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May 03, 2021

Comments

1. Someone was telling me just the other day that I should watch Ted Lasso. Hmmmmm. Not sure this clip encourages me, but "I still like it" is a plus. Not that I watch anything onscreen these days, but you never know.

2. I came across the quote below a long time ago, I don't remember where. I haven't read anything else on the site it came from except the paragraphs that lead up to this one:

This [the right to die if you so choose] is the civilized version because there is no merit – or only a capitalist, a communist or a religious merit – in the answer that people just have to “fight for what’s right“. The problem precisely lies in there being already too much fighting for both right and wrong. Accepting the duty to fight to get your point across is capitulating to the capitalist society; a society that reduces all individual merit to a talent for fighting. No, people do not have to do anything at all. They most certainly do not have to be fighters when they are not; not anymore than they have to be straight if they are just gay. That, my dear friends, is self-determination.

This is connected by more than one pathway of free association to the recent discussion of Carville and messaging. Maybe someday I'll have the patience to flesh out the thought train.

Well you did say to talk about whatever.... ;-)

JanieM, interesting quote. I agree with the sentiment, but the problem with it is that it is very easy for people to demand being treated one way and not being willing to treat others in the same way. And it's easy to develop Nietzsche's "Slave morality" to justify poor behavior on their part.

In search of a pithy example, I link to this
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/mar/28/chevron-lawyer-steven-donziger-ecuador-house-arrest

It's nice to say that people don't have to be fighters, but when there are so many problems piled up around the world, being a fighter seems like part of the human condition. It would be great if it were otherwise, but I don't see you get there from here.

Interestingly, the blogger argues that what he is arguing for is a creation of "our own Socratic myth". Kudos for acknowledging that it would be a myth (just like America is #1 and Japan is a homogeneous country), but I wonder if he had read I. F. Stone's The trial of Socrates and what his takeaway is.
https://www.famous-trials.com/socrates/821-ifstoneinterivew

Anyway, thank you for more thoughts for the train. I'm thinking that there is going to be some serious problems with the Olympics here

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/may/03/japan-nurses-voice-anger-at-call-to-volunteer-for-tokyo-olympics-amid-covid-crisis

I should also say that I get a libertarian vibe, which is he argues that the right to die is where we should all start and everything flows from that. Well, ok, but in Oregon, which is big on the Die with Dignity issue

https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/ProviderPartnerResources/Evaluationresearch/deathwithdignityact/Pages/index.aspx

Which might be a reason why it had these problems

https://www.npr.org/2020/12/21/946292119/oregon-hospitals-didnt-have-shortages-so-why-were-disabled-people-denied-care

being a fighter seems like part of the human condition.

Just like being straight is part of the human condition?

Can you force people to be fighters, or are you [the general "you"] just going to preach at them so they feel guilty if they're not?

This reminds me of my archetypal story of the woman who got up during "Joys and Concerns" the first time I went to a UU church. She made an impassioned speech about how "We have to do something about Bosnia!" And I was sitting there thinking, I can't even get my kids to stop squabbling, wtf does she think I'm going to do about Bosnia?

PS, I wrote "can you force people to be fighters" -- when if I'm true to my own way of seeing it, I'd have to write "can you force people to try to fight whether they're capable of it or suited to it or not?"

You can't force me to be an NBA player, either.

TBH before this post I never heard of Ted Lasso. I don't have the sports gene, and we don't have AppleTV, so I guess it never crossed my radar.

Nice is better than not-nice, I guess. But I'm not sure it's something that Americans think of as their foundational quality. Lasso's character is, apparently, 'Kansas nice'. But everywhere isn't Kansas.

I'm from NY, and have lived in the NYC area, Philly, and now metro Boston. Not places that are famous for being 'nice'. Good thing, bad thing, I couldn't tell you. Nice or not, people in those places still get each other's backs.

And Kansas, of course, has its own history, which is not always nice.

When I meet people who are nice, I always wait a bit to see what they're like over time.

I'm not sure how other folks - folks in other countries - see us, I think we're kind of a mixed bag.

PS #2, how on earth do you find the time to do all the reading you do? Are you a speed-reader? ;-)

I know someone who is possibly the world's most accomplished professional victim. He is blissfully unaware that he goes around steamrollering people, i.e. he's a bully, but of a very sophisticated variety. When called on any particular instance, he always frames the interaction as one in which he was facing daunting odds and had to take a strong stand lest he himself be bullied.

The Ted Lasso clip is sort of like that. The friends who told me I should watch the show said how nice he was, and how he brought this unusual way of functioning into the cutthroat world of soccer (?). But in this clip, he seems like kind of an asshole, and apparently that's justified because Rupert is a bigger asshole...? Am I getting it right? (I think that's part of your point, lj, but I want to make sure I'm not misinterpreting the clip or you.)

it is very easy for people to demand being treated one way and not being willing to treat others in the same way.

I don't get what this has to do with the assertion that people may not be fighters, or may choose not to fight.

As to the latter, this is related to "Resist not evil." I feel like we've lost, or never had, or only a few people ever had (the Gandhis or Tutus of the world), an ability to conceptualize any interaction as anything but a fight or a potential fight. Every obituary of someone with cancer says the person "fought a courageous battle." No one ever dances with cancer, or complains about it, or endures it, or just lives with it.

"Resist not evil" covers a lot of ground, but it can be something like what Danaan did in a workshop in Northern Ireland. Instead of trying to facilitate a dialogue between the warring parties about the thing that divided them (religion, to oversimplify), he told people he wanted all the men on one side of the room and all the women on the other. Then he got the women talking to each other, e.g. about all the ways their husbands drove them crazy. And similarly with the men. And they started to see that they had stuff in common across that seemingly intractable divide of theirs.

To me this isn't fighting or resisting -- but is it "doing nothing."

Someone wants to fight about politics, ask them to help you shovel the walk.

...But in this clip, he seems like kind of an asshole...

Yes, to me too.
Actually what bothers me more is that it's just lazy writing.

Going back to the meat of the header, I disagree. In a two party democracy (ie the absence of proportional representation), being a 'big tent' coalition is pretty well essential in the long run.

Just for russell, some exceptional free form jazz.
https://twitter.com/tedgioia/status/1389460006408495105

Interesting stuff. A day of correcting ESL compositions makes writing something more interesting nice, so thanks for the feedback.

Important stuff first. I read way.too.fast. I think it came from when I would be given enough for 1 comic book and I learned to read all the comics in the rack before someone would say anything. (I wonder if that would have happened here in Japan where they used to have tachiyomi for almost everything).

