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May 03, 2021

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btw, it's a good thing there's n such thing as systemic racism:

Last year, Duffy decided to jump in on the hot housing market and refinance her home in a historically Black neighborhood just outside downtown Indianapolis. Duffy planned to use her equity to purchase her grandparents’ home nearby.

After two home appraisals came back at or below the price she paid for the home in 2017, Duffy thought something was wrong.

“When I challenged it, it came back that the appraiser said they’re not changing it,” Duffy said.

After Duffy saw FHCCI Executive Director Amy Nelson speak to a community group about discrimination in housing appraisals, where she pointed to a recent New York Times article about the issue, she decided to try her own test.

“I decided to do exactly what was done in the article,” Duffy said. “I took down every photo of my family from my house. … I took every piece of ethnic artwork out, so any African artwork, I took it out. I displayed my degrees, I removed certain books.”

Duffy asked a white male friend to sit in on the home appraisal and did not declare her race in her application or communications with the appraisal company. The new appraisal came back at more than double the first two, valuing her home more than $100,000 higher.

btw, it's a good thing there's n such thing as systemic racism:

Pull the appraiser’s license. That will make the point.

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

That kind of goes back to the question about what "western civilization" is anyway.

When "Rome collapsed", most of Roman civilization was still humming along just fine. The Roman Empire didn't even technically cease to exist as a thing until the middle of the 15th century, and even then its collective knowledge and technology didn't simply vanish, but were subsumed by the Ottomans and other successors.

also, Zoe Lofgren's compilation of Republican House member's comments about their efforts to overturn the 2020 election is pretty amazing. no editorializing or interpreting or speculation, just 1900+ pages of screencaps of Tweets and FB posts.

and the GOP so hates that she made it that they've filed a ridiculous complaint against her for simply quoting them.

Out of circulation for longer than I thought, and a long and trying day - thank God now over. Will catch up tomorrow.

the GOP so hates that she made it that they've filed a ridiculous complaint against her for simply quoting them.

It's not just that a member filed a complaint. It's that their leadership went out and actively solicited said complaint.

I suppose it's too much to hope that they are doing this because they are embarrassed by what they said. But maybe they think that perhaps they should be...? Nah.

they just need to keep the faithful outraged.

Dems did something? file a complaint! crow about the complaint! [don't tell anyone what the complaint is actually about.]

"No one expected WW3 to start this way." - anonymous person from the future

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna1266480

The Next 10 Years War!

omg. i swear that was 100, not 10. when i clicked Post.

i swear that was 100, not 10. when i clicked Post.

Not a bad idea to start small, and work up to it.

Wars are just faster now. Well, except in Afghanistan.

Well, except in Afghanistan.

Yeah, there are people serving in Afghanistan who hadn't been born when it started.

"No one expected WW3 to start this way."

Free the sea bass!!

We've moved on a bit, but this, in relation to the Holocaust, might be related

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/may/06/guardian-200-ad-that-saved-jewish-father-from-nazis

In what I think is her angriest and most polemic work, the novelette "The Word For World Is Forest", Ursula LeGuin depicted a matriarch-led society that does not have war. First published by Harlan Ellison in one of his early-1970s Dangerous Visions anthologies.

Joel, thanks for the reminder about that story.
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/ursula-k-le-guin-the-word-for-world-is-forest-1

Her dad was a anthropologist (and a linguist!), Alfred Louis Kroeber, who worked with Ishi, the last member of the Yahi tribe.

Someone, I think nous on another thread discussing universities requiring COVID vaccinations, mentioned offering a monetary benefit to maximize compliance among students. Here it is:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/rowan-university-offering-1-000-012122603.html

I didn't know that particular Le Guin story, and will look forward to reading it, but I was of course familiar with the phenomenon of sci-fi thought experiments seeking to imagine societies without those metaphors (and aggressive impulses) baked in. And, pre-historically, I seem to remember something of the same kind of matriarchal idea in Gunther Grasse's The Flounder, which I read decades ago.

When reading nous’s New Scientist link (which I found fascinating), my recurring thought was “Why is inequality and lack of cooperation in apportioning resources (as long as there are adequate resources) deemed automatically to imply innate models or metaphors of conquest, or battle? (In my admitted ignorance of much of political and economic theory, I'm guessing this is a consequence of a roughly Marxist analysis?) The only explicit answer was in this:

population growth meant we needed more food, so we turned to agriculture, which led to surplus and the need for managers and specialised roles, which in turn led to corresponding social classes. Meanwhile, we began to use up natural resources and needed to venture ever further afield to seek them out. This expansion bred conflict and conquest, with the conquered becoming the underclass.

And actually, I still don’t think it’s necessarily an obvious or automatic transition from one to the other (although you can certainly see how it can/could be).

