Once again the year has rolled around to February, and in honor of the month of Love, we have put together some subversive individuals that we appreciate and think you should too.
Gráinne Ní Mháille-The Pirate Queen
Who doesn’t love a tale of pirates and adventure taken to the sea? Certainly there are enough out there but few about successful female pirates and even fewer are those who were legitimate leaders. Gráinne Ní Mháille also known as Grace O’Malley was one of those.
Born on the coasts of Ireland to a wealthy landholding sea merchant she was the only legitimate child of her father Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille who was chieftain of the O Máille clan. Grainne was born in 1530 during the reign of the King Henry the VIII and as an adult had more that her share of dealings with the English crown.
Taking to the sea at an early age, according to the story, she initially shamed her father into allowing her to accompany him on a trading mission to Spain. His initially denied her request stating her long hair would get caught in the rigging, so she lopped it all off.
It was highly unusual at the time for nobility to be seafaring but the a O Mháille made quite a fortune both through trade and in charging a tariff on all ships fishing in their waters which is what eventually drew the attention of the English Crown. The Tudors were not fond of paying anyone anything.
Her dealings with the crown earned her the reputation as a pirate as she would capture, board and pillage ships that refused to pay the imposed tariff.
Grainne was also ahead of her time as a female ruler. Before even Elizabeth I effectively took and led the throne, Grainne was a fair and defensive ruler of her clan’s lands. Practicing marriage under Brehon law she expanded her lands by marrying well and dismissing her (second) husband Richard Burke after a year; although records seem to indicate they stayed allies. She took over his castle and his iron forges.
Grainne was known to change her alliances as they suited her and her holdings, offering help and men to England against Scotland and even against Ireland itself. But she was also at times no friend to England. In 1593, in his letter to protesting Gráinne Ní Mháille’s claims against him, Richard Bingham claimed that Ní Mháille was “nurse to all rebellions in the province for this forty years”
She supposedly died in 1603, the same year as Elizabeth I, although with a mythology built up around her it is hard put to tell exactly when. She has since been a favorite topic for musicians playwrights and novel lists and a standard for the strength of Irish women.
Born in 1894 James Thurber was an American writer and cartoonist, who dealt with the frustrations of modern world.
Born into an exceptional family, with a mother who often played pranks on guests and a father who was a sometimes politician, James Thurber no doubt learned at an early age how to gage people’s reactions.
He was a man who spoke out against the rising popularity of psychoanalysis, writing several articles on its ridiculousness. He also was not afraid to tackle taboo issues of sexuality in both men and women.
But the real reason he was suggested by Dylan the Dog is because some of his most famous cartoons involved animal’s reactions to human beings. He was a man who saw the sometimes ridiculous of man, how man got to the top of the food chain was no doubt a mystery to some of his characters.
As a founding writer at the New Yorker he set the tone for cartoons to come. His wit and innate ability to point out human foibles was not always applauded however. In particular Truman Capote did not appreciate being referred to as a Seeing Eye dog for Thurber during his stint at the New Yorker.
In the words of one of Subversify’s founding fathers (who has asked not to be named) – Howard Zinn was a different type of clown. He was an animal of a different breed, one who blatantly wrote history from the perspective of the human condition of those being oppressed. Sure , he was an ideological gasbag that dry humped the Marxist legs of anyone desperate enough to want stains on their calf, but there is no doubt that Peoples History of the United States was one of the most influential and subversive history books ever written. Seriously, how many history books have you ever read that detailed the torture and humiliation of natives, giving you details about how they were ridden around like horses for amusement? True or not, THAT is interesting reading.
The guy managed to piss off all the right people by the mere suggestion that the circumstances surrounding the great American experiment weren’t so great for the people that got stepped on. In the wake of the first publication there have been countless people and organizations vilifying the work, calling him a traitor and using resources to do everything they can to discredit him. The man, by every definition of the word, became an agitator to those who wear the status quo like a comfortable blanket.
It’s almost impossible to tell a historical account without having some sort of narrative. Some may see nobility in trying to take an objective stance when writing said narrative. Zinn however argued that all documented history has a skew, especially in the United States where most history centers on the white guys riding horses. All Zinn did was simply change the perspective. Peoples History is an interesting read, but if you want to see some real eye opening stuff, check out the thousands of web sites, books and other right wing media sources that have been attacking him for decades.
Howard Zinn, Mission accomplished! And you shall be missed, having passed into the great goodnight January 27, 2010.
Woody Guthrie famous for wielding his music against the government that he found to be corrupt has left an indelible mark on both American history and American Music.
Born in Oklahoma in 1912, he was taught music by his father, a cowboy, land speculator and local politician. Due to personal experiences like living in a dried up boom town, the great depression and the dustbowl era; he developed the philosophy that carpet baggers and other business speculators where not to be trusted. He later used his musical talent and lyricism to bring light to the plight of everyday workers, pickers and the generally disenfranchised.
Most school children from the 1960’s on learned his ballad, “This Land is Your Land” however he also wrote about social injustice as in “Two Good Men” a song about Sacco and Vanzetti two Italian immigrants who were executed after what many felt was an unfair trial. He wrote about worker’s rights and appeared at Union Rallies. He also addressed the feelings of being an outsider, which he knew well from being and “okie” in California in songs like “I ain’t got no home” “Goin’ down the road feelin’ bad” “Talkin’ Dust Bowl Blues” and “Hard Travelin’” He spoke out against government corruption in songs like “Jesus Christ for President”
But of course Woody says it best: “There’s several ways of sayin’ what’s on your mind. And in states and counties where it ain’t too healthy to talk out loud, speak your mind, or even vote like you want to, folks have found other ways of getting’ the word around. One of the mainest ways is by singing. Drop the word “folk” and call it real ol’ honest to god American singing. No matter who makes it up, who sings it and who don’t, if it talks the lingo of the people, it’s a cinch to catch on, and will be sung here and yonder for a long time after you’ve cashed in your chips. If the fight gets hot, the songs get hotter, if the going gets tough the songs get tougher.”
