Mailvox: catching up on history

BG asks about the Crusades:

I’ve been reading your blog, and comments, for years now, stealing countless hours of productivity from my employer. My brother-in-law, a younger man, who I don’t think is saved but is searching, just emailed me asking me to tell him about the Crusades. He said what information he has found so far has been confusing. I haven’t talked to him yet. He knows I know a lot, but I really haven’t studied the Crusades. Can you or one of the Ilk, please direct me to a good source? I don’t expect to take up your time, but any thoughts on the topic would also be greatly appreciated.

I would start with Stephen Runcimen’s three-volume History of the Crusades. I would then read John Julius Norwich’s three-volume history of Byzantium, which gives a solid background for the events that led up to the Crusades. What those ignorant of Byzantine history don’t understand – which is probably more than 95 percent of the people who bring up the Crusades in casual conversation – is that the Crusades were not an offensive campaign in any way, shape, or form, but rather a defensive one for which more than one desperate emperor of Byzantium had spent years pleading.

MN, on the other hand, has a pair of questions related to American history:

I’ve emailed you once before, and I just want to say thanks again for your blog and column. I’m 24 and I can honestly say that in the year or so since I started following your work, my critical thinking abilities have developed more than in the 12 years of public school and 4 of college combined.

Anyway, being that today is America’s Independence Day, I was thinking about its history, specifically the Civil War. I’m able to effectively rationalize most of my beliefs about it, but I am having trouble with a couple things that I hoped you might help with:

1. I believe I’ve recall you writing that had you been around in 1860, you would have fought for the South. I’m undecided on what I would’ve done. Certainly, the southern states’ sovereignty was being infringed and they had the right to defend it. However, how do you justify defending the institution of slavery? While I do not believe in human equality in any real sense, to my mind, the idea of slavery seems in blatant conflict with both the Declaration of Independence and the ‘Life, Liberty, and Property’ part of the 5th Amendment. I also believe that one of the few legitimate functions of our government is to uphold these basic rights, so in that sense, I can rationalize that perhaps the North was justified. The only counter I can come up with is that slaves were not considered citizens, and thus not afforded these rights.

2. I also believe you’ve called Lincoln the worst president in American history. Because he wiped his ass with the Bill of Rights and ended any notions of state sovereignty, I agree with you to a point. Its to a point because, from some things I’ve read, Lincoln’s plan had he lived was to ship all of the slaves back to Africa or the Caribbean as part of the reconstruction progress. In my opinion, this would absolutely have been the correct move, both at the time and in hindsight from 2010. If this is true, can you really call Lincoln the worst president ever, or were his violations of the Constitution too egregious to overcome? I can’t say that he’s worse than guys like FDR, Wilson, or Obama.

My answer to question one comes in two parts. First, as a libertarian, I would prefer an institution of voluntary private slavery to the present system of federal slavery that is in effect today. Either I own myself or another party does. If I am prevented from selling something, in this case my body, then it is obvious that I do not legally own it. Someone else does. In the present United States the government claims legal ownership of its citizens, as evidenced by the Selective Service Act and the income tax, so it is a little bizarre for present-day involuntary slaves of the state to posture about their opposition to historical involuntary private slavery. Note that the fact your owner has not elected to draft you is of no more significance to your legal and factual status as a slave to the state than the fact that the owner of a field slave in the 1800s did not require him to work in the fields on a particular day.

As to the second part, state sovereignty is not conditional. For good or ill, either it exists or it does not. Also, slavery could not possibly have been the primary issue inspiring secession due to the fact that four slave states remained in the Union. But regardless of whether or not slavery was the secondary or tertiary factor beyond the pre-war economic rape of the South by the North, that is totally irrelevant with regards to the question of whether a sovereign state had the right to secede from a voluntary union or not. The great evil of the Civil War and the irrelevance of slavery can be seen by the fact that the Union is no longer voluntary, but is imposed by force to this date even though private involuntary slavery is now a dead issue.

Regarding the second question, my opinion of Lincoln has absolutely nothing to do with his plans regarding the former slaves. The reason he is by far the worst president is because he murdered the American Republic and imposed the American Empire on the American people at a tremendous cost in American blood. He was America’s Caesar, and like Caesar, he received a fitting reward for his treasonous crime against his country.

UPDATE – In answer to the inevitable and illogical argument that the Southern States secession was all about slavery, consider the following analogy. Suppose you want to fly a flag, as permitted by the rules of your homeowner’s association, but the committee that runs the homeowner’s association suddenly decides they don’t want you to fly one. They show up at your house unannounced to inform you of their decision, then barge into your bedroom in order to confiscate any flags that they might find. If then you punch the head of the committee in the face, was your desire to fly a flag the cause?

