Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Mayerling Affair (part 2)

Prince Rudolf's last known photograph is quite depressing. It shows him, expressionless, somewhere in the Vienna Woods, gazing without emotion directly into the camera; an unlit Turkish cigarette hangs from his mouth. He is wrapped-up against the January cold in his fur-lined coat and cossack hat. The road to Mayerling is covered with ice. The days are short.
What's going through his mind? Perhaps he thinking about the blazing argument with his father, Kaiser Franz Joseph, and the Kaiser's last words, the dressing-down may still be ringing in his ears: You are not fit to be the heir to my throne! Or maybe, he's thinking about his favourite painting, an Albert Smith (1848) Three Sailing Ships Approaching the Rocks. Or perhaps of the first stag he shot in Ischl's Jainzer woodland at the age of eight. Or maybe of the evening to come, of his suicide plan; and if he could indeed go through with it when the moment came?

One man who might know the answers is the faithful servant Johann Loschek. He will sleep alone in the next room to the Crown Prince, only an inner wall and a door between them. He will hear every sound. He will be aware that Rudolf's mistress will be spending the night with him, in the room which has only one bed. He will hear their voices through the wall. But, the secretive Loschek will never divulge the nature and content of their conversation; never reveal the overheard phrases and words. In fact what he finally says will be so confusing and unreliable that it will throw many off the scent.

The official version will be in the special editions of the following day's newspapers. Crown Prince Rudolf suffered a heart attack at his Mayerling Hunting Lodge in the Vienna Woods. End.

But the authorities were soon forced to retract. Kaiser Franz Joseph was informed of the 'truth'. At 6am on 30th January Rudolf had killed Baroness Mary Vetsera by shooting her through the head with his own revolver. The revolver which he kept on his desk next to his human skull, his dead sparrow paperweight and his box of Turkish cigarettes. He had then turned gun on himself. Two shots. Two deaths. At first the Kaiser refused to believe it. But finally he broke down and wept. Of course Rudolf's body was quickly brought to Vienna and the appropriate funeral arrangements were made. It was obviously a hunting accident that had taken place at Mayerling.

But what of the young Baroness? It would be shortly before midnight on the 31st January before her body arrived in Vienna. It was taken to an outlying district of the city and the following day at 10am was quickly buried. The circumstances of its transport to Vienna are bizarre to say the least. The body was washed and dressed in outdoor winter clothes; coat, shoes, hat and so on. It was then seated in a carriage in an upright position to give the appearance of a living person and then driven under cover of darkness to Vienna.

The Neue Frei Presse, Austria's most reputable newspaper at the time, ran the scoop. But all copies were seized by the authorities before they could go on general sale. To find out what was going on many Austrians requested contacts in Germany to send newspapers to Austria under plain cover. The cat was out of the bag. Or was it?
There was the little matter of the two hours delay in breaking down the door if we are to believe Johann Loshek's version of events. Loschek claims that the fatal shots were fired at 5.50am. He tried to open the doors to the room. They were both locked from the inside. It was after 8.00am before he finally broke down the door and entered. So what was he doing all this time. It seems he was sleeping in a chair outside the door, guarding the scene as it were.

Is it possible that the couple were murdered as claimed by Lord Salisbury, the British Prime Minister? Salisbury is certain that Rudolf and the young lady were murdered: the Prince of Wales to Queen Victoria.
Certainly it's feasible. One could lie on one's back and slide under the heavy wooden bed and wait for the bed's occupants to fall asleep. It would then be a simple matter to shoot the couple, and if prince's own revolver was to hand so much the better. Next, place the revolver near Rudolf's hand and return to the hiding place. Anyone coming into the room to investigate the shots would immediately deduce that it was a suicide pact. It would be unlikely that the first person on the scene would get down on his hands and knees and peer candle in hand into the dark space beneath the bed. It is, admittedly, an unlikely scenario but it is one that can't be completely ruled out.

On 22nd December 1992 the newspapers led with a sensational story: Mary Vetsera Stolen from her Grave was one headline. It seems that not everyone is convinced of the third official version of events.

Archduke Karl Ludwig: The truth is so terrible that no-one can speak of it!

Friday, 30 January 2009

The Mayerling Affair (part 1)

On this date 100 years ago the bodies of Prince Rudolf, heir to the Austrian throne, and his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera were found at Mayerling, a royal hunting lodge in the Vienna Woods. The circumstances of their deaths are shrouded in mystery. Only one thing appears to be certain. They had been shot.

Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph, the heir to the Austrian throne, was born on 21st August 1858 in Laxenburg Castle. Two days later he received The Order of the Golden Fleece and was appointed Colonel in the 19th Infantry Regiment.
In 1865 Rudolf's mother Princess Elizabeth of Bavaria demanded the dismissal of the boy's tutor General Count Leopold Gondrecourt whose harsh, sadistic methods, approved of by the disciplinarian Kaiser Franz Joseph who wanted to make a man out of the boy, were proving detrimental to the young prince's physical and mental well-being.

In 1867 Rudolf was taken by a group of seven men into the Jainzer woodland behind the Kaiser Villa at Ischl in the Austrian Lake District. There kneeling behind a tree he took aim with a rifle and shot his first stag at close range. A large stone marks the spot.

The boy developed an interest in ornithology. In 1870 he wrote a 100-page essay on the hunting of eagles. He enjoyed hunting and birdwatching holidays in Spain, Portugal, Egypt, and Palestine. On his writing desk he would one day have a bronze paperweight of a sparrow; the bird lying on its back with its wings at its sides, looking almost like a sleeping angel.

In 1880 a suitable bride was chosen for Prince Rudolf. He travelled to Belgium and became engaged to Princess Stephanie the daughter of the Belgium's King Leopold II. The following year the couple were married in Vienna. In 1883 he began publishing anonymously a series of political pamphlets.

In 1885 he suggested that the Austria-Hungarian Empire might revise and improve her foreign relations policy, especially with regard to Russia. This proposal was rejected out of hand. The following year he told Georges Clemencau: Germany will never understand the wisdom of grouping Germans, Slavs, Hungarians and Poles under the Crown. The Habsburger's have, albeit in a small way, brought about Victor Hugo's dream of a United States of Europe. Austria is a block of different nations and different races joined together. It is the basic idea of Austria, and it is an idea of enormous importance for civilistaion.

In the same year that Prince Rudolf was discussing his European Union ideas with Clemencau there was a problem that was to cause Emperor Franz Joseph more than a few sleepless nights. It was discovered that Rudolf had contracted an incurable form of gonorrhoea. His wife Princess Stephanie of Belgium was also infected. She could have no more children. There was then no possibility of a male heir. The couple's only child was a girl. This child, Elisabeth Marie, would eventually leave the royal family, marry a commoner and join the Socialist Party. But that's another story.

Rudolf continued to publish his political essays. Things came to a head on 26th January 1889 when there was a furious row between Kaiser Franz Joseph and Prince Rudolf. This was in connection with an official visit to the German Embassy on 27th January 1889, a visit that Rudolf did not want to make, until he was persuaded to change his mind.

On the 28th January, together with his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera, he travelled to Mayerling. He planned to return to Vienna on 31st January. There he would meet Count Karoly of Budapest. There were serious political matters, including the future of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to discuss. Consider here the flurry of urgent telegrams, three in one day from Karoly and the reply from Rudolf fixing the appointment.

Count Josef Hoyos and Prince Philip von Coburg joined Rudolf at Mayerling intending to enjoy a couple of days hunting in the Vienna Woods.

The scenario about to unfold would be quite different to all these best laid plans.

Friday, 23 January 2009

"Yes We Can!" can't we?

As President Obama gets down to work many here in Vienna are wondering what kind of stuff the new Austrian Bundeskanzler is made of, for after only two or maybe it's three months in that high office the Bundeskanzler, Herr Werner Faymann, is appearing courtesy of the Austrian Mint on a limited edition gold coin. It is his first real achievement.

The great message that the United States of America sends out to the world today is this: Here in the United States, 45 years after Martin Luther King marched on Washington and 44 years after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Law, Barack Hussein Obama a man of colour, a man with roots in Africa, has attained the nation's highest political office. We are now truly a land where all can make it to the top; race, creed, colour of skin, and even your parents' choice of your name will not hold you back.

In Austria the situation is, quite frankly, grim. The following letter, is typical of an attitude that is all too prevalent. It appeared in the Kronen Zeitung, the country's best-selling newspaper, only three weeks ago.
Dear Editor,
The Vienna New Year's baby came 47 seconds after midnight and his name is Hasan. With this name the child sits between a rock and a hard place. In the homeland of his parents and grandparents he is a foreigner. Is it for our integrating citizens really so impossible that they cannot give their children typical Austrian names? Their children feel Austrian and speak the Austrian language and most will spend their lives here. Do our integrated fellow citizens really think that Hasan, with this name, in 15 to 20 years has a better chance of a job than if he were called Franz or Karl?
from Richard Reichart (Vienna).

