Tag Archives: history

Anti-Vaxers and Racists Obsession with Purity

From a discussion about this video of a parent saying they don’t care if anybody else’s kids get sick:

“There is a strange and terrifying human obsession with “purity,” and it manifests itself in so many different forms:

  • For the anti-vaccination brigade, it’s the delusion that an immune system free of “toxins” will recognize and destroy unknown pathogens based on raw strength alone.
  • For racists, it’s the delusion that one ethnicity is superior to others and can only be bettered by isolation from their lessers and minimizing the latter’s political influence.
  • For demagogues, it’s the delusion that compromise with a different belief system corrupts your principles and weakens your argument.

And nothing could be further from the truth. The healthiest children are the ones playing in the dirt, getting slobbered on by their dogs, and full of antibodies from vaccines. Populations with high rates of intermarriage between ethnic groups can effectively breed out generations of inherited problems. Diverse groups solve problems and predict the future better than those comprised of a sole demographic.

I don’t know why “purity” is such a seductive concept, but it’s a dangerous one.”

via Cenodoxus comments on Anti-Vaccine Doctor: I Don’t Care If My Kids Make Others Gravely Sick.

Why Hitler Was Worse Than Stalin

From another Reddit discussion:

“What would each leader have done, had they the unfettered means to do so? Stalin would have liked to simply rule unopposed. His actions were about the elimination of opposition to engender dominance and power over a homogeneous populus by any means necessary, and without targeting specific groups for persecution (arguably). Partly this was a deterrent; one the one hand, to prevent his people from opposing him, and on the other hand, to terrify other nations, by showing them how savagely he treated his own, and therefore inviting them to imagine how he’d treat his enemies. It was political, not racial.

“In the case of Hitler, it wasn’t a matter of opposition. While political dissidents didn’t have it easy, the major proportion of deaths were fuelled by the belief that Aryans were innately, inherently better than all the others, and that legitimised the systematic persecution, oppression torture and eventual destruction of others, be they handicapped, the gypsies, LGBT, or Jews. Therefore, had he had his druthers, it all would have ended with this world being utterly wiped clean of those people he regarded as “racial chaff”, irrespective of whether or not anyone opposed him. It was the calculated removal of an entire ethnic group or race, otherwise known as genocide. And while mass murder is obviously heinous and evil, there is something far more grievous and disgusting about attempting to obliterate an entire group of people purely because you think you’re better than all of them because blue eyes and blonde hair, and despite the fact that Jesse Owens ran faster than all your Aryan athletes at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

“Also, while Stalin killed lots of people, Hitler killed about 2/3 of the Jews living in Europe . And considering he never had a chance to obliterate the English Jewry, that’s an incredibly effective genocide of the Continental European Jewry.

“So, why do we react so badly to one and not the other? Because in order to decide to kill every Jew in Europe, or enslave every African in the US, you need to deny their humanity. You need to, somewhere in your mind, decide they are animals, vermin, insects, and that you have a right to treat them this way. Political murder is a means to an end, which is evil, but does not imply the same perversion of humanity. Whereas genocide is rooted in a fundamentally morally sick and evil belief that some imagined narrative actually gives you the right to obliterate others en masse, and is not the means, but the end.”

Full thread http://reddit.com/r/AskHistory/comments/2lj87n/why_is_hitler_always_regarded_as_the_worst/clvkn27

Image from http://www.frontpagemag.com/2014/lloyd-billingsley/the-stalin-hitler-pact-turns-75/

The Cicero Race Riot of 1951

From Metafilter:

“White people would be, and have gotten, furious and have rioted over much smaller things. Isabel Wilkerson writes about the Cicero Race Riot of 1951 in her book The Warmth of Other Suns. This occurred when this young black couple tried to move to Cicero, IL, a Chicago suburb. 

4,000 whites attacked the building that the couple, the Clarks, were moving into. The 60 police officers sent to control the situation did not do so. In fact the police chief told the Clarks “You should know better. Get out of here fast. There will be no moving into that building”.

The rioters threw rocks, destroyed the building, set fire to it. Firefighters called to the scene were met with bricks and stones by the mob. The Illinois National Guard moved in, and rioters fought with them. This went on for 3 days after $20,000 (in 1951 money) was done to the building. Cruelly, the rioters threw a piano, which Mr. Clark had save for for years for his kids, out the window, destroying it. 

The riot was front-page news in Asia and attracted worldwide attention. The Cook County grand jury did not indict a single rioter. Incredibly, the Clark’s attorney from the NAACP, the owners of the building, and the rental agent, were indicted on charges of inciting a riot and conspiracy to damage property (though the charges were dropped after widespread criticism).”


