Monday, February 28, 2011

Aristotle: "All things in common", Dynamic laws, Elders and Revolts.

Book II of Politics is full of interesting stuff:

"And yet by reason of goodness, and in respect of use, 'Friends,' as the proverb says, 'will have all things common.' Even now there are traces of such a principle, showing that it is not impracticable, but, in well-ordered states, exists already to a certain extent and may be carried further." - Politics, book II.

This compares to the passage in Acts regarding the beginning of the church in Jerusalem:

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." - Acts 2:44-45

What I have learned is that "everything in common" was some sort of well worn cliché by the time Luke used it in Acts. Should it be taken literally? Aristotle gives great consideration to the concept along with communism in this section:

"If they do not share equally enjoyments and toils, those who labor much and get little will necessarily complain of those who labor little and receive or consume much."

A great deal of misery and confusion could have been avoided if classical philosophy were properly taught.

Regarding laws:

"Even when laws have been written down, they ought not always to remain unaltered. As in other sciences, so in politics, it is impossible that all things should be precisely set down in writing; for enactments must be universal, but actions are concerned with particulars. Hence we infer that sometimes and in certain cases laws may be changed; but when we look at the matter from another point of view, great caution would seem to be required. For the habit of lightly changing the laws is an evil,..."

I doubt that he would find much to praise in our system of both laying out laws to the point that they exceed the entire literary stock of classical Greece, yet latching onto the smallest detail to completely overthrow the intent of the law.


A great deal of ink has been spilled in the Christian church regarding Christian elders. The verse below is one that Christians often come across:

"The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you." - Titus 1:5

and something to tweak the curiosity:

"The elders, too, answer to the elders in Crete, who are termed by the Cretans the council." - Politics, Book II.

Aristotle has a lengthy discourse on eldership, comparing and contrasting the various states and outlining the good, the bad, and the ugly of this office. As for the Cretans, he has very little good to say about their elders:

"The same criticism may be made about the Cretan, which has been already made about the Lacedaemonian elders. Their irresponsibility and life tenure is too great a privilege, and their arbitrary power of acting upon their own judgment, and dispensing with written law, is dangerous."

At the same time, there seems to be a great deal of wisdom in this passage on how to avoid the ills of eldership that have afflicted some modern independent groups who decided to reinvent the concept of elder, working from the Bible directly, but divorced from any other context. Finally, Aristotle states his opinion on the correct manner of choosing an elder as he slaps down the Spartans:

"Further, the mode in which the Spartans elect their elders is childish; and it is improper that the person to be elected should canvass for the office; the worthiest should be appointed, whether he chooses or not."

Note that Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders, not oversee an election.


"One would have thought that it was even more necessary to limit population than property; and that the limit should be fixed by calculating the chances of mortality in the children, and of sterility in married persons. The neglect of this subject, which in existing states is so common, is a never-failing cause of poverty among the citizens; and poverty is the parent of revolution and crime." - Politics, Book II.

Something to ponder as we consider current events. The popular meta-narrative regarding the middle east revolts is that they are over a lack of democracy. They are also afflicted with a rapidly increasing population and stumbling economies. Then there is this last tidbit:

"And, besides the violation of the law, it is a bad thing that many from being rich should become poor; for men of ruined fortunes are sure to stir up revolutions."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More evidence of harsh winter conditions.

Gregory of Tours (538-594AD): On giving a good sermon.

"My style is not very polished, and I have had to devote much of my space to the quarrels between the wicked and the righteous. All the same I have been greatly encouraged by certain kind remarks which, to my no small surprise, I have often heard made by our folk, to the effect that few people understand a rhetorical speechifier, whereas many can follow a blunt speaker." - The History of the Franks.
Aristotle: The need for universal, state controlled education.

"For, inasmuch as every family is a part of a state, and these relationships are the parts of a family, and the virtue of the part must have regard to the virtue of the whole, women and children must be trained by education with an eye to the constitution, if the virtues of either of them are supposed to make any difference in the virtues of the state." - Politics, Book I.

Part of me wants to affirm this, until I consider our current state of affairs where virtue - to the degree that it conforms with Christianity - has been deemed unconstitutional. Government education has been at best neutral with respect to the family and in many cases an active engine for destroying the family, thus, undermining the future of the state. Still, I can't help honoring the Christian teachers working in the system who find ways to do something constructive.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

UN Sanctions against Gaddafi ...

I am reminded that the conservative formula for sanctions against dictators is generally that the nastier the dictator, the more severe the sanctions should be. The liberal formula is the opposite.

I won't question these formulas, but I do get interested when the application changes. In this case, we have a situation where Gaddafi is under UN sanctions today that he wasn't under a few days ago. Gaddafi has been a dictator since 1969, so the change in the sanctions regime isn't based on the fact that he is a dictator. Ah, but now he is involved in violence someone will say. But wasn't he involved in terrorism before? And what respectable regime out there would not use violence to put down a rebellion? China? Russia? Canada? OK, we won't talk about the Canadians. Anyway, a key part of a dictatorship is the violence or threat of violence, so let's set aside any pretense that the change in sanctions is happening because of violence.

Before going further regarding the UN, I would also bring up Switzerland's practice of freezing assets of foreign leaders as soon as their citizens revolt. Is the issue that the assets represent ill-gotten gains? So the gains became ill-gotten due to a revolt? Or is there any chance that they were ill-gotten the day before the revolt? Given that there has been no trial of these leaders, how is it that they would consider that the gains are ill-gotten anyway? Are they going to freeze the assets of Chinese politicians every time there is a revolt in Tibet? Or Indian assets every time something happens in Kashmir?

The conclusion? If I simply look at the actions of the UN and Switzerland over the long term and ignore the rhetoric, it would be tempting to conclude that they were acting simply because they had decided that the dictators were going to be losers in the current round. I will leave that as a suggestion, since none of the given explanations seem remotely plausible and I am not supposed to judge. Are there other explanations for the UN's change?

Update: Just scooted over to The Economist and noted that they are thinking along the same patterns.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Aristotle vs. Paul: A Woman's Glory.

"All classes must be deemed to have their special attributes; as the poet says of women,

'Silence is a woman's glory, '

but this is not equally the glory of man." - Aristotle, Politics, Book 1.

The Apostle Paul has a slightly different viewpoint:

"Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God." - 1 Corinthians 11:14-16

I should probably keep my mouth shut here, but will throw in one observation: Women preachers never have long hair.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A chance to inspect Archeopteryx.

