Friday, November 30, 2007

The wonders of astronomical technology

This picture of a lunar crater (named after Aristarchus, the first to argue -- unsuccessfully -- for a heliocentric system) was taken from a back yard observatory. Wow.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Plagiarism?

Over on Scott Aaronson's blog there's been a lively discussion about a knotty problem. Aaronson is a computer scientist interested in quantum computing (which I always think of as something pertaining to a rather distant future) and therefore quantum mechanics.

Well, back in October Scott found that a couple of lines from lectures he's published on the web constitute the entire script for an Australian ad for Ricoh printers. You really owe it to yourself to see the ad on YouTube. He's not quite sure what he should do about it. Hundreds of people have made suggestions in comments and I suggest you go over there and give your prejudices an exercise. Somebody has already contributed a comment that will raise your ire.

Opinion there polarized around two positions: one, that Scott should not be such an uptight American about intellectual property and feel complimented or something that his words got out there; and two, nobody (the ad agency) should be making money with his stuff when they didn't even ask permission.

I can see both sides, since I have plenty of lectures on the web. I don't know if anyone's ever stolen them (for term papers?). I'm glad to have my stuff out there to be read, but on the other hand...

An interesting problem indeed.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

My Beowulf review

My review of the Beowulf movie isn't going to be very long. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be in the first five minutes or so. The initial emphasis on special effects ("Lookit what I can do, mom!") I found really tiresome (I liked the battle with the dragon later, fantastic as it was) and I wasn't very keen on the drunken Hrothgar. However, I did not want to leave the theater at any point after that. Not too bad for a Hollywood movie; but despite its pretensions (Neil Gaiman! Neil Gaiman!) it was a pretty much a Hollywood movie.

Rather than say more, I'll refer you to the three best reviews (best in the sense of being the most thoughtful and in-depth), at least two of them by Anglo-Saxonists (one's pseudonymous). These are not humorless, uptight specialists. One was delighted to say, for instance,

Angelina Jolie is doing philology!!! Angelina Jolie is doing philology naked!!!

(Does it get any better than that?)
but all three share the conviction that movie scriptwriters seldom have the subtlety of the medieval sources they sometimes plunder. Hardly news, that.

Here are the three reviews:

Michael Drout at Wormtalk and Slugspeak
Richard Scott Nokes at Unlocked Wordhoard
Dr. Virago at Quod She

And if you want more, see an earlier comment on this blog.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Historical treasures, imagined and real


Over at Blogenspiel, Another Damned Medievalist has posted Carnivalesque XXXIII, a collection of links to interesting Ancient/Medieval items from recent blogs. Aside from cutting remarks about Beowulf and Neil Gaiman's role in it (go look it up!), there is a fine item from Tony Keen on what he'd like to see recovered from Pompeii if further digs discover more lost literature on the lines of the Greek library already found there. Posts like this can be tiresome but I liked Tony's so much that I followed his link to a post by Mary Beard, who earlier asked her readers for their wish lists.

It may seem that this wishing is ridiculously unrealistic. Well, wishes almost never come true in the way you'd like them to. But this week has shown that the unexpected can occur in a stunning manner. At least, I was stunned by two discoveries.

The first was a seemingly 7th-century royal cemetery in the North of England, the only such, with some individual pieces reminiscent of the Sutton Hoo material from East Anglia. This is really hot stuff, which will be analyzed for a long time to come.

Even better, if you are interested in Rome, is the apparent discovery of the Lupercale in Rome. To quote the Guardian, it's

a large vaulted hall beneath the Palatine hill ... almost certainly the fabled Lupercale - a sanctuary believed by ancient Romans to be the cave where the twin boys Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf.
The Guardian site has some video footage. You see, the cavern is in bad shape, and has only been seen via a probe-camera inserted from above. Watching it, you can imagine the excitement of the archaeologists and technicians who first saw it. The lead archaeologist, Andrea Carandini, said it's ""one of the greatest discoveries ever made" and whose to say that's wrong?

