A spot of light:
One of the less agreeable exchanges I have had was several years ago when a friend blurted out, “You want to see us all live in little agrarian villages.”

I said, “Not really, but even that would have its advantages.”

“But that’s what Hitler promised.”

I did not resort to physical violence.  I did point out that I had seen a propaganda film from that era suggesting as much, but in fact what Hitler did was knit Germany together with rail and autobahn to create his best approximation of a national society.  Killing those he thought wouldn’t fit in was atrocious, but he kept that secret.  In other words, he was lying.  Lying was not the worst thing he did, but you ought to keep straight what was lie and what was reality. 

I have since noticed that such propaganda no longer flickers on my TV.  I have the hunch somebody doesn’t like the idea and some might be rather attracted to it.  That’s probably just my paranoia whispering.

But this month there is an article In NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (Brook Larmer Medieval Mountain Hideaway NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC vol. 226 no. 4 October 2014 page 78) showcasing a little group of villages in the Caucasus mountains that are the last to maintain a European medieval culture. 

In a melancholy sort of way it reminds me of a forest my college biology professor told us about that was a little park in Poland.  The trees were enormous.  The ground was mossy.  Little Przewalski horses – we used to call them Dawn Age horses – peered among the massive trunks.  The foliage above was so dense there was no undergrowth and the silence was as that of a cathedral.  You could not enter except with a designated guide, and if you kicked over a bit of turf or even raised you voice you would be escorted out and asked never to return.

Those trees would have served to heat many a freezing Siberian home, but the communists forbad one limb to be snapped while the forest was under communist control.  Prior to that, Germany had controlled the place.  The wood would have yielded a lot of methyl alcohol, which of course was a kind of fuel that the Third Reich was dying without, but the Nazi’s forbad it; better to lose.  That little grove was the last untouched bit of the virgin forest that had once extended across Europe from the Mediterranean to the Arctic. 

I looked it up recently.  The Dawn Age horses are gone; those ones had come from Mongolia, so of course it was easy to demand that they be got rid of.  And there are few large trees left.  The place is managed now with “modern forestry technique,” which of course means cutting all but the young fast growing trees.  Capitalism has destroyed what its socialist arch rivals guarded.  I wondered how long the villages would last.

But according to the article, which is hauntingly beautiful, things aren’t so bad there.  Many have left in recent years but many hanker to return.  The language is almost gone, but at least a few still care.  The old music and traditions are preserved mostly by the young.  The article is very upbeat and optimistic for their future.

I hope that’s right.  If you get a chance, read it.

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