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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Ireland: a brief history

Passage tomb at Newgrange

Ireland over the last 11,000 years:

  • -9000: Ice Age: covered in ice, part of mainland Europe
  • -8000:
  • -7000:
  • -6000: Stone Age: people arrive
  • -5000:
  • -4000: Neolithic: farming (-3500) arrives from Spain, forests cleared with stone axes; wheat, barley, sheep, goats, cows; walls, forts; passage tombs (-3200, pictured above)
  • -3000:
  • -2000: Bronze Age (-1800): bronze made with tin from Spain; gold jewellery, the wheel, oxen, weaving, alcohol
  • -1000: Iron Age: Celts arrive (-700), the first Indo-Europeans, probably from Spain; bog men, kings
  • +1: Christianity (432), flowering of Irish culture (500s), sends missionaries to Britain, Book of Kells (800), Vikings found Dublin (841).
  • +1000: Off-and-on British rule, starting in 1171, the Great Potato Famine (1845-1849), millions flee famine and poverty, going to the Americas and Australia.

Ireland over the last 1,000 years, century by century:

  • 1000s: Vikings overthrown at the Battle of Clontarf (1014)
  • 1100s: British rule (1171)
  • 1200s: parliament
  • 1300s: Scotland tries to take over (1315), fails but seriously weakens British rule, now limited to Dublin and the Pale, the region nearby
  • 1400s:
  • 1500s: British reconquest, particularly under Elizabeth I
  • 1600s: plantations: land taken from Irish Catholics and given to Protestant Ulster Scots, who become overlords; Catholics lose rights; Cromwell puts down uprising, hundreds of thousands die (1650); Battle of the Boyne (1690);
  • 1700s: Ireland screwed by British trade policy; many Ulster Scots move to North America where they become the Scotch Irish, settling especially in Appalachia.
  • 1800s: Catholic Emancipation: Catholics regain many rights (1829), the Great Potato Famine (1845-1849) kills a million while a million and more flee, mainly to America where they become Irish Americans.
  • 1900s: after hundreds of years of uprisings  the Sinn Fein overthrows British rule in the south (1922); Northern Ireland remains under British rule.

More on British rule:

In the 1600s the British government took land from Irish Catholics, made it into plantations and gave it to the Ulster Scots – English-speaking Protestants from Britain, mainly Scottish Presbyterians. In America they are called the Scotch Irish. They are not Irish by blood – just Scottish people who lived in Ireland for a time before coming to America. Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett and John McCain are Scotch Irish.

Meanwhile the Irish Catholics lost not just their land but their rights too: the right to practise their religion (Catholicism), speak their language (Irish Gaelic), to buy property, stand for parliament, teach school, serve in the army, etc.

On paper Ireland became part of the United Kingdom, but in practice it was a British colony serving British interests, complete with dispossessed natives. A model for America?

Ireland as an island full of unhappy Catholics made it a threat to Britain (Protestant) since a Catholic enemy state – read France – could stage an uprising, free Ireland and then use it as a base to strike at Britain. It came close to that in 1690, but the British were able to defeat the French and Irish led by James II, the overthrown Catholic king of Britain, at the Battle of the Boyne.

Despite Catholic Emancipation in 1829 Protestants remained firmly on top, possessing most of the wealth. The Irish had lost their language, now speaking mainly English, but not their religion.

– Abagond, 2010, 2015.

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Patroclus and Achilles from a Greek drinking cup, circa 500 BC

How white was Ancient Greece? There are at least three answers, two short and one long:

Answer #1: They were white, just look at them: There is plenty of artwork from at least 600 BC onwards that clearly shows that the Greeks looked white – just like the people in Greece now.

Answer #2: They were part black. Some say that Egypt sent settlers or that the Pelasgians, the people who were in Greece before the Indo-European Greeks arrived, were from Africa. According to one DNA testing company Greeks are 5% black.

Now the longer answer:

Answer #3: Calling them white is anachronistic: “white” is a Western invention used to excuse slavery and colonialism during the last several hundred years. The ancient Greeks certainly did not think of themselves as white: they divided the world not by race but by language: those who spoke Greek were Greeks, those who did not were barbarians.