Anyway, you (nous) certainly answered my question about any human cultures (which had left traces) which did not use these particular metaphors.
I knew ancient Chinese culture did use them, and sort of assumed MesoAmerican ones and South Pacific ones did. I’m not even going to get into anything to do with the discussion of Greece, the ancient philosophers, Rome, Christianity etc. I don’t know enough, but I will say this:

nous, reading you (and lj actually) sometimes makes me wish I hadn’t dropped out of college, and that I still had the concentration and the mental wherewithal to read serious books about this stuff. I hope you take this as the compliment I mean it to be.

Other than the above, I just wanted to say FWIW that when I read your following two paras, I thought: I see discussion (with friends, and the sort we have here) as being both these things (my bolded sections), at different times.

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.

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. 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.

Italiexo!

Meanwhile, we began to use up natural resources and needed to venture ever further afield to seek them out. This expansion bred conflict and conquest, with the conquered becoming the underclass.

And actually, I still don’t think it’s necessarily an obvious or automatic transition from one to the other (although you can certainly see how it can/could be).

I seem to recall (a lot of?) historical examples of upper classes obsessively competing for status and/or power, rather than natural resources. If anything, their wars were net absorbers of natural tesources. Even for the victors.

Certainly there have been wars and conquests to gain natural resources. But are they even a majority? I wouldn't be surprised if there were as many where to leader was simply looking for some way to keep upper class young men out of mischief in the immediate neighborhood.

wj - my sense of what's driving some of the speculation in that article is that the methodology is less history and more primatology (or even primate anthropology or ethnoprimatology). The theory being outlined in that article is likely less informed by historical studies and more informed by anthropological observations of human and primate hunter gatherer societies, trying to make sense of the social interactions writ large, and wary of the distorting effects of the observer's preconceptions.

Returning to lj's invocation of conceptual metaphors, a lot of early primatology was built upon anthropomorphizing primate social groups using late 19th C. social theory as a template. It's a sort of impressionistic approach that can quickly run afoul of confirmation bias.

We can look through historical accounts to see what the recorders have to say about the events, but those historical accounts probably need to be tempered by the views from these other fields that are less embedded in cultural narratives and measures of self-justification.

Modern primatology/anthropology is pretty fascinating, and it's had a profound effect on humanistic studies of history and literature, helping to really test and stretch a lot of the status-quo ideas about society and gender roles and the like.

I've always wondered if Jane Goodall could keep a straight face at a cocktail party...

The theory being outlined in that article is likely less informed by historical studies and more informed by anthropological observations of human and primate hunter gatherer societies

In my observation (mostly from when I was picking up an MA in Anthropology, which admittedly was a while back), one of the greatest weaknesses of the social sciences is that they don't much cross check each other. Someone from one field may go to another for insights to kick-start a new theory. But go to another for data to test a theory? Far more unusual.

Which has resulted in a proliferation of ideas which everybody in another field knows conflict with widely known (in that other field) data. Most social scientists are well aware of the problem when it comes to social sciences other than their own. Not sure how much attention the issue is getting these days.

Certainly there have been wars and conquests to gain natural resources. But are they even a majority? I wouldn't be surprised if there were as many where to leader was simply looking for some way to keep upper class young men out of mischief in the immediate neighborhood.

Or simply for status. I can't see how a bronze age king conquering a neighboring city state ever really made any kings or cities better off in any material way*. What it did mean was the king could say he was a bigger king of two city states now. Power for power's sake.

There's a striking parallel there with modern day politicians, CEOs and the like, always grasping for more wealth and power, long past the point where any material need or want they might have is fully satisfied.

----
* There's loot, but I'm not sure having a second treasury would really make the king himself much better off than the one he already had, not worth the risk anyway. What might be more important are the one-time gains the tiers of retainers just below the king make out of the deal.

(I suppose there's also a geopolitical calculus -- conquering territory might give you a bigger buffer against hostile neighbors, and a bigger army in the future. But that's really a second-order response, you have to already be worried the other guy has motivation to do it first.)

There's a striking parallel there with modern day politicians, CEOs and the like, always grasping for more wealth and power, long past the point where any material need or want they might have is fully satisfied.

It does make you wonder why some of the super rich get so exercised about their taxes. They aren't going to take any real-world material hit from a higher top marginal tax rate. And, as long as they made the money, they can still tout their income to their peers (the only actual utility for it).

There's loot, but I'm not sure having a second treasury would really make the king himself much better off than the one he already had, not worth the risk anyway.

And he may have been net worse off for having it. The Spanish and Portuguese colonial powers found out that having more gold and silver does not correspondingly make you wealthier. They hauled tons of it back to Europe and their economies crashed while their northern neighbors got wealthier.

Meanwhile, we began to use up natural resources and needed to venture ever further afield to seek them out.

What resources? And what's the evidence for it?

I'd have thought that the natural explanation would that the success of agricultural societies led to growing populations which wanted more land to live in.

IIRC, there are some archaeological hints of egalitarian and (perhaps) more peaceful societies in the distant past. Like the Çatalhöyük settlement or the mysterious cities of the so-called Indus Valley Civilization.

The speculation about egalitarianism being a sort of more-desirable, but unstable equilibrium is fascinating. It seems self-evidently true, it's largely just a question of how do we get (back?) to that from here.