I can't believe I got to spend 5 minutes with the real fossil and a magnifying glass today. No pesky bullet proof plastic to worry about between me and the item. The fossil was sent by the Wyoming Dinosaur Museum for some X-Ray tomography to work out the full internal 3-d aspects. This originally came from a quarry in Germany about a century ago, but was donated to the museum.

My impression? Looks like a fully evolved flying critter with a near perfect design.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More weird news: San Francisco voting to restrict circumcision.

You are encouraged to abort your baby, but just don't circumcise him. The proposal is to restrict the practice until 18. Now I wonder how many San Franciscans know that Muslims circumcise also.
Arizona bans abortions that are based on race?

This article certainly caught my attention. I can sort of understand that a couple might be unhappy with the gender of the resulting child, but am a little perplexed as to how they might be unhappy about the resulting race.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Plato: The Republic, additional notes

This is just to keep a record of other bits of imagery in The Republic which have parallels to Biblical items. The most famous is "Plato's Cave" which occurs in book VII. The match is where the prisoners are set free and are confounded by the sun, as with John 1:5. In book X there is a complaint against poets because they write of things for which they are termed "thrice removed", even though poets like Homer and Hesiod form the scriptures for the Greeks. We cannot make such a complaint with David, or the Jewish prophets. (Unless you are a modernist - then you can complain about anything.)

Some other quotes with a familiar ring to the Christian:

"Then this must be our notion of the just man, that even when he is in poverty or sickness, or any other seeming misfortune, all things will in the end work together for good to him in life and death: for the gods have a care of any one whose desire is to become just and to be like God, as far as man can attain the divine likeness, by the pursuit of virtue?" - The Republic, Book X vs Romans 8:28

"And of the unjust may not the opposite be supposed?
Such, then, are the palms of victory which the gods give the just?
That is my conviction.
And what do they receive of men? Look at things as they really are, and you will see that the clever unjust are in the case of runners, who run well from the starting-place to the goal but not back again from the goal: they go off at a great pace, but in the end only look foolish, slinking away with their ears draggling on their shoulders, and without a crown; but the true runner comes to the finish and receives the prize and is crowned. And this is the way with the just; he who endures to the end of every action and occasion of his entire life has a good report and carries off the prize which men have to bestow." vs. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

"And yet, I said, all these are as nothing, either in number or greatness in comparison with those other recompenses which await both just and unjust after death." vs. Acts 20:24

Regarding heaven and hell, there is a clear distinction, but this is also quite different from Christianity. The term for both heaven and hell is a thousand years, with a judgment immediately after death to determine if someone goes to one or the other. After this time they are sent for reincarnation, with a note about the first becoming last and the last first. At the beginning of Book X is an assertion that souls are eternal. Finally, there is a different category for those who were brutal tyrants, because they are forbidden to leave hell to be reincarnated even after a thousand years have passed.

As for interpreting these items, we always need to have the right perspective. The modernist views the Bible as containing cheap, ignorant parodies of philosophy, while typically giving us cheap, ignorant parodies of philosophy also. The Christian interpretation starts with God and Christ Jesus as the source of all true knowledge and wisdom. That there is similarity is primarily due to Biblical writers using the vocabulary and imagery of philosophy, but in an intentional manner to present greater truths. This is certainly the viewpoint of Ambrose and Augustine, so I don't feel any need to apologize for this. At the same time, we must acknowledge that there is a danger of subordinating a Biblical principal to a pagan philosophical one. This would certainly be an error.
Aristotle: On Slavery.

Aristotle's Politics is in some sense a follow on to Plato's Republic. The first part of this book was surprising given the focus on slavery. One thing that Aristotle does that modernist rarely do is acknowledge the existence of differences of opinion on the matter, and present the opinion in a sensible manner:

"Others affirm that the rule of a master over slaves is contrary to nature, and that the distinction between slave and freeman exists by law only, and not by nature; and being an interference with nature is therefore unjust." - Politics, Book I

Aristotle, however, is firmly convinced in his own opinion:

"But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?

There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule."

Thus, he concludes:

"It is clear, then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right."

To make sure that we understand that slavery also has racial connotations to Aristotle:

"But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is no natural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Wherefore the poets say,

'It is meet that Hellenes should rule over barbarians; '

as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one."

This is certainly a passage that should be cited at the beginning of any discussion on the history of Western slavery. Aristotle would play a prominent role again in the Renaissance and especially the University of Paris up until the conquest of the New World started.

Now I wish I had accumulated all the other writings I have come across, both Christian and Pagan, regarding attitudes towards slaves.
The Socratic Method vs The Tiger Mom.

Having finished perhaps half of Plato's works, the immersion into the Socratic method is starting to wear off on me and I am having hallucinations of it occurring everywhere. For those who don't know, the Socratic Method is idealized as a philosopher questioning someone's beliefs in a manner that inextricably leads the questioned on towards greater truth. A few of the dialogues have achieved this, but many of them resemble the generation Y parent with her son:

"Isn't it true that the bipedal animal is both most elegantly attired and provided with greatest mobility for every occurrence on the battlefield when the pants are secured by the belt to the waist rather than the knees?"

But then the Tiger Mom also uses the Socratic Method and achieves an entirely different result:

"You will be prepared to make a perfect score on tomorrow's test, won't you?"
"Yes, mom."

Thus, I am sensing that The Socratic Method by itself represents a wide variety of methods, both as Plato used Socrates and as the modern philosopher-parent interacts with her children. Perhaps Aristotle will explain this more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More from yesterday's mud stomp.

Plato: The End Of Democracy.

The cycle of tyranny, oligarchy, democracy is one I read about earlier in Polybius. Plato is more elaborate in his explanations as he describes how the democracy eventually degenerates into anarchy. The key notion is the degeneracy of character that is brought about by the freedom and liberty of democracy:

"And when they have emptied and swept clean the soul of him who is now in their power and who is being initiated by them in great mysteries, the next thing is to bring back to their house insolence and anarchy and waste and impudence in bright array having garlands on their heads, and a great company with them, hymning their praises and calling them by sweet names; insolence they term breeding, and anarchy liberty, and waste magnificence, and impudence courage. And so the young man passes out of his original nature, which was trained in the school of necessity, into the freedom and libertinism of useless and unnecessary pleasures." - The Republic, Book VIII

The next should make the modern American jump:

"The last extreme of popular liberty is when the slave bought with money, whether male or female, is just as free as his or her purchaser; nor must I forget to tell of the liberty and equality of the two sexes in relation to each other."