Cue Derbyshire

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the next revolution:

As grills across America fire up this weekend some Americans may want to crack open a history book instead of a cold beer. A Marist poll finds that 26 percent of Americans dont know whom the United States declared its independence from.

In fairness, there’s not much reason an immigrant from Honduras, Egypt, or Somalia should either know or care about who declared what regarding whom. And one can’t reasonably expect natural-born Americans to have time to learn anything about the Revolution of 1776 in only 12 years of public school when there is so much to learn about Sacajawea, Sojourner Truth, the Mayans, and all the other important figures of history who made America what it is today.

Atheism and action

In which the connection between godlessness and the commission of acts of mass violence is explained by Napoleon, as per his personal secretary and biographer, Bourrienne:

During the negotiations with the Holy Father Bonaparte one day said to me, “In every country religion is useful to the Government, and those who govern ought to avail themselves of it to influence mankind. I was a Mahometan in Egypt; I am a Catholic in France. With relation to the police of the religion of a state, it should be entirely in the hands of the sovereign. Many persons have urged me to found a Gallican Church, and make myself its head; but they do not know France. If they did, they would know that the majority of the people would not like a rupture with Rome. Before I can resolve on such a measure the Pope must push matters to an extremity; but I believe he will not do so.”—”You are right, General, and you recall to my memory what Cardinal Consalvi said: ‘The Pope will do all the First Consul desires.'”—”That is the best course for him. Let him not suppose that he has to do with an idiot. What do you think is the point his negotiations put most forward? The salvation of my soul! But with me immortality is the recollection one leaves in the memory of man. That idea prompts to great actions. It would be better for a man never to have lived than to leave behind him no traces of his existence.”

It is those last three sentences that demonstrate the connection between atheism and large-scale tragedy that Richard Dawkins and other historically illiterate atheists have so much trouble recognizing. It is not atheism itself that is the problem, but as I explained in TIA, atheism combined with a burning ambition to achieve immortality through material ends. Whether this immortality is achieved through military glory, the creation of a New Man, or the construction of a new society on the ashes of the old one is not important, the point is that the underlying motivation to commit acts of horrific violence involves more than the simple absence of the belief that one will face judgment for one’s actions in this life.

Those who trouble to actually read the words of the historical individuals will see a striking similarity in the mindset of men as superficially different as Napoleon, Lenin, and Mao. Again and again, it becomes apparent that the ideology that supposedly drove each of them was merely cover for their burning personal desire to seek immortality through action. This is the most obvious in the case of Napoleon, who secretly loathed both the liberty and the bloody regicides of the Republic whose armies he led so effectively, because his biographer was privy to his private thoughts long before his actions began to contradict his supposed republicanism. But, the same concept quite obviously applies to many of the more lethal Communist leaders as well, since most of them were no more genuinely committed to Communism than Napoleon was to liberty, equality, and the French Republic.

For such men of burning ambition, ideology is nothing more than a means to a self-serving end. Men have little to fear from an atheist libertarian or a Christian monarch, but they have everything to fear from an ambitious atheist who dreams of great actions and is determined to leave the world with the recollection of his existence.

Mailvox: the whitewashing of Lincoln

It’s kind of sad when Electric Six presents a more accurate view of Abraham Lincoln than most mainstream historians. AJ wishes to better understand why:

My father recommended to me a book called “The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War” by Thomas DiLorenzo. I’m not sure if you’ve read it or heard of it – I’m guessing that you have – but this book’s main focus is Lincoln’s rape of the Constitution, and the downfall of state sovereignty. Checking out the sources DiLorenzo used – as amateur as I may be in that area – they all look legit.

I’ve never really been a Lincoln fan in the first place, but this book made me sick to my stomach. Other books I have read and sources I have looked at, among them Murray Rothbard’s “Just War”, corroborate all of the evidence that Lincoln was a liar, power hungry, and a sociopath of the highest order. His Emancipation Proclamation was designed to provoke slave uprisings in states where the North did not have control, knowing full well that only women and children remained in those areas – yet it is hailed and revered as one of the greatest and most moving speeches ever given by a president. He has his face on Mount Rushmore, on our currency, a memorial in DC, and his own day in February – the same man who suspended the writ of habeas corpus, muzzled the press when it spoke out against him, imprisoned thousands of NORTHERNERS for political dissent (re: clamoring for peaceful secession) and is described as a dictator by even his most ardent of historians (though a benevolent one, they insist).