I read a sci-fi short-story long ago which deeply affected me, though I can't remember the title or author. The gist was that this one society had advanced material science to the limit, and proceeded to go out on a conquering spree, as you do. It was all a great success until they ran into a seemingly peaceful society that had developed the social and psychological sciences to the utmost instead. At which point there was no contest.

Obviously the first society is us.

I'm not sure I'd say we haven't developed the technology of social organization at all -- joint stock corporations and continent-spanning democracies are pretty sophisticated in some ways. But I suspect they'll look like paleolithic hand-axes to our descendants a few thousands years hence (if we make it that far).

It's pretty telling, for example, that psychopathic personalities seem to be at least an order of magnitude more common in leadership roles than in the general population. We're really not doing that right.

It does make you wonder why some of the super rich get so exercised about their taxes.

Some may see taxes as reducing their agency to do the next big thing.

There's a striking parallel there with modern day politicians, CEOs and the like, always grasping for more wealth and power, long past the point where any material need or want they might have is fully satisfied.

One thing to keep in mind here is that modern pols and CEOs live in a globalized media environment and socialize with other people in similar circumstances. The degree to which this is true of more ancient civilizations is something to be considered.

Who is the person trying to seek status from? What are the benefits of status to that person?

Also, when these studies talk about cooperation vs competition, they are talking about a much earlier stage than the Bronze Age. More like the Neolithic and Çatalhöyük, as you mention.

Last bit to throw into the mix here - it may be helpful to think of conceptual metaphors as a type of technology as well. Not sure where that idea is going yet, but it's percolating in the back of my mind as I try to work through all this.

I seem to recall (a lot of?) historical examples of upper classes obsessively competing for status and/or power, rather than natural resources. If anything, their wars were net absorbers of natural tesources. Even for the victors.

I think one has to take into account the mindset and beliefs (real or stated) of the actors. Even today we have 'wars pay for themselves' proclamations (e.g. before the last Iraq war). In classical Rome agriculture got fetishized as the sole honest source of income (and the influence derived therefrom). And while it was a losing strategy in the long run, Rome actually needed parts of its expansion to gain access to new resources to feed the city (Sicily first, later Egypt became the breadbasket of Rome and any interruption of the grain flow risked violent revolution).
Of course 'glory' cannot be discounted as another important factor (although that could turn out as perishable a good as foodstuffs).

In my observation (mostly from when I was picking up an MA in Anthropology, which admittedly was a while back), one of the greatest weaknesses of the social sciences is that they don't much cross check each other. Someone from one field may go to another for insights to kick-start a new theory. But go to another for data to test a theory? Far more unusual.

In the case of what's called "The Anthropological Turn" in the humanities, it was less about borrowing concepts and case studies and more about trying to apply methodologies to new areas of social interaction. For example, in my writing class I talk about ethnography and Geertz idea of "thick description" and try to get my students to think about a) the cultures and folkways that they are navigating as they try to make meaning b) the cultures and folkways of the people they are writing to, and c) the shared ground between those two that can be used to negotiate shared meaning in the face of difference. Likewise, when I do literary research, I try to think about the cultural structures and the historical contexts that shape both the production(s) of and the reception(s) of particular literary texts, and how meaning shifts as the contexts change.

I try to avoid borrowing x concept from y culture to explain something elsewhere.

What might be more important are the one-time gains the tiers of retainers just below the king make out of the deal.

Yes, that model also describes Scandinavian chieftains and Mongolian khans very well. The boss needed a constant supply of loot to keep his retinue happy. Norse poetry is full of that, chiefs praised as givers of rings or enemies of gold (because they gave it to their men instead of keeping it for themselves).

Some may see taxes as reducing their agency to do the next big thing.

They might see things that way, I suppose. But it would be more plausible if there was a track record of wealth producing "the next big thing" any more often than far more modest circumstances. Indeed, there isn't much of a track record of them even trying to create something innovative. (Excluding financial innovation targeting tax avoidance.)

I'd have thought that the natural explanation would that the success of agricultural societies led to growing populations which wanted more land to live in.

I'd sort of assumed that this [more land to live in] is what was meant by venturing further afield to find more resources.

The degree to which this is true of more ancient civilizations is something to be considered.

The bronze age Eastern Med./Near East, at least, was actually strikingly globalized, in the era preceding the bronze age collapse. Lots of trade, diplomatic communication, etc.

I'm not sure what archaeological evidence is available in other regions and eras, but I'd be surprised if there were any ancient civilizations that were truly isolated from or unaware of their neighbors, to the extent that technology allowed. We tend to underestimate our predecessors, or assume that "no evidence = no activity", but it's not really true at all.

Also, when these studies talk about cooperation vs competition, they are talking about a much earlier stage than the Bronze Age. More like the Neolithic and Çatalhöyük, as you mention.

Oh yes. It's pretty clear that by the bronze age, or even late neolithic, whatever widespread egalitarian societies might have existed were long gone. (With the possible exception of the Indus Valley, I suppose.) To the extent the timeline is similar in the Americas, Africa and the Pacific, maybe we could shed some light on whether there's some connection to e.g., the rise of agriculture.