More: “White” is based not just on looks – it is based on culture too. You see that with Arabs: in the Middle East they are  not seen as white by Americans, but if they come to America and take on White American ways, they are – like Steve Jobs and Ralph Nader.

In that sense, then, the Ancient Greeks were no more white or Western than the British are “Nigerian” or “Australian”. It is backwards thinking.

Thinking that leads to some strange and curious things:

  1. The West “begins with the Greeks”. Not because it does – despite the way some White Americans talk, civilization is not a white invention. Their civilization comes from Egypt and the Middle East by way of Greece and Rome. But they see it as starting with Greece because it was the first “white” country to be civilized. And it was first only because it was closest to Egypt.
  2. The Greeks seem to have amazing intelligence. Because Westerners are taught to turn a blind eye to the Egyptian roots of Greek civilization: the columns, the paper, the science and mathematics, etc, all came straight out of Egypt. Even before Alexandria became the centre of Greek learning, people like Plato, Pythagoras, Solon and Thales all studied in Egypt. “The glory that was Greece” was built not on some kind of amazing Greek grey matter but sailing times to Egypt.
  3. Ancient Greeks are seen as “universal”, not “ethnic” by Anglos, who play up what they have in common with the Ancient Greeks. They do not apply that kind of thinking to the Greeks of the past 1500 years, who they look down on as unimportant, even the Byzantine Empire.
  4. The Ancient Greeks were seen as white before Greek Americans were. Just as Jesus was seen as white before the Jews were. In the 1920s laws were passed to keep Greeks and other such undesirables from coming to America in large numbers – in part to keep them from destroying the country culturally and genetically.

Yes, this is another example of the white lens, of reading history while white.

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Is America still genocidal? According to the Teflon Theory of White History the answer is no: the last full-blown genocide was in the 1800s. That was too long ago, so it has absolutely no effect on the present. To prove your case you need to provide Recent Examples:

  • Because wiping out over a million people could not possibly affect White American ideas about race and human worth. Or be a sign of how screwed up they might still be;
  • Because enjoying the material fruits of said genocide could not possibly cause a serious case of Moral Blindness in which white people turn a blind eye to the very faults that led to genocide.

Genocide is a crime. And like with other crimes, those who have done it once are more likely to do it again. Sudan has carried out two genocides in my lifetime. Ethiopia and what used to be Yugoslavia are also repeat offenders.What about America?

Genocides unfold in eight stages:

  1. Classification: the division into “us and them”. Example: Asking an Asian American what country he is from.
  2. Symbolization: applying symbols to the them to mark them out as pariahs, as objects of hate. Examples: black skin, yellow stars, race or religion on ID cards.
  3. Dehumanization: seeing the pariahs as not truly human. Example: the word “nigger”.
  4. Organization: training and arming. Example: the Ku Klux Klan.
  5. Polarization: silencing the voices in the middle that still stand up for the pariahs. Example: calling whites who stand up for blacks “nigger lovers”.
  6. Preparation: separating the pariahs from everyone else. Examples: ghettos, prison camps.
  7. Extermination: mass killings. Example: the Holocaust.
  8. Denial: dispute the numbers, blame history, see it as “natural”, derail discussions about it, etc. Examples: The comments on this post?

The first step is “natural”, as Americans would put it, meaning it is common to all human societies. It is when it moves beyond Stage 1 that something is going seriously wrong.

White America has gone beyond Stage 1 not once but at least three times:

  • Stage 7: 1600s to 1800s: Native Americans
  • Stage 5: 1870s to 1950s: blacks
  • Stage 6: 1940s: Japanese Americans

Where different sorts of Americans are now:

  • Stage 0: whites
  • Stage 1: Asians, Mexicans, Muslims
  • Stage 2:
  • Stage 3: blacks
  • Stage 4:
  • Stage 5:
  • Stage 6:
  • Stage 7:
  • Stage 8: Native Americans ?

Jews I would put at 0.6, Muslims, at 1.8.

I am not sure if Native Americans are an 8: I put them there because in my experience whites are not comfortable talking about it and try to derail. If you cannot admit to a fault there is little chance of change. Like a drunk who thinks he is not a drunk.

But even apart from that, you still have blacks at 3. Deep down whites think of blacks as monkeys. That makes it easier to kill them or, what is most commonly the case, to stand by and do little when they die in large numbers, as during the heroin and crack epidemics and the high murder rates that followed.

