Category Archives: Historical Anecdotes

Wikileaks, BBBGs and grand stupidities

The usual strategy in this Blog is to wait until the recent, important event is old and all public interest is lost, before I comment on it.

This is not because I abhor of readership, but because I feel that in order to say an intelligent thing about a subject, I need time to contemplate. This time I did the contemplation before it happened. So I am about to do my thing while the wikileaks scandal is still raging. Here are my 2 cents. And I will start with the sound-byte:

19 year-old boys are not adults. Give these boys weapons (the ultimate in big-boom-generating toys), train them to kill, and send them on to a conflict-ridden zone. Now, guess: what they will do there?

If you even imagine that they will do anything other than killing, then you’re a damn fool.

The army is not the problem. It is simply not the solution. You can’t expect a bunch of kids with big guns to build a nation state. Nor should you send them on to do serious police work. It is not their job, it is not their expertise. You train them to fight a war, send them out to face an enemy, and they find themselves in the middle of civilian population. Anyone seriously suggesting that no atrocities will ensue is either a god-damn lier, or pathologically stupid.

Let me repeat myself, at the risk of being crude:

An army is not a peace-keeping force. It is a fighting force.

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Atheism and Socialism

Or:

Should Atheists admire Monotheism, the same way Socialists love Capitalism?

When I first read Karl Marks’ The Communist Manifesto, I was very much surprised. I expected a demeaning rebuke of Capitalism, a scourge of fire scathing evil wealthy industrialists. But I found nothing of the sort. The Manifesto struck me as a paean for capitalism. It is full to the rim with the praise of capitalism. Marks and Angels are charmed with capitalism. There are a couple of (very big) issues which make capitalism the greatest peak of civilization (so far) in their eyes.

  • The first point is that capitalism has brought an age of limitless capability. Steam BoatsFrom their perspective in the middle of the 19th century, it is more than understandable. As they rightly exclaim, humans can now cross vast oceans in mere weeks. Fertilized crop yield vast amounts of food. For the first time ever, the medical establishment is doing more good than harm. Medicine actually works(!). And on and on. The list is endless. Capitalism has unleashed an enormous power. This power can do much good, and it does.
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Moses: A lesson in leadership

Happy Passover to all three readers of my Blog. Today, we shall read a sermon about great leadership at work, and of the relevance of ancient Judaism to our current political life.

These week we, Jews, celebrate the exodus – the miraculous escape of more than half a million Jews from slavery in Egypt. Their 40-years journey through the desert. Mount Sinai. The giving of the Torah. And the epitome of leadership: Moses.

Out of sheer sloth, I will assume that my readers are verse in the stories. For those who are not, take a look at wikipedia. What interests me is the great leadership shown by Moses (and his God). Through the first chapters of their tour of the Sinai desert, it becomes apparent that the people are not fit to be led by the great leader. They tire him by relentlessly asking to be fed, defended, and led. They show more interest in golden statues than in abstract deities. What Moses does in the story, reminds me of Berthold Brecht’s remark regarding the true followers of Moses – The governing party of the late German Democratic Republic:

The people had forfeited the confidence of the government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts.Wouldn’t it be easier to dissolve the people and elect another in their place?

Which is exactly what Moses does. The great leader takes his people on a 40 year travel, so as to rid himself of the bickering mob, and remould their children into a rough warrior-like tribe, capable of mass murder. The People is not fit – so he replaces it. A towering moral example if there ever was one.

Should I have dubbed this post  “a lesson in soviet-type leadership”?

Mascagni’s widow

For his 30th birthday, Pietro Mascagni bought himself a girl. It was 4 years since the premiere of his short opera Cavalleira Rusticana, which made him a celebrity by night. He was now director of the Scuola Musicale Romana, in Rome, and his status at the high society in Rome demanded something more presentable than a mistress. As lovely as she was, Anna Lolli was no more than that. He needed a wife. A presentable wife.

Elmira De Ville was 14 years old when she became the lady Mascagni. Her patrician, proud and destitute family was all to happy to marry her off to a man of considerable wealth. But the inferior musician was way beneath the dignity of young Elmira. She loathed him.

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