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World Association of International Studies

Post Transatlantic Slave Trade: Fact and Legend
Created by John Eipper on 04/19/17 3:01 AM

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Transatlantic Slave Trade: Fact and Legend (Robert Gibbs, USA, 04/19/17 3:01 am)

It is quite distasteful to discuss numbers when dealing with the slave trade. Numbers keep popping which begin really to look like Stalin's statistics.

However, regarding the West African slave trade, we must remember that from the 16th century, the process was a triangular trade. The trip, in rather small vessels, went mainly from England, France, Holland, and Portugal. The journey from Europe to West Africa took about 6-8 weeks to the slave coast (the Ivory Coast and Gold Coast). In these ports of call there were no docks and a very rough surf.  The main trading posts were small forts like El Mina on the Gold Coast. Visit El Mina; at best it could hold about 100 slaves depending upon the various tribal wars in the interior. The slavers were a mix of merchants hoping to take on more cargo and take advantage of the trade winds and currents, to real slave traders. The trip to the Americas was about 3-4 months. All of these limited the numbers a vessel could carry. The need for food and water alone were severe limitations on the size of the "cargo." Then the ships returned to home port in about 3-4 months, depending upon trade winds. All of this with the need to clean the ship and refit damage. In short, the trade was tied to tide and currents as well as food and water supplies.

Admittedly, my historical knowledge of the trade is until the 19th century and the anti-slaver patrols (mainly British). However, the largest amount of slaves the British found was one ship with 38 (if memory serves), and by the mid-19th century only Portugal and Spain seem to have become the "big" players, together with a few American.

What I am arguing is that this nefarious trade and numbers are lost in politics. In the late 1960s to the present day, scholars went out of their way to inflate the numbers. One professor in his maiden lecture claimed that the numbers were over 80 million West African slaves, an impossible figure to which several Oxford Dons walked out--a thing that is never done.

My argument here is that the numbers will never be known with anything approaching accuracy, as the discussion is lost in our modern politics (yes, even in Academia), and the larger fact is that there are so few real, accurate and truthful records.

One of the anomalies is that Europeans--who abolished chattel slavery--would license trading companies (Britain, France, Holland and others). Also, the African Wars between the British and French on the Gold coast went totally unobserved in Europe.

There are no clean hands here: European, American or African. (The real rise of the Ashanti was their slave trade.)

As an aside, I would suggest that if he has not read it and is interested, Tim Ashby might want to read Haklyut's Voyages, a 16-17th century record of several voyages, especially to the Gold Coast (Modern Ghana). Those were hard men.

JE comments: Among my most haunting memories from Junior High history are textbook pictures of the "typical slave ship." Many of us have seen images like the one below. I haven't counted, but the image depicts far more than 38 captives in these unfathomably inhumane conditions.  Are engravings of this type inaccurate?

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  • Transatlantic Slave Trade: Fact and Legend; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/20/17 4:51 AM)
    Gary Moore writes:

    I don't know if WAIS is tiring of the slave trade discussion, but I'm glad for Robert Gibbs's comments (April 19). In pointing out his own personal experiences in hearing the victim numbers exaggerated for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Bob opens deep questions--and not just statistically. With the baseline established of Bob's hearing 80 million captives (though most authorities now say closer to 13 million, and Bob's own discussion suggests still lower numbers), we can ask the fundamental question: Why did that professor that he remembers feel obliged to so stratospherically exaggerate?

    This, too, goes to the left-right discussion, and the feeling that Western culture really is moving forward, however unevenly, toward greater inclusiveness on basic rights. Naturally I think the general movement (left) is desirable, and is helping to mend grievous wounds. But the very virtue of that position hides a pitfall, one that would seem especially germane in a crossroads time marked out by the electoral choice of Trump. Bob's reminiscence is far from the only case showing that there definitely is a point at which the mysterious sympathies that carry us toward the Golden Rule (liberalism) can become--what? Euphorically blind? Sentimentally counter-productive? Even predaciously accusational? I think this threshold point is crucial to define, precisely because the "progressive" or inclusive emphasis is a bright light, and would seem to be the hope for a smoothly functioning society.

    The argument becomes less abstract in a related field, where circumstances have given me a viewpoint behind the curtain of public illusions. This is the field of present-day thinking--after about the 1990s--on the history of American racial violence. I think every single major incident of white pogroms in the lynching era--cases surely needing no exaggeration--has had its death toll colossally revised and ramped up, on basically no evidence. This kind of euphoria, when one sees it up close, begins to assume the majesty of a wonder of nature, like watching Old Faithful erupt. Yet it's a solitary show, because the spirit of the times has generally endorsed the rush of exaggeration, without asking for proof. If this seems heretical, this kind of process can more easily be seen from left perspectives in the form of the special pleadings for Creationism. Mountains of minor details are heaped together and focused on with obsessive narrowness, leaving all the inconveniences outside the viewfinder.

    I don't think the future of our culture, and its discourse, should be dominated by a slugfest betwen fanaticisms, on left and right. And I think the left may have the better chance of seeing this dilemma clearly. Though it should be said that the mysteries of excessive sympathy--or disguised grandiosity--can't necessarily be approached in a come-to-Jesus moment, by mere personal meditation. How often, after all, does anyone pipe up and say: "Boy, I sure got crazy on that one"?

    So is the slugfest between different kinds of craziness the best we can do?

    Is what might be called "redemptive exaggeration" actually good and productive?

    Do I remember correctly that on a couple of occasions our esteemed moderator seems to have suggested just that?

    So here's the reflective moment, suddenly defining the terms, and thus inviting focused reply.

    JE comments:  Great points, Gary.  "Redemptive exaggeration" is well-intentioned but counterproductive, precisely because it provides ample material for reaction and the meanest types of revisionism.

    And what about the infamous slave ship of tidily packed, human sardines?  Bob Gibbs (next) comments.

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    • Danes in West Indies (Holger Terp, Denmark 04/21/17 3:54 AM)
      The Danish State Archives launched a new website on June 16th, 2014 that tells the story of the Danish colony in the West Indies up until the 1917 sale of the islands to the US.

      The new website--http://www.virgin-islands-history.org/en/ --will contain all information from the Danish State Archives up to the centennial.




      JE comments: Always a pleasure to hear from veteran WAISer Holger Terp of the Danish Peace Academy (Copenhagen).  Holger:  you've reminded us of the Danish colonies in the Caribbean, one of the more forgotten moments of colonial history.  To think that over the years, Spain, France, UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, the US, Russia (Cuba) and even East Germany (Ernst Thälmann Island) have been overlords in the Caribbean.  Now we should include Colombia and Venezuela.

      These new archives will be a boon to historians.  Holger, has the "definitive" history of Denmark's two centuries in the West Indies ever been written (in English)?

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      • Danish West Indies: Research Materials (Holger Terp, Denmark 04/24/17 4:10 AM)
        In response to John E's question, the definitive history of the Danes in the West Indies seems to be waiting for an English-language book.

        A few titles:

        A guide to sources for the history of the Danish West Indies (US Virgin Islands), 1671-1917: Erik Gøbel. University Press of Southern Denmark, 2002.

        Natures of Conduct: Governmentality and the Danish West Indies. PhD dissertation. Rasmus Sielemann. Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen, 2015.

        A little bit more about the huge online archive:

        They contain five million files--approximately 15,000 series of images and more than 130,000 transcribed items.

        Original records from the West Indian local government take up approximately 870 linear meters. The documents from the Danish-West Indian central administration take up about 414 linear meters. Therefore, we are talking about a substantial amount of preserved records, letters, accounts, and other documents that were scanned in 2013-2016 and made available through this website in 2017.

        The collection was included on UNESCOs World Heritage List in 1997.

        JE comments: Thank you, Holger! There must be 3-4 more dissertations awaiting in those archives. Knowledge of Danish is required, to be sure.  I'd like to get a sense of where Imperial Denmark ranked on the "humanity scale."  Where they more on the benign end of the spectrum, or the ruthless one?  (I'm talking about the modern Danes, not their Viking ancestors.)

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        • Danes as Colonizers (Leo Goldberger, USA 04/26/17 3:33 AM)

          In response to Holger Terp's post (April 24th) in which JE wondered about Denmark's stance on the humanity scale back in the days of its Virgin Islands ownership, I share his curiosity and am especially curious about learning what the archival records have to say about the motivations behind the decision to abolish the slave trade as early as the 1840s, some 20 years before the US.