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White Americans seem to apply special rules when reading about history or the news. Since I was not invited to the Secret Course on Whiteness, I have to piece together the rules and ideas based on observation of White Americans. This is very much a work in progress.

Rules & Important Concepts:

  1. Black people do bad things because they are black. When white people do bad things it is because they made a mistake, got passed over at work, had a bad childhood, need help or whatever. Apart from a few bad apples, it never has to do with race. Because whites are not affected by their race. But blacks are: they have dark, savage hearts that drives some of them to rape and murder and other cruel and senseless things for no particular reason. Because that is how black people are.
  2. Savage Black Rule: Africa is screwed up because blacks are incapable of self-rule. Look at Zimbabwe!
  3. Black pathologies: black ghettos are screwed up because black people are screwed up.
  4. The Teflon Theory of White History: Anything that took place over 30 years ago is Ancient History. It has Absolutely No Effect on the present. Unless it was something good like the light bulb or the Declaration of Independence. Otherwise white people are only affected by history through their families, nothing else, and for not more than a generation. So even Jim Crow is now Ancient History, just like the Battle of Thermopylae.
  5. Living in the Past: anyone who disagrees with Teflon Theory.
  6. Dead Indian Land: a place that it is bad manners to talk about and dangerous to think about.
  7. Basically Good – what white people are despite their ugly past. Because of Teflon Theory they are not only protected from the ugly side effects of genocide, Jim Crow and slavery (what black people call “racism”), but even from the Fall of Adam (what Christians call “original sin”). So when whites do something bad it is not evil – just a well-meaning mistake.
  8. “It was the times” – yes, white people did do some terrible things in the past, but since whites are Basically Good it must have been the times. Unless:
  9. “Arab traders did it too!” – It is a rule with White Americans that if Arab traders did something, then it is morally all right – or at least Not All That Bad.
  10. Just World Doctrine: America is basically just because it is run by white people who are Basically Good. That means they exercise power, both home and abroad, fairly and for the good of all.
  11. Love to Complain – what black people do despite the Basic Goodness of society (see Just World Doctrine) and despite the fact that it is Not As Bad As It Used To Be (over 30 years ago).
  12. White people understand racism better than blacks – because blacks Love to Complain.
  13. Read mainly White American writers. They are more fair-minded than black or foreign writers.

– Abagond, 2010.

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“It was the times!”

“It was the times” is an argument that says people in the past were not as evil and terrible as they seem to us because they lived in a different time when moral ideas were less advanced. We are judging them by the ideas of our own time, not theirs, which is unfair.

For example, most American high school history books downplay the racism of famous white people, so when people find out, say, that Abraham Lincoln said this:

I will say then that I am not, nor even have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races– that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; … there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.

At first they are shocked but then many will say, “Well, he was a man of his times – so it is not as bad as it seems. Everyone thought like that back then. It was the times!”

The same argument is used to excuse owning black slaves: the practice of keeping slaves goes back thousands of years, but our ideas about how terrible it is do not.

And so on.

To a degree it makes sense. For example, the ancient Greeks left baby girls in the woods to be eaten by wolves. That might seem shocking, but at the time they had neither safe abortion nor the Christian ideas by which to judge it as wrong and condemn it.

But the argument can be taken too far. It can be used to excuse great evils, to avoid facing up to an ugly past.

A good example is Jim Crow, the laws and customs in the American South that kept the races apart and blacks down from 1877 to 1967, featuring such practices as lynching and Klan terror.

As seen from 1810 it was revolutionary – the slaves were freed! As seen from 2010 it was cruel and immoral and profoundly racist. But seen from 1910 it was just the way things were – it was the times!

“It was the times” excuses the way things were no matter how evil. It allows historians in 2900, for example, to look back at the millions killed in the 1900s by Stalin, Hitler and Mao and say “it was the times!” When evil becomes commonplace it is still evil. Just because everyone does it does not make it right.

Nor do moral ideas advance as much as people seem to think. Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ said to do unto others as you would have others do unto you – the Golden Rule. A simple idea known throughout the West down through the ages – and one that is enough to condemn racism, slavery, Hitler and all the rest.