We can only hope that the writer of the above is wrong. That the name of a person is a deciding factor in suitability for a job and will still be so in 20 years time is a diabolical indictment.

Perhaps one day the Vienna New Year baby will overcome the Austro-Germanic obstacle that is his Turkish name and rise to a high position; maybe one day he will also have his name and profile on an official gold coin. Who can tell?


ps - My forename is distinctly un-Austrian. It is Welsh. And I am proud that it is. But here in Vienna with such an un-Austrian name to handicap me would there be any point in my applying for a job? That is the question. According to citizen Reichart and his ilk unless I am prepared to change my name to something with a solid German ring; Franz, Karl, Werner etc. my place is, and will remain for the next 20 years, with baby Hasan in the unemployment queue.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Out with the old and in with the new

Today is the last day on the job. He will spend it packing his bags. Tomorrow he hopes he will be chopping firewood back home on the ranch in Crawford, Texas.
I speak of course of the man who lost his way, the crusading bankrupter of America and American values, the man who will be remembered for the War in Iraq and the pretence that there were WMD's to be found there.
I speak too of the man whose Middle East peace plan was the destabilization of the region, of the man who flew 'detainees' around the world in secret aeroplanes or incarcerated them without trial in Cuba, and of the bemused 9/11 man sitting in a junior school classroom in Florida.
George W Bush will also be remembered as the man who got into office through a dubious vote count in the state of Florida; the state where brother Jeb is Governor. And, in another state, as the man who failed the citizens of New Orleans.
He may well be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in American history. He knows this and so he says we must take the long view of his presidency. But he knows when he says this that it is his last attempt, in office, to pull the wool over the world's eyes.

In October 2001 George W Bush said publicly that he supported a Palestinian state. Before 9/11 his policy had been that America had nothing to say about Arab-Israeli relationships and conflicts, they were matters for the parties concerned. After 9/11, and it's worth repeating this, he supported the idea of a Palestinian state. And he did so publicly. He went further. He called on Iran and Syria to join a US-led coalition.
Israeli President Ariel Sharon was furious. Sharon accused George W Bush of "appeasement" and drew attention to Chamberlain's appeasement policy and Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia.
To demonstrate the power of the world's fourth largest army Sharon, almost instantly, ordered his troops into the Palestinian areas in Hebron. Later in the same month, following the assassination of the Israeli Minister of Tourism, he moved troops into the Palestinian controlled West Bank.
In mid-November, with a military victory in Afghanistan behind him, Bush told Arafat to stop the terrorist attacks on Israel; Sharon had advised Bush that Yasser Arafat was the problem. The Israeli capture of the Karine A, a ship loaded with weapons appeared to confirm this.
In late March 2002 a suicide bomber killed 30 Israelis. Sharon responded with Operation Defensive Shield in which Israel reasserted control of the West Bank. Bush was now floundering. His so-called policy was in tatters. His Secretary of State had spent the most miserable ten days of his life in the region to no purpose.
Bush changed tack. Sharon now became "a man of peace". In May, following a visit from Netanyahu, the American Congress and Senate passed resolutions supporting Israel. A new situation now existed. America now stood "in solidarity" with Israel. As if to demonstrate this "solidarity" Bush gave Israel an extra $200 million to fight terrorism.
One month later Bush delivered a speech in which he said that Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories should stop and that the Palestinians should have their own state. There was talk of a "Road Map to Peace". Much talk. But unfortunately no action. Bush had other things on his mind. The forthcoming Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq was one of them.
By May 2003 Bush was almost euphoric. Saddam had fled from his citadel. "Mission accomplished" was the slogan of the time. In the US Bush's popularity was sky-rocketing, which was wonderful news with the 2004 re-election campaign just over the horizon. Unfortunately the "Road Map to Peace" was fast becoming "The Road Map to Nowhere". Israel had no interest in road maps.
A month later, following a White House dinner attended by 100 Jewish leaders, press secretary Ari Fleischer announced that the issue was not Israel but was terrorism.
Another resolution was passed expressing "solidarity with the Israeli people".

And so it goes on. Went on. For now it is over, or almost.