My English reading speed makes it so reading in Japanese is painfully slow (it also has me find podcasts rather boring unless I'm driving long distances). Reading in a language with a roman alphabet is tolerable if I've gotten the vocab (and can rely on cognates), but Japanese (and Korean) would just have me pull my hair out. I try, but I am perpetually frustrated.

About fighting, I guess it depends on what you mean by the term. I do (or did, pre COVID) martial arts, so I was generally 'fighting' more days than not. I do aikido, which is a pretty strange form of fighting (and go to youtube and you'll see a lot of videos saying it ain't got anything to do with fighting), but in the sense of competing, it has that sense. Russell, who has admitted to being totally unAmerican by not having the sports gene (I keeed!) is, I'm sure, familiar with the story of Charlie Parker getting the cymbal thrown at his feet.
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/jun/17/charlie-parker-cymbal-thrown
(incidentally the movie Whiplash uses this story, but misses that it means
https://slate.com/culture/2014/10/whiplash-charlie-parker-and-the-cymbal-what-the-movie-gets-wrong-about-genius-work-and-the-10000-hours-myth.html )

So I appreciate Russell's rejection of sports and the competiveness that goes with it, I think he'll have to admit that competition is something that is a creative force. I'd suggest that part of the African-American experience is that intense competition culture (from cutting contests to rap battles and other stops in between). I think it is a problem, but I think it is baked into the cultural cake. I also think of the parry and jab of comments as 'fighting' but I don't think the goal is to win. Finding an neat example or making a good fun point is the goal. But if (imagining this were basketball) someone decides poke you while you are up in the air or slide their foot under you so you land and twist your ankle, that's not cool.

The thing about sports is that a certain level of competition is required to make moments truely come off. Dr. J going behind the basket and laying up the ball only becomes meaningful when you have Kareem Abdul Jabbar coming over to try and stop it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZOnvr2dTyk

So I take a pretty broad view of the meaning of 'fighting'. Writing letters to the editor is 'fighting', refusing to let someone insult or mistreat someone else or yourself is 'fighting'. Ignoring insults and explaining calmly and concisely what the problem is, to my mind, is fighting. I _do_ object to people telling me (or others) _how_ they are supposed to fight. People fight/compete using the resources and skills they have.

The example of Ireland is interesting. The way I would take it is that the 'fighting' had become something so intractable that they had to be moved out of their positions. If I said that was finding a different way to fight the fight (which was against the intractability of the conflict), would that make my idea of 'fighting' a little clearer?

I understand Nigel's disagreement, but I'd suggest that one of the problems with the US is that one party is a big tent party and the other, in recent times, never has been and never will be one.

And about Ted Lasso. Well, Kansas nice isn't really a concept I grab onto given that Brownback is who comes to mind when I think of Kansas, so I roll my eyes a bit at that. But the article also misses a bit, yes, Jason Sudekis is from Overview Kansas, but his fictional backstory has him coaching the Wichita State Shockers to a victory in the Rose Bowl, impressive given that Wichita State dropped football in 1986...
https://www.wichita.edu/about/wsunews/news/2020/08-aug/Lasso_5.php

And I like it because I follow Premier League fairly closely as well, (which I imagine will be gone if 5 years or so
https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/may/03/premier-league-to-introduce-measures-to-stop-threat-of-breakaway-leagues )
and the idea of an American coach getting hired there is really theater of the absurd. So it is easier to suspend disbelief about a whole range of things.

Anyway, interesting stuff, keep it coming!

the idea of an American coach getting hired there is really theater of the absurd

Bob Bradley was hired by Swansea's US owners in 2016. It took them about three months to change their minds.

Every obituary of someone with cancer says the person "fought a courageous battle."

My wife's obituary doesn't - I wrote it and I hate that imagery. It says that she made the most of the time that she had.

Pro Bono -- thanks for mentioning that. My "every obit" was an exaggeration, but it's not too far off the mark in the obits I see here in Maine and from my home area in Ohio. I hate the imagery too. We chuckle over my mom having drafted her own obit, years and years before she ended up dying, but I'm tempted to draft bits of mine myself, if only to tell my kids that I don't want battle imagery in it.

*****

lj -- I want to mostly leave what I wrote sitting there, but you're arguing as if I said fighting is wrong, or fighting should be abolished. I said nothing of the sort.

By the proxy of that quote, I suggested that people should be able to choose not to fight. That's a very different assertion. Almost every activist I have ever known spends a fair amount of time guilt-tripping and/or crapping on people who won't "fight" for the cause, with no recognition at all that there might be other ways, even other valid and/or effective ways, of meeting the challenges of existence. (Obviously all of this is airy-fairy philosophizing. What does "effective" mean? Etc.)

Besides believing that people should have the choice of not fighting, I also do wish that less of our imagery and metaphorical framing of life was in terms of fighting. I think it's limiting, to say the very least.

lj -- Also, Danaan Parry was a practitioner of aikido. He took a lot of his metaphors and even some of his workshop exercises from that world. I'm not sure he would have made the absolute statement that it doesn't have anything to do with fighting, but he would have been in that territory.

This is my many-years-later rephrasing of something I only understood dimly at the time, but he connected "resist not evil" with the way, in aikido, you try to use your opponent's energy rather (necessarily) than opposing it directly. I have actually been thinking that Joe Biden's way, at the moment, of pretty much ignoring the RW noise machine is an example of that. Why waste your energy trying to contradict all the nonsense when the whole thing is like a permanent vicious Gish Gallop? Etc.

I appreciate Russell's rejection of sports and the competiveness that goes with it, I think he'll have to admit that competition is something that is a creative force.

to be clear, it's not really a matter of rejecting sports, they just aren't interesting to me. hard to say why, I'd just rather do other things.

competition is absolutely a creative force. competition, ambition, the desire to excel and the need for a way to measure all of that, is pretty much baked in to being human, IMO. and then, the need to keep all of it on a leash, so that it serves you rather than turns you into a jerk.

in a musical context, the inability to keep it on a leash becomes audible, and not in a good way.

the really best players, with very few exceptions, get to a place where they see what they do as a form of service.

you have to have the fire in the belly, at least to start. but then it has to become about something other than you, or it will all turn sterile. solipsistic wanking.

a big topic, that, with lots to say about it.

I studied aikido very briefly. Unfortunately I started study when I was 60, which doesn't rule it out, but which definitely presents unique challenges. The ukemi practice made me really dizzy - like, vertigo for a day or two - so I stopped. It's an outstanding art.

Among my most remarkable aikido experiences was taking a class with a blind instructor. The man could put you on your ass in a heartbeat. Just remarkable.