Image is a screen cap from The Sunday Herald http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1066315?zoomLevel=1

How Christian Monks Saved Beowulf

A PhD student in early medieval Old English sounds off:

“[E]ven a lazy reading of Beowulf will show it’s a thoroughly Christian text; it’s also a text firmly in touch with its “pagan” past, since much of Old English poetic convention relied on a tradition that was far older than Christianization… This wasn’t just metrical or linguistic convention; the poetic tropes of Old English poetry generally derive from the hero/warrior/hall-culture ethos, one which there is every reason to suspect was dead as a doornail, certainly by the time the manuscript copy of Beowulf that we have was written; probably also by the time Beowulf was composed…

This convention was so embedded in the culture it distorted how Christianity was portrayed: Christ.. or the Israelites in Exodus, are not portrayed as possessing Christian humility or passively enduring what befalls them; they are invariably recast in warrior-language, as heroes, as going forth with courage and determination to do the things that they have to do. In fact, it can be downright dissonant … Jesus getting nailed to the cross–possibly a supremely submissive act, depending on your perspective–but in terms which unquestionably render him the active agent in that scene. It’s a fascinating look at how the two different perspectives combine in a form of cultural expression amenable to both–but not, you would think, at the same time.

Beowulf is interesting because it’s only about that pagan Germanic past, and the person who wrote it was obviously aware that the characters in this poem have a problem–they are not Christian, and therefore, they are not saved; that problem, and how the poet resolves it (or tries to deal with it, at least) can and has inspired more than one book on the subject; moreover, there is good indication (some of it archeological) that Beowulf is based on a much, much older story. Upon finding this ancient story, the monks (and they were almost certainly monks, because monks were the vast majority of scribes in early medieval England) did not, as you might have them do, throw away this “pagan” nonsense; they recopied it carefully, and it is thanks to their hard work that we can enjoy that poem today.

And all other secular Anglo-Saxon literature–monk scribes are responsible for nearly all the attested Old English we have today; they are almost certainly responsible for all the extant copies of Old English literature that were not made in the modern era. This includes very non-Christian works: riddles (some very rude), Wulf and Eadwacer (a short, chilling poem, and possibly the best in the whole corpus), The Wife’s Lament, etc., etc. And it was Christians in Iceland, like Snorri Sturluson, who copied down Old Norse mythology so that later generations could have it–almost all of what we have of Old Norse people writing on the Old Norse religion comes from Sturluson–and explicitly so that Christian poets, who weren’t raised up with the old myths, could continue to compose the complex, difficult skaldic verses that required knowing who Loki and Odin and Thor were, or who Andvari was, or the name of the serpent gnawing at the root of the World Tree. It was probably a Christian who gave us the even older Poetic Edda–because it was Christians who preserved the culture, who wrote things down.

Though the Runic alphabet was known to them, it was used, it seems, mostly for inscriptions on artifacts or charms; it was not part of a literary tradition. That was oral; it was only Christianity, with its emphasis on literature (and one book in particular) that imported a true literary tradition to the Germanic North; without Christianity, no Germanic literature would survive to the present day–and maybe precious little ancient literature (since most of what we have today was continuously recopied in monastic scriptoria throughout the Middle Ages–yes, even “pagan” texts which had nothing to do with God or Jesus).

… The real tragedy is the Dissolution of the Monasteries; if you want to be pissed at anyone, blame old Harry, because it was in the dissolution that ancient monastic libraries were sold off or outright destroyed (vellum, used to make manuscripts, was labor-intensive and valuable, so there was incentive to recycle these old books; but there are also accounts of manuscripts taken from libraries simply being burned, used as leather scraps, or as toilet paper). Thus, out of hundreds of years of ancient Old English poetic traditions, we have only four books–just four–which preserve any kind of substantial material (but we’re doing better than Old High German, which only has two poems in the ancient heroic style, one of which are scraps of a longer poem which exists in Old English translation). What literary prose we have is mostly translation. To be sure, manuscripts were often recycled, and very old ones that could not be salvaged torn up to use as binding material; after a certain point, doubtlessly, nobody could read these strange old books that used weird letters anymore. I do not think that without something like the Dissolution, the full treasure trove of Old English would have survived–but the reasons it didn’t have nothing to do with the Conversion, and more to do with time; and except for the Ashburnham House fire, the biggest single catastrophic loss of Old English literature was in the sixteenth century, not the sixth or seventh.”