And as we congratulate ourselves for having done the right thing in freeing the slaves, Plato describes the final end of the matter:

"Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Plato: Stingers

"And God has made the flying drones, Adeimantus, all without stings, whereas of the walking drones he has made some without stings but others have dreadful stings; of the stingless class are those who in their old age end as paupers; of the stingers come all the criminal class, as they are termed. " - The Republic, book VIII.

"Well, I said, and in oligarchical States do you not find paupers?
Yes, he said; nearly everybody is a pauper who is not a ruler.
And may we be so bold as to affirm that there are also many criminals to be found in them, rogues who have stings, and whom the authorities are careful to restrain by force? "

"On the other hand, the men of business, stooping as they walk, and pretending not even to see those whom they have already ruined, insert their sting --that is, their money --into some one else who is not on his guard against them, and recover the parent sum many times over multiplied into a family of children: and so they make drone and pauper to abound in the State."

This passage from Plato's discussion of the oligarchy is rich. The link to today should be clear as the US pays dearly for the consequences of debt, while the oligarchs enjoy the riches. This all reminds me of a passage from Revelation:

"The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months." - Revelation 9:7-10

There are some parallels, but also some strong differences. John who wrote Revelation is certainly a student of philosophy, so it is tempting to assume the imagery is taken from the Greeks. I will leave this as something to ponder over, but recommend not getting too caught up in it.
Revolution News: Protesters converge on capital while lawmakers flee.

Only this is Wisconsin, not the middle east.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Upcoming Hyphenated Name Crisis.

This is something that deserves much more attention from our nation's elites. If someone with the last name of Gilbert marries another with the last name of Sullivan, then their offspring will have a name like Floyd Gilbert-Sullivan. But a Washington could marry a Jefferson and have a child named Sally Washington-Jefferson. If Floyd Gilbert-Sullivan then marries Sally Washington-Jefferson, the child will be named Robert Gilbert-Sullivan-Washington-Jefferson. With a bit of induction, we can deduce that the generalized last name will have 2n-1 hyphens and 2n unhyphenated last names, where n is the number of generations that this process proceeds, neglecting the possible shifts in generations. Assuming an average unhyphenated last name size of 8 or 23 characters, the length of an average hyphenated last name after n generations would be 232n+2n-1 = (23+1)2n-1.

After 100 generations (roughly 2,000 years) the average last name size should be (23+1)2100-1 characters long. Where this becomes a potential crisis is when we start factoring the amount of data storage capacity available. At the moment, the world has storage capacity for only 295 Exabytes of data, which is 295X280 characters. Taking the simplification that (23+1)2100-1 is approximately equal to (23+1)2100, we can then divide and determine that an average last name would require (23+1)220/295 times the current global data storage capacity. The multiplier works out to approximately 31,990 times current global data storage ... to store one last name. Now we need to consider that a gigapeep consists of 230 people which is a bit more than a billion. If the population of the planet increases to a terapeep, 240, then we will need to have 31,990 X 240 X current world storage capacity to keep a record of everyone's social security number.

On the technology side, we have Moore's Law which says that the number of devices on a chip will double every 18 months. This would increase faster than the name size which will double every human generation, so from this point of view there shouldn't be a problem. The limit, however, is quantum computing. If we could store data into a pure carbon array with one atom per bit, then we need 23 carbon atoms to store one character. With Avogadro's number of 6.022X1023, we can store approximately 276 bytes in a mole of carbon atoms, which would weigh 12 grams. Using our simplified number of (23+1)2100 for the length of a name, it would then take (23+1)224 moles of carbon atoms to store a name with our perfect carbon-based, quantum storage system. That works out to about 12.58 metric tons of carbon storage needed to record a person's name once.

The good news in all this is that the amount of carbon that would be sequestered in the storing of hyphenated names would be more than enough to stop global warming.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Plato: The Art Of War

"The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three --in a word, number and calculation: --do not all arts and sciences necessarily partake of them?

Then the Art of War partakes of them?
To be sure. " - The Republic, Book VII

My wife is down stairs watching a mainland China-made soap opera on the life of Sun Tzu. It is rare that we are so thoroughly immersed into the Art of War at the same time. I have been through the usual Art of War authors: Sun Tzu, Machiavelli and von Clausewitz. For the true fanatic there is also Sextus Julius Frontinus. Plato, however, is one that I would never have thought of.

As you can see in the above, he thinks numbers are important to being a general, something that all the other authors forgot. In case anyone is doubting, consider this: You have a 4 stadia long front and 20,000 soldiers. How many rows should you use for your phalanx formation? If you miscounted and only have 5,000 soldiers, but arranged them according to an assumption of 20,000 soldiers, what will the resulting formation be? Geometry was also considered a necessary skill. Since Plato is trying to describe a nation of warriors, he deduces that the teaching of arithmetic and geometry are necessary for the state. Clearly he would have included multivariable calculus if he had known about it, since this is useful for computing probability distributions for the trajectories of projectiles in turbulent wind environments. As one who loved those subjects, but hated English, I can only note that Plato did not list English as a subject that should be mandatory.

Another critical item that Sun Tzu and the other authors neglected to study was how the raising of an army should be done in the first place. What a bunch of amateurs. Plato, however, is clearly far advanced on this subject:

"And how can marriages be made most beneficial? --that is a question which I put to you, because I see in your house dogs for hunting, and of the nobler sort of birds not a few. Now, I beseech you, do tell me, have you ever attended to their pairing and breeding?


Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they should rear the offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the other, if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition. Now these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know, or there will be a further danger of our herd, as the guardians may be termed, breaking out into rebellion." - The Republic, Book V

Clearly Plato is a rare breed of Darwinist who follows his beliefs to their logical conclusions. To further insure that these government established perfect unions will result in perfect offspring, there is a plan to completely remove the upbringing of children from the parents and put it under the control of the state. That means that the parent cannot even know who his children are:

"The law, I said, which is the sequel of this and of all that has preceded, is to the following effect, --'that the wives of our guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent.'" - The Republic, Book V

What is there to dispute?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Epictetus (55-135AD): Dealing with Intellectualoids.