And, the practice really did call out the difference between players who had their competitive urge on a leash, and those who did not.

A friend of mine says, "We all have an ego, I try to leave mine in the car".

russell -- contra dancing triggered my vertigo. Luckily, my time in the contra dance world was mostly playing the fiddle in the band. But even watching people spin sometimes put me on the edge.

I think Janie and lj are saying the same thing, but expressing it differently - except for the framing part, since that's a matter of how you express what you're saying.

Janie, ISTM, is using "fight" in a more narrow way, something closer to the literal meaning than lj is. I think lj is using "fight" to describe almost any action in the furtherance of a cause.

If it's all about the framing, then they disagree. Otherwise, not so much. But it's an interesting discussion.

The obit thing might be an example of something that bugs me - when people try to force something positive out of something that is fundamentally complete sh*t. It seems to be a way of making yourself feel better, but I think the more direct way to find peace is to accept that some things are fundamentally complete sh*t and see those things for what they are without trying to delude yourself into thinking they're something else. The universe is indifferent to us, if something that lacks agency can even be said to be indifferent.

The opposite of that is when people choose to be sh*tty and tell you "life isn't fair." That used to drive me nuts when I was a kid. Someone in authority would decide on something concerning me, and I would say "that's not fair." Rather than telling me why it really was fair, they'd give me the "life's not fair" line. Yeah, because human beings don't control everything. But you are in control of this thing, so the unfairness of life in general has nothing to do with it!

hsh -- maybe you're right about lj and me -- and I'll try to come back to that later.

Right now I'm chuckling over your mention of your childhood relationship to the word "fair."

I used to tell my kids (I have two) that I didn't want to hear that word -- not because "life isn't fair" but because what's fair is so often not measurable. It depends on the framing!

As an example, they used to fight over who got to sit in the front seat when we went anywhere in the car. We devised a "fair" system whereby one of them got to be in the front on the outward trip (whether it was to the grocery store or Ohio), and the other on the homeward trip. And they alternated who got to go first.

Okay, that's more fair than one always having to sit in the back, but the determining moment for switching was when we were at the furthest point from home. So, what if, because of the mix of errands that day, the outward trip was much longer than the homeward trip?

Oh well! Life's not fair! ;-)

How do you handle "fairness" with your kids?

I think hairshirt has the insight. There also may be a gender thing at play here, with culture telling us that men are supposed to fight, and women are not. I guess one way to deal with it is to limit fighting to something more constrained, or alternatively, to make fighting something more general.

I never really noticed the tendency in obits about fight, I just looked at my mother's obituary that I wrote and it just started with [...] died on... and then launched into her life, though she did die of cancer. But I do know people who say they are going to 'beat' it and I'm not sure what to tell them to use as an alternative. I'm not sure if the use of fight in that context is trying to make something good out of something bad, it is trying to acknowledge that they were taken away (another interesting metaphor) by something that and the people around them didn't want it to happen.

And wrs in regard to competition. That's why we have rules, I think.

My latest metaphor for my students is 'eating the frog'. I'm trying to get them to work to get some stuff done and I'm suggesting they try to get the hardest task done first. Not sure if it will work, but we will see.

Random-ish thoughts:

I'm with russell on sports - just not interested. The exception is tennis (not always, just at various times of my life) when the joy was watching certain players do extraordinary things. I know e.g. football players can (I've seen some of the goals etc) but they just don't move me the way tennis does.

On fighting: I guess I'm with lj in that I have always just assumed that there were many, many different ways to fight, and that some suited some people better than others. That's what I was getting at when I said on the other thread that I had assumed the opposite of resistance was to do nothing, because there were so many different ways to resist. If you had asked me before this whole conversation on ObWi had come up what I thought of Gandhi, I might well have said that I thought him one of the greatest and most successful fighters in history.

The Danaan story in Northern Ireland is similar to stories I have heard about South African involvement there, and is what I see as another form of resistance. Resisting the "othering" of other communities, and finding the way to feel the common humanity.

I suppose, just thinking aloud here, that the way I was brought up has established the concepts of "fighting" and "resistance" as foundational necessities for someone trying to live a decent life. In the first instance, being born into a society which practised apartheid, and in a context where millions of jews had recently been exterminated, and being raised by parents who always thought that it was necessary to do something about these kinds of injustices, it was just a given that "fighting" (in whatever form it took) against evil was what you did. (A good example in South Africa - although not one my family was involved in - was a wonderful women's organisation called the Black Sash. They were white women who used to protest against apartheid by the non-violent protest of wearing a black sash and keeping silent vigils outside government offices and Parliament. It was a haunting image.)

So, to me, given the existence of evil, cruelty, injustice, and prejudice in the world, it is almost part of the definition of being a decent human that one finds ways, no matter how symbolic, or personal, of declaring oneself against those things and on the side of the oppressed.

But we are all formed by different experiences. Perhaps it is a partly a function of privilege: I was brought up to feel that I had agency in the world, by parents who felt they had agency and acted accordingly. And of course, as in the cases of Gandhi or the Black Sash, the set of available actions was only limited by one's imagination, or perhaps one's personal leanings.
(As to what confers the sense of privilege in different circumstances, as we know that is an interesting and vexed question).

I agree with Janie, Pro Bono and hsh on the obit thing. I am ashamed when I remember how, years ago, I wrote a condolence letter which used the battle metaphor, which in those days I had never thought to question. Ah well, we live and learn.

lj, is "eating the frog" from Lampedusa's The Leopard? I remember that was a wonderful image he used to portray his protagonist's struggles to come to terms with a changing world, in which his form of privilege was dying. There are graphic passages about having to choke down the last gristly bit...

So, to me, given the existence of evil, cruelty, injustice, and prejudice in the world, it is almost part of the definition of being a decent human that one finds ways, no matter how symbolic, or personal, of declaring oneself against those things and on the side of the oppressed.

"decent"

Yup, I need say no more.

The idea of "eating a frog" seems to come from Nicolas Chamfort's Maximes, Pensées, Caractères et Anecdotes (link).

M. de Lassay, homme très-doux, mais qui avait une grande connaissance de la société, disait qu’il faudrait avaler un crapaud tous les matins, pour ne trouver plus rien de dégoûtant le reste de la journée, quand on devait la passer dans le monde.
But here it's swallowing a toad, and the intention is to steel oneself to face the horrors of society, rather than the sense of avoiding procrastination in lj's admonition.

The Leopard uses swallowing a toad as a metaphor for an unpleasant conversation, apparently borrowing directly from Chamfort.

Yes, and clearly by decent I mean "one who tries to value their fellow humans as themselves and acts accordingly".