If people knew the truth about Lincoln – specifically the blacks who hold him up as the Great Emancipator, despite his desire to ship them all out to Africa and/or South America to preserve the “purity” of America – life in America would be drastically changed. And if they saw the similarities between the goings on before the War of Northern Aggression and what’s going on now, they might see some disquieting parallels. The only difference is that our current president doesn’t have to muzzle the media – they’re his already. The least of his crimes were against civil liberties, and the worst was starting the bloodiest war on American soil for the sole reason of destroying state sovereignty. Dishonesty in science and archaeology usually just annoys me, but I consider it par for the course. The same goes for most historians, but this is just too great to ignore. This makes me angry, and it should make everyone else angry, too, if they weren’t so historically ignorant.

I’m sure you know all of this already, and have probably written about it before, but my question is this: WHY have historians ignored Lincoln’s obvious agenda and wickedness? Why have they painted him in such a false light? I understand this isn’t anything new for history writing, but all of the evidence is there. I understand dishonesty in certain arenas, but against a corrupt politician? Historians usually revel in that sort of thing. Why does Lincoln get a free pass?

AJ answered her own question when she said “If people knew the truth about Lincoln… life in America would be drastically changed.” Lincoln is a secular saint for the same reason that the Roman Senate deified Octavian Augustus – he was the first emperor of Imperial America. Lincoln was, without a doubt, the worst president the united States of America because he murdered what had been a free and voluntary republican confederation in the name of a Federal Union imposed by violence.

Naturally, the would-be totalitarians of today revere him. But every freedom-loving American, black or white, should mark the end of the Republic by him. Sic semper tyrannis.

A descent into madness

I have a random idea for something that may be of interest to a small and masochistic fraction of the Ilk. Most of you will recall that we have, on occasion, collectively contemplated the possibility of Japan invading the West Coast. Being a game designer, I have often found that a wargame nicely clarifies one’s thinking on the range of practical possibilities. However, since there does not appear to be a wargame dedicated to this proposition, for what I believe to be the obvious reason that it wasn’t considered even a remote possibility by any of the functional military minds on either side, my thought is to design one which will clearly illustrate the various points I have repeatedly explained to those who bought into Michelle Malkin’s thesis.

If anyone is interested participating, the first thing we’ll need to do is work out orders of battle for both sides, decide on a scale for the map, and settle on potential victory conditions. I intend to work out the Japanese OOB circa spring 1942; I have already reinstalled the War in the Pacific complete with the latest updates to assist in this process. So, if you’re a wargamer or WWII enthusiast, feel free to share your thoughts on the idea here.

Mailvox: in which we hear from Densa

Clearly the world needs a club to honor those intrepid commenters who don’t let their possession of sub-68 IQs stand in the way of taking part in the grand democratic discourse that is the Internet. Here are three magnificent examples:

“I am extremely disturbed by your complete lack of compassion. I am cursed with the knowledge that all life is one, and it is terrible to know that there are people like you who believe that I will suffer horribly for eternity, and that you are okay with that. And you think of yourself as being ‘righteous’. And some people believe you. My tears will never run dry.”

First, this is absolutely false. One will search eight years of columns and 8,313 posts on this blog in vain for any evidence that I think of myself as being righteous or even ‘righteous’. As a Christian, I know perfectly well that I am not righteous because no one is or has ever been righteous except for the Son of Man. And more importantly, any righteousness that is achieved though him is on offer to everyone. It’s true, I am perfectly okay with people drowning because they are too proud to grab onto the lifeline and burning to death because they reject the idea that the building is on fire. Because if God has troubled to grant them free will, who am I to wish to take it from them? Why should anyone feel any compassion for those who are willfully, pridefully, and unnecessarily embracing their own destruction?

I am extremely sympathetic to the doubters, to the skeptics, and to those who seek and have not yet found. But I have only contempt for those who refuse to see the abyss yawning ahead of them because they are too busy looking back and down at their noses at everyone else, all the while crowing how stupid they all are for going a different way.

Jared Diamond’s argument makes perfect sense. Of course early humans living on what we now call continental Europe were the most environmentally advantaged in the world at the time by having more indigenous domesticable animal and plant species. Wild pigs and sheep were simply easier to domesticate than Africa’s lions or wildebeasts. How hard is this to understand?

It is hard to understand because it doesn’t align temporally with recorded human history. If “early humans living on what we now call continental Europe were the most environmentally advantaged in the world at the time”, it would be inexplicable how continental European civilization should have remained so stubbornly backward in comparison with various non-European civilizations such as the Sumerian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and even Mayan civilizations. Even if one cites Greek civilization, in which case one is primarily referring to Athenian society, the Diamond hypothesis doesn’t explain how Hellenic accomplishments eluded what is by far the greater part of continental Europe.

