April 24th, 2012


Monthly Topic: The Barbarian Ethos

Just as there is no single brand of civilization, there is also no single brand of barbarism. In the ancient world any alien civilization that did not conform to local customs was seen as barbarous. The Greeks considered Carthage to be barbarous for practicing human sacrifice. The people of Carthage may have reciprocated with a perception of the Greeks as primitive pederasts. Greece looked to Egypt for leadership in cultural advancement as Israel looked away from Babylon.

The people considered most barbarous by the ancient Greeks were nomadic plains tribes north of the Black Sea. The description of their lifestyle resembles that of some Native Americans at the time of the European invasion. Unlike the "civilized" Greeks, the Scythians had no apparent urban center. They roamed the plains taxing the local peasants for grain to export to Greece. They lived a life of land piracy. The peasants who fell victim to Scythian depredations were not worthy of mention in Greek literature, just as the slaves who labor away for the American chocolate market remain invisible to most Americans.

By the time Rome had reached its Zenith the Scythians had been displaced by a population of Nordic barbarians. They too practiced piracy, but it was mostly against Greek settlements on the Black Sea. Gothic raiders in Greece resembled their Viking cousins to come centuries later.

The Goths were converted to Christianity by heretics at a time when heresy was the norm. This conversion was not considered complete until they eventually succumbed to the oppression of the Trinity. We can get a good idea of heretical Gothic culture from the description of the Gothic occupation of Rome in the works of Procopius. Most Orthodox writers tended to focus on atrocities committed during the Gothic invasion. Procopius shows a different aspect of Gothic culture as it fell to the forces of Justinian and Orthodoxy.

Procopius describes the Gothic women as "manly." They spat on their own men during the surrender of Rome. This image alone speaks volumes about the difference in ethos between Greco-Roman "civilization" and the barbarian invaders who eventually occupied its territory. It shows us why those who romanticize Rome also demonize feminism. From the Barbarian perspective their own men had become soft and weak. Living a life of luxury in Rome had taken away their will to stand up to Orthodox despotism. They had been emasculated by the dark force of opulence.
box of rocks

(no subject)

So I want to begin by saying that I don't wish to discuss the question posed by the headline of this article, "Are men stupid?" (http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/23/opinion/ghitis-men-stupid/). This intellectually stirring headline seems designed mainly to elicit page clicks and comments. As of this writing, the article has gotten almost 5800 comments (and counting) since it was posted - and I believe it was published Monday. To use Internet lingo, the author seems like a troll.

However, this article reminded me of a few different thoughts I've had when it comes to political stories covered by the media.

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And so, when we see an article like this, is this irresponsible on the part of the media, or are they just doing their job? Is it ethical for them to troll for comments and/or clicks, all in the name of business? You could argue that it's okay because the odds are good that the story will only be big for a day or two and won't affect the grand scheme of things. However, as a reader, it seems like a game that they are playing, and after so many similar stories, it's hard not to feel used and/or manipulated.

Clarity vs. Civility

A discussion from a few weeks ago has gotten me thinking...

Many people lament the lack of civility in politics but is civility actually desirable if it comes at the expense of clarity?

Take the kerfuffle over words like "Fascist", "Socialist", and "Communist". Progressives hate being compared to Communists and Conservatives hate being called Fascists, and get predictably upset when refered to as such. However, these words do have meaning and the question of "is the comparison accurate?" seems to have been lost in the noise.

For instance "Fascism", as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is

...a political system or attitude (typically extreme right-wing) that is in favor of a strong central government that does not allow any opposition.

Other definitions focus on the subordination of individual or private will/responcibility to that of the state or other social/racial group but the underlying premises (specifically the centralization of power and the squashing of opposition) remain the same. By this definition there are elements of both the main-stream Republican and Democratic parties that could be accuratly described as fascist in nature.

...so why don't we?

Why is "Fascist" viewed as an insult and not a description of fact?

Why would someone who owns a Che Guevara t-shirt and claims Marx as an influence view the title of "Communist" as anything other than an honorific?
The Captain's Prop

Steve Keen On A Bunch Of Stuff

The audio is a speech he recently gave; the video his Powerpoint presentation accompanying the speech.

Wonk Alert: He rushes through the thing (probably do to time constraints), and presents info only economists would love. If you haven't read his blog or book, Debunking Economics——and even if you have, but aren't an econ prof——it might go over your head, like most of it did mine.

Oh, and in the presentation he mentions a back-and-forth pissing match between him and Paul Krugman. Do go to the blog and check out the entries on this match. It summerizes the key differences between economists the government and press turn to for econ advice, and the economists (like Keen) who actually predicted the economic crisis we're now in.

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Oh, and LJ? Please stop converting the embed codes to shit that simply don't work. K? THNX.

(no subject)

Why Internet Commenters Will Eventually End The World

It means that the future leaders of your country ... are gonna be people that have absolutely no experience with actual confrontation. Thirty years from now the President of the most powerful country in the world is going to be some little shit who sat at his computer and hurled insults three feet away from his mommy's tit like it was no big deal. I don't condone fighting, but when a human being understands that his or her actions might result in a giant fist up his or her ass, he or she learns a thing or two about acting before they speak.

This is at the end of the link. Read the rest if you want, but it's not relevant to the question. (This is the opposite of what I normally post, btw.)

The question is what do you think of this assertion? Does it seem reasonable to you or not? For discussions sake, ignore the question of whether the president will be someone from a rich family who never used a computer or something like that. I'm really only interested in the final claim as it relates to people in general.

I think it's obviously true, but I wanted to check and see whether others had a different opinion.

Hajots Tseghaspanutjan

I'm sorry that this will not be a jolly funny post, but sometimes there are days like this.

Today all Armenians around the world commemorate the 97th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. In 1915, during World War I, the Ottoman authorities ordered the deportation of the Armenian population from the empire, and as a result of starvation and massacres 1.5 million Armenians perished. Turkey continues to deny to this very day that the massacres were a genocide.

Recently France tried to adopt a law that would criminalise the denial of the Armenian genocide, similarly to the Holocaust. There was a big controversy in Europe, as Turkey used its diplomatic levers to put pressure on France to quit their intentions for such a law, while right-wing politicians across Western Europe were using this drama to score political points, playing by the tune of rising xenophobia in Europe. Eventually the constitutional court of France rejected the bill, on grounds that it is against the principle of freedom of speech. Turkey rejoiced.

Regardless of all the political games behind these events, I think the most important thing is to recognise the Armenian genocide, as the evidence is quite eloquent. If Turkey could do that, perhaps it would be possible to move on, and find reconciliation. A lot of time has passed since then, and time certainly heals old wounds, but when you keep being in denial and essentially keep putting salt into the wound, they won't heal. It's time for reconciliation. And the ball is in Turkey's court. It has always been.