I always found it an interesting question during the apartheid years: what do you conclude about the white people who go on living quietly in South Africa, benefitting from the subjection and disenfranchisement of the majority of the population, without practising any overt cruelty themselves? If all they did was obey the laws of the land, could they rightfully be considered as complicit in the injustice or not?

I picked it up from a blogpost about teaching and liked it. fun to see where it might have started.

You can't force me to be an NBA player, either.

Actually (given a free hand and no scruples), I bet I could. What I couldn't do is make you, let alone force you to be, a great NBA player. Sorry!

Same way with making people fighters. The vast, overwhelming, majority can be at least coerced into it in a pinch. Absolute pacifists are rare on the ground.

Most "pacifists" I've known had objections to certain reasons for fighting. Occasionally motivated by risk to themselves, especially in 1-on-1 situations. But blanket refusal? Extremely unusual.

there's an "Eat The Frog" gym near me.

To tie lj's and russell's point to mine. While you can probably make almost anybody fight, if you're smart you'll try to have them use the talents they have. The greatest spy ever might well make a terrible combat infantryman. And vis versa.

Sometimes, admittedly, you have a small enough pool that you're just making the best of matching all the required jobs and available people. And praying you get the least worst solution. But nobody would prefer that option.

Pro Bono: thank you for the original derivation of that image. How interesting. My memory (it's a long time since I read it) is that the Prince of Salina is having to carry out the unpleasant conversation as part of an ongoing acknowledgement that his world is changing in ways that he would once have found unthinkable. I might be wrong, but if I'm not, the image of the last gristly bits having to be choked down was particularly brilliant in how it conveyed the sequence of his accommodation.

Gandhi is an interesting case. He clearly preferred non-violent means, for both practical and moral reasons. But he also thought violence was justifiable, when it was necessary for self-defense.

If you are already prepared to fight, you can advance to a non-violent stance, and that should be preferred, because it preserves the humanity of your opponent.

But if you are not willing to fight, that is not non-violence, it is cowardice.

The real line in the sand is: are you willing to die for what you believe.

Or so says Gandhi, if I understand him correctly.

Even MLK carried a gun.

You remind me, russell, of the concluding words of Nelson Mandela's great speech from the dock:

I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Thus showing (as if there was any doubt!) which issue formed the foundation of my thinking these kinds of matters.

(As a complete aside, I believe from something my mother said years ago that my grandfather, whom I never met, knew - or met - Gandhi when he lived in South Africa. I know nothing further, and it's too late to find out now, like it is about so many things. But I would love to know the details, my grandfather was apparently quite something,, as I have indicated here when I have repeated the "England the whore" story.)

my thinking about these kinds of matters.

Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, is asked by his nephew, noble but relatively impoverished, to negotiate the nephew's marriage to the daughter of the local mayor, Don Calogero, wealthy but plebeian.

First, the Prince questions his shooting companion about the mayor and his daughter - "though he had already decided to swallow the horrid toad, he still felt a need for more ample information about his adversary."

Then he has his interview with the mayor. When he broaches the subject of the marriage, the major responds positively. "Don Fabrizio was overcome with sincere emotion; the toad had been swallowed; the chewed head and gizzards were going down his throat; he still had to crunch up the claws, but that was nothing compared to the rest; the worst was over."

Finally the Prince has to discuss money - his nephew's lack of it. "But, Don Calogero," went on the Prince, chewing on the last gristly bits of toad, "...my nephew's economic circumstances are not equal to the greatness of his name..." The last shreds of toad had been nastier than he had expected: but they had gone down too, in the end.

I also do wish that less of our imagery and metaphorical framing of life was in terms of fighting. I think it's limiting, to say the very least.

With this, I can agree. When you have a hammer everything becomes a nail. Whether it's the war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on gun violence, the war on human trafficking, the war on poverty, the war on terrorism, on and on. Often these wars are on symptoms, not the problems.

I also do wish that less of our imagery and metaphorical framing of life was in terms of fighting.

Gotta say, I find the battle imagery less noxious than imagining chewing up frogs and toads whole. (Even worse if still alive!) No accounting for taste, I guess.

Gandhi is an interesting case. He clearly preferred non-violent means, for both practical and moral reasons. But he also thought violence was justifiable, when it was necessary for self-defense.

Even MLK carried a gun.

Gandhi's luck was that he was resisting Britain, not the Soviet Union or some other totalitarian state.

Many of the black civil rights protestors had guns. The idea was to be able to live through the night so that you could engage in non-violent protest the next day.

Gandhi's luck was that he was resisting Britain

I think he was aware of that. Had he been up against, for example, Hitler, chances are he would not have taken a non-violent path.

The real line in the sand is: are you willing to die for what you believe.

I think the real line in the sand should be: are you willing to kill for what you believe?

Fun fact: Eisenhower's mother was a life-long pacifist.

Britain has a long history of letting its colonies go their own way if they kick up enough. But Gandhi espoused non-violence in South Africa also.

With this, I can agree. When you have a hammer everything becomes a nail. Whether it's the war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on gun violence, the war on human trafficking, the war on poverty, the war on terrorism, on and on. Often these wars are on symptoms, not the problems.

Agree with this from a rhetorical standpoint. The metaphor has a contingent effect on attitude and approach.

On the other hand, I think that the shift from the "War Department" to the "Department of Defense" helped in its own way to leave us with no peacetime left, which then transforms those other metaphors into forever wars with no victory conditions.

And it's really hard to resist thinking in terms of conflict and contest when there is a tradition of these sorts of metaphors baked into Western rhetoric since the Ancient Greeks and we have long favored persuasion over deliberation and empathic listening.

I think that (the reception, at least, of) Machiavelli and Clausewitz also had some effect on shifting political thinking towards models of conflict and contest.

Gandhi's luck was that he was resisting Britain, not the Soviet Union
...
I think he was aware of that.

He definitely was. And said so publicly. (Can't lay my finger on the quote just now. Sorry.)

When you have a hammer everything becomes a nail. Whether it's the war on crime, the war on drugs, the war on gun violence, the war on human trafficking, the war on poverty, the war on terrorism, on and on.

Although I do recall hearing calls for a "vaccine" against several of those. Usually in the metaphoric sense. But once or twice meant literally. So, a medical analogy.

"war on X" is just easier to say and understand than "assorted policies of various efficacy collectively intended to eliminate X within a reasonable amount of time, budget permitting"

Had he been up against, for example, Hitler, chances are he would not have taken a non-violent path.

Gandhi repeatedly recommended non-violence to Jews in Nazi Germany.