Full thread in context http://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/20swv0/tolkiens_translation_and_commentary_of_beowulf_to/cg768dg?context=2

Image from the Wikipedia entry for Beowulf

Chinese Seniors and Life After Deng Xiaoping

From a Reddit thread about collect psychology of older Chinese people:

“Imagine you were born in 1955, so now you’re 59 years old. Your youth was quite possibly affected by the GLF famine, where you either witnessed or at least heard about people fighting almost literally like animals for survival, often having to compete with their neighbors and “do whatever it takes” to ensure food for their family. These experiences will never really leave you, and their effects will linger with you subconsciously.

You also grew up hearing lots of stories about the wars with Japan and the civil war from your parents, and your education was full of hardline leftist theory. Around the age of high school or university, the WHGM hits and you either become a Guard, a potential target, or try to just hide until the madness is over. The educational system itself melts down for nearly a decade when you were essentially going through your transition to adulthood. Meanwhile, your country essentially commits cultural suicide, leaving a massive hole in your values system, heritage, and sense of identity that still hasn’t even been fully realized.

Then it’s just…over. Deng takes over, and all of a sudden basically pulls a total 180 degree turn from the whole hardline leftist thing. You just go straight from wearing red scarves in your teenage years to becoming a super-competitive business tycoon (or lackey) in what will soon become the fastest-growing economy ever, anywhere, at any time. All the Marxist stuff basically gets gently bumped out of the picture as GGKF evolves, and suddenly you go from being trained to avoid foreign spies and celebrate the proletariat to buying Japanese TVs and working for HSBC, or at a factory making Happy Meal toys for obese American children.

Now you’re flooded with foreign images of wealth you’d never imagined, and money seems to be pouring in. In two decades you go from being excited about your first Panasonic radio to cynically comparing the benefits of an Audi vs. a BMW. In your youth, the government provided the fangzi and nobody needed a che, but now you’re expected to have both to get a serious date.

So how could you, when it’s now your turn to lead society, not create a confusing mishmash? Your life has been a confusing mishmash, and the only constant thing you’ve been able to rely on is having enough resources and guanxi to pull yourself through whatever comes.
Ideology? What does that mean anymore? Cultural identity? Didn’t you spend a decade getting rid of that? As a kid you learned that sometimes you had to be a little ruthless to survive, and the hyper-competitive 80s and 90s rewarded that ruthlessness with piles of cash and the status symbols that came with it.

True, you still have an empty hole in the center of your being, but since you don’t have anything to fill it with you just throw consumption and hedonism (under the guise of “Western culture”) into it, hoping that eventually it’ll be filled up, or that at least it’ll distract you until you no longer care.

Anyway, that’s my best stab at it.”

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/21b5pk/native_chinaman_rant_over_chinese_mindfckedness/cgbibvd

Image is Deng Xiopeng featured as Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 1979 http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,916563,00.html

Racism, History and The Confederate Flag

From a discussion about the Confederate flag’s symoblism:

“Jut saying that _______________ isn’t racist because it just reminds me of a time when racism gave me immense power and wealth doesn’t change anything. In fact, I think you are digging your hole deeper.

“The ‘it’s just pride from a time when we were powerful’ argument so easily justifies and covers for the support of deeply racist things, and it does nothing to alleviate the concerns that OP brought up. In my opinion that does make the argument invalid.

As for racial slurs, they are not really different from flags or other symbolic items. I am not saying that confederate flag = racial slur. What I am saying is that the symbols we use to represent concepts have connotations attached to them, whether we like it or not. You can’t just pick one thing that you like about a symbol and say that is what you mean with it. Symbols come prepackaged with the history that created them.

This is exactly why swastikas are offensive. It would be both laughably ignorant and insensitive to use a swastika to represent regional pride/cohesion and claim that Jewish people shouldn’t get offended by it because “that’s not what you mean with that symbol”. No. You cannot separate the swastika from the genocide that occurred under it, and you cannot separate the confederate flag from the institutionalized dehumanization of African Americans. You don’t have that right, no one does.

It doesn’t matter that the Civil War is very alive for some people. If you want to live in the past, that’s fine, but you don’t get to live in the past and expect people to forget it too. The casual and insensitive use of a symbol that represents an institution which literally thought certain people existed to be owned is morally reprehensible in my mind, and it has no place in the 21st century.”

Full thread http://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/comments/1ywoue/i_think_the_confederate_flag_is_nothing_but_a/cfora4g

Graphic from http://guprogressive.com/

The History of Whiteness Is The History of Exclusion

From Salon:

“For whiteness to maintain its superiority, membership had to be strictly controlled. The “gift” of whiteness was bestowed on those who could afford it, or when it was politically expedient. In his book “How the Irish Became White,” Noel Ignatiev argues that Irish immigrants were incorporated into whiteness in order to suppress the economic competitiveness of free black workers and undermine efforts to unite low-wage black and Irish Americans into an economic bloc bent on unionizing labor. The aspiration to whiteness was exploited to politically and socially divide groups that had more similarities than differences. It was an apple dangled in front of working-class immigrant groups, often as a reward for subjugating other groups.