          As I recall from my history lessons as a youngster growing up in Denmark--where the central focus was on memorizing the lineage of our kings and their political decrees since the days of the Vikings--it was King Fredrick V who proposed the regulations for a more humane treatment of the slaves in the Virgin Islands. He in turn was followed by Fredrick VI's proposal to abolish slave trade altogether in 1778--though it took some eighty years to actually implement this dictate, back in 1848.

          I always wondered about Fredrick VI's motivation. As the son of the young King Christian VII--who suffered from schizophrenia and was largely ignored as a ruler and maltreated as well, Fredrick VI strove to improve the lives of the oppressed peasant population in feudal Denmark at the time, as well as ordering the release of the slaves in the Danish V.I. from their bondage and intolerable living conditions. Do the archival records Holger Terp refers to speak at all to that interpretation of family dynamics?

          Incidentally, while I welcome the recent WAIS focus on instances of oppression across the globe, I do question the use of the Holocaust designation as the over-arching category for these posts. In my view, such a generalization tends to diminish its unique reference to instances of systematic genocide.

          JE comments:   Britain was the first of Europe's Caribbean colonizers to abolish slavery, beginning in 1834. Denmark followed suit in 1846, two years before France.  The Dutch Caribbean maintained the institution for another fifteen years, until 1861.

          Leo Goldberg makes a great point about the misuse of the term "Holocaust."  The topic or heading of a WAIS post is automatically maintained throughout the entire discussion, unless I specifically change it.  Now we are in the Denmark category, but this could mutate into a discussion of Dutch colonization, or something totally tangential.

          A question for the Floor:  is it appropriate to speak of the transatlantic slave trade as a Holocaust?  Or how about a lower-case holocaust?  I would say yes, as it refers to the systematic and intentional destruction of a people.

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          • Abolition and Emancipation are Not the Same Thing (David Pike, -France 04/26/17 7:49 AM)
            These days it is rare for me to post on WAIS, but I returned to Paris yesterday from Madrid, and later this spring I may write to say that my life has taken a most auspicious turn. (And it is not another book contract!)

            So I can seize the leading post of the morning, that of Leo Goldberger (April 26) on Denmark and slavery, and re-enter a topic that was important for me at Stanford. I studied it under Sir Harold Mitchell, Bart. who was one of Bolivar House's four Lecturers. (Two others were James Taylor and Burnett Bolloten, but I forget the name of the third. Letzinger?). Sir Harold was the leading authority at the time on the Caribbean, and some WAISers must have known him. He had estates in Jamaica and Brazil and other places, where he offered careers to some of us students, but it was to his Chateau de Bourdigny near Geneva that he invited me to spend the summer of 1962 as his research assistant on Europe in the Caribbean.

            So now to the point. Leo writes of Denmark's decision "to abolish the slave trade as early as the 1840s." "Abolition" is a technical term. Putting an end to European slavery required two separate champions, for two separate stages. "Abolition" was the term for ending the slave trade, and that was the life's work of Granville Sharp. "Emancipation" meant the end of slavery as such, and that consumed the life of Wilberforce. Abolition was introduced into the British Empire in 1807, and all the European empires followed in the same decade. Abolition was carried out with energy, but it was held back until the United States agreed to join in 1842 (check date). As for Emancipation, after 1848 there were only three states in the Western world still in the slavery business: Brazil, Spain in Cuba, and the US.

            JE comments: This distinction warrants further discussion. In the US, abolition and emancipation are used interchangeably.  As schoolchildren we learned to conflate: "President Lincoln abolished slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation."  My understanding is that the US abolished the importation of enslaved people at virtually the same time (1808) as the UK.  This date is largely forgotten in history, as the Emancipation Proclamation overshadowed it on January 1st, 1863.  Even that measure outlawed slavery only for the states in rebellion.  Border states Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware would wait until the 13th Amendment in 1865.

            If you're a WAISer or a friend of WAIS, thank Sir Harold Mitchell.  His $5000 donation in the 1960s formed the seed money for our endowment. 

            So thank you, Sir Harold!  And please, David--give us a hint of your auspicious news!  I have auspicious suspicions, but I'll keep mum.

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            • Abolition vs Emancipation; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/01/17 7:34 AM)

              Gary Moore writes:

              In response to David Pike (April 26th), John E is right that in the US, abolitionism and emancipation
              were synonymous.  All those Antebellum slave owners
              weren't hollering about "emancipationists," and the trade
              itself had long since been outlawed. And yes to Timothy
              Ashby on how the slave trade was not "the systematic and
              intentional destruction of a people"--but it was a parasitic depredation
              on many different peoples.

              JE comments:  I'm going to stick (stubbornly) to viewing slavery as a "systematic destruction."  Can't "destruction" be defined in ways other than liquidation?

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          • Was the Transatlantic Slave Trade a Holocaust? (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 04/26/17 12:28 PM)
            John E asked earlier today (April 26th):  "Is it appropriate to speak of the transatlantic slave trade as a Holocaust? Or how about a lower-case holocaust?" He further offered, "I would say yes, as it refers to the systematic and intentional destruction of a people."

            The transatlantic slave trade was not a "systematic and intentional destruction of a people." There was never an intent to destroy Africans as a people. Slaves were an economic commodity, a form of capital, and actually were more valuable than white indentured servants during the colonial period. Slaves died during the middle passage due to the horrifying conditions aboard the ships, which was largely due to ignorance of disease. Captains of slave ships received bonuses for delivering as many live Africans to the New World slave markets as possible.

            Although white indentured servants could achieve freedom and own property after their period of servitude, their lives were largely nasty, brutish and short. During the 17th century, indentured servants suffered an appalling death rate. 50% of all white servants in the Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland died within five years of their arrival. In many respects, the status of white servants differed little from that of slavery--they could be bought, sold, or leased and they could also be punished by whipping. (I have a 1740s account of my ancestor Captain Thomas Ashby ordering the whipping of a man and a woman, his indentured servants, who ran away.)

            JE comments:  The children of dead indentured servants could also be held accountable for their parents' debts. This according to my latest read, Nancy Isenberg's White Trash (2016), which despite its trashy title, is a provocative history of social class in the United States.  In fact, there was less incentive to keep an indentured servant alive than a slave, given that a slave held permanent commercial value to the owner.  Masters could, and often did, work their indentured servants to death.

            Was African slavery a "systematic and intentional destruction"?  Enslavement doesn't incentivize death, but it is undoubtedly a type of destruction.

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          • Pre-Modern Danish Society; Georg Brandes (Holger Terp, Denmark 04/27/17 4:05 AM)
            In the Middle Ages, Denmark-Norway was an extremely violent society, where the monarchs ruled over their subjects with an iron hand.

            There were corporal punishments and death sentences for even the smallest offenses, and exile was common for people who dared to question the king's power or policy. The population consisted of slaves or soldiers or both, and the oppression was systematic and total. Denmark was then a militarized kingdom.

            For the years 1799-1849, I have not been able to find a single publication or article about Danish society. This democratic literature does not appear until the 1850s. How did the citizens react to the unrighteousness? They ceased to deal with politics altogether, or they emigrated.

            Denmark's strict punishment practices in the Middle Ages have been documented by the historian Tyge Krog in his book Enlightenment and Magic: Enforcement and corporal punishment in the first half of the 18th century:  2000.

            And after all, humanism emerged in 1870 with the modern breakthrough of Georg Brandes.

            JE comments:  I've always wondered how the Scandinavian countries transformed from the Hobbesian nastiness of the Medieval and Pre-Modern periods to become the tolerant welfare states of today.  Holger Terp reminds us of the contributions of Georg Brandes (born Morris Cohen, 1842-1927), who wrote against the hypocrisy and prudish sexuality of Danish society.  How could Brandes be so influential?  He is almost unknown in the Anglo world.

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          • Was the Transatlantic Slave Trade a "Holocaust"? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/27/17 4:43 AM)

            Gary Moore writes:

            Briefly on Leo Goldberger's (April 26) reservations about calling the transatlantic
            slave trade a Holocaust (before I turn to the religious questions laid out so cogently
            yesterday by Ric Mauricio and David Duggan).

            Yes, Leo is right, the transatlantic slave trade wasn't a Holocaust. But yes, change
            the capital and it was a holocaust. And no, it wasn't genocide, no matter what liberal
            theologizing might say, because genocide is very specifically defined. But yes, it can be
            called a crime against humanity.