Tomorrow there will be a new man in the White House. President Obama may not be so easy to manipulate. It may be that the current Israeli war is one last throw of the bones on the Middle East variant of the Monopoly board, one last deal of the marked cards, one last slaughter of the hundreds of innocent children. And it may be that is why we are being treated to this display of military prowess and brute force in this unholiest of Holy Lands.
A new day is dawning, a new sun is rising, the long shadows of the Bush-Arafat-Sharon era are dwindling away. A man is coming who will change the world and make it a place fit for human beings to live, communicate, discuss, mediate, meditate, and to think things through. We may all learn that with power there comes responsibility. Responsiblitiy to the values that make us humans and not some kind of insecure wild animals who feel the need to be armed to the teeth with dangerous weapons or the need to terrorise people of different faiths or even of no faith.
At the present time in history the key to the whole business is American Foreign Policy. When this becomes even handed and fair the world will be able to move forward. It will take the efforts of each and every one of us. We must not allow injustices to fester. When we find them we must expose them and deal with them. We must stamp out greed, corruption, and unacceptable behaviour towards our brothers, for that is what we are when all is said and done. And if we do, the dream of a better world for our children and grandchildren will become the new reality.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Doctor Fischer and the Bomb Party*

On his recent state visit to Israel, shortly before the outbreak of the latest Israeli war, now into its 20th day, the Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer was accompanied by Ariel Muzicant the President of the Austrian Jewish Community (IKG).
The whole state visit business was a very civilized affair. The Austrian President was grandly feted and was awarded an honorary degree or some honour of that ilk. Many photographs were taken to show a series of happy diplomatic handshakes. A short excursion into the West Bank resulted in more smiley photos. Relations between Israel and Austria have never been so good we were told.
And so we all settled back with our popular anti-EU ski-report tabloid with its 8,9 or 10 pages of daily ski-reports and colourful photos. But then came the war. And everything changed. Or did it?
President Dr. Heinz Fischer has been, except for one brief conspectus early on, conspicuously silent about it all, or if he has spoken the skiers on Austria's snowy slopes, concerned about the possibilty of new ski-helmet requlations and speed limits for downhill skiers, are not aware of it. You would think that a man, a President, recently returned from an area now plunged into barbarity would have something to say about it.
As I type this I'm listening to reports of two hospitals in Gaza bombed; a Red Crescent hospital and a Red Cross hospital. I'm listening to reports of a United Nations compound now ablaze following an Israeli attack. I'm listening to reports of countries breaking off diplomatic ties with Israel. I'm listening to reports of 1,050 dead on one side and 13 dead on the other side. What I'm not listening to is President Heinz Fischer. His silence is, as they say, quite deafening. Almost as deafening as the bombs falling around the Aljazeera press office in Gaza.
I am, however, listening to President Ariel Muzicant of the Austrian Jewish Community. Ariel Muzicant, unlike Fischer, is not completely silent. On the contrary he is noted for being outspoken. In today's Daily Ski tabloid for example Muzicant blames the European Union for the current ongoing war situation. He bemoans the fact that the EU has not put enough 'Cease-fire' pressure on Israel. And that may well be true.
In the broadsheet Die Presse he says that critics of the Israeli invasion of Gaza lack empathy for a Jewish State. Now that is not true Mr Muzicant. The critics of Israel's conduct are critical both with and without empathy. They are to be found all over the empathy spectrum. What the critics are mostly critical of is the unbridled brutality and savagery of the Israeli response. Muzicant cannot expect the critics to support Goliath when he is raining down clouds of white phosphorous on a densly populated city. Muzicant might change his tune if he was a Palestinian child and not allowed to flee the war zone.
"When one sees Arab television crews running around trying to find injured residents of Gaza..." begins another line of Muzicant propoganda. But here again he is being blinkered by empathy. After 20 days there are 5,000 wounded Palestinians in Gaza. One Norwegian surgeon, working around the clock, going 72 hours without sleep, described the scene in his hospital as "a conveyor belt of wounded".
Muzicant goes on to ask the big question, the question that's really troubling him, "After 3,000 years of persecution, we must constantly ask ourselves the question; where can we flee in the worst case?" And to that there's no answer.
A eurocent for your thoughts Dr. Fischer. The bomb party goes on.