One story I saw said this shrine was accessible until the 16th century. Does any reader know more about this, and how the Lupercale was lost?

Let's call this Good News Friday and leave it at that.

Image: The English finds, from the BBC story.

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Common questions about the term tests

I'm excerpting a letter I got from a student in HIST 2055, Ancient Civilizations, and answering the writer's questions here for others in this course and the other two:

First of all, I was wondering if all of the terms and essays will be on the exam, or if you are selecting a few from the given list to actually be on the exam.

I will be choosing a number of terms and essay topic from those I put on the study sheet.

Also, I have started preparing the essays, and I was wondering if you wanted the essay to address the questions which were at the top of the lecture notes and extra readings or is there another format you would like us to follow.

In HIST 2055 and 3425 the essay questions are based on source material we looked at in class, and in preparation for class discussion I suggested some questions to think about. It wouldn't hurt to look at those questions again, but you aren't restricted to reacting to them only. After a term of lectures and discussion, you may have a good idea of your own to write about.

And last, but not least, are the actual documents going to be on the exam, or just the titles and we create our essay from what we know!
The documentary material that was on the study sheet will also be on the exam paper.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Phil Paine on microfinance, and more


Phil Paine has posted on his blog two new pieces worth reading. One is on microlending, where lenders strategically lend small amounts of money to entrepreneurs in poor parts of the world, and on a development that makes it easy to take part in microfinance.

The second is a critique on the usual distinction made between "simple" egalitarian societies and "complex" entities like empires.

Both are highly recommended.


Image: A microfinance self-help group. Read about it here.

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That Beautiful Somewhere on Canadian TV

From NU's Big Name Novelist/Film Producer, Bill Plumstead:

The Canadian Television debut of That Beautiful Somewhere starring Roy Dupuis ("The Rocket," "Shake Hands with the Devil"), Jane McGregor and Gordon Tootoosis,will be broadcast this Friday night, November 23, at 9:00 pm on the Movie Network's two channels: MFest and HD. It was filmed in Temagami and North Bay.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ancient sources

For students in Ancient Civilizations, here's the list of ancient sources suitable for the second paper:

Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul (usually called The Gallic War)

Euripides, Medea and Other Plays

Plautus, The Pot of Gold and Other Plays

Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War


All of these are conveniently available in Penguin Classics versions.


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Monday, November 19, 2007

Study sheet for Medieval England term test


It's here!

Image:
Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory on the site of Lindisfarne Abbey.

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Study sheet for Ancient Civilizations term test


It's here!

Image: Vassals greet the emperor at Persepolis.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Is Amazon re-inventing the book?


This is better than the usual Newsweek article.

On the other hand, if this is what the Kindle e-book reader looks like, I'll rein in my enthusiasm. whoa. whoa.

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Shout a warning unto the nation that the sword of God is raised!


Long ago, I heard this song, Pride of Man by Hamilton Camp, on the first Quicksilver Messenger Service album; a friend heard a young Gordon Lightfoot sing it live. I put the lyrics here for my Ancient Civilizations students who worked so hard on Robert Wright's A Short History of Progress and Bryan Ward-Perkins's The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization. The students will see the connection, I think.

I've always had an ambiguous feeling toward this song. It's certainly powerful; but I can all too easily see Maximilien Robespierre and Osama bin Laden doing a duet. Classic imagery works, but it's all too easily adopted wholesale.

Pride of Man
by Hamilton Camp

Turn around,
go back down,
back the way you came,
Can't you see that flash of fire ten times brighter than the day?
And behold a mighty city broken in the dust again,
Oh God, Pride of Man, broken in the dust again.

Turn around,
go back down,
back the way you came,
Babylon is laid to waste, Egypt's buried in her shame,
The mighty men are all beaten down, their kings are fallen in the ways,
Oh God, Pride of Man, broken in the dust again.