            And JE beat me to the punch on pointing out Denmark
            wasn't uniquely enlightened when it abolished its slave trade in 1848, since Britain
            did so on a much larger scale in the 1830s, and the US forbade importation of slaves
            as early as 1808, in an arrangement that went back even earlier to the formulation of
            the Constitution. Though polemics may always distort these things, they do matter,
            for a simple reason: if not tied down, polemics would distort them even more.

            JE comments:  Shall we settle on labeling slavery a Crime against Humanity?  No one can call that into question.  Or maybe they can--consider that for centuries, the Peculiar Institution was legal.

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    • Slavery Seen from Two Perspectives; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/21/17 4:27 AM)
      Gary Moore writes:

      Again WAIS discussion refines the focus on a cultural watershed often lost in haze.

      The dialectic between Robert Gibbs's (April 20) well-founded skepticism about the size of ships in the transatlantic slave trade, and JE's wonderfully relevant rejoinder on how large and packed the ships documentably could be, helps again to take the inquiry beyond its usual confines of polemics and into defining the emotional or "sympathetic" bedrock involved. I'll seek (poorly) to parse this treacherous ground:

      Could it be said that underpinning opinions on panoramic issues of cultural harm like slavery are (perhaps among others) two general opposites:

      1) The viewpoint finding paramount importance in sympathizing with the victims.  Such a viewpoint may emphasize--and hence may be led to exaggerate--the disempowered aspect of a cultural interface; and

      2) The viewpoint finding paramount or at least parallel importance in sympathizing with the overall value of a mainstream culture that had done the harm, seeing more urgently the question of how a familiar and admired mainstream could have stooped or been carried to the alleged depths--and hence seeing glaringly the dissonance of claims or exaggerations--that seem to demonize the empowered culture.

      However poorly I've phrased this, it strikes me that I may at least have the credentials--since maybe I've been on both these sides.

      Maybe the word "dissonance"--as in cognitive dissonance--is part of the key here.  What is intuitively dissonant to whom, and how to cross that bridge mutually--if only we could find the tools...

      JE comments:  We could further parse viewpoint #2 to include the "it wasn't so bad/let's not exaggerate" school of reasoning and the classic Soviet tu quoque/"you are lynching Negroes" retort.  This latter category likes to say how warring African tribes were responsible for rounding up the "human resources" sold into slavery.  This of course begs the question of how the slave market incentivized war by making it profitable.  A related tactic is reminding the listener that Native Americans slaughtered each other just fine before the White Man showed up to do his own slaughtering.

      We could add a third viewpoint:  the empowering idea that the colonizers' culture is irrevocably changed by the people they subjugate.  Just for starters, consider cuisine, language, the arts, and British tea and chutney.

      Well phrased, Gary.  Tell us more about how you've been on "both sides."  No doubt I'm oversimplifying, but can I take this to mean that you were once an unapologetic apologist for imperialism?

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      • Thoughts on Colonization and Imperialism; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/22/17 8:48 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        Now JE is exaggerating my implications about exaggerating, with
        regard to my attempt to articulate the two sides in the debate on cultural harm,
        including colonization and slavery.

        In my post of April 21st, I tried to see if I could see from both sides
        of such debates, saying one side emphasizes victim viewpoints and one side
        emphasizes mainstream culture viewpoints--and I said I thought maybe I had
        been on both sides. But I meant right now, not in some nefarious past: right
        now I can feel both sympathies.

        Example: JE also noted the claim that slavery
        was promulgated by the Africans themselves when they were at war, taking
        captives to sell, and he said that was a red herring since it was the Europeans who
        were providing the market for the slaves. True, but, sad to say, that counter-argument
        is another form of the blindness--because no war was needed and there were
        well-documented native organizations and societies that specialized in capturing
        whoever they could, simply for profit. It doesn't make the European depredation
        any less, but the disproportion here is in minimizing the parallel native flaws,
        so the Europeans are left as sole demons--sort of the way Roots removed the
        African captors and had Europeans ranging out through the jungles on hunts
        (which also did occur, but was not the main action).

        JE phrased his reply to me like this: "Were you [Gary] once an apologetic spokesman for imperialism?"
        That's not only like asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?" but like the
        fundamentalist's insulting challenge: "Do you believe in God?"--insulting because
        they're packing into that one little nugget a message that says: "You do define the
        things you hold sacred exactly as I do, do you not, and I need not specify this since
        the way I view sacredness is the only possible way."

        In the two-sided debating teams I imagined, can't we all feel both sympathies
        to some degree? And might fanaticism be the complete loss of one or the other
        balancing magnetism?

        And by the way, thanks for that great reminder of the old Stalinist answer-for-everything:
        "You also lynch Negroes." Maybe somewhere there's a compilation of such arguments
        down through history: the tu quoques, red herrings, ad hominems, and simple shrugs,
        perhaps including: "Kill them all. God will know his own."

        But as a former "unapologetic spokesman for imperialism," I feel inadequate for such discussion,
        and that I should instead be concentrating on penance.

        This whole notion I had--of trying to reconcile polemics--smacks a bit of walking into a Sunday-school
        class and asking can't they see that atheism has a point, too. A great way to paint a bulls-eye
        on oneself.

        How do I get myself into these messes?

        JE comments:  No offense was intended, Gary, but I apologize nonetheless.  And there might even be sound and--dare I say?--politically correct apologies for imperialism.  The emergence of English as a lingua franca, like Latin in its day, is a good thing to combat the Tower of Babel phenomenon of chaos and misunderstanding.  Granted, misunderstanding is all too common, even when you speak the same language.

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        • Enslaving Ourselves; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 04/23/17 4:53 AM)
          Ric Mauricio writes:

          Once again, a very interesting discussion on WAIS. The debate on slavery got me thinking. Isn't the debate not really on whether it was Europeans or Africans who promulgated the practice of enslaving, but rather the treatment of human beings by other human beings? What if I purchased slaves and treated those slaves with respect and love and not as property? What if I viewed my wife not as my property, thus forcing her to adopt my surname as hers, but rather as my partner? What if I provided clean lodging to my farm workers (a form of slavery or indentured service; I know I couldn't work in the hundred-degree temperatures in California's Central Valley)? What about the Chinese rail workers who were forced to be the canaries in the tunnels being built and yet had limited access to marrying? What about the Native American Indians who were forced to live on reservations, which I could never understand?

          But let's amp up this discussion even further. I find that right-wing or left-wing believers will only believe in right-wing or left-wing rhetoric, always dismissing the other side as fake news. Are they not enslaving themselves by only listening to teachings that support their beliefs?

          Have we not enslaved ourselves to fiat currency, thus abdicating our economic power to those in government who choose to debase the fiat currency because they can? But going one step further in this discussion, is not that part of the government really not part of the government at all, but controlling the economics of the government with its policies? Oh, yes, I am talking about the Central Banks, whether they be in the US, the UK, Europe, or Asia. The real shareholders of the Central Banks are really the financial institutions. In the US, the shareholders are led by the likes of Citibank, Bank of America, Chase, and Goldman Sachs. In Europe, it is led by the likes of Deutsche Bank. And through the talking heads on TV and other forms of mass media, they propagate their enslaving lies.

          In the Ivy League Universities, we are enslaved by the economic teachings of the Keynesian theory, pushing other economic theories such as the Austrian School as irrelevant.

          In religion, we are enslaved by the teachings of the Churches. I find it interesting that the Christian Church bases most of its teachings on the apostle Paul. His teachings comprise about two-thirds of the New Testament and they many times contradicts the teachings of Jesus. But realize that Paul was a Pharisee in his pre-Christian life and therefore his beliefs crept into his teachings. Not to just pick on Christianity, but I find that teachings in other faiths have been expanded and bastardized in the same way by the formal institutions that go forth to spread the Way. Siddhartha was a skinny dude, not a fat-looking Buddha. In fact, Buddha is not even a person but a state of being. Is not the Hindu view that we are all little gods an attempt to deslave ourselves by explaining that we are all part of the life force of the universe, that life force often referred as God or Allah or Yahweh? Isn't the Holy Spirit another explanation of the Zen enlightenment?

          In physical fitness, we are enslaved to workout myths, that, looking at the obesity rate in the United States, are obviously myths. Spending two hours a day to burn off calories does not work. Doing Crossfit does not make you fit. In fact, I have members who come in injured from Crossfit.