A lack of awareness of these facts has lent credence to the erroneous belief that whiteness is inherent and has always existed, either as an actual biological difference or as a cohesive social grouping. Some still claim it is natural for whites to gravitate to their own and that humans are tribal and predisposed to congregate with their kind. It’s easy, simple and natural: White people have always been white people. Thinking about racial identity is for those other people.

This comprehension of whiteness could also dissuade many white people of such detrimental and pervasive racial notions, such as, “Why is black pride OK but white pride is racist?” If students are taught that whiteness is based on a history of exclusion, they might easily see that there is nothing in the designation as “white” to be proud of.  Being proud of being white doesn’t mean finding your pale skin pretty or your Swedish history fascinating. It means being proud of the violent disenfranchisement of those barred from this category. Being proud of being black means being proud of surviving this ostracism. Be proud to be Scottish, Norwegian or French, but not white.”

Full article http://www.salon.com/2014/02/07/the_history_white_people_need_to_learn/

A Brief History of Art

From a thread about why seemingly random splotches and colors can be thought of as art:

“Think of art as a community forum. Art is all about what came before you, and you’re thoughts/reaction to it or a reply about it.

Someone scribbles an outline of an animal on a cave wall.

Someone looks at that and goes, hey lets add some definition.

Someone creates art depicting a religious scene inspired by church.

Someone replies “I can do better” with an even bigger religious scene.

Another post about how “it would be nicer if you depict realism instead of these saints and gods”.

Someone else goes “hey how about drawing poor people instead of rich nobles and kings”.

Another person is like “this is too depressing, lets use lots of unrealistic colors to portray my emotions.”

Someone else goes “why even bother with one view of people or things, i like to make things abstract and complicated.”

Someone else is like “well if you like that then you’ll like my nonsense and irrationality.”

And then DuChamp goes “Oh you like that huh? how about this upside down urinal”.

Then Freud came out with his theories, and everyone is like “OMG SEX and PENISES and WET DREAMS.”

Pollock is like “F all you guys, here is the result of communing with the canvas and i’m better then you.”

Warhol was like “i reject your scribbles, but i love this advertisement.”

and you come to the more modern ideas of photo realism, which was a backlash to abstract expressionists, and minimalism, because we were like.. enough of all this stuff! My eyes are tired!”

Full thread from the ‘Explain Like I’m Five’ subreddit http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/1x5f3n/eli5why_are_some_paintings_that_look_like_a_bunch/cf8gtsb

Image from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AltamiraBison.jpg

54-Year Old’s Life Decade by Decade

A fifty-four year-old Redditor sums up how he felt in every decade of his life so far:

“0-10 Wheeeee! Hot wheels! We are on the moon!!

“11-20 School is boring, but I learned that with a 40 hour a week job, you can survive. The fact that this is no longer true is a fundamental problem in American society.

“21-30 Girls are an awful lot of fun. Challenger explodes while I am employed by one of their subcontractors. Exploring my little part of the world. Completely self-sufficient.

“31-40 Holy shit, I’m a married homeowner with two kids! These years fly by, but I remember them fondly. Little kids are the best!

“41-50 The career that I’ve worked on my whole life dissolves before my very eyes. But, we survive. For the first time in my life, I get to vote for a president who I actually want to win, rather than the one I hate the least. Red Sox win WS – crack open the champagne!

“51-54 Re-evaluating my next 10-15 years, concentrating more on my children getting a decent start than anything else.”

Full thread where anybody can ask him anything

Image from http://contemporaryartinsantafe.com/tag/happy-birthday/

Archduke Ferdinand’s Assassination Was a Do-Over

“On June 28th, 1914, Gavrilo Princip’s group “The Black Hand” fucked up the first time when it came time to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His colleague was to throw a grenade under the carriage as the Archduke and his wife passed over. The grenade delayed and blew up as the next car came by. He panicked, swallowed a cyanide pill, and jumped in a nearby river. Except the cyanide pill just made him vomit, and the river was 6″ deep, so he was caught pretty easily. Gavrilo Princip was pretty damn dejected and went to get some food at a local restaurant at this time. After the assassination attempt, Archduke Franz Ferdinand told his driver to head to the hospital where he and his wife could visit those injured from the failed plot on his life. Cars hadn’t been around for too long, so when the driver got lost and tried to reverse the car, it stalled…right in front of the restaurant where Princip was finishing lunch. He walked outside, saw the Archduke standing there, and fired into his neck. The most revolutionary event of the 20th century was a do-over.