Turn around,
go back down,
back the way you came,
Terror is on every side, lo our leaders are dismayed.
For those who place their faith in fire, their faith in fire shall be
repaid,
Oh God, Pride of Man, broken in the dust again.

Turn around,
go back down,
back the way you came,
And shout a warning unto the nation that the sword of God is raised.
Yes, Babylon, that mighty city, rich in treasures, wide in fame,
Oh God, Pride of Man, broken in the dust again.

The meek shall cause your tower to fall, make of you a pyre of flame,
Oh you who dwell on many waters, rich in treasures, wide in fame.
you bow unto your God of gold, your pride of might shall be a shame,
For only God can lead His people back unto the Earth again.

Oh God, Pride of Man, broken in the dust again.
A Holy mountain be restored, and mercy on that people, that people

Here's a live performance of July 1, 2007, by the Jefferson Starship.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tantalizing


I haven't seen a review of Beowulf from a person whose taste I know, and I can't figure out from Rotten Tomatoes whether it's going to be worthwhile.

I am fascinated, though, by the 3-star review from Roger Ebert (via RT):

Beowulf

BY ROGER EBERT / November 15, 2007

In the name of the mighty Odin, what this movie needs is an audience that knows how to laugh. Laugh, I tell you, laugh! Has the spirit of irony been lost in the land? By all the gods, if it were not for this blasted infirmity that the Fates have dealt me, you would have heard from me such thunderous roars as to shake the very Navy Pier itself down to its pillars in the clay.

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The results of the British withdrawal from Basra


According to the commander of the British forces there (via the International Herald Tribune and Associated Press):

Attacks against British and Iraqi forces have plunged by 90 percent in southern Iraq since London withdrew its troops from the main city of Basra, the commander of British forces there said Thursday.

For more see the IHT article and Brandon Friedman at Daily Kos.

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Larger than the Sun

Currently there is an object in our solar system that is larger than the Sun. This does not happen every day of the week, so it might be a good time to reacquaint yourself with the night sky.

Read more about Comet Holmes at Astronomy Picture of the Day and at Sky and Telescope.

Update: Saw it! With my eyes it's just a centerless cloud to be seen near Mirphak through binocs or by passing my eyes over Mirphak to activate peripheral B/W vision, but if it blows up tomorrow I will have seen it. Clue: the last link of the handle of the Little Dipper points more or less at Mirphak.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Dean Oliver speaks at NU on Thursday, November 22

From Dr. Robin Gendron:

Next Thursday, November 22nd, Dean Oliver will be at Nipissing to give the History Department's annual Keynote Address. The title of the talk is "Bloodless Wars? Military History in Museums." It takes place at 6:30 pm in H106.

Dean Oliver is the chief historian at the Canadian War Museum and he will be speaking about the challenges involved in presenting history and historical research at public institutions, a particularly germane topic given the controversy at the museum this past summer about its portrayal of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany during the Second World War.

The event is free and open to the entire university community and the public. We hope to see you there.

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Canadian government complicit in Afghan torture, and ministers lied to cover up

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chocolate began as beer

This is for my students in Modern World History, or anyone else who has contemplated the role of mood-altering substances in world history.

The title comes from a Reuters story, but I'll refer you to the wonderful presentation on the blog Driftglass.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sara Burke speaks at NU, Friday, November 16

An announcement from Dr. James Murton:

The History Department Seminar Series continues with Dr. Sara Burke, Chair of the History Department at our sibling institution, Laurentian University, speaking on "Dancing into Education? The Impact of World War I on University Women in Ontario."

Dr. Burke is a specialist in the history of higher education in Canada. In this paper, she considers how and why the growing presence of women on university campuses in the 1920s was accompanied by "the increased academic segregation of women within feminized programs such as education, social work and household science" (full abstract below).

Time and Place: Friday, November 16, 2:30 pm, Rm A224.

Refreshments will be served.