After the Greek's golden age of philosophy, the academy of Athens was taken over by philosophers who were - for good reason - forgotten to history. They became known as The Academics and denied the existence of truth; arguing against everything. Separately there were the Epicureans, who never had an opinion that wasn't deemed to be science. Modernist intellectuals seem to oscillate between these modes. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus criticizes both groups vehemently and has this to say about how to deal with the Academics:

"What are you doing man? You contradict yourself every day, and yet you will not give up these paltry cavils. When you eat, where do you put your hand? To your mouth, or to your eye? When you bathe, where do you go? Do you ever call a pot a dish; or a ladle, a spit? If I were a slave to one of these gentlemen, even at the risk of being flayed every day, I would plague him. 'Throw some oil into the bath, boy.' I would take some fish sauce and pour it over his head. 'What is the meaning of this?' By your fortune, the impression I had was indistinguishable from olive oil, it was just the same. 'Bring me the soup.' I would bring him a dish full of vinegar. 'Did I not ask for the soup?' Yes, master, this is the soup. 'Is this not vinegar?' Why so, any more than soup? 'Take it and smell it; take it and taste it.' 'How do you know, if our senses deceive us?' If I had three or four fellow-slaves who were of the same mind as I was, I would make him burst with anger and hang himself, or else change his opinions. But as it is they are making sport of us, by using all the gifts of nature, and yet in mere argument abolishing them." - The Discourses, Book II.

Note that the rest of the three hundred pages is about being patient in dealing with adversity and tolerance when dealing with problematic people, while not going out of the way to needlessly provoke. Intellectualoids, however, are in a different category.
Confucius: Regarding Multiculturalism.

"The Master said, 'Barbarian tribes with their rulers are inferior to Chinese states without them.'" - Analects, Book III
America's schools: Game the system, go to jail.

Per my earlier note, the government schools in America are a mixed bag. For example, Darwinism is the legally established religion, but only a small minority of biologists believe evolution. There are a large number of good teachers doing their best. Still, the child's brain is officially property of leftist intellectuals and union bosses. Exercising choice means selling your house and moving to a different zip code. One black mother tried to cheat this established order and will pay dearly.

Today the New York Times has a story on the racial divide in academic performance. It primarily discusses tweaks to the current system that might have a statistically measurable payoff.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just War Theory: Stalking the sources ...

This is post is primarily a link to a discussion on John Hobbin's blog regarding Just War Theory and the oft repeated claim that it originates with Augustine. The main sources for the claim are Augustine's letter number 138 and The City of God, book XIX. Hobbins also mentions some comments from Ambrose from On The Duties of the Clergy. There is a comment that Aquinas also discussed JWT (no source), but then there is another commenter who claims that the real source is "Dominican Fransisco de Vitoria in the 1500s, according to Yoder, first wrote an entire treatise on how to do just warfare in a Christian context". This last claim proves to be something of interest since we have an English translation online.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Wrapping up.

First, the part that I agree with: Islam is a patchwork of various cultures and interests. Dealing with it requires a considerable degree of sophistication, and intervention should be avoided as much as possible. It is nearly impossible to get our actions right, and even when they are right the negative spin put on them may more than cancel the benefits. Fuller also notes that US efforts to inform Islam about its own religion is laughable.

Getting to the end of this book Fuller comes to the conclusion that religion exists, but it isn't relevant because in the absence of one religion there will be another. That is true, but it is back to the thesis at the beginning: "all religions are alike". Hooey. The section on China inches up to a subject that is also critical: What is the distinction between religion and ethnic identity? My sense is that the answer to this varies with each religion to the degree that it places cultural requirements on its adherents. We can say that ethnic factors are key rather than religious factors, but it is impossible to disentangle the two.

Although he talks of terrorism in Muslim communities, he portrays this exclusively as an act of resistance against American aggression, while asserting that Islam has strict rules against doing harm to women and children. Reality contains a large percentage of suicide bombers blowing up a market full of women and children of rival groups. Citing this would support Fuller's original thesis that tribal conflicts would still be there without Islam, but gets a pass. Another area that begged for discussion was Darfur, since it supports the purported thesis of the book.

The latter portion of the book focuses almost entirely on why they hate US. Yes, they hate the US. Supposedly it is because of our colonial history. Maybe T.E. Lawrence and General Allenby were Americans? But let me find the most outrageous statement in the book to pick on:

"Probably no other region of the world has endured such intense and sustained intervention from the West than the Middle East."

As if the West were meanies compared to the kind and gentle Turks! The invaders before them were the Mongols. Then there were the events in Africa and the Americas. The Russians are vastly more brutal, while the Chinese never found a regime too brutal to support. Fuller doesn't begin to explain the extraordinary degree of animosity of the Muslim world towards the US. 9/11 wasn't committed by Mexicans.

The missing ingredients? How about Islam vs US cultural colonization?

There is Sharia law on the one hand and American pornography on the other. What about gay marriage? Does the fact that we are a beacon of Depravity have any bearing on the discussion? Are Muslim clerics sophisticated enough to distinguish between the virtues of Democracy and the vices that afflict our civilization?

So Fuller suggests that the solution is to view the Middle East as if Islam didn't exist. That in many ways is exactly what we have been doing. If all religions are alike, then their unique content is automatically dismissed.
Confucius: Regarding blogging:

"The master said, 'Is it not a pleasure, having learned something, to blog about it at due intervals? Is it not a joy to have friends come from afar? Is it not gentlemanly not to take offense when others fail to appreciate your abilities?'" - The Analects, part 1, with minor updates.
A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

At the end of the last chapter Fuller dips his toe into the kaleidoscope of groups that make up Islamic civilization around Russia. Good, but too little too late is the thought that springs to mind.

Another item that I wonder about is the manner in which this pseudo historical context is relevant. Yes, the Crusades happened, but if you picked a random Taliban and asked him to name a Crusader who had damaged Islam I would imagine the most likely response to be Hugh Hefner. Turning things around and looking at our highly educated western children, the main thing they will get out of their education is that Mohamed discovered America because a flat earth believing church burned Columbus at the stake during the Inquisition. Like John the Baptist, western intellectuals have spent the last century re-writing history books to "Prepare the Way" for Islam. So how is it working out ...

Chapter 9: Muslims in the West

This part includes numerous swats at neoconservatives (I conceitedly view myself as a classical conservative ... or is that a classical liberal ...):

"The neoconservatives, however, like to describe the US bid for permanent preservation of unipolar American hegemony as ..."

"While the administration of George W. Bush pursued ruinous policies in the Muslim world ..."