There's a theory I've heard, as sketchy as it is interesting, that at least the particular patriarchal brand of hierarchy in Europe and the Near East might have been an import. Probably from the Eurasian steppes. I think maybe its even supposed to be a wave of conquest co-incident with the one that brought in proto-Indo-European.

Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and
Richard Branson are examples of the very wealthy using their wealth to do the next big thing.

Musk, certainly. Branson tried, but wasn't particularly successful as regards new technology (as opposed to a new pricing model).

Bezos? Maybe. Gates? Did something new with Microsoft (when he wasn't particularly rich); but since?

It maybe be noteworthy that the folks agitating most against higher top end taxes, e.g the Koches or the Mercers, are doing nothing like.

Gates? Did something new with Microsoft (when he wasn't particularly rich); but since?

Bill's next big thing might be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. And Melinda's next big thing is walking away from Bill with half of their joint millions.

Some may see taxes as reducing their agency to do the next big thing.

when in fact their taxes are being used to create the environment in which the next big thing can be created.

see a lot of innovation in Somalia?

Bill's next big thing might be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Counterfactuals are, admittedly, quite hard, but Bill Gates basically bought an operating system from somebody else and signed an agreement to provide it to IBM, thereby spring-boarding to immense wealth.

Our computing culture would have pretty much gotten to where we are today without Bill Gates.

So I guess it all comes down to what, exactly, constitutes "the next big thing."

The bronze age Eastern Med./Near East, at least, was actually strikingly globalized, in the era preceding the bronze age collapse. Lots of trade, diplomatic communication, etc.

I'd heard a bit of this from people with a stronger background in the period than my own dabbling. (I try to draw parallels to Settlement Era Iceland for comparison to get me on the page). I know there was economic exchange and diplomacy and cultural contact, I'm just not sure how much of that turns into something like today's media driven mass culture. The connections are there, but the speeds of exchange of information are much slower. I'd expect that the slowness of information would make local competition for status more primary than more distant status.

Bill's next big thing might be the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Charities funded by rich guys go back (at least) to Carnegie and Rockefeller over a century ago. Nothing "next" here.

And Melinda's next big thing is walking away from Bill with half of their joint mbillions

Three orders of magnitude is not small change.

*****

Addition to one of the themes above: the potlatch.

B&MGF is much more of a participatory charity than traditional charities have been.

I'd never heard of the Çatalhöyük before. The Wikipedia page is fascinating.

Çatalhöyük and Gimbutas' theories about its society played a big role in Second Wave feminism (along with Eisler's writing about Minoan Crete). I'm not up to date on the back and forth over how much of their work is supported or challenged by current archaeological evidence.

And while thinking about these matters, I wondered about Aboriginal Australian culture. Obviously there's nothing written, but their oral tradition is believed, I think, to be many thousands of years old, and I see from Wikipedia that at the time of initial European settlement there were 250 Aboriginal languages spoken. I wonder if there is any indication of warlike stories, myths etc between the various first peoples? Or did the fact that (I think) they did not have fixed settlements, but moved around, tend to preclude the sort of concepts of aggression and battle that we were talking about?

I'd expect that the slowness of information would make local competition for status more primary than more distant status.

You could probably argue that's true even today. How much is a big time Wall Street finance guy really competing for status with, say, Russian oligarchs, rather than just the other Wall Street finance bros whose parties he goes to.

On the other hand, there are an awful lot of old clay tablets that start out with some line like "XYZ, king of kings, undefeated conqueror of P and Q and R..."

They were bragging to somebody.

They were bragging to somebody.

Having said that, I'm not actually sure status and competition are the same thing.

On some level, I think the point is that this is purely pathological.

The king of two cities who wants to be king of three cities isn't necessarily even doing it because he's heard some other king has three cities already. He's just doing it because he wants to be king of three cities, dammit. And then four. Ditto for a guy who's already got $100 billion dollars more than anyone else in the world but figures might as well make it $200 billion.

The king of two cities who wants to be king of three cities isn't necessarily even doing it because he's heard some other king has three cities already. He's just doing it because he wants to be king of three cities, dammit. And then four. Ditto for a guy who's already got $100 billion dollars more than anyone else in the world but figures might as well make it $200 billion.

For some people, "enough" is a null concept. If psychology doesn't have a diagnosis for those who simply cannot even imagine being satisfied, it ought to.

Gimbutas'

Ah! That's what I was thinking of re: the importation of patriarchy.

I stumbled across a sort of retrospective seminar thing on Youtube a while back. I think my takeaway was that the archaeological support hasn't really moved much either way. The period in question is so far back that speculation still very much rules the day. Barring some really lucky or spectacular find, that'll probably be true for the foreseeable future.