          So, in life, there are those who choose to enslave others, but many of us choose to enslave ourselves.

          JE comments:  This post from Ric Mauricio is part Rousseau, part William Jennings Bryan, and 100% food for thought (a nourishment which never leads to obesity).  Many would say, however, that you cannot compare "self-colonization" or "cultural hegemony" to the very real slavery of the whip, the market, and the genocidal transatlantic passage.

          A question for our economists:  Is Keynesian theory truly the "gospel" in Ivy League schools?  My first exposure to the Dismal Science was during my year as an exchange student in Chile, where the Austrian-influenced Chicago School ruled the roost.  Is/was U Chicago an outlier?

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          • Yes, But... (Timothy Brown, USA 04/23/17 5:46 PM)
            I enjoy Ric Mauricio's thoughtful "if only, but then" thoughts.

            They remind me of a saying from my youth: "If the world were flat, we'd never have to walk uphill."

            JE comments: Yes, but then how would we ski?  (Cross-country skiing is tedious.)

            But seriously, Tim, isn't "but then" the central syntactic structure of WAIS, the cornerstone of critical thinking itself?

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          • Does Paul Contradict the Teachings of Christ? (Enrique Torner, USA 04/24/17 3:49 AM)
            I really liked Ric Mauricio's post on enslaving ourselves (April 23), that is, until I reached the part where he stated that the Apostle Paul contradicts the teachings of Jesus.

            I would like Ric to support his statement with verses from the Bible, because, personally, I don't see those contradictions. I do agree with him, though, that we are enslaved by the teachings of the Churches. That's why I am against formally joining one: I don't want to be enslaved by any church or anybody! I have my own beliefs, which I base on my understanding of the Bible, the only authority I want to have. The Catholic Church has been an example of an institution that tries to control their members (and non-members) by threatening and punishing them to unbelievable degrees. Even Pope John Paul II recognized this by apologizing for over 100 of their wrongdoings, including the Catholics' involvement with African slave trade!

            Wikipedia lists many of them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_apologies_made_by_Pope_John_Paul_II

            The Bible states that we all are enslaved to sin, and that only God can free us from it, so we can become enslaved only to Him (Romans 6:16, 6:22; Titus 3:3; 2 Peter 2:19).

            Regarding the initial discussion on slave trade, I am ashamed to admit that Spain was guilty of that since the times of the Greeks, and by the time of the Renaissance, Spain had the highest rate of African slaves in Europe (Wikipedia). Seville became the main entry port of slaves, where 7.4% of the population was enslaved. African slaves ended up replacing the Native American slaves Spain had in the New World, partly because the African slaves were immune to the European diseases that Native Americans were dying from. This is what led to the development of the Atlantic slave trade. Later on, Native American slavery would be banned, while African slavery continued being legal. Why would this difference be? (I'm being sarcastic here).

            After this free time I used to write this post, I will now go back to the slavery of grading tests and papers, a chain I cannot break, no matter how hard I try! When I finally return papers, students hand me more! I feel like an Egyptian slave.

            JE comments: By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground!  I feel your pain, Enrique.  It's finals week at the College and I too am in grading purgatory/peonage.  But students truly appreciate thoughtful feedback on their essays.  We must remember that it's a privilege to labor with the pen and not the plow.

            Who can help us with our Paul/Christ discussion?  For starters, wasn't Paul, not Jesus, the one who came up with mulieres in ecclesiis taceant, which silences women in the Catholic Church--specifically forbidding them from the priesthood?

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            • Does Paul Contradict the Teachings of Christ? From Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 04/25/17 7:10 AM)

              Ric Mauricio writes:

              Ah, horror of horrors.  If only the world were flat...we would have not exhilarating downhill runs at Heavenly or Squaw Valley, the awesomeness of Yosemite Falls nor the Grand Canyon, and the romance of cable cars to the stars.

              But in response to Enrique Torner (April 24th), I will try to illustrate cases where I humbly (I am not a biblical scholar by any means) present my insights to the teachings of both Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

              Jesus says Nations Of The World Are Under Satan, But Paul Says Their Rulers Are Agents of God

              Secular authorities are stated by Paul to be God's own agents. (Romans 13:1-5.) Wow, I thought when I first heard this: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were God's own agents. Paul exhorts us not to rebel against these agents of God. Paul also contradicts Hosea 8:4 (700s BC): "They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval." (NIV) Compare Luke 4:5-8 (Satan offers his authority to Jesus to rule the kingdoms of the world), John 18:36 ("my kingdom is not of this world") and Acts 4:26 ("rulers of the world rise up against the Annointed One").

              Paul Exhorts Celibacy, But Jesus Clearly Says It is A Choice Not Within Everyone's Power

              Paul's teachings against marriage really threw me for a loop. If all men can control their passion (oh, a bad thing), then none of us would marry, thereby dooming the human race into extinction. Makes sense, right?

              Paul taught against being married. He wrote in 1 Cor. 10:27-28: "Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage." Sounds like Paul equates marriage to enslavement.

              In line with this Paul also wrote: "I wish all were as I am," meaning unmarried. (1 Cor. 7:7.)

              To help prevent the desire to be married, Paul said: "It is good that a man should not touch a woman." (1 Cor. 7:1.)

              Obviously Paul clearly endorses celibacy for us as a superior way of life.

              However, Jesus speaks differently of celibacy as something for some but not all disciples. It is not a command or even an exhortation. It is merely a legitimate option. "He who is able to receive this, let him receive it." Matt. 19:12.

              The contradiction arises because Jesus never says or implies "do not seek marriage." Significantly, Jesus never applies any moral pressure to be celibate, while Paul clearly does so.

              Paul Excludes Eating With Sinners But Christ's Example We Are To Follow, and the Lost Sheep Parable, Is Contrary

              In 1 Cor. 5:9, Paul clearly writes:

              I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: 5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such n one do not to eat. 5:12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? 5:13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

              What did Pharisees like Paul say was Jesus' sin or error? Eating with sinners.

              In Luke 15:1, the Pharisees accused Jesus of error, saying: "This man receives sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus defends this practice in a Parable of the Lost Sheep--that if you have a lost sheep, you don't wait for it to come home, but you go out to where you can find it, and then lead it back home. Jesus defends proactively socializing with sinners so as to bring them home as lost sheep, which included eating with sinners:

              Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 Then Jesus told them this parable:4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.'7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:1-4.)

              In another context, Jesus gives a similar defense when the Pharisees similarly accused Jesus of the alleged error of eating and socializing with sinners:

              15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:15-17 NIV.)

              Jesus defended the practice of making an effort to socialize with sinners to bring them back from a lost condition to a saved one. For the "healthy" don't need a doctor to call upon them--only the sick (sinners in context).

              But Paul says the opposite. Don't "eat" with sinners, Paul clearly says. Hence, 1 Cor. 5:9 contradicts Jesus's clear practice of eating with sinners. This is akin to Paul's idea of "turning" people over to Satan, abandoning them and praying Satan takes control of their lives. Jesus says this is an error--Jesus instead says you seek to turn such people from Satan and back to God.

              Jesus made a point to eat with tax collectors and sinners as representative of "my sheep who are lost" and need "repentance." Jesus included them as if they were his sheep previously--implicitly saved sheep at one point--but are now lost. The good shepherd exclaims when he comes home "I have found MY sheep who was lost." (Luke 15:6.) These are "sinners who repent" in distinction from "righteous sheep" who need no repentance. Luke 15:7.

              Paul was exclusionary; Jesus advocated inclusion. Paul was a persecutor of Christians, but found that when he couldn't beat them, he simply hijacked the teachings and molded it to his Pharisee mindset.

              There are many more contradictions, but these are the ones that really get my ire. I will continue to eat with my non-believer friends; I will continue to eat with my Muslim and Jewish friends (as well as Christians); I will continue to eat with all my friends of different ethnic, cultural and sexual orientation groups. God forbid that all people were alike. What an absolute boring world this would be. And I will not blindly follow our leaders (political or religious), thinking of them as agents of God.

              And I still believe that love and passion is a good thing (although I do believe that sex without love is just an animal act).

              JE comments:  To go one further, might we say Paul was a misogynist?  (Granted, that would be a "presentist" appraisal.)  I hope David Duggan will join this discussion.