When you have a hammer everything becomes a nail.

Yes, that tendency often has me resist always turning to libertarian solutions...

But libertarians prefer jeweler's hammers used by individuals rather than jackhammers used by the government...

libertarians prefer jeweler's hammers used by individuals rather than jackhammers used by the government..

And are prepared to use jackhammers to get the rest of us to share their preferences. Which wouldn't be so irritating, if every attempt at coercion wasn't accompanied by loud auto-praises for their virtue . . . in opposing coercion by others.

When and how have libertarians tried to use coercion for any reason?

https://modeledbehavior.wordpress.com/tag/robert-nozick/

Gandhi repeatedly recommended non-violence to Jews in Nazi Germany.

I stand corrected. Probably a bad call, on his part. My opinion, obviously.

But libertarians prefer jeweler's hammers used by individuals rather than jackhammers used by the government

all good, if what you're hammering is jewels.

When and how have libertarians tried to use coercion for any reason?

They don't have to. Most of them live in societies with governments, which handle that for them.

Or, what lj said.

My opinion, obviously.

Not just yours.

Gandhi's luck was that he was resisting Britain, not the Soviet Union or some other totalitarian state.

The Soviet Union - and most of the Warsaw pact regimes - wasn't brought down by violence but by economical collapse.

Gandhi repeatedly recommended non-violence to Jews in Nazi Germany.

I stand corrected. Probably a bad call, on his part.

Violent Jewish opposition to the Nazi regime was quite rare and of some symbolic value - which is not to be underestimated - but also ineffective and counter-productive.

There is no reason to assume that violent resistance was superior to non-violent resistance.

Violent Jewish opposition to the Nazi regime was quite rare and of some symbolic value - which is not to be underestimated - but also ineffective and counter-productive.

Raul Hilberg, in The Destruction of the European Jews, argued that a component of the Holocaust was the Jewish acceptance/acquiescence to pograms which contributed to a paralysis when confronted by the Holocaust. Obviously, this is one of the reasons why Hilberg's book received some pushback, because some took it as Jews carried some blame for what befell them. But some of the examples of how Jewish communities would simply weather the killings and attacks because of the belief that regardless what happened, the community would survive. While one could pose the counterfactual of organized Jewish resistance to the Holocaust, it would have gone against 2000+ years of cultural training.

When and how have libertarians tried to use coercion for any reason?

contracts are enforced in Libertyville, yes ?

As indeed are property rights.

here's some Democratic messaging i can get behind:

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene got into a heated Twitter exchange this week, exposing the deep anger still roiling the ranks of Congress after the Capitol riot on January 6.

After Greene, the freshman Republican from Georgia who's embraced a host of far-right conspiracy theories, called her Democratic colleagues "the enemy within" in a tweet on Sunday, Gallego said Greene was aligned with the Capitol rioters.

"I was trying to figure what type of pen to stab your friends with if they overran us on the floor of the House of Representatives while trying to conduct a democratic transition of power," Gallego said. "So please shut your seditious, Qanon loving mouth when it comes to who loves America."

ineffective and counter-productive.

I’m not sure how to make sense of this. With no wish or intent to second-guess the actions of Jewish people in Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s, I’m at a loss to see how resistance would have made their situation worse.

I’m at a loss to see how resistance would have made their situation worse.

me, too. cf warsaw ghetto uprising.

russell, second guess away.

I’m at a loss to see how resistance would have made their situation worse.

Quite.

"So please shut your seditious, Qanon loving mouth when it comes to who loves America."

Very satisfying, cleek, I do agree. There's a time and a place for civility, and talking to MTG when she calls the Dems "the enemy within" is not it.

I’m at a loss to see how resistance would have made their situation worse.

It certainly wouldn't have made any difference to those who died.

And if the resistance had been effective enough (esp. if, say, the German left and other targeted groups had organized together in opposition before the Nazis even got off the ground), we might be looking at a very different world.

But there is maybe a little tickle of the fundamental anti-fascist paradox here: resist too early, or too vigorously and somehow you're the bad guy.

Up to a point, the more prompt, organized and effective the resistance, the more it would just have handed the Nazis better propaganda weapons. After all, what would you have them do, surrender to the crazy antifa terrorists?

resist too early, or too vigorously and somehow you're the bad guy.

as soon as people can see into the future, this will no longer be a problem.

On occasion in the Weimar republic the nazis and the communists joined forces against the real enemy: the social democrats. They also together had enough votes in parliament to block any effective government, although neither had a majority to govern (what the GOP does by using the filibuster).
The police was conservative far right and had in some cases direct orders to look the other way as far as streetfighting was concerned. And at least the nazis were open (Hitler personally kicked some SA thugs out of the party when they did not wear uniform during a 'roughing-up' operation). And the nazis had access to military gear through SA chied Ernst Röhm who was the main organizer of the military operation to hide weapons form the allied control commissions (bans on small arms possession by civilians were imposed by the allied powers through the German parliament).
In other words, the nazis were armed in advance and had support from both the armed forces and the police (and large parts of the state bureaucracy). They had no scruples to work together with other extremists (their official archenemies) against the democratic forces. Good luck countering something like that.
Once in power they were willing and able to crush any resistance (organised or not) and used any act of resistance as an excuse to escalate the violence further. Only the armed forces had a chance to successfully act. In 1938 Munich unknowingly sabotaged a military coup (it was called off since after Hitler's unexpected success the conspirators assumed that it would make them look like the bad guys). Numerous small scale plots failed due to Hitler's paranoia and serial bad luck [like failing fuses on bombs]).
It took the combined powers of the US, the Soviets and Britain* to put an end to the whole affair. Btw, historians assume that a successful plot would have prevented really weeding out nazism as a major force and would have created a new stab-in-the-back narrative instead. Even the total defeat in WW2 left enough old Nazis in public positions that it took decades to deal with them and their poisonous influence.

*about everyone else had to rely on their support, so I leave them out here.

as soon as people can see into the future, this will no longer be a problem.

Some people already can.

At least to the degree that I don't think anyone needed actual psychic powers to work out where the brownshirts and the organizers of the Beer Hall Putsch were going to be taking things if left unchecked.

But at the time the central figure seemed to be Ludendorff, the de facto military dictator after the Verdun disaster, not that little Austrian loudmouth. Ludendorff suffered even less consequences than Hitler (who got Festungshaft, a kind of imprisonment reserved for persons of honor, i.e. guys who had violated the law for honorable reasons).
It was assumed that this would put an end to his specific political movement, which was just a bit too vulgar and plebeian for the elite's taste (while many of its goals were seen as desirable).

resist too early, or too vigorously and somehow you're the bad guy.
...
as soon as people can see into the future, this will no longer be a problem.