From the wikipedia page

Mellaart, the original excavator, argued that these well-formed, carefully made figurines, carved and molded from marble, blue and brown limestone, schist, calcite, basalt, alabaster, and clay, represented a female deity. [...]
Whereas Mellaart excavated nearly two hundred buildings in four seasons, the current excavator, Ian Hodder, spent an entire season excavating one building alone. [...] Instead of a Mother Goddess culture, Hodder points out that the site gives little indication of a matriarchy or patriarchy.

This is not as a counter to anything anyone said here, just the whole 'you can go fast or you can go slow' came to mind here.

And "current thinking rejects" can change back, if you wait long enough. I was going to use as an example way back how "Coming of Age in Samoa" had been largely discredited, but I see now that the discrediting has not necessarily held up.

There are always agendas at work in these scholarship trends.

Here's a pretty thorough taste of the back and forth on Gimbutas' work from an advocate of hers: http://www.archaeomythology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Spretnak-Journal-7.pdf

I'd last followed up on any of this about 20 years ago, so I'm glad I withheld any judgment. I don't have enough expertise to pronounce on the subject.

One thing that has shaped the way I write, especially here, is that I will 'know' something and in checking it out, I'll find that things have flipped or something has been overlooked or whatever. I've posted about Ötzi here, and I spent a lot of time reading about him and what was presumed to happen to him. However, when I returned to write a blog post, a combination of new tech, new findings and reinterpreted evidence made those early presumptions untenable.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/scientists-reconstruct-otzi-iceman-final-climb
https://sites.google.com/site/otzitheiceman2013/4-different-theories

A useful reminder to avoid dogmatism.

And thanks for that article, nous. My reading has overlapped slightly with that thru Colin Renfrew, who is mentioned in the article.

Renfrew is someone who has complained that 'Most of the well-respected linguists are specialists perhaps in a single language family. ' and who claim (according to him) that 'The criticisms made of them (by well respected linguists) seem to me sometimes not very valid- they're expressed as a principle which is that you can't go beyond 5,000 years.'

https://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/renfrew/renfrew_p3.html

Unfortunately, it is not a 'principle' it is an acknowledgement that the evidence going that far back has to be much stronger. Finding pairs of words that seem similar in the absence of meaningful patterns is just asking confirmation bias to pull up a chair. And linguists complained that Renfrew cherry picked his information to push his theories.

Renfrew, along with Cavilli-Sforza, who used population genetics, proposed a rethinking of IE pre-history and they were interesting proposals, so it is really sad that much of what was interesting was subsumed in pissing contests. And even sadder that an argument in one place would spread out to effect other domains.

B&MGF is much more of a participatory charity than traditional charities have been.

Give me the hands off approach of the Ford Foundation any day. The Gates version seems to be rather ideological in its "participatory" approach (cf their educational "charity"). Unfortunately it is an ideology that is not anything near what I would find much to agree with.

The fact that all of that wealth is essentially based on a government granted monopoly only makes it more galling. Give me the Rockefeller thuggery any day.

The fact that all of that wealth is essentially based on a government granted monopoly only makes it more galling.

Surely I am not the only one to have noticed that, when IBM effectively had a monopoly on commercial mainframe computers, the Federal government forced them to let other companies (c.f. Amdahl) offer the same operating system independently. Yet somehow, Apple seems to have been construed as adequate competition for Microsoft, even though their OS won't run most of the same applications. Odd, that.

The bronze age Eastern Med./Near East, at least, was actually strikingly globalized, in the era preceding the bronze age collapse. Lots of trade, diplomatic communication, etc.

civilizations across the Americas at the time were interconnected, too. there were continent-spanning trade networks, war, peace, diplomacy, etc..

as far as writing goes, the Maya had it but then lost it, when their civilization started to collapse (possibly thanks to extended drought, plus war). but, Mayan craftspeople were still carving the glyphs into rocks - they just didn't know what the glyphs meant. so late-era Mayan writing is often sheer nonsense.

Yet somehow, Apple seems to have been construed as adequate competition for Microsoft, even though their OS won't run most of the same applications.

Interestingly, when mobile devices are included, Linux is now the clear winner globally -- more devices in use and more than 50% of new sales. Two thirds of the global server market is Linux. All of the top 500 super computers in the world use Linux. Chromebook sales globally (also Linux underneath) recently passed Macs. I recently read a piece about Pixar. The business side uses a mix of Macs and Windows. Everyone who touches the 3D production chain is running a Linux box.

A couple of months ago the increasingly difficult position Apple had put me in for maintaining the software environment I want came to a head. I bought a relatively inexpensive little box to replace my Mini, loaded Linux on it, and that's my current main machine. I've used Unix at least part time since 1979, and Linux since 1992, so it wasn't that big a deal to set things up the way I want. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who wants a tightly integrated system, but it's a good fit for me.

On the Mac, I kept a VirtualBox virtual machine with Windows 10 loaded, in case there was some situation where I absolutely, positively had to use a bit of Windows software. The VM moved flawlessly to the new Linux box.