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              • Reconciling Paul and Christ (David Duggan, USA 04/25/17 5:43 PM)
                Do I dare attempt a reconciliation of Paul with Jesus? Can the sun be reconciled with the moon? Can the tides be reconciled with the shore? Can Athens be reconciled with Jerusalem? Can Antonin Scalia (rest in peace) be reconciled with Ruth Bader Ginsberg? Looked at from the standpoint of us mere temporal mortals, of course not. But looked at from the aspect of eternity, of course they can, for all are subject to the love of God against which Paul and Jesus, sun and moon, tide and shore, and Scalia and Ginsberg are judged, weighed and redeemed.

                Jesus' blameless life, moral teachings, miraculous healings, and out-of-the-box associations exemplify His death, resurrection and ascension. Without the former, the latter would seem a Divine circus trick: wow, how'd He do that? Without the latter, the former would make Him a sort of cross between Albert Schweitzer and Diogenes. The pairing of human action and Divine intervention reinforces the Nicene Creed's statement that Jesus was both man and God, begotten of the Father before all worlds.

                Paul bears none of these indicia. He was born in Tarsus of modern-day Turkey and early on came under the influence of Gamaliel, the chief Pharisee of the 1st Century of the common era in Jerusalem. As such he was a scholar, but one with a mission to eradicate followers of the Way, as those early believers that Jesus was the Christ or Messiah called themselves (sort of like a Eugene Genovese or George Wald, legitimate academics with political-social agendas). His Damascus Road conversion of course changed not only his life but the life of Christianity. For no longer was it a fringe sect, but one with a body of scripture, and an advocate who not only braved Mediterranean seas and unruly mobs, but defied the same Roman authorities which had put the One whom he had persecuted to death. The Gospels began to be written shortly after his conversion, and Paul's letters followed.

                Of course there will be contradictions. Paul was writing to specific audiences at specific times and for specific reasons. The passage of time does not diminish the value of the message however. WAISers might well wonder what the world would look like if husbands did not love their wives as Christ loves His church, or if children did not obey their parents. (I'll leave for another day a discussion of wives' obedience to their husbands; suffice it that there is a flip side.) But the Gospels were written that others believe in Christ, and the 4th Gospel (John) so that His life could be seen in the context of a theology--an understanding of God--which had cleaved time in two. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ...No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (John 1: 1 & 18, NIV, capitalizations in original).

                Back when I was practicing law in New York, I idolized two judges of the United States Court of Appeals: Augustus Noble Hand, and his younger but more famous cousin, [Billings] Learned Hand. Though they shared one quarter of a gene pool, they were near polar opposites: Gus an originalist before Scalia, Learned a progressive before Ginsberg; Gus a devoted churchman, Learned a skeptic. The word then was "quote Learned but follow Gus." The same could be said about Paul and Jesus: quote Paul, but follow Jesus. We could do worse.

                JE comments:  Excellent essay, David, but I'm puzzled by your concluding analogy.  Isn't Jesus more of a "progressive" than Paul?  Granted, I may be out of my league on matters of Christian theology.

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                • Paul's Letters and Gospels (David Pike, -France 04/27/17 2:08 PM)

                  David Duggan wrote on April 25: "The Gospels began to be written shortly after [Paul's] conversion, and Paul's letters followed."

                  I understand it as fact undisputed by biblical scholars that Paul wrote his letters in AD 55, and that the Gospels followed, beginning with Mark (and not Matthew).

                  JE comments:  I knew the Mark before Matthew part, but who can clarify the chronology of Paul's writings?

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                  • Paul's Letters and Gospels (Enrique Torner, USA 04/28/17 12:48 PM)

                    In response to David Pike (27 April), the chronology of Paul's letters and the Gospels is something I can easily give.

                    Most scholars agree on the following chronology: Paul's letters were written first, in the 50s AD; Mark's Gospel came next in 65-70 AD; Matthew's and Luke's came next in 80-85 AD; John's came last, in 90-95 AD. The non-canonical Gospels were dated to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and even later. However, we don't have any of the original manuscripts, but only copies of copies of them. The earliest manuscript we have found dates 125-140 AD, on papyrus in codex form (like a book): P52, which means that it was the 52nd NT manuscript that was catalogued. Starting in the 4th century, scribes started copying documents on parchment. The first complete book of the NT on any surviving manuscript dates to the end of the 3rd century; the first complete copy of the NT dates to the 4th century.

                    Of note, of the thousands of ancient copies of the NT that are still extant, most date from the Middle Ages. If anybody is interested in Bible history (canonical and non-canonical), the Great Courses company has several fantastic courses on this subject offered by outstanding Bible scholars, like Bart D. Ehrman and Luke Timothy Johnson, among others. I have listened to several, and they are all fascinating.

                    JE comments:  This is probably a softball question, but here goes:  If Mark is the older Gospel, how did Matthew come to be placed first?

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                    • Matthew, Mark...or Mark, Matthew? (Enrique Torner, USA 04/30/17 5:23 AM)
                      John E asked how, being Mark the earliest Gospel, it is not the first book in the New Testament, but the second, right after Matthew. The answer rests in the process through which the NT canon was formed. I explained the whole process on WAIS some time ago. The first writer known to us who listed exactly the 27 books which traditionally make up the NT was Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria. In AD 367, in his 39th festal letter, Athanasius includes the list of canonical books of the Old and New Testaments that we have today, though not in the same order we have them today. Here is a link to an article that explains the whole process:


                      Interestingly, it was not until 30-40 years later (397-407 AD) that somebody referred to the whole Bible as "ta biblia" (in transliterated Greek, the books): Chrysostom, "John of the Golden Mouth." The order of the books, however, was not set until Jerome's revised Vulgate Bible (in Latin) appeared in 383 AD. The canon of the NT was finally fixed. And Matthew was placed before Mark! John, if you want to know why Jerome placed Matthew ahead of Mark, you'll have to ask him, because I couldn't find the reason behind it!

                      JE comments:  Thank you, Enrique.  Jerome would make an outstanding WAISer.  (!)  Seriously now, was there any Church Father who exercised more direct influence on Christianity than St Jerome?

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                      • Who Was the Most Influential Church Father? (Robert Whealey, USA 05/02/17 4:41 AM)
                        To answer John E's question (30 April), most scholars would put the Bishop of Hippo and his book the City of God. He was also St. Augustine.

                        St. Augustine has been far more influential than St. Jerome. St. Augustine is worshiped by the Protestants and Catholics and greatly influenced the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants rejected St. Thomas Aquinas as a Scholastic.

                        JE comments:  Augustine is remembered as the founding theorist of predestination, which became a central tenet of Calvinism.  As for "influential," we must also consider Martin Luther, who impacted Catholicism nearly as much as his own Protestant movement.

                        A red-letter anniversary is upon us in less than six months:  Luther's 95 Theses of 31 October 1517.

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                  • Was Christ more "Progressive" than Paul? (David Duggan, USA 04/29/17 4:23 AM)
                    Let me say straight away that I am not a historian, Biblical scholar, etymologist, or examiner of ancient texts. I am a person of faith who can make reasonable inferences from the limited evidence, only some of which would prove either admissible or conclusive in a court of law, which has been my field for most of my life.

                    There were no ancient copyright laws, and it is not clear that the third-party accounts (i.e, the canonical Gospels) were written by those who actually witnessed the events. The only textual references to someone with what a lawyer would say is "actual knowledge" are 1) the scene in Mark's Gospel (14:51-52) when a "young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was ... seized [and] fled naked, leaving his garment behind," which is generally interpreted to be a reference to the John Mark of Acts 12:25 (Mark's Gospel is the only one which records this incident, unlike the striking of the high priest's servant's ear); and 2) the references in John's Gospel to the "beloved Disciple" (e.g., John 19:26). None of the synoptics so describe John.

                    But these are only inferences. Nor can Paul's conversion be dated with any accuracy. In the Acts, the author places the event between the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza and Peter's healing of Aeneas in Lydda with only the temporal reference "meanwhile" (Acts 9:1). Likewise, Paul's letters bear no date of authorship, and it is more likely than not that their order in the New Testament bears no relationship to the sequence in which they were written.

