Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Wit & Wisdom of MARK TWAIN


"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside."
Mark Twain



I love pizza. I practically lived off on them while a working student in New York. I had them for lunch and dinner, including the right-off-the-fridge leftover on Sunday mornings. When you get up at 7 in the morning and don’t get home until 10 at night, pizza was more than good enough.

It was while enjoying some chilled brew and feasting on a large pizza pie—on my birthday almost 10 years ago with my two best friends—when I learned something new about Mark Twain. It was because one of them gave me a copy of Sitting in Darkness; the backdrop of which was the Filipino-American War.

While flipping through its pages in between taking bites off a slice of pizza, I learned the title of the book was taken from one of Mark Twain’s essays. And much to my surprise, I also learned he was a staunch anti-imperialist who gave the Filipinos a voice in the American press during the turn of the century.

Through his essays, Mark Twain articulated his sentiments against America’s occupation of the Philippines. He became an active speaker at anti-war rallies and flooded newspapers with his letters of protests. With a caustic tone he even suggested a new flag for the Philippines — "just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and cross-bones."

In his 1901 essay entitled, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, Mark Twain pointed out how the occupying Americans treated the Filipinos.

He wrote, “We had lent them guns and ammunition; advised with them; exchanged pleasant courtesies with them; placed our sick and wounded in their kindly care; entrusted our Spanish prisoners to their humane and honest hands; fought shoulder to shoulder with them against the
common enemy (our own phrase); praised their courage, praised their gallantry, praised their mercifulness, praised their fine and honorable conduct; borrowed their trenches, borrowed strong positions which they had previously captured from the Spaniards; petted them, lied to them—officially proclaiming that our land and naval forces came to give them their freedom and displace the bad Spanish Government—fooled them, used them until we needed them no longer; then derided the sucked orange and threw it away. We kept the positions which we had beguiled them of; by and by, we moved a force forward and overlapped patriot ground—a clever thought, for we needed trouble, and this would produce it. A Filipino soldier, crossing the ground, where no one had a right to forbid him, was shot by our sentry. The badgered patriots resented this with arms, without waiting to know whether Aguinaldo, who was absent, would approve or not. Aguinaldo did not approve; but that availed nothing. What we wanted, in the interest of Progress and Civilization was the Archipelago, unencumbered by patriots struggling for independence; and War was what we needed. We clinched our opportunity. It is Mr. Chamberlain’s case over again—at least in its motive and intention; and we played the game as adroitly as he played it himself.”

One scholar, Tom Quirk, noted, "Particularly in his later years, the fierceness of Twain's anti-imperialist convictions disturbed and dismayed those who regarded him as the archetypal American citizen who had somehow turned upon Americanism itself."

Who would have thought that Mark Twain—the author of Huckleberry Finn, the first truly American writer known for his wit and wisdom—would be so radical and intrepid as to speak for the Filipinos and against the American occupation of the Philippines?



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Links

Complete version of To the Person Sitting in Darkness by Mark Twain

Mark Twain Biography

Tom Quirk
edited Mark Twain's TALES, SPEECHES, ESSAYS AND SKETCHES

Sitting in Darkness, Americans in the Philippines
By David Haward Bain
1984, Houghton Mifflin Company

A review of Sitting in Darkness, Americans in the Philippines,
by T. BAILEY, The Washington Post, February 24, 1985



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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:31 AM


4 Comments:

Blogger niceheart said...

I don't think I could live off pizza day and night. I can easily prepare a sandwich, but pizza everyday?

That book Sitting in Darkness seems interesting. I might check it out.

November 24, 2005 9:53 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hello Niceheart,

In retrospect, I'm surprised how I did it. I guess when you're young and poor .... :) Actually, pizza was fast, convenient and cheap. At that time, a slice and a can of soda was only 75 cents. With such food budget,I'd have money left for a rock concert ticket at the Palladium ($5.50) and a record album ($7.00) on weekends.

The most expensive concert ticket I paid for then was $40.00 for orchestra seat, 14th row center for David Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour concert (with Mick Ronson) at Madison Square Garden! Ah, to be young and silly!

Thanks and happy reading!

November 24, 2005 12:01 PM  

Anonymous milkphish said...

Excellent article. Writers become activists because of what they know . . .

Please read my post on Carlos Bulosan, and his essay that accompanied Norman Rockwell's painting Freedom from Want.

November 24, 2005 2:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I had just read your post, milkphish and thank you for the invite. Great post and fitting indeed for the Thanksgiving holiday. I will visit you site again to read up on Carlos Bulusan. I had already included your site on my del.ici.ous link page. Thank you for sharing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2005 3:24 PM  

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