Gimbutas

I'm familiar with Gimbutas through the advocacy of the late Layne Redmond, who was an outstanding drummer and just a generally remarkable human being. Redmond found her way to Gimbutas' work through her own research into archaic traditions of women drummers, primarily frame drums, which was her own instrument. Redmond's hypothesis is that the drumming traditions were part of rituals associated with the cult of Cybele and related female deities. For a lot of her career she maintained a troupe of women drummers who re-enacted their understanding of archaic rituals around transforming consciousness and energy.

Sometimes I think the more we know, the less we know. We all comb history in an effort to understand ourselves.

Russell, ha! More of that 'Goddess movement' crap! [/deep and unrelenting sarcasm]

One of the best things about knowing more about the past is finding things that are useful in the present. I'll bet she got a fair share of crap about what she was doing. From nous' article

Finally, Gimbutas’ conclusions about Old Europe as a matristic but balanced (roughly egalitarian) civilization was apparently enough to set off alarm bells in the psyche of many male archaeologists and journalists, who reacted with angry charges such as “A Sexist View of Prehistory” (Brian Fagan) and “Gynosupremacism” (a journalist writing in the Chicago Tribune). Visceral feelings about the utter rightness of patriarchal culture and a male godhead are apparently no more uncommon in archaeology than elsewhere.

The bronze age Eastern Med./Near East, at least, was actually strikingly globalized, in the era preceding the bronze age collapse. Lots of trade, diplomatic communication, etc.

I know nothing about the period, but this article on weighing technology and proto-money suggests something about both the extent and speed of cultural communication.
https://phys.org/news/2021-05-scrap-cash-bronze-age-witnessed.html

One thing that has shaped the way I write, especially here, is that I will 'know' something and in checking it out, I'll find that things have flipped ...
This.

Just in case anyone missed this post from last year
https://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2020/06/1177-bc-the-year-civilization-collapsed.html

I linked to this lecture about bronze age globalization and collapse
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRcu-ysocX4

This article and attached discussions address some of the aspects of my question up-thread about how the Roman collapse affected western civilization.

"Commonly known history states that after the fall of the Roman Empire Western Europe went into a backward period of the dark ages not fully recovering until the renaissance. If so how was this Roman knowledge lost from the West for so long? Or is this understanding of history wrong?"
How was knowledge ‘lost’ after the fall of Rome?

An important part in loss of written knowledge was the bottleneck of transcription from papyrus scrolls to parchment codices. Almost everything that did not make the transfer from one medium to the other got lost.

CharlesWT - I find it astonishing that the author of that post made only one passing reference to slavery in the whole of the discussion. Most modern historians seem to agree that the decline in administration and of big public works coincides with the collapse of the slave economy in Rome.

So one answer to your question might be that the knowledge and practices that people celebrate as the glory of Rome were not sustainable without the institution of slavery and imperial expansion, and the shift to a more local mode of organization on a feudal model was what could be sustained.

So one answer to your question might be that the knowledge and practices that people celebrate as the glory of Rome were not sustainable without the institution of slavery and imperial expansion

Although in that case it would be worth asking, is it that the economy could not be sustained without slavery and/or conquest (with then-available technology)? Or just that making the transition proved beyond their abilities?

I don't know enough about the technological changes between Imperial Rome and the end of the feudal period to Europe to say. Pretty sure, for example, that Rome didn't have wind power for grain mills and such. But whether that was the critical difference, I just don't know.

I do know that, in some cases of economic and cultural change, the critical difference is the inability to make (often, the inability to see the need/desirability for making) the change to a visible alternative condition. Just look at Russia's recurring failure to catch their economy up to Western Europe's. It's not that they don't know how the end point works. It's that they can't see how to, or just don't want to, get there from where they are.

It's that they can't see how to, or just don't want to, get there from where they are.

In part, for the ruling elites, it may be a matter of "Better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven."

In part, for the ruling elites, it may be a matter of "Better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven."

And, in current Russia, in part a matter of "I can retire in the West anyway. Quite comfortably, with my ill-gotten gains." Putin isn't the only oligarch with hundreds of millions stashed outside Russia.

Just look at Russia's recurring failure to catch their economy up to Western Europe's. It's not that they don't know how the end point works. It's that they can't see how to, or just don't want to, get there from where they are.

I tend to think that part of what is making it hard for Russia and other countries on the cusp of becoming a global economic power is the same sort of sustainability problem with regard to resource scarcity that put a crimp in Rome's expansion. It's not that Russia or China or Mexico or Brazil have to replicate the path to prosperity that the US and Western Europe took. It's that they have to do that while also competing with those other countries for those same resources. And those countries are feeling the effects of that competition and having to solve their own sustainability problems.

I doubt it's a matter of not seeing or not wanting. I think it's a matter of them having access to a much smaller range of possible outcomes with lower potential for success and greater risk of failure. There is a Matthew Effect involved.

I tend to think that part of what is making it hard for Russia and other countries on the cusp of becoming a global economic power is the same sort of sustainability problem with regard to resource scarcity that put a crimp in Rome's expansion. It's not that Russia or China or Mexico or Brazil have to replicate the path to prosperity that the US and Western Europe took. It's that they have to do that while also competing with those other countries for those same resources.