*title of a novel by Graham Greene

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

A miserere for the children

Up to now on Sunset Strip as the tragicomedy unfolds the first 1,000 have been killed. 35% of the killed are chidren. Children yet to die have been traumatized. The world's 4th largest army is wreaking its vengance. 80,000 people have been forced out of their homes. In the UN's 38 schools 35,000 people shelter from the blitzkrieg, the blitzkrieg which has no end in sight.
The world's politicians continue to pontificate. Yesterday, Tony Blair, the Middle East Special Envoy (or whatever he calls himself) received his Medal of Honour from his friend George W Bush. We saw it on television.
What we didn't see on television, if we didn't have Aljazeera, was what was going on yesterday in Sunset Strip. Aljazeera is the only international television station with reporters in locus. Israel has not had a reporter in the enemy's camp for 2 years. BBC and CNN reporters, and all international reporters, are banned from entering the war zone.
Why is the world's news media banned from Sunset Strip? That is an important question. Reporters are supposed to report from war zones. That is their job. There was even a time, go back as far as you like, when artists armed with canvas and brushes found themselves in war zones and on battlefields. So why this new rule? Why this no reporters, no cameras, no artists rule? Doubtless some of the world's courageous and dedicated newshounds will sniff out the 'Why' of this in due course.
As we wait for the truth to emerge from the fog of war I offer a miserere for the children of Sunset Strip and say to the world's dithering and overpaid politicians: You do nothing but insult those 350 dead children and their mothers with your windbag pontifications and your tragicomedy gongs and ribbon parties.

from Psalm 52
(for politicians and diplomats
who didn't try too hard)

Why do you boast of evil, you
mighty man?
Why do you boast all day
long,
you who are a disgrace in the
eyes of God?
Your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor

from Psalm 86
(for all the dead children
and those about to die)

The arrogant are attacking me,
O God;
a band of rutheless men seeks
my life -
men without regard for you.
But you, O Lord, are a
compassionate and
gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in
love

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Why? Part 2

Both my future grandfathers-to-be ran with the throng and were all too soon, unbeknown to each other, fighting for their lives in France. They were typical cannon fodder of the day, poorly educated patriots who knew little or nothing of the world outside their local communities, knew only that when Your Country Needs You! you must do your bit. One was a slate quarrier from Snowdonia in Wales and the other a coal miner from Tyneside in England.
The two young men's destinies were decided in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme. Somehow they both survived. One was sent home with an arthritic condition known as trench knee and the other with an advanced case of wet gangrene.
The Somme action was opened on 1st July 1916 by the noble Douglas 1st Earl Haig. It was battle in which 600,000 Allies and 650,000 Germans were killed, and so I ask 'Why?'. Why, for instance did Haig do it? What possessed the man to send millions of soldiers over the top and 600,000 to certain death. At Passchendaele the noble Lord took more unbelievable losses; there he sent another 245,000 Allies to their certain deaths. Mankind has all too often a short and blinkered memory. These days Douglas 1st Earl Haig is remembered fondly as the founder of the British Legion.
Fortunately for me, and for them, the names of my future grandfathers-to-be did not appear on those endless lists, those lists of the names and numbers of the 1,250,000 young men who were forced to slaughter each other at the Somme or the 10,000,000 young men whose lives were cut short because of this war to end all wars.
Another who survived the war was a young man named Adolf Hitler. He was a messenger who ran backwards and forwards with coded messages sent from those at the back giving the orders to those at the front carrying them out. He was excited by what he had seen. He won a medal. The Iron Cross was pinned to his proud pseudo-Teutonic chest.
Adolf Hitler, did not know it yet, but he would do better. In his war it wouldn't be a question of a mere 10,000,000 perished. It would be six times this number. The figures would become quite sensless; beyond anyone's imagining. And in the 60,000,000 there would be a hidden figure. A figure of 6,000,000. In Hitler's war there would be two wars. One would be against the Allies and another would be against the Jews.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Why? Part 1