                    The point is that the Gospels are not limited to the four canonicals, and there's a body of evidence that both Mark and Matthew drew from the elusive "Quelle," or source, a collection of Jesus' sayings, and the apocryphal gospel of Thomas, also not a narrative, but mostly a collection of sayings. Luke himself writes as his justification that "[m]any have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who were the first eyewitnesses and servants of the word" (1:1-2). But before Paul's conversion there is no account of any written scripture. Paul's chronology of his years before writing to the Galatians is likely the most accurate dating of the events and account for 17 years, three in Arabia before going to Jerusalem, then to Syria and Cilicia, and 14 years later going back to Jerusalem. That would place Galatians as likely written in the 50s CE, allowing for several years between Christ's resurrection and Paul's trip to Damascus. Galatians also tells of Paul's dispute with Peter over the proper "preaching" of the gospel, suggesting that different schools of interpretation had arisen, needing a unified or common text. Even today the post-resurrection account in the last 12 verses of Mark (16:9-20), and John's account of the woman taken in adultery (8:1-11) are disputed.

                    And, of course, the authenticity of Paul's letter to the Ephesians is disputed, and if not the entire letter at least that part adjuring "wives [to] submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (5:22). The Greek is different in this segment from that which Paul used elsewhere, I have been told, as if an author is limited to one style throughout his career. So wives can be off the hook under this interpretation, but on that theory, husbands need not love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. Then we are back to a pre-Christian paradigm of arranged and politically driven marriages and look what that's done for us in the modern era (Charles-Diana; Bill-Hillary). But wait, Peter said pretty much the same thing (1 Peter 3:1), admittedly with a view toward converting non-believing husbands by their behavior without words.

                    But on the theory that Paul wrote that verse and meant what he said, he comes across as at least as progressive in the marriage realm as Jesus. Jesus said that which God has joined together let no man put asunder (Matt. 19:6), pretty much putting the kibosh on divorce, but said nothing that I can find about how to act inside of a marriage (other than the warning against committing cardiac adultery in Matt. 5:28, and note that this proscription applies only to men, without regard to whether they or the object of their affections is married, scarcely "progressive" in this age of equal rights to sexual gratification).

                    Paul's admonition to love wives (as opposed to treating them like chattel) is at least as revolutionary as Jesus' well-side conversation with the Samaritan woman living with a man without the benefit of clergy, having had five prior husbands (John 4:18-19; I suppose I'd have quit then, too). Sure, Paul condemned all sorts of other behavior, not limited to sexual impropriety, such as lying or cheating or suing each other, but I see no condoning of that by Jesus. Unless "progressive" means "anything goes," then I'm not sure how you can claim that Jesus, who came not to change the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), is more progressive than Paul. But reifying what I said earlier, I am not a theologian, minister, priest or scholar, but a person of faith.

                    JE comments:  Wouldn't Jesus' admonition against the "Jimmy Carter sin," if it applies only to men, give women the right to lust in their hearts?  As for "progressive," I was thinking not so much about Christ's teachings on behavior, but on forgiveness.

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                • Reconciling Paul, Christ, and Moroni; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 04/28/17 5:09 AM)

                  Gary Moore writes:

                  The wonderfully two-sided WAIS exchange on the New Testament
                  between Ric Mauricio (pointing out contradictions in rich and seldom achieved detail)
                  and David Duggan (articulating the response from a position of deep faith)
                  brings up such a profusion of landmarks that on every hand are vistas.  (See Ric's and David's postings of 25 April.)

                  The mapping of this is made easier, though, by Ric's subsequent post focusing
                  specifically on the origins of the Mormons--a topic which indeed reflects the
                  whole landscape (below). But first, a phrase thanking Ric for his similar proofs
                  on the misogyny of St. Paul, which I had heard about but didn't realize it went that far.
                  What strikes me is how similar Paul's hair-shirt grumblings against marriage and
                  procreation were to the view imputed a millennium later to the large Albigensian
                  heretic community of southern France, including many nobles. They, too, were said
                  to recommend people not get into the sexual niceties, but allegedly said that
                  mere mortals shouldn't always be held to such standards, so there was a mix of
                  celibates and ordinary shmoozers in the Albigensians, unlike in, say, the still later Shakers.
                  But the point that jumps out from Ric's discussion is that the Church massacred the
                  Albigensians, devastating the Provencal society that was then the flower of Europe;
                  though from what Ric reveals, they were only following St. Paul.

                  Talk about "It doesn't matter what I said yesterday, because I'm still the boss today..."

                  The countless fanciful wanderings of Church doctrine between Gethsemane
                  and, say, the Borgias or Medicis, remind us that What I Said Yesterday could have
                  a brave new ring every day--and it was always supposed to be the only truth. Way back
                  in the early days, stalwarts from Venice went to Egypt and stole the supposed body of St. Mark
                  so they could take it home and make it Venice's patron saint, with Venice ever afterward living
                  and dying by cries of "San Marco!" It didn't matter that it was stolen, or that it was probably not
                  any sort of real Mark anyway, because every day was a brand new day, and was not what we
                  said yesterday. Well, yes, this is faith--but is it really the faith that we are given to understand
                  the faithful are faithfully following? It would seem to need some other name. Fear?
                  Grandiosity? Mere happy confidence? A profound deeper personal meaning that finds the
                  inner truth no matter what? This was worth massacring the Albigensians for being like Paul?
                  (Voice among the skulls: Well, we needed to feel good, and the heretics were depriving the people
                  of certainty, so they couldn't feel good...)

                  There are reasons to suspect that we owe an
                  unrecognized debt of gratitude to such Church demonstrations of life's mysteries--because
                  current theological cant, whether from euphoria in politics or even scientist apostles like Richard
                  Dawkins, sound suspiciously as if they are going to keep hitting us, no matter what, with this
                  kind of enduring happy confidence.

                  Now: Moroni. Ric is right to bring up questions about the history of the Mormons in this discussion
                  because, being close enough in time to us for some documentation, they so neatly capture how
                  a new messianic sect (the news used to call them cults) can outlast many other frailer flowers,
                  if it can bring meaning and happiness into enough lives, and then can take on a mainstream-type
                  bureaucracy, while shedding its early difficulties like polygamy--which is what Ric's discussion
                  implies also happened two thousand or so years ago. There are not going to be many Church
                  disquisitions on the disowned allegation that before his vision, young Joseph Smith (that Kinko's
                  allusion was clairvoyant) worked in a print shop, where, in typical Great Awakening fashion, an
                  especially creative minister brought in a fanciful historical romance he had penned--almost a science
                  fiction novel--which Smith then allegedly stole, laundered a bit, and presented as the Book of Mormon.
                  This allegation may not be true. But we don't have to wonder whether this also happened in another
                  case a millennium or so earlier--because the Koran actively incorporates the Old Testament, with just
                  a shift in ownership; how much more Mosaic could you get than jihad?

                  What is certainly true is that Joseph Smith said he deciphered his golden tablets by using his established skills
                  as a magical diviner, and burying his face in a hat in which two divining stones were cradled--the Urim and Thummim
                  (whose very names have the liberating feel of glossolalia)--and these stones taught him how to translate the tablets
                  from their original Egyptian. He said he had found these Egyptian tablets after visitation from the angel Moroni,
                  who told him to go to a place near his home in western New York state, and dig in the Hill Cumorah, where,
                  sure enough, he found the tablets. The antebellum United States was filled at the same time with wild exuberance
                  over the Roman-ruin appearance of abandoned Indian mounds. Indeed, the Book of Mormon (or its progenitor book)
                  is straightforwardly a history of the American Indians, and how Jesus came among them as the great white God,
                  with bad Indians attacking good Indians, and all Indians, in fact, coming from long ago Israelites. Joseph Smith's
                  era was filled with speculations and fanciful novels to such effect.

                  But those tablets. What happened to them? Smith sternly said that only the most pure in heart would be allowed
                  to get a privileged glimpse of them. If one or two especially reliable acolytes climbed up through the hierarchy, he might take them
                  into the darkened room, then triumphantly give them a glimpse, very briefly: Did you see 'em? Yeah, yeah, I saw 'em, I'm sure I saw 'em.
                  Add a couple of thousand years, a few Albigensians here and there, and all of this could conceivably become a completely unpardonable
                  discussion someday.

                  JE comments:  The "poor Albigensians" have come up in WAIS discussion since our early days; see, for example, this Ronald Hilton post from last century:


                  Their ruthless persecution underscores Gary Moore's observation that ambiguity in matters of the Divine is not to be tolerated.  How many millions have been slaughtered in the name of "certainty"?

                  A fine essay, Gary.