On the evidence of America today, there are a substantial number of people who will simply refuse to see. Even when it's smacking them in the nose at close range. Not can't see, but won't see.

We poke fun at stories of people insisting that "covid is a hoax" even as it kills them. But they aren't as rare, especially in marginally weaker forms, as we would like to think. Suggests to me that the day it ceases to be a problem isn't close.

Thus, from the resident optimist. (Maybe I'm just having a bad morning...?)

But at the time the central figure seemed to be Ludendorff, the de facto military dictator after the Verdun disaster, not that little Austrian loudmouth.

Which may well have been true, at the time. It's not as if there was only one problematic figure in the era. Counterfactual fantasies are just that, but one can imagine that even in a world where a certain loud Austrian had been accidentally run down by a tram or something in the early 20s, a Ludendorff (or Röhm or Göring or...) might just have ended up in his place, taking things in a perhaps technically different, yet not altogether better direction.

They all needed to be countered.

(while many of its goals were seen as desirable).

That's probably the heart of the issue. Even if everyone could have seen into the future, there are many who'd be convinced only to redouble their efforts or adjust their tactics. Not reconsider their goals.

And it's really hard to resist thinking in terms of conflict and contest when there is a tradition of these sorts of metaphors baked into Western rhetoric since the Ancient Greeks and we have long favored persuasion over deliberation and empathic listening.

By the way, I meant to say earlier that I found this a very interesting comment, nous. It made me realise how ignorant I was of any actual ancient or other human cultures (which is to say, not sci-fi thought experiments) which did not have these sorts of concepts baked in. Can you give any examples? (Of course, as we all know, history is written by the victors...)

Not that sci-fi thought experiments are valueless, of course, I do see how having the concept could help one grope towards it IRL.

(Maybe I'm just having a bad morning...?)

No, it's not you. The times are out of joint.

And, for some, the joints are out time...

It made me realise how ignorant I was of any actual ancient or other human cultures (which is to say, not sci-fi thought experiments) which did not have these sorts of concepts baked in.

Good question.

With no wish or intent to second-guess the actions of Jewish people in Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s, I’m at a loss to see how resistance would have made their situation worse.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand - of course any type of armed opposition would have put people more at risk of detection and reprisals than they already were and minimized their chances of survival. That's why most people didn't do it.

And while I'm sure you don't have any ill will, I find these type of arguments not very sensitive to the people who had to endure these times. As lj mentioned it led to the supposition in some quarters that they were cowards. I find it a bit rich for us to romanticize armed resistance, assuming most of us have little first hand experience with truly life threatening situations and real violence.

In other words, the nazis were armed in advance and had support from both the armed forces and the police (and large parts of the state bureaucracy). They had no scruples to work together with other extremists (their official archenemies) against the democratic forces. Good luck countering something like that.

A playbook American fascists are following, step by step. They've taken over the GOP, they've infiltrated the military and police, and they have no scruples using splinter groups like the Green Party to split the opposition in elections.

I don't know why this is so hard to understand - of course any type of armed opposition would have put people more at risk of detection and reprisals than they already were and minimized their chances of survival. That's why most people didn't do it.

Well, there was some Jewish resistance, e.g. the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The submission to authority--any authority--phenomena is not unique to the Jews in Germany and Europe. There was no organized, armed resistance in the USSR to mass murder/gulags/etc. Ditto the PRC where invasion/murder/labor camps/genocide are matters of state policy. Also, N Korea. To a lesser extent, Cuba and Venezuela. Iran and Saudi Arabia have their own flavor.

It's the nature of dictatorships, which are a byproduct of ideology and not limited to any one ideology.

If the option is death by poisonous gas and you knew that was your fate, taking some bad guys with you makes sense. But, human nature being what it is, denial in the face of harsh reality was and is hardly unique. How many Jews got on trains believing they were going to be killed?

There is often discussion that a matriarchal society would embody different modes of discussion and debate. I'm not familiar with the anthropological literature, but the Hopi are often cited as a matriarchy, though you get into arguments about what exactly is a matriarchy is and what it entails. Older debates about women being closer to nature and men being technologically adept is pretty much baked into our cultural understanding I'd argue, which is why articles like these often appear

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/nov/02/viking-woman-warrior-face-reconstruction-national-geographic-documentary

George Lakoff, who was one of the founders of Conceptual Metaphor Theory, used the frame of argument as war as key evidence for the use of metaphor to shape our thoughts. In his early work, he suggested that we are not tied to this metaphor, we could just as easily have argument as a dance, but that seemed to give critics a foothold in arguing that metaphor theory was just anything you want it to be, so it no longer appears. CMT has been pretty well accepted in cognitive linguistics, (here's an article describing the aspect we are discussing here
http://web.pdx.edu/~cgrd/MultipleMeanings.htm

I tend to think, not with my hat of an academic who does metaphor but my more usual hat of a freshman in the dorm doing late night debates, that the frame of fighting and conflict as being any sort of interaction reflects a male-dominated society where child raising roles are primarily feminine. That's why Sheryl Sandberg feels she has to 'lean in'. Of course, if you start pointing out the examples, they multiply until the argument is 'if it were really true, don't you think other people would have noticed it'. But it is surprising what people can fail to notice. And how easy it is to be defensive when it is pointed out to them. I should have realized that Janie and my point revolved around how we viewed 'fighting', but the discussion itself was too engrossing.

Barbara Tuchman, in her "The Guns of August", describes the village of Onhaye that is above the Belgian city of Dinant.

Dinant straddles the Meuse river, Onhaye is on a high bluff overlooking Dinant.

In their graveyard, there are numerous markers with "Fusillé a la Boche"

Dated around 1914. And again in the 1940s.

(I've been through Onhaye many times, so the description stuck with me.)

Resistance can have a high price; it's not even clear that (in this case) there was significant resistance.

we could just as easily have argument as a dance

Decades ago, I did some teaching of a martial art. (Medieval European broadsword fighting, if you care.) The first three women students of mine that got really good had totally different approaches to fighting.

Hilary did, indeed, treat it as a dance. Anyone who assumed that it would make her a pushover got their head handed to them. It was just that she wasn't consumed with interest in who actually won a fight, she just wanted it to be done well.

Carol, in contrast, just really, really liked to fight. And Mary . . . basically liked to kill people. (The sport gave her a socially acceptable outlet for some issues.)

Still, anyone who thinks women wouldn't compete, and compete hard, if they were in charge probably needs to get out more. Perhaps not more physical fights, but every bit as many in other arenas. I think it's part of being human. Who knows why.