Abstract:

Many Canadian academics believed the impact of the Great War to be cataclysmic, and their writing evokes a wistful nostalgia for the university world they had known as undergraduates – a nostalgia mixed with distaste for the seemingly frivolous objectives of the flapper generation. There was much to condemn in the post-war climate, but a significant number of contemporaries focused their discontent on the new class of women undergraduates. The cluster of ills plaguing campus culture by the 1920s was due primarily, they implied, to the over-prominence of women in university affairs during the War, and to the growing numbers of coeds who transformed Ontario’s campuses after 1919. This paper argues that the perceptions of contemporaries concerning the 1920s have the potential to distort our understanding of the prewar period, and in particular, to magnify the impact of World War I on the history of women’s higher education in Canada. That the 1920s represented a period of change in women’s education is beyond doubt, yet it is more helpful to explore the roots of those changes in the period immediately before the War than in the artificial hiatus the War produced in academic life. For historians, the 1920s are notable for two parallel developments: the emergence of a distinctly co-educational culture, which promoted an unprecedented degree of social contact between the sexes, and the increased academic segregation of women within feminized programs such as education, social work and household science. This paper seeks to explain these developments – the growing concerns over the assertive presence of women students and the accompanying movement toward separate forms of education – in the unsettled controversies that marked the history of co-education in Canada during the period preceding the War.


Update: Dr. Burke's presentation raised some very interesting issues, which she handled extremely well in the following Q&A.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Steve Muhlberger speaks at NU on Wed. Nov. 14, 1 pm, Rm A222


You are invited to attend the Nipissing University Research Lunch, Food For Thought.

Date: Wednesday, November 14
Time: 1:00 – 2:00pm
Room: A222

Steven Muhlberger, Department of History will speak on Noble Warriors or Good Soldiers: Conflicting Views of the Role of the 14th-century Man-at-arms.

Image:
King John II of France. Why? Come and find out!

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sweet Nexus

World History students sweating over their papers on the global effects of the early modern sugar trade might want to read this article in the LA Times on the addictive nature of sweetners, and not just sugar. Before eating another donut.

For the record, I love donuts.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Tip? I've got better things to worry about


The waitress who may not have received a tip from Hillary Clinton's campaign team doesn't think this is news. She sees there are worse problems (like media priorities):

Reached at her home in Iowa, the waitress, Anita Esterday, said that neither she nor a colleague who helped serve Mrs. Clinton recalled seeing any tip.

She said a local staff member of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign was in the restaurant on Thursday to tell them that the campaign had left a tip.

She said that when she and her colleague said they had not seen a tip, the staff member gave each of them $20.

Ms. Esterday said she did not understand what all the commotion was about.

“You people are really nuts,” she told a reporter during a phone interview. “There’s kids dying in the war, the price of oil right now — there’s better things in this world to be thinking about than who served Hillary Clinton at Maid-Rite and who got a tip and who didn’t get a tip.”




In a West Wing episode where a story about whether the President liked green beans took up a whole day of White House time, one character said "Isn't this stupid?"

The reply was, "It's election year, in election year everybody is stupid."

The first character responded, "No, in election year everybody is treated like they are stupid."

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Samaritans

I promised the Ancient Civilizations students a link to the recent Globe and Mail article on the ancient and still-surviving Samaritans, descendents of the ancient Israelites. The Globe article is behind the paywall but I found another site for it.

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The great unknown "repatriation"

This week CBC Radio One's show, The Current, broadcast a short documentary on an unknown episode of US Depression and immigration history: the expulsion of perhaps a million or more "Mexicans" (some actual immigrants, some children of immigrants, some people with "Mexican sounding names") during the Hoover Administration. The producer talks to an 82-year-old man who was born in the USA but was "repatriated" with his family from Montana (!), being allowed to take with them only the clothes on their backs. I like to think I know a lot about US history but I've never heard of this; and though apologies and compensation have become a political matter in some areas I'd guess most Americans are equally in the dark.

If you'd like to hear the Current segment, it's available on the Web, as is other information about the expulsion.

Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007) -- a killer review...

...one for the ages.

I haven't seen this movie and after this comment from a friend I'm in no hurry:

"Elizabeth" is to Elizabethan history as "Muppet Treasure Island" is to ... Elizabethan history.

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Wrong on torture

Despite the fact that he won't give a straightforward opinion that nearly drowning someone is torture, Michael Mukasey has been confirmed as US Attorney General in a surprise vote in the US Senate. Worse, as Glenn Greenwald points out, leading Democrats voted for him even though they claimed to be opposed to torture and Mukasey's stand:

The most amazing quote was from chief Mukasey supporter Chuck Schumer, who, before voting for him, said that Mukasey is "wrong on torture -- dead wrong."

A commentator at Daily Kos puts it this way:

This is a watershed moment. It's now possible to be "wrong on torture" and survive. Not just survive, though. Thrive. Win high office. Be the chief law "enforcement" officer of the United States of America.

What standard does this set? What practices, if any, are and will forever be out of bounds?

Chuck Schumer's logic is just another step toward the day when campaign ads of the future will deliver as a straight line the news that the opposition is, "Wrong on cannibalism. Wrong for America."

One does wonder what is wrong with America's political leadership. The Democrats had the votes to stop this appointment but were content to pose for the cameras.

I'm not sure this was a watershed moment, though. I'd pick the passage of the Military Commissions Act.

What this vote shows is that this drift toward dictatorship will not just slowly run out of steam. The American people will have to do something to stop it.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rome (2005)


Thanks to NU's Classics Club, I saw the first two episodes of the mini-series Rome. I was impressed the minute the initial credits came on, which made me think that this is surely the era when animators rule the screen. As a whole it was perhaps the best recreation of ancient scenes I can remember, though the early-70s Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers were comparable, and the recently-seen Joseph Andrews and The Duellists are comparable.

Image: Polly Walker playing Atia of the Julii, the mother of the emperor Augustus.

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Bayeux Tapestry, in still form and animated

The most interesting source for the Norman Conquest of England is the huge embroidery project known as the Bayeux Tapestry. In Medieval England (HIST 3425) we'll be looking at highlights of this fascinating "graphic history;" for those who want to prepare, or for random readers passing by, I list these links to online versions:

Pictures of the whole embroidery (thumbnail index).

A condensed animated version, with an impressive soundtrack.

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Susan Thomson speaks on post-genocide justice in Rwanda

I would love to hear this talk, which is on Thursday, November 8, 4:30 to 6:00 pm,
in Room F213; but I am teaching myself.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The top of the cliche list

I've been practicing yoga seriously since the beginning of the year. Perhaps understandably, I now notice references to yoga quite frequently. But it's not just me. I got back from a yoga weekend Sunday evening to see this article on The Group News Blog. Surely this means that yoga and that other subject beginning with Z have hit the top of the cliche list.

The same event was covered in the New York Times; I thought the comments were hilarious.

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Beautiful map of the far side of the moon

This is a geological map of the far side of the moon. I saw it first on Strange Maps, which got it from Wired. There are links to other planetary maps at this Wired article.

Click on the map for the full effect.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Phil Paine's Fifth Meditation On Democracy

Most of my ideas of history and politics have evolved in the context of a long-established dialogue with Phil Paine. He is the most original thinker I know and the value of his insights has been proven to me again and again over the past three and a half decades. His recent series of Meditations on Democracy is perhaps his best writing to date, and today's Fifth Meditation the best of the best. It follows in its entirety. If you haven't read the first four, you can also find them at Phil's web site.



Monday, November 5, 2007 - Fifth Meditation On Democracy

It’s my contention that both hierarchical and egalitarian behaviour are equally “natural” to human beings. These two methods of interacting with others in a group have co-existed in all human societies, from the earliest stages of our evolution as a species. It is also my contention that, while there is a limited place for hierarchical thinking and behaviour in a good society, it is egalitarian thinking that has created civilization and morality. Any society that is dominated by hierarchy is essentially backward, self-destructive, and immoral.

