In Downtown Porto, the city where I went to college, there is a place by the river, near all the old houses, where the bridge of boats used to stand
The river Douro, which separates Porto from its neighbor Gaia, is — at least in that portion — shallow and rocky bottomed. Apparently early nineteenth (and prior) tech couldn’t figure out how to bridge this (they turned that corner, the old bridge there is a magnificent structure by Eiffel) so the bridge, as it stood since medieval times, was a bunch of boats tied together, then at both ends, and presumably with a passage way built on top of that.
When Napoleon invaded (and I can’t remember now, but I think he was coming from Gaia to Porto) there was a rush to the bridge of boats. The bridge would not take that many people, and it sank.
The plaque where it used to be memorializes the event and says (of course, this is Portugal) that on certain nights you can hear the screaming of the drowning people, as they were carried away by the freezing water of the river. (I wonder if I can convince Larry to have this bridge’s ghost be the only way across in the book we’re writing together, so MHI can chase the bad guys on the other side?)
Of course I know next to nothing of this event, other than what’s written on that card-sized memorial. Of course? Well, yes, Portuguese history always stopped somewhere around the discoveries every year, and I’ve read more about the invasions of the peninsula in American and English books, than I ever studied in school.
But in my mind, I see dark night, and the bell ringing, ringing, ringing, while people grab kids and belongings and rush to the bridge that won’t hold them.
I grew up with the idea of ringing the bell, for danger. Not that it ever happened. The one genuine mass emergency in the village, when a fire almost took it, except for the fortuitous fire break of the train line, we were all awake and standing around (and the men were watering the roofs and the woods on the village-side of the train line, (this is when I learned that fire roars like a lion) but no one rang the bell.
Actually I think we were all standing much too close, and if the fire had jumped the line, not one of us would have survived. How close? My mom’s house was two blocks from the screaming, roaring forest fire. And the people RIGHT BY THE TRAINLINE hadn’t evacuated.
If the fire had jumped, at best, we’d have faced a bridge of boats moment.
BUT we grew up with the idea. If I made some (I thought) startling observation, my family would answer “Go to the tower and ring the bell.”
We didn’t. The idea of the bell, was to bypass the official means of communication. Sure, of course the mayor (or whoever) could send someone (in my day usually with a loudspeaker) shouting instructions (weirdly the only time I remember this happening was during the cholera epidemic, when they went around shouting for us to put two drops of bleach in a gallon of water (or however much.) It was singularly ineffective, and pamphlets (which they also used) were much better. Mostly through the loudspeaker you heard garble barble bleach. But I guess it made the authorities feel better.)
However there was the tower and the bell, and anyone noticing anything wrong, could run up it and ring the bell.
I suppose it was a custom from much harder times. See the army/band of ruffians from the next village over march in? Ring the bell and summon men to the defense. See Viking pirates on the river? Ring the bell and summon the men.
The idea would be to have enough warning, because anyone could ring the bell, so disasters like the bridge of boats, or like our potential fiery death didn’t happen. Because more people see more, and you can get the alarm faster.
I’ve been thinking about this all day, after learning that NOT ONLY were Sad Puppies a question on jeopardy, but that, of course, it implied that it was a plot of the establishment to keep people out. (You’d think at SOME point someone would notice that everyone in the anti-puppy camp are people with power in the field versus a bunch of gonzo Baen authors and indies, right? Nah.)
The first thought this brings to mind is, of course, “How have they lied to us in other circumstances, before there was an internet or blogs? Before we knew they were lying?”
And you know the answer is “many times.” It’s almost impossible to realize how biased they are. I found out recently my husband had no idea what Journolist was. He thought I was a conspiracy theorist until I sent him links.
But it doesn’t even take that. It only takes a shared worldview that distorts the facts you’re seeing. Our media by and large learned Marxism in their “best colleges” and therefore are blind to the dangers of totalitarian regimes of the left. And therefore haven’t been very good at sounding the alarm, even when the world-divorced philosophies of the left destroyed our society. They would have delivered us hand-tied to the Soviet Union if only the Soviet Union had been coherent enough to win.
Balked of their victory, they’d happily deliver us to ISIS even though, REALISTICALLY, they should oppose everything ISIS stands for, including oppression of gays and women.
BUT our elites REALLY don’t like us. They’re not going to ring the bell.
The problem with this is that when danger is seen (or perceived. It doesn’t need to be real) and it scares people, people rushing to the bridge of boats might go crazy, and sink our civilization beneath the onslaught.
If our media were in charge of this, it is almost guaranteed. They’ll continue hectoring us, blaming guns, ignoring the enemy abroad, lionizing everyone who hates us, brow-beating us… Until a sudden attack, a major reverse, say a backpack nuke in NYC stampedes the population. And then, of course, we’d live down to their opinion of us. (Hey, after 9/11 I was Arab-looking enough for my neighbors to get upset. And no, I wasn’t/am not Arab-looking at all.)
There would be real attacks, not just on Arabs but on anyone who doesn’t fit in.
That’s what panic and belated realization does. As for our elites? Yeah, whoever it was who said we’d beat them to death with their “No Blood for Oil” signs wasn’t joking. That’s what panic does. Panic and the realization they didn’t sound the alarm when they should have.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Fortunately we have the internet. Everyone has access to that tower.
Ring the bell. Ring it loud. Ignore the authorities and their barble garble loudspeaker. Stay awake. Stay vigilant.
And ring the bell.