And of course we’re still singing long after good ol’ Woody’s cashed in his chips.
Grainne Rhuad and Karla Fetrow
When I put in a call to our staff to submit their favorite subversives for this year’s love notes I did not expect to be writing about myself, however, our very own A.B. Thomas submitted the following and who am I to naysay him? I will however give it all to you in his words:
“When I saw the message to write a “love note” to a fellow contributor that I enjoyed on Subversify for the Valentine’s Day theme I immediately groaned. First of all, I loathe the word “love”. Every time I hear that word it puts me back into a bad place where I once had used that word to my forever detriment. It was a while back when I took my date to the local sex shop – its where I take all my first dates because that’s the kind of modern sensitive kind of guy I am. First dates are awkward and full of questions such as “Is he out with me for my body or for my mind?” – Taking a woman to a sex shop pretty much solidifies in the mind of the woman exactly what I’m out with her for thereby taking the awkwardness and questions from hindering the enjoyment of the evening. Besides it is much better than the tired dinner and a movie; I don’t like having to argue who gets the toy from the “Happy Meal” or tell a woman to be quiet during the movie with her statements like, “Are you sure e-x-i-t stands for free admission?” Anyway this woman and I were looking around and she tapped me on the shoulder. She asked what I thought of the industrial-sized ice fishing auger with straps on it she was holding in her hands. Temporarily forgetting that sarcasm for some is a lost art, I told her that I loved it. It would be later that night I would discover that she thought that she was Richard Harris as she attempted to find Shamu just south of my north pole. Secondly, I could not pick a single person that I would wish to isolate as having touched me more than another by writing that they had done so for fear of feeling responsible for what happens to them afterward. It has been my experience that when I have said that someone had touched me that invariably a non descript black van screeches up and roughly abducts that person where they are taken to a motel, stripped, then thrown into a tub full of holy water and scrubbed down with steel wool pads that have been soaking in a pail full of a combination of tomato juice, turpentine, Lysol and spermicide. The Dalai Lama still won’t return my calls and Rush Limbaugh won’t stop texting me, but I digress…
I’d like to say that I’ve appreciated all that Subversify has opened my eyes to in terms of not only content but what quality should look like and exposing me to a range of viewpoints that I may not have otherwise been exposed to – but that would be a lie. Two folks have been particular pains in my ass – and not the kind where you have to decide whether it was enjoyable or not and if it was, do you admit that you’re not averse to doing it again – Karla and Grainne. Those two would make a great case for the existence of alien abductions. They’ve forced me to probe, prod, tweak and re-assess my work to where I have come to expect much more out of myself so I don’t have to shoulder the responsibility of them developing chronic migraines. So I could be accused of having lexiconic diarrhea and swinging my pen anywhere I wanted, self-assured that there was little chance of retribution as I had a low semantic count, when I began submitting, but damn! I’m a bloody Conservative, I’m not supposed to think; I’m just supposed to find some visible minority to pin all the perceived ills upon.
Lately I’ve been failing as a manly man because at the height of the throes of passion I have to stop because my traditional “Who’s your daddy, huh, who’s your daddy” is now stymied with the small voice in the back of my head asking, “Are you sure it’s not ‘whom is your daddy’?” I question whether or not I’m okay with same -synonym relations or if behind the outer façade of antonym apathy I’m really a homonym-phoebe. I used to relish in the knowledge that once the ol’ pant came down that I should have paper in my hand because I whether I wanted to or not I was going to spew; Now I find that often I have a severe paragraphic constipation .Do you know what kind of damage that does to one’s vowels? Not to mention the associated literary tract infections and the burgeoning perchance of having phrase erectile dysfunction. I went to see my thesaurus the other day and he figured that I may be in the late stages of syntax – for the love of Pete; Toulouse-Lautrec died of that, didn’t he? So Grainne and Karla, in my Conservative fashion, I totally blame you for my current parse condition…”
To which Karla replied:
“Flattery will get you everywhere with me, although in this case, I think you’re saying I’m frigid enough to shrivel the balls of a rampaging billy goat. This is patently not so. I once melted syntax into an active verb in order to dissolve rumors that I’m cold.”
Myself, I am still blushing to be considered as a subversive object of affection.
Malice in Wonderland
Each year I like to call to attention a relatively unknown subversive. This year I chose Malice in Underland, an Australian blogger whom I’m sure would not consider calling attention to herself. However, she deserves it. Some of us know her by other names, which I shall not presume to announce here, for now Malice will suffice. Over the last few years many of us at Subversify have benefitted from her viewpoints. She is an artist of many mediums. She writes with passion and very well. She is compelling and causes us to think about politics, human rights, global economy and environmental issues from a completely different perspective. She is a world traveler and most recently a contributor here. She is fierce without losing the softness that makes her a beauty inside and out. I highly recommend you check out her blogs and get a down-under subversive view. She can be found at http://maliceinwonderland-maliceinwonderland.blogspot.com/