Did anyone on this planet not already know that intellectuals hate Bush and the neoconservatives? What I want to know is Islam's critique(s) of the west, not the standard leftist generalized rage against Western Civilization. In a later chapter Fuller gives unconditional praise for Obama's enlightened engagement with Islam, even though Obama's policies are indistinguishable from Bush's policies:

"President Obama's change of style and direction in Washington and his openness to new approaches have commanded much attention in the Muslim world. It is apparent to all that he understands the feelings and motivations of the Muslim world and other developing nations."

This kind of rhetoric only begs the question: What is the real reason that Leftists loathe Bush and adore Obama? There is this note from Fuller that I appreciate:

"And in a surprising example of adaptation, perhaps 10 percent of the entire Muslim student population in France now attends private Catholic schools. One reason is the relative paucity of Muslim schools. But more important is that Muslim parents believe that Catholic schools offer a more sympathetic view of the role of religion in life and show greater understanding of Islam than state secular schools."

This reminded me of when I was picking up my kids to one of those fundamentalist schools that have a Bible class and require all the kids to own a King James version Bible. There was an elderly Sihk man with his turban wrapped around his head presumably waiting to pick up a grandchild. My non-Chrstian in-laws sent their children to Jesuit schools in Singapore. I even had an atheist boss who sent his son to a Christian school. Thus, Fuller's quote about Muslims sending kids to Catholic schools isn't the least bit surprising to anyone familiar with Christian schools. Then there is the ideological divide between atheism and Islam that gets little press. Should it be more easy for Muslim immigrants to come to terms with secularism atheism than Christianity? And how is it that secularists atheists will be able to come to terms with Islam when they can't come to terms with Christianity?

My impression is that the modern atheist academic thinks he was the first to invent the notion of Multiculturalism. The formal concept, however, goes back as far as Herodotus and permeates the Christianity starting with the Apostle Paul. The list that includes Patrick, Francis Xavier, Hudson Taylor, and all those of us who love stories of missionaries. The more fundamentalist a church, the more we talk of foreign cultures and missionaries - preferring the eyewitness accounts of someone who had been there at ground level speaking the language and interacting.

So now I will stereotype and oversimplify: Modern Multiculturalism looks at foreign culture in an icy cold way. A foreigner culture is valued only as an aberration. Fuller claims that immigrants were encouraged in Europe to serve as guest workers. To the extent that this is true, it is the preferred attitude. Given the current situation in the US, we could also argue that foreign immigrants are encouraged in order to feed on the system, force the raising of taxes to an unsustainable level, and bring down the capitalist order. Or maybe it is simply to swamp and kill Western Civilization or at a more mundane level to skew votes towards a particular political party. Which ever of those I pick, however, the foreigner is never valued as a person - only a means to an end, even if that end is merely tweaking the curiosity of someone who is artsy and sophisticated. The story of this chapter is how a country - both natives and foreigners - woke up after following the policies of the multiculturalists with a bad dose of morning after syndrome. The chapter ends on an optimistic note as the discovery of blinders proves to be effective.

Those of us who grew up stewed in Christianity are taught a completely different kind of multiculturalism. When the curiosity of the new wears off, you are left with a person who - like us - is a sinner with wants, needs and hurts. Yes, there is a person behind the foreign culture. An example of this kind of indoctrination follows.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

MEMRI: "Chronicle of a doomed uprising ..."

Being a pathological contrarian, I always like to highlight the opposite of the conventional wisdom. In this case the opposite is from those who know Arabic and actually Study the Middle East. They are an entirely distinct class of people and should never be confused with the Experts on the Middle East.

Their basic thesis is that Egypt is run by the military, while Mubarak and the democratic-ish government are simply a marionette show. The most the uprising could hope to accomplish is to replace the Cookie Monster with Kermit. Or maybe I got things backwards. Looking at the same show from another angle, we see an impoverished country suffering from high unemployment. What would it solve to replace Mubarak with _______ (fill in the blank)? Exactly nothing.

This article was written on Monday, February 7th and predicted that Mubarak would not step down. So far they are doing well. They also predicted a long, protracted struggle with some successes and losses that will leave everything substantive exactly as it was.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Plato: The Light of the World.

"You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.
May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?
Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?
Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?
By far the most like.
And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is dispensed from the sun?

Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognised by sight."- The Republic, Book VI

It is well known that the ancients considered the sun to be a deity, but this shows that it was imbedded in classical philosophy. What interests me here is that Socrates is discussing the sun, light and sight as an analogy in order to explain something else:

"Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honour yet higher. " - The Republic, Book VI

So the sun imparts vision, but this other "good" which is like the sun imparts science and truth. Some Biblical quotes:

"Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord." - Isaiah 2:5

The main one that had come to mind is the radical beginning to John:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." - John 1:1-9

And so John is claiming that Jesus is the source of the light that gives us truth and science, assuming John is drawing from the imagery of the classical writers. But should we stop there?

"'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.'" Matthew 5:14-16

Yikes! I can sort of accept Jesus as the light of the world, and separately that Jesus dwells in Christians. But it is a struggle to tie the notions together!
A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Chapter 8: Russia and Islam. continued ...

There were some other gems here that I couldn't pass up:

"Note how the early Russians, just like the Crusaders, did not think of Muslims as being adherents of another religion but rather as heretics from Christianity."

and, speaking of early(!) Russians ...

" ... Empress Catherine the Great actually rebuffed the church's wish to drive out Islam and convert all Muslims ... Catherine adopted a broadminded and tolerant policy that sought to incorporate existing Islamic religious and secular structures in the broader imperial polity."

What Catherine actually said is provided with English translation over at Mat Rodina by Stanislav:

"On the other hand, everyone is hereby warned not to persuade or induce any of the Christian co-religionists living in Russia to accept or even assent to his faith or join his religious community, under pain of incurring the severest punishment of Our law. This prohibition does not apply to the various nationalities on the borders of Our Empire who are attached to the Mahometan faith. We permit and allow everyone to win them over and make them subject to the Christian religion in a decent way."

The above was from 1763 which is early in her reign. According to the wiki, Catherine became more lenient towards Muslims in the end, but this was due to a policy of trying to get the nomads to settle. Since subtle changes to policy can be portrayed as huge, and vice versa, we need to be careful about assuming too much. For example, was the above policy every rescinded? Perhaps, but I would like to see some evidence. Anyway, she clearly inherited a view that Muslims were a distinct religion from Christianity, while her early views are quite broad regarding pan-Christianity if you actually read the entire document.