There are no necessary “stages” in history, and no predestined sequence of political structures, though a particular polity may “evolve” in the sense that it may become more just or better at recognizing and protecting the rights of its people. It may just as easily “devolve” and become less just and more savage. It is the continuing concentration of effort towards justice by a people that makes justice happen, not some nebulous, abstract economic or historical process. Morally correct decisions have to be made, and real action must be taken, by real individual human beings. Just laws have to be made, agreed upon, and obeyed. An advanced ― that is to say a just and moral ― political structure can be created by any group of human beings, at any time, in any place, at any level of technology or degree of prosperity. The “technology” of justice is intellectual, not physical. It has to be discovered, invoked, and implimented, but it is not dependent on any particular kind of physical environment.

This last statement needs some exemplary illustration. The world’s history has seen a great variety of “polities”, that is to say, groups of human beings organized into political units. Some have been relatively advanced, measured by the standard of respect for human rights and dignity, others have been backward and barbaric. But historical periods, wealth, and technological gadgetry do not determine which is advanced and which is backward. Ancient Yaudhiya and Athens were more politically advanced than the large Mauriyan and Alexandrian empires that succeeded them. Germany in 1940 was equipped with some of the world’s most advanced technology, and had inherited a treasure of art, science, literature and accumulated knowledge ― yet, politically and morally, it ranked below the most primitive societies of headhunting barbarians. The same is true of all Communist states, which exist on a level of political savagery, despite whatever atomic weapons, skyscrapers, or space craft they produce. The smallest, humblest democracy is immensely more sophisticated than any state ruled by a dictator. Little, democratic Iceland is more advanced in civilization than the Roman Empire ever was, or the France of Napoleon, or of Louis XIV, or any of the empires of the world, no matter how many pyramids and victory arches they erected. The mere fact that an empire is an empire, or a kingdom is a kingdom, makes it inferior. A single village in Vermont in 1850, with its democratic town meetings, was a thousand times more politically advanced than the present government in Washington, ruled by a self-declared “Decider”, and managed by a crew of barbarian henchmen, and attended by a castrated legislature of uncontested incumbents who can be bought, like low grade ground beef, by the pound. Those who want America to be an Empire are not seeking to empower it, they are seeking to degrade it and destroy it. Those in Canada who want us to act as servants and cheerleaders for such an empire likewise seek to degrade and destroy Canada. That is why I oppose them.

Wealth is not civilization. Size is not civilization. Technology is not civilization. Those are not what determines whether a society is civilized. However, I am not making a case for any kind of Rousseau-an nostalgia. The techniques most useful to civilization have a long history, going back to our earliest beginnings as a species, but they have only sporadically been identified, practiced, and improved. We have much to learn from ancient, tribal, and pre-industrial societies that is useful and important. But on the whole, societies in the past have been more violent, less just, and more dangerous than some of the best polities that emerged in the last two centuries. It’s our duty to take advantage of the cumulative experience of the human race, from all times and places, wherever we have lessons to learn and experiences to learn from. Every successful innovation, no matter who made it, should be incorporated into our common treasure of wisdom, and every mistake should be acknowledged, studied, and remembered as a caution. The greatest weakness that pre-literate societies had was that they had difficulty remembering what they had done well, and constantly repeated the errors of the past. We don’t have that excuse. If we don’t learn from the horrors of the Holocaust, the Gulag, and the Laogai, what excuse could we offer?

