerate you along with the "idlers, rogues, and libertines."
You think you are free. What you don't know is that we fabricated the word "freedom" to keep you in line. And it's working. Perfectly.
It's what is known as "a philosophy of error." When you are sick, we send you to hospital. There, we observe you with The Medical Gaze, the cool eye of the "professionals," watching you, watching you.
We are watching you and you think we are helping you. It's called "Biopower" and you cannot escape it. The medical police, with their discipline and knowledge, have turned you into the watched. It is the primacy of the "pathological" over the "physiological."
Christiane Sinding, in "The Power of Norms," explains that Foucault assumed the modern hospital was fitted with two rules. The first is that along with administering care and training, the patient is no longer the subject of his or her disease: the patient becomes an example of "the universal." The universal disease, the omnipresent sickness, and the norms pertaining thereto are what you have become for the staff of the hospital.
Then, too, there is "a tacit agreement between rich and poor that allows the latter to be used as examples in exchange for free care." Experience becomes
anonymous, collective, and controlled by the institution. In this context, the patient becomes the object of the medical corps' gaze (they are recognized as being competent) in an institution that socially legitimizes the relationship between the watcher and the watched.
Ultimately, "the maintenance of health" turns "medicine into an authority for social control."
And don't ask questions, or try to rebel, because if you do, we may declare you mad. Centuries ago, it was more primitive. We took the mad and sent them down in a "ship of fools," one that drifted willy-nilly up and down the great rivers of Europe. We also invented dark stony fortresses --- called Mad House, Bedlam, Balm's Hoxton House, l'hospital Salpietre, the Loony-Bin --- to keep you where we could observe you, disinterestedly. And, then, not too long ago, we decided that the whole of society that we had created was the equivalent of Salpietre or Bedlam. Thus we knew we could release you, because you would become part of what we have since come to call "the norm."
Get it? Good. Neither do I.
§ § §
The most fascinating piece of writing here --- after Ms. Sinding's discourse on Foucault --- is one written by Roger Cooter, called "'Framing' the End of the Social History of Medicine." The author questions the implications of the phrase "The Social History of Medicine." He suggests that the three words --- "social," "history," and "medicine" no longer mean what we have long thought they mean. "At the root," he says, "medicine is about power:"
the power of doctors and of patients, of institutions such as churches, charities, insurance companies, or pharmaceutical manufacturers, and especially governments, in peacetime or in war.
There has been a radical change over the last twenty years, he reports: "Welfare medicine has been felled. National health services now embrace the logic of private, multinational corporations. The emphasis is now on "evidence-based medicine," also known as the "MacDonaldization of medicine."
The mechanism enabling the state to pay only for treatments for which there is a stastistical evidence of benefit [is] a concept and practice of particular appeal to managers and accountants ... where doctors now queue to obtain degrees in business administration in order not to be irrelevant in the so-called medical reform process.
Cooter is a spry and funny writer, always able to cap a thought with a nice turn of phrase. This on Foucault: he was
under everyone's skin, whether you liked it or not; beyond sex and madness and far into the intricacies of gender, literary-turned-excavations of the body were extending rapidly.
"Following Derrida," Cooter reports, "somatic studies asserted, on the contrary, that nothing is reducible to anything (while proceeding to reduce most everything to discourse.)"
The key turning point, he tells us, came about under the aegis of Charles Rosenberg, who, in 1989, composed an essay, "Framing Disease," complained that there was no longer to be any need for the "social" in the social history of medicine. The intellectual burden had arisen from the coming of AIDS, he suggests.
As I say, if you can make any sense out of all this gibberish, you are better off than we are. We may not get it, but at least we know that all ... or most ... of it is there in Locating Medical History. At the end, our conclusion is that we have, with the aid of this book, figured out nothing and know even less about the history of medicine. Nothing, except that there is now a phenomenal if not phenomenological split in the world of medical historians. Some follow the old course, looking back longingly to the days where doctors and science and "medicine" and pharmacology with the disciplines of the "Age of Reason" made it possible for the physicians to be an instrument of good --- or at least, to posit "progress" for mankind.
On the other side are those of the post-Foucualtian world, who see it all as a delusion, a system of ownership and power which ultimately enriches those who run the show, and screws the little guy. Endlessly. In the fundament.
And, I ask you, who are we to say which is right and proper and reasonable --- if even believable?--- Elizabeth Roget, MD