Regarding the Crusaders and Fuller's claim that they viewed Islam as a Christian sect, I have already posted a quote:

"one never saw a bad Christian become a good Saracen, nor a bad Saracen become a good Christian." - The Life Saint Louis, chapter 8.

The Crusaders referred to Muslims as Saracens although Saracen is technically a reference to a race, thus, providing a nanoscale grain of truth to Fuller's statement. The quote from the crusader Joinville (1225-1317), however, makes it clear that Saracen was used as a term for a distinct religion and not a racial category - at least in the time of the Crusades.
A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Chapter 8: Russia and Islam.

I was getting into the rhythm for a number of pages as Fuller was outlining the various conflicts that took place between Russia and here and there. But suddenly something peculiar shows up in the account regarding the Russian conquest of Kazan:

"Immediately after the conquest the church established a strong institutional presence in the Tatar regions and planned for the forced conversion of its Muslim population to Orthodox Christianity."

Huh? Forced conversions? Does this guy know anything about Christianity or Islam? (More on the rhetorical question later.) We will give the benefit of the doubt and scoot over to the notes at the end of the book to see where this came from. Fortunately it is an online article entitled "Mission delayed: the Russian Orthodox Church after the conquest of Kazan". We can quickly get the gist of what is going down here:

"More recently, scholars have criticized this simplistic account ..."

In other words, there is no source for the inflammatory claim other than modernist intellectualloids who are criticizing the former accounts and extrapolating based on changes of demographics over a period of centuries. This blogs has several historical accounts of 'forced conversion' referenced, so I will provide a link to one just for contrast.

Now back to my rhetorical question about whether Fuller knows anything about Christianity or Islam, Christianity strictly bans forced conversions and declares any such attempt as illegitimate. I have also spent enough time with my Muslim friends to be able to peruse the books they choose to read. Some of the anti-Christian polemics are developed by scouring the western scholarly literature for inflammatory statements that can be brought into their own folklore. But I presume a vice chairman for a CIA committee knows all this?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Plato: Anti-Intellectualism and Refining Gold.

"And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when they are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great crimes and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fulness of nature ruined by education rather than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures are scarcely capable of any very great good or very great evil?" - The Republic, Book VI

This stood out to me due to the similarity with a quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. Where I differ from Socrates is that I believe a well educated man is just as capable of offering his soul to evil.

The second quote will call some Christian imagery to mind:

"We were saying, as you will remember, that they were to be lovers of their country, tried by the test of pleasures and pains, and neither in hardships, nor in dangers, nor at any other critical moment were to lose their patriotism --he was to be rejected who failed, but he who always came forth pure, like gold tried in the refiner's fire, was to be made a ruler, and to receive honours and rewards in life and after death." - The Republic, Book VI

This is used several times in the Bible, but I will only choose one instance:

"Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance." - Psalm 66:8-12

The usage is the same, yet different. Plato speaks of the ultimate leader of a state - a notion that would generate scoffing in any age because it represents an impossible ideal. The Psalmist speaks of the ordinary person who achieves the same thing, but not though any powers of his own, but rather through the power of God. Although the New Testament uses the imagery also, I chose an Old Testament example to show that this is a concept that predates Plato.
New York Times: Only 28% of biology teachers believe evolution ...


Apparently this comes from a nationwide survey that says the rebels are everywhere. The lawyers and theologians aren't going to like this!
Cosco makes boats too.

Monday, February 07, 2011

A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Chapter 6: Shared Echoes.

This chapter draws the first half to its inevitable conclusion. The litany of crimes of Christianity and divergent sects is supposed to prove that there are no fundamentals to religion, hence, fundamentalism is a myth. There are only religious reasonable types and unreasonable ones.

The rebuttal to Fuller's story is probably more than two centuries old, given that his narrative has been preached and taught for more than two centuries. Here we go again:

Consider the Roman and Greek churches again: As Fuller noted, they were bitterly squabbling over whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only or from the Father and the Son jointly. (Extra points if you know which church was for which position!) To use another analogy, if two football fans were bickering over which team were better or the fine points of some rule, would we conclude that football didn't exist or that football had no established rules? The Roman and Greek churches probably still agree on more than 99% of what it means to be Christian. Bring in the orthodox protestants and we are probably more than 98%. Many of the heretics such as the Pelagians are also in agreement with orthodox Christianity on the vast majority of points related to the religion. There is a core of agreed upon beliefs, so that to speak of fundamentals isn't mere nonsense. One sect proclaims that the passing game is more important. The other sect turns red and screams "blasphemy" and decrees that it is the rushing game. Do we really want to get between them and argue that Tiger Woods is the greatest football player?

Next, Fuller completely misses the most important factor that is common to all Fundamentalists: The printing press. Go to a Christian school and you will see children learning, memorizing and studying King James version Bibles. Go to a Madrassah and you will see children learning, memorizing and studying the Qur'an. Go to a Fundamentalist Harry Potter conference and you will find people who have learned, memorized and studied Harry Potter. But don't try to tell them that Mary Poppins is Harry Potter unless you want to get tarred and feathered and thrown into the dumpster. Like it or not, people who read the Bible and take its message seriously are going to tend to certain beliefs, and the same goes for the Qur'an.

So why do we have to go back and revisit this? It is because the greatest Christian heresy - which Fuller didn't mention - both controls the universities and is determined to be the sole authority on the spiritual meaning of the Bible. As I noted, the Romans and Greeks were squabbling over the word 'proceeds' and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the heresy of Modernanity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all proceed from some opportunistic and corrupt, power loving ancient politician according to the laws of evolution of religion. Mormons may be perhaps 95% compatible with orthodox Christianity, but Modernanity is more like 10% compatible. Even Christians and Muslims agree that Jesus did miracles. Modernanity does not believe. Christians and Muslims agree that Jesus was taken to heaven and resides there at the moment with God. Modernanity says that Jesus is dead, but lives on in the manner of Homer. We also must step back and note that between Islam and Christianity, Modernanity is the most involved with the State, because there is no distinct Kingdom of Heaven in their religion. Of course there is a price to be paid when efforts to seriously understand the world are hijacked by scholars who want to proselytize for their private religion.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Chapter 5: The Great Crusades.

This chapter repeats most of the modernist versions of the Crusades, dwelling on the fourth Crusade for which it has already been noted that the modernist version is hopelessly misleading. At the same time, there is certainly truth to the animosity of the eastern church towards Rome based on the accumulated history. Reading other Russian bloggers has given me an appreciation of this that is quite surprising, given that I have really never known any hostility towards Russians.