Maybe a part. But, I think, a small part. Places like Korea, or soon Vietnam, manage to make the technological leap that Russia has long since made. But they also make the step up to a generally Western economy. Not, by any means, Western cultures. But an economy where people can live comfortably, and have some chance of improving their lot over time thru effort.

Whereas in Russia, the only path forward is connections to those already in power. And the political culture is such that nobody expects anything but a kleptocracy -- anything like government with priorities other than enriching the existing elites isn't seen as an option.

As a result, people don't bother to try. Efficiency isn't worth any effort, so it doesn't happen. It's not that Russia lacks for natural resources. It's that it doesn't manage to exploit them at levels much of the rest of the world (and not just Europe!) has long since achieved.

Part of Russia's problem is that it tried to do top-down what China inadvertently did bottom up.

maybe middle-down. the top is doing just fine in Russia.

the top is doing just fine in Russia.

Well, as long as they are extremely careful to stay on Putin's good side.

Any discussion of what happened in Russia has to include some discussion of vulture capitalism

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jul/25/moscow-on-thames-russia-billionaires-soviet-donors-conservatives

What wj said. Russia has no lack of natural resources; quite the opposite. And a well educated population in world terms for at least half a century.

Missed this when it came out last month.
Great article, and a reminder of what has and hasn’t changed in the last fifty years.

The Girl in the Kent State Photo
https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/04/19/girl-kent-state-photo-lifelong-burden-being-national-symbol/
... Many people refused to believe the nearly 6-foot-tall girl with the long, flowing hair and the mournful face was only 14. Her family received calls and letters calling her a drug addict, a tramp, a communist. The governor of Florida said she was “part of a nationally organized conspiracy of professional agitators” that was “responsible for the students’ death.” While some people saw her as a symbol of the national conscience, some Kent State students expressed resentment about her fame, saying she wasn’t even a protester.

Back in Kent, Ohio, local business owners ran an ad thanking the National Guard. Mail poured in to the mayor’s office, blaming “dirty hippies,” “longhairs” and “outside agitators” for the violence. Some Kent residents raised four fingers when they passed each other in the street, a silent signal that meant, “At least we got four of them.” Nixon issued a statement saying that the students’ actions had invited the tragedy. Privately, he called them “bums.” And a Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans blamed the students for their own deaths; only 11 percent blamed the National Guard....

I think the major obstacle to economic growth in Russia is corruption. Commerce doesn't work if government can steal your stuff.

Russia ranks 129th on the Corruption Perceptions Index. The USA is a disappointing 25th, which ought to elicit restrictions on political finance and lobbying, but won't.

Corruption seems to be OK in economic terms, too, so long as it's purposeful.

Korea under the Park dictatorship was certainly corrupt in conventional terms, but hugely successful in building an economy from next to nothing.

Getting corruption to be "purposeful" seems to be mostly a matter of luck. And definitely not the way the smart money would bet either.

Great article, and a reminder of what has and hasn’t changed in the last fifty years.

Wow. The governor of Florida, even.

the Corruption Perceptions Index

It seems that many of the nations at the top of the list are social democracies. Very strange!

the Corruption Perceptions Index

It seems that many of the nations at the top of the list are social democracies. Very strange!

Interesting, too, that the libertarian heaven of Somalia ranks as the most corrupt.

Russia is government by mafia. Somalia is government by street gang.

“Purposeful corruption” is an interesting concept, but on the whole I’d prefer purpose sans corruption.

It’s a half formed idea, no more than that.
Corruption is a bad thing, and tends to be destructive of economies, but in this case clearly not.

Since this is an open thread, I wonder what the commentariat think of this piece I have just read, and found interesting. It's called Elena Ferrante and the Politics of Deference - Rehabilitating the concept of the asshole. I'm all for such rehabilitation, always allowing for linguistic differences between cultures (to me they are arseholes), but don't be misled: the piece is not really about the outing of the identity of Elena Ferrante so much as it is about the responsibility to retain the capacity for critical thought (loosely speaking, to retain the ability to call her outer an asshole, as opposed to someone guilty of "part of the continuum of violence against women and girls").

The following quote deals with such issues specifically, but he does go on to talk about the general principle of being able to think critically about one's ideological allies, as opposed to what he calls "The politics of Deference". The piece is not long, and as I say, I think it is an interesting read.

I think one can simultaneously find exposing Elena Ferrante distasteful, support the effort to stop violence against women, and decline to see the former as an example of the latter. I think you can understand that sexual assault too often goes unpunished, and that we should err on the side of believing those victims that come forward, and think that the Rolling Stone University of Virginia debacle could have been prevented with more appropriate skepticism and vetting from the beginning. I think that you can see that Hillary Clinton has been subject to noxious sexism her entire career, oppose that sexism, and recognize that frivolous accusations of sexism are constantly used to shield her from legitimate criticism. I’m asking that we be free to utilize our judgment to decide which claims of bigotry are credible and which aren’t without being accused of being on the wrong side. I am arguing, in simple terms, for critical thinking among those who broadly share the goals of social liberalism and social justice. I am arguing that our commitment to fighting sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry and injustice can’t prevent us from being discriminating about which particular accusations are more or less credible. I am arguing that being an ally in a fight doesn’t and can’t mean that we abandon our right and responsibility to question or criticize those who claim to be engaged in that fight, when it seems appropriate to do so.

http://www.thetowner.com/elena-ferrante-politics-deference/

Since this is an open thread, I wonder what the commentariat think of this piece I have just read, and found interesting.