It made me realise how ignorant I was of any actual ancient or other human cultures (which is to say, not sci-fi thought experiments) which did not have these sorts of concepts baked in. Can you give any examples? (Of course, as we all know, history is written by the victors...)

Been meaning to get to this all day, but I had four hours of paper conferences preventing that.

I don't know that I can present any examples of a culture for which that militaristic metaphor of public discourse is absent. Mostly I was thinking about what sorts of, yes lj, conceptual metaphors are primary. I don't think it is too much of a stretch for me to say that most people of European cultural background (and many others as well) see rhetoric and writing as a way of changing other people's minds through the power of one's insight, logic, and communicative prowess. That's certainly the view of most of my students.

Few people think of public discourse as an exchange of words and ideas that allows one to find other ways of seeing and experiencing a problem to gain insight and a more productive, consensual understanding of a shared social world, even though those things also get articulated and have been a part of rhetoric since before Aristotle. We seek to move others to our position through strength or to resist the imposition of another's position on us. Rarely do we go in seeking to be moved and to revise our own cognitive footing.

I think we do get some places where we see such dynamics come to the fore - mostly in collective societies and intentional communities - but these societies are usually small and somewhat homogeneous.

Even though I wasn't suggesting the existence of a culture for which a dominance model was not the primary mode of public discourse, I did find this piece from New Scientist:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22071-inequality-why-egalitarian-societies-died-out/

These small-scale, nomadic foraging groups didn’t stock up much surplus food, and given the high-risk nature of hunting – the fact that on any given day or week you may come back empty-handed – sharing and cooperation were required to ensure everyone got enough to eat. Anyone who made a bid for higher status or attempted to take more than their share would be ridiculed or ostracised for their audacity. Suppressing our primate ancestors’ dominance hierarchies by enforcing these egalitarian norms was a central adaptation of human evolution, argues social anthropologist Christopher Boehm. It enhanced cooperation and lowered risk as small, isolated bands of humans spread into new habitats and regions across the world, and was likely crucial to our survival and success.

The surprise twist on the argument there is that "inequality did not spread from group to group because it is an inherently better system for survival, but because it creates demographic instability, which drives migration and conflict and leads to the cultural – or physical – extinction of egalitarian societies."

Not a comforting thought when we start to think that we have now reached a scale where migration does not relieve pressures any longer. We can't get away from each other or from competition for needed resources, so we'd best learn to cooperate and share and spread the wealth around. That means learning to listen for need and to put ourselves in the shoes of another.

nous, thank you very much for what looks at first speed-read a very interesting answer. I'd like to read it properly, and digest it, before asking or replying anything more, but as luck would now have it I'm going to have to be out of circulation for the next 15-20 hours. Will revert after that, but thanks again.

Still, anyone who thinks women wouldn't compete, and compete hard, if they were in charge probably needs to get out more.

This is probably the first place where the discussion can go off the rails. Saying that the more aggressive mode is inherent in the male and the more cooperative is for the female doesn't preclude, except by cultural conditioning, the opposite side from taking it on. It wouldn't be hard (unless you are Jordan Peterson) from imagining a society where the women give birth, hand the baby off to a waiting male and get on with the business of doing stuff to keep society running. Plenty of examples of women handing children off to wet-nurses after birth.

However, people tend to imagine that correlation is causation, so you inevitably get the thinking that traits that males always do are traits that are unavailable to females.

I recall (and this is from my own memory, so I may be exaggerating) a discussion here where someone observed that he was surprised I was a man cause I argued like a woman. I said thanks, I try and he was pretty horrified that I thought that was a good thing. I don't raise this to claim any kind of evolution on my part, I think that ideally, if you have as many modes of interaction available to you, you are going to do a lot better than if you only have one, but if you are going to think that one or the other is dependent on your plumbing, you are going to have even more problems.

Mostly I was thinking about what sorts of, yes lj, conceptual metaphors are primary.

a quick comment by me and back to the salt mines. My main subject is to teach Japanese students how to write in English. While a lot of that is grammar and vocabulary, there is also a very interesting challenge of telling students that something is grammatically fine, but is simply not used. For example, lots of Japanese essays start out with a question of the form xx gozonji desu ka? (the gozonji is the honorific form so you are essentially raising up the listener, which is why you get Charlie Chan saying things like 'Honorable xxx') I have to explain to students that using a question at the beginning in an English essay brings to mind a kindergarten teacher asking a display question. 'And Johnny, what did you bring to show and tell today?' (asked while Johnny is holding his model tank)

One remarkably difficult thing to get across is to get students to not use hesitations and softeners when making statements. "The scene shows how the writer sees the conflict, I think" A lot of academic writing is setting up a argument and you want to make your 'facts' non-negotiable. So this mode of discussion is really part and parcel of Western culture, which I, like nous, assume to have started with the Greeks.

Western culture, which I, like nous, assume to have started with the Greeks.

The Greeks are the oldest culture whose writings we never lost the ability to read. But the roots of Western culture go much further back. To Sumer that we know of (because we can once again read their writings). See, for a classic (mid last century) example, History Begins at Sumer.

The Greeks are the oldest culture whose writings we never lost the ability to read. But the roots of Western culture go much further back.

Yes. In history circles they talk about "the archive" and about "traces." I do not assume that rhetoric began with Aristotle, merely that Aristotle and Plato are the oldest extant sources that we have that discuss the topic in any sustained, systematic way.

I also associate these modes of discourse with the Ancient Greeks because so much of what did get preserved and passed on as intellectual tradition is militaristic in tone. Just look at the recorded speeches attributed to Pericles and such in The History of the Peloponnesian Wars. It's difficult to extract intellectual life in the polis from the concept of military service as the defining feature of membership in the polis.

It's one of the ironies of history that these texts were, for a time, lost and the intellectual traditions neglected until reintroduced by contact with Islamic scholars, whereupon Christendom took these texts and defined for themselves a neo-classical tradition rooted in defining themselves *against* the Islamic scholars who gave them back these texts.

I really wish that The Archive contained more of the works of the Sophists. What we have is just enough to imply that Plato and his proteges were not providing reliable testimony about their rivals.

nous, I've been catching up on the Pre-Socratics in recent months (see Philosophy Before Socrates, McKirnan; The First Philosophers, Oxford World's Classics, and the much more readable "The Dream of Reason" by Anthony Gottlieb) and it seems the academy has long left behind the pedagogical misdemeanor that Plato/Socrates were the last word on the Sophists, and each of the writers accords the Sophist school .... its surviving fragments .... its rightful space, just between you and me and James Carville.