A quote does require a response:

"Note throughout all of this that it was the pope who called for all of these wars and campaigns over a nearly two-hundred-year period. The pope in effect inspired, directed, and commanded the political and military actions of European princes. We are hard put to find any parallel of purely religious authorities in Islam directing the actions of Muslim armies."

First, it seems that the pope didn't do much more than issue a decree. To direct and command the European princes would have been impossible. Otherwise there would have been Italians joining in. The other item to note is that the European princes needed to be incited to engage in a religious war. Fuller noted in the last chapter that the policies of religious discrimination were universal with the Muslim conquests. Why command someone to do what they are automatically going to do? The argument is silly.
A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Chapter 4: Islam meets Eastern Christianity.

In this chapter Fuller corrects a meta-narrative that never made sense to me. It took several centuries for Christianity to become a major force in Europe. But we are left with the impression that the Middle East and North Africa were fully assimilated in a generation ...

The process Fuller describes is one where the governments were taken over by Muslim forces and this was mainly a matter of ousting the disliked colonial government that preceded. No problem here. Assimilation of the locals into Islam was then a long drawn out process. The key features were that non-Muslims paid all the taxes, while Muslims made up the aristocracy and the military. Then there was the rule that anyone could convert to Islam, but no one could convert back. Again, no problem here, except that this now contradicts the assertion in the last chapter that Islam stayed out of the affairs of state, whereas Christianity did not. Fuller cites a similar policy in the west ... under Queen Elizabeth.

The first big question to ask is where the notion of instant assimilation came from. The simple answer: Our history books! The narrative I was taught in the government schools growing up regarding this era could be boiled down to this: Christianity -> Dark ages, ignorance, violence; Islam -> Enlightenment, science, math, tolerance. The narrative can only begin to achieve plausibility if you postulate that the violent, non-Christian invaders of northern Europe were all assimilated Christians and all of the Middle East were assimilated Muslims - except for tiny non-Muslim communities to prove the "tolerance" notion. The text books need a bit of rework.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Year of the Cat.

So you thought it was the year of the Rabbit? Surprise! We tried to stop by Little Saigon in San Jose today to see the festivities, but the parking was totally mad so we skipped out. Now the big question is why the Vietnamese think it is the year of the cat and the Chinese think it is the year of the rabbit?
Today it was 78F (26C) for our little hike. Winter is tough.

A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Chapter 3: Byzantium vs. Rome.

One thing I like in the introduction is that Fuller states that he is making arguments to support one theme, and that he could argue against some of the arguments he puts forward. Thus, I might actually be doing the same!

The first thing to note is that Karen Armstrong is the only source he cites for much of the early history of Christendom. Certainly there are many voices, but she represents an extreme modernist strand. Fuller mentions that there was interference by the church in the politics during the middle ages but not any corresponding activity in Islam, while citing no examples. From my readings, the main thing that stands out - citing an example - is that Anselm (1033-1109) refused to allow the King of England to appoint him as bishop, thus, creating a church-state conflict. But doesn't that turn things upside down? Regarding the similar relations on the Islam side, I simply can't say due to not having read much original material on the subject. On the other hand, it should be easy to cite cases of Muslim rulers getting drunk, eating pork, silencing the call to prayer, etc., while the clerics quietly accept that this is the way thing are - if this actually happened.

The chapter, Byzantium versus Rome, talks of the split between the Roman church and the Eastern orthodox church. Keeping in mind that the theme of the book is that geopolitical factors rather than religious are primary for war, this would be a good target for generalizing. Given that the Western and Eastern churches and empires were separated by economic interests, language, race and culture, this would go a long way towards supporting the theme of religious war being secondary to war driven by geopolitical factors. As evidence, Fuller cites two incidents, the Fourth Crusade and a massacre of Latins. The later I haven't read about, although a massacre - bad as it is - isn't a war. I did read the account of the Fourth Crusade as written by George Villehardouin (1160-1212). The crusaders were hired as a mercenary army by a prince. The prince got his kingdom, but didn't pay the army he hired, which naturally sparked a limited sack of the city. What the abbreviated account never mentions is that another prince launched a civil war and invited in the Scythians who proceeded to do the vast majority of damage and commit atrocities over large swathes of the empire. The crusaders saved the Eastern Empire by fighting the Scythians to a stand still while the rival prince waged his civil war. Rather than proving the case of animosity between east and west, I would claim that the real story of the account is the degree of goodwill there was. The easy thing for the crusaders would have been simply to sail away and let the Eastern Empire suffer, rather than saving them from a ruthless enemy who was devoid of plunder. There was exactly nothing to gain from staying, except wounds, possible death and the honor of having fought a good fight to save Christians from barbarians. Pan-Christian loyalty trumps geopolitics?

But I won't even leave things at this point. Yes, there were heated theological disputes between the Roman church and the Greek church. At the same time, the scholarly community of the West maintained a deep respect for the learning in the East and honored those who traveled East to master Greek. As an example, we have a quote from Bede (672-736AD).

So what did the chapter prove? A thousand years of the Eastern Roman Empire separated from the West by religious and geopolitical factors provides one example of a war, and that war is only compatible with the thesis if we don't bother to actually read the account of the war. Not a good start. Probably there are some examples demonstrating armed conflict between Eastern and Western Christendom, but we will need to look at more recent events from the time of Catherine The Great to the Crimean War.

Update: I am going to amend this to note that Fuller has material from more people than just Karen Armstrong. There is a notes section in the back that I didn't see until later.
A World Without Islam: by Graham Fuller.

Rummuser recommended this, so I took a spin down to Borders to fetch a copy. According to the cover, Graham Fuller is "Former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA". Thus, I have a bit of mixed feelings at the outset. Who is better to be an observer than the CIA? Who is worse to be an observer than a history professor? Certainly there is always something to learn.

The first point he makes is that Islamic civilization is complex, and America cannot view itself in a simplistic fashion of Islam committing acts, and the US only responding. Amen to that. In fact I am avoiding even thinking that some particular outcome is likely or not based on our policies because of the impossibility of anticipating what will happen. When things are too complex, a stupid and malicious policy can sometimes have a positive outcome, whereas a wise and generous policy can have a negative outcome. Or maybe not. Is there any correlation between policy and result? Only God knows for sure.