The summer of 1914 is noted in Europe for being particularly summery. The Austrian monarch, Emperor Franz Joseph was going on his summer holidays. So what if Franz Ferdinand, that irritating heir to the throne had been killed by some Serbian lunatic, or even if the infamous Black Hand Brigade was involved, it was of no consequence. In fact, mused Franz Joseph, whoever was responsible has probably done us all a favour, saved me a lot of trouble anyway. Yes, the summer was pleasant. The deer were running in the woods at Bad Ischl. He would travel there on the royal train and spend another pleasant summer with his guns, his horses, his dogs and his mistress. Life could hardly be better at the grand old age of 83.
Behind the scenes, back in Vienna, Generalstabchef Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf had other ideas on how the summer might unfold. In secret, with a small group of politicians and diplomats von Hötzendorf considered the military options. "If the worst comes to the worst Germany has 4,500,000 soldiers and we, Austria-Hungary, have 3,500,000. Between us I, ahem, I mean we, have 8,000,000 soldiers. Now if I add in Italy's 3,400,000 soldiers, that's 11,400,000 soldiers on my side. Even Great Britain only has 1,067,000. Ah, but France has 4,300,000 and Russia, dangerous expanding Russia they have say 4,000,000..." he went on. "The plan is to hold on to Serbia following its annexation in 1908," he explained, "A small war in the Balkans will drive the message home. We are not a nation, I mean an empire, to be fooled around with. Who would dare oppose an army of 11,400,000? Add in the Turks if required and the army will stand at 12,800,000 men...let's say 13,000,000." He doubtless smiled at the assembled and lit a corona cigar. And there we must leave him enjoying his smoke.
The plain fact is that in Europe of 1914 there were well over 20,000,000 soldiers. Perhaps nearer 25,000,000. Even little Belgium had an army of 182,000. War was almost inevitable. It only needed the match on the blue touch paper. A newspaper cartoon of the time shows the bright New York skyline behind a braying donkey it's wide open mouth spewing forth an endless river of war materials. Somebody was making a fortune. And 10,000,000 lives would end because of it.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Why Mr Guo will win the war

From Ho Chi Minh's Prison Diary I have extracted three items to make a point.

The first is the poem
Air-raid Warning November 12

Enemy planes come roaring in the sky.
People flee helter-skelter, leaving the place empty.
Out of prison we are ordered for safety:
How gladly we all hasten to comply!

The second hints of changing fortunes, shows you can't trust Mars.
Dog-meat at Baoxiang

At Gode the guards liked their fish fresh.
Now at Baoxiang they relish dog flesh.
Ah, even that gang of turnkeys
At times show a taste for delicacies!

The third shows that ordinary people are basically good natured.
Mr Guo

Like duckweed meeting water, glad we were to see each other.
How kind and cordial Mr Guo was to me!
Nothing much: "A little gift of coal in wintry weather."
Yet, that such people exist is truly a blessing.

We might think that what the world needs today is more kind people like Mr Guo and less of the other sort. There are, contrary to public perception, people like Mr Guo in abundance. Millions of them. More than enough. They can be found in every country and every city in the world. The problem is that their voices are all too often unheard because of the clamour of the war industry.
This situation can only get worse because of the sanitized, approved versions of events that are continually bombarding us from our breaking news screens you might think. But you'd be wrong.
The Mr Guo's of this world are not so dumb as the censors, the priests, the politicians, the industrialists, the bankers, the turnkeys et alia would have you believe. Mr Guo will out. Mr Guo will have his way. This has been proven time and again. How the mighty are fallen, is not an idle observation.
A universal law is at work here. It is beyond the minds of generals and warmongers to comprehend this. And I repeat, it will have its way. The king cannot wear enough for both of us.
Ho Chi Minh put it very well in his poem The Weather is Clearing Up:

The Weather is Clearing Up August 29, 1942 - September 10, 1943

Everything evolves, such is the law of nature.
After days of rain, here's fine weather coming!
In an instant the earth has cast off its damp clothing;
Over ten thousand li the land spreads its mantle of brocade,
Under warm sun and balmy wind flowers smile with rapture;
In the tall trees and shining boughs birds release their trills.
Joy fills man's heart as well as the universe.
After bitter comes the sweet: so runs the course of nature.

All wars must end around a negotiating table. There are three steps. Peace, War, Negotiations. It's quite simple. Peace, War, Negotiations. The trick that Mr Guo is teaching us is to miss out the middle step; to go from step one to step three directly. It's easy. It's quite simple. All it takes is a little courage.

Mr Guo gave Ho Chi Minh a simple gift, a piece of coal. What are the consequences? The gift, the kindness of the gift, inspires Ho Chi Minh. It enables him to continue his long sufferance. The gift becomes a milestone on a long road. Why is this important? It is important because those who would have it otherwise want to control the giving and the receiving. Think about that. Mr Guo risks his life to give a prisoner, a stranger in dire circumstances, a man in shackles and rags who has nothing, a simple gift, a piece of coal.

The Milestone

Neither high up nor far away,
Not on an emperor's nor a king's throne,
You're only a little slab of stone
Standing on the edge of the highway.

People ask you for guidance;
You stop them from going astray,
And tell them the distance
Over which they must journey.

The service you render is no small one;
People will remember what you've done.