Category Archives: Historical Review

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.

Continue reading

Astrology – why it used to be resonable and why it ain’t so anymore

Once upon a time, Astrology was a big thing. Astrologers ruled the world. Now they clatter in the back pages of second-rate magazines. Why were they so big and what’s happened to them?

We shall begin by following a line of thought that was very strong in many parts of the classical world. So strong, it was reason enough to deport Anaxagoras from Athens (he was advocating the stars were nothing but “hot stones in the sky”). The Epicureans made the fight against this view a focal point of their moral philosophy.

So, imagine you live in a society with a technology which is less than modern – there are no cars, no planes, etc. Now, observe: what things have “innate movement” (to borrow the Aristotelian term)? Living things, of course. Only living things can move without being moved by an external force.

Our second observation is this: all living things decease (given enough time).

All? Well, look at the sky – there you will find heavenly bodies moving perpetually in well-ordered paths. If living things are the only candidates for self-induced movement, then the heavenly bodies must be alive. They are also perpetual, hence immortal. They also seem to be moving in a nice circular fashion; hence they must be highly intelligent sentient beings (they know geometry! And circles are the most perfect of geometric forms).

Continue reading

Consumerism. Why did they do it?

A good friend has emailed me with a very cute little link, depicting the wows of consumerism. It’s rather charming. Really. Have a look:

The good people at “story of stuff” make an interesting mistake glitch, though.

The presenter, Annie Leonard, correctly ascribes consumerism, that plague that makes us violate the earth, to post-WWII American politics. As she describes it, the US government (followed suit by the rest of the western world) developed consumerism because it was “a means to boost the economy”. That is a gross understatement, and a historical misunderstanding. I agree wholeheartedly with most of what she says in that short movie of hers. But this is one point I would like to correct. It is a rather interesting one. If you want all the gory details, go and read Tony Judt’s excellent PostWar. Here comes the shorthand:

The consumer-goods economy isn’t a matter of governments sucking to big corporations. It’s really a political issue of a grander scale. In fact, it is about fighting (and winning) the two most important political wars of the 20th century: the war on communism and the war on fascism.
Continue reading

German History as a Greek Tragedy

Hitler: Nemesis / Hubris

It took me a couple of months to finish Ian Kershaw’s monumental work on the-worse-political-persona-ever. During that time I got overly excited about this book, which led to elderly neighbors nodding their heads at the crazy masochistic youngsters of today, and to my wife almost divorcing me – after she woke up one morning to find Adolf Hitler in her bed (on the cover of the book). I was henceforth forbidden to read the book in the bedroom, and honorably sent to throw the garbage.

The book is a two volume, spanning more that 1000 pages (in the Hebrew). A vast read, but the book is surprisingly well written. Continue reading