“The church wasn’t persecuting anyone ‘using a scientific or medical process’. No one. Not even Galileo.” …is one of the biggest pieces of nonsense I’ve seen in awhile. No, Galileo wasn’t put in a prison cell, but he was absolutely persecuted for heresy by the Inquisition of the Catholic Church for his writing in support of the Copernican model of heliocentrism and put on house arrest for the remainder of his life. This is well-documented. I’ve heard Christians do lots of revisionist history, but this is a new one to me. Holy crap.

Actually, that is accurate history, not revisionist. Notice how he does not cite a single example of an individual persecuted for using a scientific or medical process, mostly because there aren’t any. As for Galileo, he was not prosecuted for writing in support of the Catholic ecclesiastic’s model of heliocentrism, whose book had been in the possession of every major mathematician and astronomer for the 90 years prior to Galileo’s trial. Even Wikipedia is clear on the reason Galileo found himself in hot water.

The book, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, was published in 1632, with formal authorization from the Inquisition and papal permission…. Pope Urban VIII had personally asked Galileo to give arguments for and against heliocentrism in the book, and to be careful not to advocate heliocentrism. He made another request, that his own views on the matter be included in Galileo’s book. Only the latter of those requests was fulfilled by Galileo. Whether unknowingly or deliberately, Simplicio, the defender of the Aristotelian Geocentric view in “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems”, was often caught in his own errors and sometimes came across as a fool. Indeed, although Galileo states in the preface of his book that the character is named after a famous Aristotelian philosopher (Simplicius in Latin, Simplicio in Italian), the name “Simplicio” in Italian also has the connotation of “simpleton.”[99] This portrayal of Simplicio made “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems” appear as an advocacy book: an attack on Aristotelian geocentrism and defence of the Copernican theory. Unfortunately for his relationship with the Pope, Galileo put the words of Urban VIII into the mouth of Simplicio.

So Galileo disobeyed and betrayed the Pope, then publicly attacked him and made him look like a fool. The fact that Galileo wasn’t simply beheaded on the spot, as would have likely been the case if he had treated any other medieval ruler this way, is testimony to how reasonable the Roman Inquisition was. The most ridiculous thing about the attempt to cite the Galileo incident as proof that the Christianity is anti-science is that geocentrism was a pagan concept while heliocentrism was developed by a Christian canon who took Church orders and may have been a full priest.

Mailvox: the key to civilization

RB poses a question:

Your blog rocks! Anyways, I have a question I think you may know the answer to: Why is it that in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, people developed into advanced civilizations? Yet, when you look at the American Indians, [most] tribes in Central and South America, and Africa, these people were ages behind everyone else? I figure that commerce and perhaps the conquering of other peoples and their technologies had something to do with it, but when you look at the folks who did not advance, it’s like they decided to work harder and not smarter. I mean, look at the regions these people came from. They were resource rich, yet no one got off their butts to make life easier.

There are rival theories that attempt to explain the variance in technological advancement across various societies and cultures. For example, Jared Diamond’s famous hypothesis encapsulated in Guns, Germs, and Steel is little more than an attempt to blame anything but human evolution and racial differences. He’d rather hypothesize causal differences between horizontal and vertical continental geographies than observe the simple fact that the cultures that are known to have produced relatively advanced civilizations also happen to feature populations that presently posses higher intelligences. One can certainly argue that smarter populations are the result of advanced civilization rather than its cause, but logic suggests that the relationship between civilization and intelligence is unlikely to run in that direction due to the way in which civilization and technology are known to increase the survival and breeding rates of the less intelligent portions of the population.

However, the mere advantage of higher intelligence possessed by the European, Semitic and Asian peoples is simply not enough to account for the vast difference between different civilizations such as the tribal cultures of Papua New Guinea and Western European culture circa 1800. Keep in mind that the technological advancement of the Egyptians came to a halt long before Alexander the Great. Europe may not have experienced any Dark Ages, but its southern civilization certainly took a step or two backward during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and similar periods of arrested and even retarded development is known to have taken place in China and Japan as well.

So, the more informative question probably does not surround what advantage permits technological and societal advancement towards civilization, but rather, what are the factors that are capable of retarding them. It’s a complicated question; for example, while matriarchy clearly retards civilization, patriarchy doesn’t necessarily advance it. Christianity helped in Europe, but played no similar role in the Levant. So, I don’t have an answer, except to say that when it is figured out it will likely involve a complicated mixture of factors that don’t easily permit pointing to any two or three of them and declaring that they are the magic key.