I don't know why the argument isn't already obvious to any thinking person. That's not a criticism of the piece, but of the circumstance it describes.

I have no familiarity with the author, so I can't say whether it's written as a bogus defense against valid criticism, but taking it a face value and assuming good faith, I have to agree.

Herewith, the McKTex kiss of death: it's an excellent article, good advice, long overdue, and unlikely to have any meaningful effect among its intended audience. Thanks for bringing up.

Never mind!

so does this mean it's OK to call people assholes, as long as we don't call them racists?

;)

I agree with basically everything in the article, agree with hairshirt's thought that it should be obvious to folks but also note that it is not obvious to many folks.

It's also an argument that is likely to appeal to folks who can't get their heads around the idea of structural forms of discrimination. Which is not what the author is going for, but folks will use whatever is handy.

It's both. There are deep patterns of discrimination baked into social and cultural institutions and practices, and there are people who are simply assholes with no particular agenda other than being obnoxious and belligerent.

You can give undue focus to one side of that or the other. Some knees just want to jerk.

Thanks for sharing this, the site as a whole is really good. You always find good material, GFTNC - have you ever thought of curating a blogroll?

Hey, here's something nice. The composer is a long-time friend of mine. As an aside, it's always amazing to me that I know people who do stuff at this level. It fills me with pride and humility, all at the same time.

It's short, maybe 3 or 4 minutes. Take a break from the BS and treat yourself to a moment of beauty.

Enjoy!

yes indeed. that was very nice.

Take a break from the BS

I hasten to add - by 'the BS' I do not mean the conversation here on ObWi.

It was a beautiful break in the day. Thanks russell.

Might be off-topic now, but one of the suggested videos for me on LJ's bronze age collapse video above was this one on ancient European genetics. All very interesting. Specifically at the 3/4 point or so, he goes over some fairly recent (2015ish) research which shows some evidence for a big migration of so-called "Yamnaya" people from the Pontic steppe around 2500 BC. Which definitely supports Gimbutas' hypothesis about the origins of Indo-European, if not the speculation about how egalitarian the prior European cultures were.

Also RE: egalitarianism, one thing that didn't really come up above, but is very interesting IMO, is that some cultures seem to sort of time-share *both* arrangements, often in some kind of ritual way. I think I got this from a David Graeber talk (maybe here? I'm not going to watch the whole thing right now to see).

So you might have a hunter-gathering people who break up into small hunting bands for most of the year. And there's a very hierarchical, authoritarian structure within those bands. But then they all migrate to one place now and then for a big quasi-religious festival (also to trade, find husbands and wives, etc.) where the normal rules go out the window and the hierarchy/patriarchy/authority are all very purposefully ignored and subverted.

There are some extent examples of that kind of thing in various peoples around the world, but Graeber also thought things like the Roman Saturnalia were at least vestigial examples of this.

I can't remember if this was Graeber's take or mine, but I think the implications of people being able to experience both approaches and appreciate them in contrast are intriguing. Maybe there's an answer in there about making egalitarianism more stable.

Just a few quick comments. Jack, the off topic is almost always on-topic here. If you find those links and want to guestpost something, let me know.

About GftNC's link
Actually, I think some commenters here may be familiar with other pieces by the writer, which display some of the same failings as the article, though much was on his blog, which he has made private.

I don't want to go into detail because I don't want to start a discussion where I can't keep up my side of it, so just some very brief observations

The Ferrante affair is from 2016, a couple of major earthquakes, more mass shootings than I can count and a pandemic ago. The journalist who outed her is an asshole, but I don't think that debates on internet behavior should be based on what asshole's do. Or (more importantly for non-assholes) how people react to said asshole's behavior. (I'd also note that there is a school of engagement that aims to get the other side angry so they overreach. Almost every fight scene in a movie is based on this--get the other person emotional and you will triumph, yay! But not so good for the retention of civility)

If the content of the piece is so anodyne that, as hsh noted, should be obvious to any thinking person, you have to ask yourself why the writer feels it is so important to convey it. Wouldn't it make sense to try and map out where people agree and then work on the differences, rather than suggest that this is some new thing? Doing the Jordan Peterson thing is a bit passé.

And getting back to assholes, google is probably your friend here. I think that the author got banged up on a lot of blogs that I read and though I did get a sense of a bit of a pile-on, I feel like he couldn't bring himself to admit when he was wrong. Which is a recipe for disaster, imo.

For wj.

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