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What do they teach about racism in American high schools? In “Lies My Teacher Told Me” (1995) James W. Loewen looked at 12 history books commonly used in American high schools. One of the things he looked at is what they teach about racism. Very little, as it turns out.

Most history books do not even have the word “racism” or “racial prejudice” in their index. None of the 12 point out out how racism grew out of the practice of keeping black slaves. Not one. The closest any of them get to the cause of racism is this:

[African Americans] looked different from members of white ethnic groups. The color of their skin made assimilation difficult. For this reason they remained outsiders.

Nothing more! And this was in the 1990s, not the 1950s! As if racism is completely natural, as if white Americans do not now or ever had screwed up ideas and feelings about black people!!!

It used to be worse: before 1970 they took the white Southern view of the Civil War and the Reconstruction that followed – like what you see in the Hollywood film “Gone With the Wind” (1939)!!!  You know, like everyone in the South – black, white and presumably Native American – was happy and the North went and destroyed it all, that it had little to do with freeing the slaves, that the North ruled the South after the war just to get rich.

Now they teach that being a slave is terrible – well, 10 out of 12 books do – that the war was about freeing the slaves and that the North tried its best during the 12 years of Reconstruction after the war to rule the South.

But even so they all underplay the racism of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and any other white person they choose to make into a hero. None point out that there must be something sick and very wrong with white Americans for wanting to own black slaves.

All 12 history books underplay white American racism after 1877, both North and South. They all leave out stuff like:

  • What blacks themselves said, like Ida B. Wells or Richard Wright, about how it was to be black in America then
  • Sundown towns: thousands of towns in the North and Midwest where blacks had to leave by sundown
  • The Tulsa race riot in 1921
  • Ota Benga, an African who was shown behind bars in the Bronx Zoo in 1906.
  • That major league baseball forced out blacks in 1889
  • Violence against blacks who became successful

Only two books said blacks faced discrimination in the North! Even Loewen himself never uses the term Jim Crow!

The history books do point out examples of racism during this period, but the overall picture is one of white indifference, not white hatred. High school students are left to assume that if blacks fell behind the Jews and Italians who came to the country after the slaves were freed, it must be their own fault. Because, you know, racism is not a big deal.

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The following is based on the 13th and last part of Jacob Bronowski’s BBC series on the history of science and invention, “The Ascent of Man” (1973):

The human brain is three times larger than it was two million years ago. But almost all that growth took place in just three parts of the brain, those that control:

  1. The hand
  2. The tongue
  3. Foresight

Which allows us to build, to talk and to imagine our future far more than any other animal.

In addition, our minds are very plastic: most animals are wired to act just in certain ways, humans are not. We depend on knowledge, not reflex. That means a long childhood. And, even after we are grown, we must think and prepare before we act, we must balance short-term and long-term, our needs and those of others.  That in turn leads to ideas of justice, of right and wrong.

Most civilizations, like those of China, India and even the Europe in the Middle Ages, as great as they were, limited the imagination of the young, of those with talent. The son did what the father did what the grandfather did and on and on. Only the talent of a few is ever used, the rest is wasted. The West does not do this.

One way is through a democracy of the intellect: its thought and knowledge is built by scientists and thinkers not by kings and priests. The lives of Erasmus and John von Neumann show this.

Erasmus was a monk in the 1500s. Against orders he read the Greek and Roman classics. It opened up the world to him. He became friends with Sir Thomas More, who, like him, cared more for truth than for power and authority – so much so that the king had More put to death.

John von Neumann, who came up with game theory in the 1950s and did important work in understanding computers, took the other road. Towards the end of his life he worked for companies and governments, drawn to the centres of power. Science for the sake of power and money, not for the sake of truth. He wasted his great talent.

Likewise the West is in danger of throwing away its great promise:

I am infinitely saddened to find myself suddenly surrounded in the west by a sense of terrible loss of nerve, a retreat from knowledge into – into what? Into Zen Buddhism; into falsely profound questions about, Are we not really just animals at bottom; into extra-sensory perception and mystery. They do not lie along the line of what we are now able to know if we devote ourselves to it: an understanding of man himself. We are nature’s unique experiment to make the rational intelligence prove itself sounder than the reflex. Knowledge is our destiny. Self-knowledge, at last bringing together the experience of the arts and the explanations of science, waits ahead of us.

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