Fuller starts out by making some overall observations regarding religion, politics, etc. Of course this could be a book in itself and still be limited to a list of over simplifications. One thing I appreciate right off is that Fuller doesn't leave atheism off the hook. He doesn't say so directly, but it comes off as no different from religion and at least as bloody minded and violent as everything else. Even the intellectuals get a soft swat for being dogmatic. Still, we have the danger that much of the western secular modernist intellectual movement exists as a reaction to Christianity - and they have rewritten much of history. We will see how this plays out in his views.
Plato: Breaking the Glass Ceiling.

"For men born and educated like our citizens, the only way, in my opinion, of arriving at a right conclusion about the possession and use of women and children is to follow the path on which we originally started, when we said that the men were to be the guardians and watchdogs of the herd.

Let us further suppose the birth and education of our women to be subject to similar or nearly similar regulations; then we shall see whether the result accords with our design.

What do you mean?
What I mean may be put into the form of a question, I said: Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? or do we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, while we leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and suckling their puppies is labour enough for them?

No, he said, they share alike; the only difference between them is that the males are stronger and the females weaker.

But can you use different animals for the same purpose, unless they are bred and fed in the same way?

You cannot.
Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must have the same nurture and education?

The education which was assigned to the men was music and gymnastic. Yes." - The Republic, book V

There you have it. Women should have all the opportunities of men because they are, um, dogs. Somehow I doubt that modern feminists would embrace the same arguments.

The discussion goes on to argue that the state should determine which male-female pairs are suitable for breeding, just as with dogs. It is also improper to mix classes for reasons that should be obvious ... at least to this line of reasoning.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Plato: Slaves and Masters

"The meaning is, I believe, that in the human soul there is a better and also a worse principle; and when the better has the worse under control, then a man is said to be master of himself; and this is a term of praise: but when, owing to evil education or association, the better principle, which is also the smaller, is overwhelmed by the greater mass of the worse --in this case he is blamed and is called the slave of self and unprincipled." - The Republic, Book IV

This bit helped me see that the principle is universal. A person who is controlled by his appetites is deemed a slave to them. The one who is in control is the master. And so it was, until today.

Thus, the first Bible reference to this concept is in the beginning of Genesis:

"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." - Genesis 4:7

And the opposite:

"Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'" - John 8:33.

Our modern age seems to have inverted the formula. Freedom is the opposite of slavery, and freedom is all about being able to indulge in any kind of vice whenever you want. But even that is an old concept:

"They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity - for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." - 2 Peter 2:19

And so it is that as we live in an era that proudly believes it has banished slavery and worships freedom, yet there is an epidemic of slavery that surpasses anything known in history. Arabic commentary on current events Egypt and Tunisia.

A Palestinian columnist:

"For the thousandth time, the U.S. is proving that it will sell out its allies at the first political crossroads [it encounters]." specializes in translating Arabic media and posting them for the benefit of English readers. The above linked article takes excerpts from a number of newspapers in different countries. My main interest here is to see how America's official posture towards Egypt and Tunisia is being perceived and/or spun.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Pondering Egypt.

I have a great sympathy for the suffering of Egypt. CNN was just commenting on how the population has almost doubled since Mubarak became the leader, and I would certainly wish them to have a successful economy to provide a living. The global competition also hasn't been kind to them.

Listening to the pundits it seems that all the Egyptian people are looking for is a genuine liberal Democracy with freedom and respect for human rights. What could be wrong with that? Nothing, but there is a problem in the narrative. Liberal Democracy is never an end in itself - only a means to an end. If it gives us what we want, fine. Otherwise we try stuffing the courts, reinterpreting the constitution, grabbing control of the news media and schools, and doing whatever we can to subvert the Democracy. And that is us Americans who are taught that there is value in Democracy. How about the Middle East?

So we have the two facts: Revolutions have a purpose, and Democracy is never the purpose - only a vehicle that leads to the purpose. In Venezuela and Bolivia, the purpose was all about redistributing the wealth. In the former Soviet Bloc, the purpose was about getting out from under communism, with a bit of nation/tribalism thrown in. Rhodesia and South Africa were a mix. So what is it in Egypt?

Are they trying to push for more freedom? Or Sharia Law? OK, so the current regime is brutal, but does anyone in Egypt think that the next regime will be less brutal? Do they want Socialism? Or Capitalism? Do they want less Corruption? OK, they want less corruption, but do they actually want to change anything that would cause a meaningful reduction in corruption? My sense is that the Western media either doesn't know what the unrest in Egypt is about or can't bring itself to admit what is going on. I suppose we will learn what it is about when it is over.

Ouch! Thank you Delirious for this blogger award!

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you the award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Award 5 other bloggers.

4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award.

Since I am required ...

1. I broke my right wing when I was young and a nice elderly Mormon lady fixed my wing and took care of me until it healed and I could swim and fly again.

2. My egg shell was black.

3. My siblings all prefer fresh water seafood, but I prefer salt water seafood.

4. I have flown all the way to Canada.

5. It is difficult to use my wings to type, so I push the keys down one by one using my beak.

6. My voice sounds a bit like this.

7. I will notify the other 5 loons that I grew up with of this award as soon as they get their blogs up and running. Seriously.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Plato: Censorship

If I had a dollar for every time I had heard someone complain about those early Christians and censorship ... One thing that never seems to cross anyone's mind in this discussion is where such a notion might have come from and how wide spread it was. Perhaps the following will make things clearer:

"And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?

We cannot.
Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their children the authorised ones only. Let them fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mould the body with their hands; but most of those which are now in use must be discarded." - The Republic, Book II.

But this is just the warm up. The proposal is to censor the poets who write the religious texts. Everything is to be directed towards a martial state, so the stories of hades must be adapted to make the warriors less fearful of death.

"Then we must assume a control over the narrators of this class of tales
as well as over the others, and beg them not simply to but rather to commend the world below, intimating to them that their descriptions are untrue, and will do harm to our future warriors.

That will be our duty, he said.
Then, I said, we shall have to obliterate many obnoxious passages,..." - The Republic, Book III.

Frivolous occupations must be banned. Effeminate music must be gotten rid of, whether that be the words or the tune or the rhythm. All manner of vice and frivolity is to be restricted also. In fact the admonition to censorship for the good of the state goes on and on and on to a degree that I have never encountered before. Do we dare come to the conclusion that censorship was bequeathed to the classical world by Socrates via Plato in The Republic? Anyway, the philosophers were some of the first to get their comeuppance by being censored by a pagan government.