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            • Old Testament and New Testament from a Historian's Perspective (Robert Whealey, USA 04/29/17 5:05 AM)
              As a historian I have taken the Bible seriously as history. As I grew up, I became an agnostic about life after death. As I read the Enlightened Philosophers and the history the American Presidency, I came to the conclusion that the Bible is a conglomerate of theology, history, law, poetry, and folklore, inherited from previous pagan societies before 1000 BC, when the Jews discovered the alphabet and a calendar. The time of King David is the beginning of real history.

              It is assumed that Moses lived about 1400-1200 BC. Moses died in the Sinai Peninsula and told his successor Joshua to take the twelve tribes of the Israelites to invade the land of Canaan as the "Promised Land." The first five books of the Bible, called the Torah in Hebrew and the Pentateuch by the Christians, were considered infallible by the ancient Hebrews.

              The Jewish Bible, or the Old Testament, became closed about 200 BC when the Greeks invaded the land of Israel and Judea. The New Testament is clearer about its historical sources. Scholars have concluded that Jesus was born about 4 BC and died in 29 AD. The letters of Paul, who never met Jesus, date about 50-70 AD and are primary sources. The NT is good history, since the writers had more primary sources than the writers of the Old Testament.

              The Four Gospels were written about 70-100 AD. Mark is the oldest but Matthew was placed first in the Canon as more theological, moral, and ethical. In 70 AD the Roman government destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. The Jews scattered to the four winds of the compass.

              The period known as the Diaspora was a long time from 70 AD to about 1671 when Baruch Spinoza, living in Holland, decided to read Latin. Spinoza wanted to be more scientific. From the 1670s, Jewish Theology and Christian Theology have interacted through dialogue.

              I now believe in a free-thinking theology: 25% Christian, 25% Liberal, 25% Socialist, 15% Conservative, 7% Anarchist, and 3% for future growth. I am a free-thinking Christian. But I can never become a Jew because I have no Jewish mother. The Jews do not encourage conversion and proselytizing.

              Carl Sagan as an astronomer, has sound reasons in believing in atheism. But mass, militant atheism failed in the French Revolution, and it failed a second time in the USSR 1917 to 1991. The great mass of children 18-21 are too emotional to learn philosophy until the college and university levels.

              George Washington, who gave up the Church of England to become the founder of American Episcopal Church, wrote a special letter to the head Rabbi in New York City. He wrote that the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of religion to all American citizens, included the Jews. The Jews were gradually emancipated by the French, British, and German governments in the 19th century, but the Tsarist government in 1880s down to the First World War was the most reactionary, intolerant, and medieval form of government in Christendom.

              So to get to the point of John E's question, I think that Jesus and Paul together established a new religion and they both contribute the ethical, moral standards of Christianity of America today.

              Jewish intellectuals from the 19th century contributed to science, philosophy, and history, and therefore have created with the Christians a new Western Civilization.

              The Roman Catholics developed a theological doctrine called Immaculate Conception. Jesus was supposedly born of the Virgin Mary. Liberal Protestants and Jews began to reject this as a biological impossibility.

              An old-fashioned theology established about 1910 at Princeton University called itself Fundamentalist. These theologians rejected Charles Darwin's science and demanded that true Christians accept the virgin birth. They also accept that the earth was created in six days. From the 1790s until today, this has proven that to be another myth.

              In the 1948, Fundamentalists in the United States gradually became less dogmatic, and the new conservative preachers such as Billy Graham called themselves Evangelicals and became more flexible than the Fundamentalists.

              To get to the point of feminism, the worship of the Virgin Mary improved the status of women in the Christian world from the 300 AD to the Protestant Reformation, beginning in 1517. The Protestants rejected the celibacy of the clergy and Martin Luther immediately married a nun.

              The Greek Orthodox Church had allowed priests to marry since the 300s. The Papal States (Vatican) only began the principle of the celibate clergy with Pope Gregory VII.

              Pope John XXIII in the Second Vatican Council, 1958-1962, liberalized Catholicism, allowing the use of vernacular languages in the Catholic Mass. John XXIII remained a conservative on sexual questions. Now we have come to Pope Francis, who is beginning to think about liberalizing the Roman Church doctrines on abortion, divorce, birth control, homosexuality, and the marriage of the clergy.

              JE comments:  Here it is in a nutshell!  A masterful synthesis of Christian history, Robert.  I'd like to know more about Princeton's contribution to the Fundamentalist movement.  Couldn't, or shouldn't, we trace Fundamentalism to the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century?

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              • Conversions to Judaism (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 04/30/17 2:37 PM)
                I greatly enjoyed Robert Whealey's edifying synthesis of Christian history (29 April), but is Robert correct in stating that he could "never become a Jew because [he has] no Jewish mother"? Or that the "Jews do not encourage conversion and proselytizing"? Sammy Davis, Jr. converted to Judaism, referring to himself as "a short, ugly, one-eyed black Jew," and Ivanka Trump, President Trump's daughter, converted to Judaism before marrying Jared Kushner.

                By the way, the Duchess of Cambridge, former Kate Middleton, is of Jewish descent even though the family of her mother, Carol Goldsmith, has practiced Christianity for five generations. David Cameron is also of Jewish descent: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/david-cameron/10692563/David-Cameron-tells-Israelis-about-his-Jewish-ancestors.html . The former PM is also distantly related to the Queen, as he is great-great-great-great-great-grandson of William IV and his mistress, Dorothea Jordan.

                Read more at: http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/cameron-is-queen-s-cousin-but-from-wrong-side-of-the-blanket-1-1111991

                JE comments:  Here's a euphemism I've never heard before:  "from the wrong side of the blanket," as in illegitimate.  Is this a common expression in the UK?

                Conversions to Judaism certainly exist, but I believe Robert Whealey was trying to say that there is little if any active Jewish proselytizing.

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                • "Wrong Side of the Blanket" (John Heelan, -UK 05/01/17 4:41 AM)
                  JE asked on April 30th: "Here's a euphemism I've never heard before: 'from the wrong side of the blanket,' as in illegitimate. Is this a common expression in the UK?"

                  Yes. Further I seem to remember that the surnames of illegitimate children of royalty were appended with the word "Fitz."

                  Wiki tells us:

                  "From the Stuart era (1603-1714) and later, a pseudo-Anglo-Norman usage of Fitz was adopted for younger sons of the British royal family who lacked a legal surname, and particularly for illegitimate children of kings, princes, or general upper-class men, for example Fitzroy, (meaning "son of the king," from the French fils du roy); Fitzjames, son of king James II (1685-1688); and FitzClarence, son of the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV (1830-1837)."

                  Given the sexual mores of some past UK monarchs and their consorts, one suspects that the ranks of UK MPs and peers in Westminster would be depleted should all those with the family surname prefix "Fitz" were banned.

                  JE comments:  How about the late Duchess of Alba, aka María del Rosario Cayetana Paloma Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Fernanda
                  Teresa Francisca de Paula Lourdes Antonia Josefa Fausta Rita Castor
                  Dorotea Santa Esperanza Fitz-James Stuart, Silva, Falcó y Gurtubay?  This thanks to Ronald Hilton, 2001:


                  Euphemisms are always fascinating, but for argument's sake, aren't the Fitzy "love babies" the result of being on the right side of the blanket?

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                  • More "Wrong Side of the Blanket": Rt Rev Justin Welby (David Duggan, USA 05/01/17 8:44 AM)
                    The Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, had claimed that his grandfather was a German-Jewish immigrant to England: Bernard Weiler, who had changed his name to counter anti-German sentiment during WWI.

                    It was therefore assumed that his father, Gavin Welby, was Jewish. DNA testing of a year ago however disclosed that his biological father was Sir Anthony Montague Browne, with whom his mother, Jane Portal, Winston Churchill's personal secretary, had had an affair shortly before marrying Gavin. Oh, the English.

                    JE comments:  When learning of his paternity, Archbishop Welby remarked, "I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes."

                    Just to clarify:  Montague Browne, not Jane Portal, was Churchill's personal secretary.

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                    • Churchill's Private vs Personal Secretaries (Timothy Ashby, -Spain 05/02/17 5:10 AM)
                      A minor correction to the Archbishop of Canterbury's colourful ancestry.

                      His actual sire, Sir Anthony Montague Browne, was in fact Churchill's last private secretary. Sir Anthony's paramour Jane Portal, mother of the Rt. Rev. Justin Welby, was one of WSC's personal secretaries.

                      JE comments:  David Duggan also wrote in with the same correction.  Mea culpa; I had conflated the private and the personal.

