June 25, 1900 [Capture of Boer Battery by the British]

Unable to defeat the Boers in 1881, the British have been seething for almost twenty years as South African gold keeps pouring out, an inevitably irresistible temptation. Capitalizing on Uitlander outrage, they have made sure the din of cannons supplants the clamor of the "gold bugs." In America we tend to side with the Boers, perceiving them as threatened colonists in an acutely familiar defensive posture. But I cannot ignore the scramble for loot that marks such endeavors—and pardon the wordplay, but I suppose I must "mark" how much I'm sounding like Marx here—heaven forbid anyone should read this; I'd be "marked" as an Anarchist for certain! But as greed becomes more and more a global enterprise, a Deadly Sin to which the blood succumbs (with the fierce approval of citizens who will never glimpse the glitter of Transvaal gold, let alone feel the tearing horror of open-field fire), I am losing all patience—and some large measure of National Pride—as I watch once again Edison pressing war until it flows in thin strips on the screen, as the British advance on the Boer cannon—and the camera is placed behind the latter, so that we see the British advancing upon us, constant sympathizers with the struggle for freedom, and we are driven back with the Afrikaners.

It is excitingly photographed, so that I can immerse myself in the thrill of the advance, the silent cannon smoking, the retreat continuing behind me. It is, as usual, seductive, and almost makes me admit the British are wrong and the Boers are right. But again that golden gleam catches my eye, and the moment is gone, and only artifice and subterfuge remain.


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