And while I'm sure you don't have any ill will, I find these type of arguments not very sensitive to the people who had to endure these times.

Let me take a moment to try to be very clear.

I am not trying to second-guess the actions of Jewish people, or any other group of people, who were targeted by the Nazis in 30's and 40's Europe. Or, targeted by the Soviets, or the PRC, or Pol Pot, or the Hutus in Rwanda, or any other similar occasion of massive genocidal slaughter.

My point here is Gandhi's advice - go bravely to your death - was not particularly useful. In retrospect, it seems kind of fatuous.

To be honest, I'm not sure what strategy makes sense when your opponent has a freaking army, you don't, and they have decided that the only path forward is your extermination. Run away as fast as you can, if you can, perhaps, assuming you have somewhere to go. Which many of the folks we're talking about didn't.

The Jews of Europe in the mid-20th C were facing a nation - an armed, militant, industrial nation, a nation they thought they belonged to - that wanted to kill them. They didn't need advice, they needed somebody else with an army to help them.

Western culture

If by 'western culture' we mean a distinctly European culture, I'd say the roots go back to maybe the 8th C. 'The West' as a distinct cultural identity didn't really flower until the turn of the millenium. IMO.

I'm generally skeptical of the 'western civilization begins with the Greeks' narrative. A lot went on between now and then.

The Greeks is a useful fudge. We’ve got writings so we can talk about it. Absent writings, it becomes a lot more difficult.

On an ever so slightly related note Mark Ramseyer, last seen entangled with the comfort women issue, finds older articles cause problems as well

https://apjjf.org/2021/9/Neary.html

nooneithinkisinmytree - the Sophists have undergone a reconsideration and a rehabilitation. My friend Susan Jarratt has done a lot of that work in Rhetoric circles with her writing. The primary works, sadly, are mostly fragments and a lot of what we know of them has had to be inferred or reconstructed from secondary sources.

russell -I think you and lj and I are on the same page with the Ancient Greeks and Western Civ. We get there mostly through Aquinas' embrace of Aristotle as "The Philosopher" in the Summa, and with that he and Plato being adopted into the foundation of Christendom. And it is through the notion of Christendom that something like a concept of Europe and The West emerges through contrast with Islam and The Far East. The Greeks were reverse engineered to be Western.

At least that's close enough for blog work.

A lot of knowledge and technology was lost when Rome collapsed. How did that affect western civilization?

With the loss of a central government and the centralized fetters it placed on innovation through the yoke of standardization, the newly freed people went on to thrive in a golden age...

But seriously, question too big and too general to get much purchase on it, though it would probably launch several competing annotated bibliographies and regular skirmishes at the video conferences that followed in their wake.

I thought that was CharlesWT until I noticed there was no Reason link...

But the word 'lost' is like the word 'discover' in "Columbus discovered the New World". Setting aside Leif Erikson, the idea of discovering a place that is filled with people living there kind of begs the question.

One thing that 'the West' did was codify knowledge in a way that allowed it to be passed down, though they/we got lucky with the orthography used.

So while we can't make an Antikythera mechanism or recreate the Portland Vase, so it is possible to say those processes are lost to us, precisely what is lost is an interesting question.

The Greeks were reverse engineered to be Western.

That sounds about right.

Not just the Greeks, everyone is reversed engineered to be Western. Whether they want to be or not...

I've just started reading Richard Frank's Tower of Skulls, which essentially re-centres the WWII narrative in the East - and has it starting with the 1937 Japanese onslaught in China.

i just started 1491, which is a high-level survey of people in the Americas pre-Columbus.

i'm only like 30 pages in, but one thing stands out so far: a fallacy the author calls "Holmberg's Mistake". Holmberg was a young anthropologist in the early 1940s, who went to Bolivia to study a tribe of people who had very little Western contact. the author writes:

The Sirionó, Holmberg reported, were “among the most culturally backward peoples of the world.” Living in constant want and hunger, he said, they had no clothes, no domestic animals, no musical instruments (not even rattles and drums), no art or design (except necklaces of animal teeth), and almost no religion (the Sirionó “conception of the universe” was “almost completely uncrystallized”). Incredibly, they could not count beyond three or make fire (they carried it, he wrote, “from camp to camp in a [burning] brand”). Their poor lean-tos, made of haphazardly heaped palm fronds, were so ineffective against rain and insects that the typical band member “undergoes many a sleepless night during the year.” Crouched over meager campfires during the wet, buggy nights, the Sirionó were living exemplars of primitive humankind—the “quintessence” of “man in the raw state of nature,” as Holmberg put it. For millennia, he thought, they had existed almost without change in a landscape unmarked by their presence. Then they encountered European society and for the first time their history acquired a narrative flow.

"Holmberg's Mistake" though, was not figuring out that just 20 years prior smallpox and influenza had killed 95% of the Sirionó. and, on top of that, while the epidemics were raging, the Bolivian government and local cattle ranchers were hunting the Sirionó to use them as slaves.

so Holmberg was looking at a tattered remnant of a culture that had nearly been wiped out by Western diseases, then enslaved. those who survived the disease and weren't enslaved had been living on the run for decades. so, yeah, they were not anyone's idea of a thriving civilization at that point.

My point here is Gandhi's advice - go bravely to your death - was not particularly useful. In retrospect, it seems kind of fatuous

In 1946 Gandhi said of the holocaust

It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.....It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany.... As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.

That's worse than fatuous.

Hey, for the Greeks WE would have been the Western* (and Northern) barbarians. They were in the middle avoiding the bad extremes of the other peoples (cold brutes to the North, sly brownies to the South, uncivilized barbarians to the West, overcivilized (=decadent) barbarians to the East).

lj, 'lost' I think in the sense of 'lost recipe', i.e. the exact procedures died with the last practitioner or (less likely) the documents they were described on. Some techniques were also simply abandoned. In the special case of the coral red attic vases we know that they fell out of fashion** and there were different techniques to produce the effect*** (btw we find the same with the 17th century gold ruby glass). And that effect was less an 'invention' but a way to turn a classic failure in ceramic production into a new style (with several copycats jumping on the bandwagon). So, it was more a case of serendipity.
We (to-day) love those old pots and their artistry but the Greeks of the 2nd century BC obviously considered them old-fashioned crap.
We have not lost the ability to produce something like that itself****, we have to just relearn the techniques.

*the Romans included of course.
**as did the whole idea of the 'colors of clay' a few centuries later.
***by analyzing the products from different potters we can detect specific differences.
****caveat: some antique techniques cannot be reactivated because they relied on specific natural raw materials that ran out already in antiquity.

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