Posts filed under “History”

TWO FREE THESIS TOPICS.

For any student, especially of linguistics or history, in need of a thesis topic, here are two ideas that Dr. Boli had thought might make fascinating treatises, but which he has no time to address among all the other long treatises he intends to write.

  1. The fact that French has a first-person plural imperative form explains the French Revolution.
  2. The fact that Latin has third-person imperative forms explains the entire Roman theory of government.
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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

ON THIS DAY in 1971, the United States indicted the Harrisburg Seven for conspiracy to kidnap Henry Kissinger. The defendants were not convicted, however, after a defense that consisted entirely of attorney Ramsey Clark reading O. Henry’s “Ransom of the Red Chief” to the jury.

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DR. BOLI’S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MISINFORMATION,

Annual Christmas Number.

Christmas crackers.—In the early 1600s, Puritan terrorists blew up houses with gunpowder if they displayed holly wreaths for Christmas. The Christmas cracker of today is a memory of that colorful tradition.

Christmas stockings.—In olden days, Christmas was a time when feudal nobles traditionally gathered in raiding parties to attack their neighbors and bring back their stockings to nail up as trophies above the fireplace of the great hall.

“Jingle Bells.”—The song “Jingle Bells” was originally meant to be sung as a round by horses. The coming of the internal combustion engine has made that tradition all but extinct.

Nativity.—Most Nativity scenes displayed at Christmas are risibly inaccurate, because they leave out the obstetrician.

Wise Men.—There were four wise men who came from the East, but the fourth’s gift of a wall-mounted singing bass has for some reason not been remembered in tradition.

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

 

Another embarrassing British failure.

ON THIS DAY in 1707, the British failed to capture Pensacola. Great Britain has never recovered from the blow to her prestige.

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

On this day in 1922, Howard Carter entered the tomb of Tutankhamen, making the Gerald Ford of ancient Egypt the most famous pharaoh in history.

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ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

On this day in 1929, it was discovered that the entire basis of capitalist economics was fictional. Fortunately, the leading figures in capital came together and selflessly agreed not to profit from that knowledge.

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WRITTEN WITH NO SENSE OF IRONY.

From the BBC coverage of the Canadian elections:

“Mr Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, said Canadians had voted for real change.”

Now, you or I might think that real change might involve a prime minister whose father had not been one of the most famous and longest-serving prime ministers in Canadian history, but we would be wrong. And in fact most people who read that sentence probably thought either, “Yes! Real change! Out with the Conservatives, in with the Liberals!” or “Blast it, now that the wicked Liberals are in power things are really going to change around here.” Few probably stopped to think that real change would not look so much like its father.

Meanwhile, the United States election may well match Bride of Clinton against Son and Brother of Bush.

When did North American politics become dynastic? Perhaps it always was, and we had not noticed. And that thought caused Dr. Boli to remember something G. K. Chesterton had said, in which—as usual—he hit on something that ought to be obvious, but is not, and expressed it in terms that could hardly be improved. And even if you are a fanatical admirer of G. K. C., you may never have read this, because it was from an introduction to a collection of stories by Maxim Gorky, and you probably did not know that Chesterton wrote an introduction to a collection of stories by Maxim Gorky.

Russia has far more inherent capacity for producing revolution in revolutionists than any country of the type of England or America. Communities highly civilized and largely urban tend to a thing which is now called evolution, the most cautious and the most conservative of all social influences. The loyal Russian obeys the Czar because he remembers the Czar and the Czar’s importance. The disloyal Russian frets against the Czar because he also remembers the Czar, and makes a note of the necessity of knifing him. But the loyal Englishman obeys the upper classes because he has forgotten that they are there. Their operation has become to him like daylight, or gravitation, or any of the forces of nature. And there are no disloyal Englishmen; there are no English revolutionists, because the oligarchic management of England is so complete as to be invisible. The thing which can once get itself forgotten can make itself omnipotent.

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SORTING THROUGH THE RUBBLE.

Sometimes one brings the entire Internet down on one’s head, and then one can only pick through the rubble. Dr. Boli has just done that twice in one week, so there is quite a lot of rubble to sort through.

First, there was the article about slavery. After thousands of words in the article and comments, Dr. Boli has only succeeded in obscuring his thoughts rather than elucidating them. He has seen traffic coming in to that article from what seem to be Southern-apologist sites, which irks him to no end, because he meant it to show why radical abolitionism—a demand that slavery be ended everywhere at once and not simply mitigated here and there—was the only sound intellectual position in the time of Robert E. Lee. When it becomes impossible for even a reasonably good man to act on his better instincts, then it is time to turn the world over and give it a good shake.

Here is what Dr. Boli meant to say: If you think that, in the same situation, you would have been a better person than the average Southern slaveowner, you are deluding yourself. You would have fallen down into the same slough of evil. That’s it. Don’t judge the past from a lofty peak of self-righteousness, and you’ll understand both history and yourself a lot better. You will also understand that the fight against evil did not end with a resounding victory in 1865.

Then there was the question of the cranky Web site that proves, beyond all possibility of doubt, or even of reading to the end of the argument, that the Catholic Church apostatized fifty years ago. This brought up an acrimonious debate on the subject of Church history, which Dr. Boli now feels obliged to sort out. It is worth noting, by the way, that the author of the Web site that started it all responded to being called a “crank” with more charity and civility than the rest of us could muster, which made Dr. Boli a little ashamed of himself.

Here is the history of the Christian Church to Constantine’s time, as Dr. Boli sees it, in one paragraph.

The Christian movement began with Jesus and his small rabble of mostly low-class followers, but already by the Acts of the Apostles we see it grown so large that it needs layers of authority. There were heresies from the beginning, but it was always clear from the numbers alone that they were heresies, and that there was a main stream of Christian thought. In fact, many or even most of the heresies gloried in their exclusivity—they were the chosen few, unlike the rabble who didn’t get it. This was, of course, what led to their ultimate extinction in the Darwinian world of Roman religions: you need the rabble if your religion is going to make it to the big time. So by the time of Constantine, the Christian hierarchy was recognizably similar to what we see in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, and similar branches of Christianity today. Constantine made no serious change to the structure of the Church; it had the same leaders before and after his conversion. But he made it a lot richer.

What Constantine did invent was politically weaponized Christianity. The Eastern Church regards him as a saint. The West…well, not necessarily.

Incidentally, the sincerity of Constantine’s conversion is much debated, but Dr. Boli thinks Constantine was absolutely sincere, for the simple reason that he delayed his baptism until he was near death. It would have been trivially easy to have himself very publicly baptized if he thought it was a lot of superstitious nonsense that was demographically useful. But he took the washing away of sins seriously, and he had a lot of sins planned for the future.

 

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