For example, we have the glaring example of Germany and Japan. In the late 19th Century, both those countries experienced spectacular economic growth. This material success was not accompanied by any significant development of democracy. They remained under the rule of decrepit aristocracies and military men, while their economies expanded, and foreign investors flocked to invest in them. The eventual consequence of this lopsided development was to plunge the world into two gigantic wars, enable the demented slaughter of millions of innocents, and encourage the growth of obscene “philosophies”, like Marxism and Nazism, dedicated to the enslavement of human beings. Today, we can see exactly the same pattern forming in China. The Chinese people have worked hard, under extremely difficult circumstances, and have created a miraculous new prosperity. This is the product of the dynamism, creativity, and courage of the people, not of their rulers. But the rulers are still there, in power, a rotting, putrescent gang of aged mass-murderers and psychopathic criminals. There has been no progress in developing democracy, the absolutely essential ingredient of civilized life. The eventual consequence of this failure will be as horrible as that which befell the world the last time this error was made. At this stage, a dramatic change would be necessary to avert impending disaster.

Here in Canada, and more dramatically in the United States, with whom we Canadians have an intimate cultural bond, I have seen my society become progressively more conservative, more psychologically primitive, more militaristic, more cowardly, and more oriented towards hierarchy and mindless obedience. Over my lifetime, I’ve seen the fundamental ideas of liberty, of egalitarian ethics, of respect for rights, and of the dignity and sanctity of the individual human being evaporate like milk splashed on a hot stove, leaving only an ugly stain and an ugly smell. I’ve seen independence, creativity and spontaneity, once the essence of our social customs, replaced by mindless conformity, callous brutality, and the cringing cowardice that characterize a backward, stratified society. I’ve seen the relentless poison of Conservatism destroy everything decent that we had accomplished, replacing science and reason with the mumbo-jumbo of witch doctors, rolling back sexual attitudes from those of free human beings to the moronic taboos and terrors of primitive savages, and simultaneously wrecking our once-creative economy. I’ve seen the vulgar, ruthless, malicious, stupid and inane systematically triumph over those who are honourable and principled in almost every aspect of our lives. In the United States, fundamental democratic institutions have been under systematic attack by Conservative ideology, with no effective resistance or opposition. In Canada, democratic institutions are in better shape than in the United States, but more by random good luck than by any conscious effort, or courageous defense.

The greatest menace to our society is the habit of submission to aristocracy. Aristocracy and civilization are incompatible. A civilized people has no “pecking order”. Civilized people do not worship celebrities, cringe before imaginary “betters”, or submit to “leaders” on the basis of alpha dominance. Civilized people do not have leaders. They lead themselves. Civilized people make group decisions by the reasoned processes of law, consultation, debate, and democracy, not by handing over power to some gang of charismatic apes. Civilized people make love, not war. Civilized people make and trade things, they don’t steal. Civilized people meet each other as equals, and judge each other as individuals, never as members of races, or ethnic groups, or castes, or classes, or any other termite-like collectivities. Civilized people respect the rights of others and demand that others respect theirs. Civilized people never sacrifice liberty or human rights for mere economic gain, or for the sophistries of realpolitik, or in a neurotic quest for the phantom of “security”. Civilized people never bow down before others, and never allow others to bow down before them. There is no rank in civilization. There is no authority in civilization, except the authority of nature and reason, the authority of two-plus-two-equals-four.

Dramatic changes in attitudes will be necessary for us to turn away from the suicidal path we have chosen. Not many trends indicate that we are making any of those critical changes. And yet, I continue to hope, continue to write, continue to explain and implore. There are no “laws of history”, there is no certain doom, and there is no predestination. What one generation destroys, the next can rebuild. We can have civilization, if we want it. Things can turn around. There are good, decent people everywhere. They only have to find the conceptual tools to see through the lies, schemes, and misdirection of the aristocracy, which are nothing more than larger versions of the swindles of petty criminals. Then, they have only to find each other, and act together. It is our self-doubt and confusion that gives the tyrants power, not any strength they possess.

It is not fit, not right, and not tolerable, that we the people should be ruled by apes.

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Kozuskanich talk a great start for the History Seminar series

I expected to be impressed by Nathan Kozuskanich's talk on new research into the context of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, and was. I was also impressed by the fact that students showed up in large numbers to fill the room, and asked intelligent and penetrating questions. Well done, all.

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