                      Now, I surmise, we know how Portal and Montague Browne met.


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                  • Royal Bastards, or, Fun with the Fitzes (John Heelan, -UK 05/03/17 4:18 AM)
                    I found this on the Fitzes:

                    Henry I

                    Henry I had 21 to 25 bastards, including Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, Maud FitzRoy (wife of Conan III, Duke of Brittany), Constance or Maud FitzRoy, Mabel FitzRoy, Alice FitzRoy, Gilbert FitzRoy, Emma. "It might be permissible to wonder how it was that Henry I managed to keep track of all his illegitimate children, but there is no doubt that he did so," wrote historian Given-Wilson.

                    Henry VIII

                    Henry VIII had one acknowledged royal bastard, Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset. As he had many mistresses, six other people are also put forward by historians as possibly being Henry's illegitimate children, including the mercenary Thomas Stukley, the poet Richard Edwardes and two of Mary Boleyn's children.

                    Charles II

                    Charles II fathered at least 20 illegitimate children, of which he acknowledged 14. The most famous of these was the Duke of Monmouth, his son by Lucy Walter. After Charles' death, Monmouth led a rebellion against his uncle James II.

                    When Nell Gwynn brought her first child to Charles, she told it, "Come hither you little Bastard and speak to your father!"

                    "Nay, Nellie, do not call the child such a name," said the king.

                    "Your majesty has given me no other name by which I may call him."

                    Charles then named the child "Beauclerk" and bestowed the title "Earl of Burford."

                    Both James and his older brother Charles II were known for their numerous bastards.

                    Illegitimate children of Charles II

                    by Lucy Walter (c. 1630-1658)

                    James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth (1649-1685). Ancestor of Sarah, Duchess of York.

                    by Elizabeth Boyle, Viscountess Shannon (1622-1680)

                    Charlotte FitzRoy, Countess of Yarmouth (1650-1684),

                    by Catherine Pegge

                    Charles FitzCharles, 1st Earl of Plymouth (1657-1680), known as "Don Carlo," created Earl of Plymouth (1675)

                    Catherine FitzCharles (born 1658; she either died young or became a nun at Dunkirk)

                    by Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland (1641-1709)

                    Anne Lennard, Countess of Sussex (1661-1722). She may have been the daughter of Roger Palmer, but Charles accepted her.

                    Charles FitzRoy, 2nd Duke of Cleveland (1662-1730).

                    Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton (1663-1690). The 7-greats-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales

                    Charlotte Lee, Countess of Lichfield (1664-1717).

                    George FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1665-1716).

                    Lady Barbara FitzRoy (1672-1737). She was probably the child of the Duke of Marlborough. She was never acknowledged by Charles.

                    by Nell Gwyn (1650-1687)

                    Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans (1670-1726)

                    James, Lord Beauclerk (1671-1680)

                    by Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth (1649-1734)

                    Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond and Lennox (1672-1723). Ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales;

                    Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and Sarah, Duchess of York.

                    by Moll Davis, courtesan and actress of repute

                    Lady Mary Tudor (1673-1726).

                    James II had 13 bastards.

                    William IV had 11 bastards. They used the surname "FitzClarence," because he was duke of Clarence.

                    (Nowadays it seems such Fitzes are kept concealed under the blanket.)

                    JE comments:  "Come hither you little Bastard."  That's a quote for the ages.

                    Recently we saw the calculation that every European can trace his/her ancestry to Charlemagne.  Given Henry I's prodigious "issue," aren't all Britons of royal lineage?  (Aren't we all bastards in a sense?)  Here's another one of Hank the First's children:  Fulk FitzRoy, who became a monk.  The Incredible Fulk:  I presume the better names were taken.

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                    • "Come Hither, You Little Bastard" (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 05/04/17 4:06 AM)
                      JE asked on May 3rd: "Aren't we all bastards in a sense?"

                      Answer: Not really. We may have bastards in our lineage, but that doesn't make us bastards. A bastard is a person born out of wedlock. The son or daughter of a bastard, himself or herself born in wedlock, is not any kind of a bastard, much less the grandson or great-grandson or distant descendant.

                      JE comments:  How about bastard DNA?  (Looks like my genealogical joke fell flat.  Or was I trying to "reclaim" the term for bastards everywhere?)

                      Next with his thoughts on bastardry, Gary Moore.

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                      • Namibia's "Basters" (Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain 05/04/17 3:30 PM)
                        It may be of interest here to point out that in Afrikaans the term Baster (from Dutch bastaard) can mean "bastard," but is also the word for "hybrid."

                        In the 18th century it began to be applied to the offspring of Khoikhoi and slaves, who commonly were called Bastaard-Hottentots.

                        Later in the 18th century and well into the 19th, Bastaard/Baster was applied to people who had Khoisan (Khoikhoi or Bushman) blood, most often the offspring of Khoikhoi or Bushman women and white farmers.

                        Thus a social and racial group emerged, people who had many of the trappings of European culture and lifestyle, yet were rejected by settlers of Dutch descent.

                        When the British occupied for good the Cape Colony in 1805, they were appalled by the fact that there were people who called themselves "bastards."

                        Possibly then the alternative "coloured" began to emerge, which in South Africa is still used to refer only to people of mixed descent, most of them Afrikaans-speakers.

                        (In Afrikaans kleuring, although a lot of people prefer to speak about bruine mense, "brown people.")

                        Rev. Campbell, of the London Missionary Society, managed in the 1820s to persuade a group of Basters living near the Great River to find another way of calling themselves, and thus the Griqua (or Griekwa) emerged.

                        This happened beyond the colony's boundary as it existed then, because Basters, fleeing discrimination in the colony, where it wasn't easy for them to own land, began in the 1760s to go in the Karoo areas south of the Orange river.

                        There many of them participated quite actively in the genocidal campaigns against the Bushmen, the original inhabitants of the area.

                        They did this often as accomplices of white farmers, only to be dispossessed by them after the area became "pacified."

                        In 1868 a group of them left the colony and settled in what today is Namibia.

                        They are still there, at Rehoboth, quite proud to be Basters.

                        Here is their website:


                        To my knowledge, no community in South Africa identifies with the name.

                        JE comments:  Fascinating.  José Manuel:  did the mixed-race Basters occupy a relatively privileged position under the German colonizers of Namibia, or were they persecuted as ruthlessly as the other native peoples?

                        Non-Spanish speakers might be intrigued to know the term for italic script:  letra bastardilla.

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                        • Bastardo, Batard, Dog-Brother (Edward Jajko, USA 05/05/17 2:00 PM)
                          All this talk on mamzerut brings to mind food like zuppa bastarda and the Italian bastarda and French batard loaves. There is an Italian restaurant in Chelsea, New York City, called Il Bastardo.

                          Antonio Francisco Bastardo Rafael, of the Dominican Republic, is a relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and formerly for the Mets and Phillies. He is known as Antonio Bastardo. I wonder what his teammates call him.

                          On my phone I have a Polish dictionary app which shows a rich array of choices of words for English "bastard," available for suitable occasions. There are the literal "nie'slubne dziecko" and "nie'slubny" for "illegitimate," i.e., "unwedded child" and "unwedded." There is also "falszywy." These terms are no doubt for legal use. There is the loan word "bastard," as well as "bekart." There are "mieszany," "mixed, cross-breed," and the extreme "nienormalny," "abnormal." My favorites are "dra'n," which seems to be just plain "bastid," and "psubrat," which is literally "dog-brother," and "skurwysyn," "whoreson." These last three words are imprecations, cusses, not expressions of legal status.

                          JE comments:  My Polish dictionary (Aldona) says that "psubrat" has a 19th-century ring, like "knave" or "blackguard" in English.  On the other hand, "skurwysyn" still gets plenty of air time in today's Poland--and occasionally at WAIS HQ.

                          After zuppa bastarda, we should inquire about "puttanesca" (prostitute) sauce.  What's the deal with those Italians?

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                          • Bastards Again; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 05/06/17 4:50 AM)
                            Ric Mauricio writes:

                            I would like to put forth that we desist in labeling a person a "bastard" in a negative tone when that person has been born out of wedlock. After all, it wasn't the child's doing that he or she was born out of wedlock. And yet, he is stuck with such a negative label. However, utilizing the term to denounce a jerk or an a**hole is perfectly fine.

                            In response to Ed Jajko (5 May), I often wondered why Antonio Bastardo didn't go by Antonio Rafael. Those with surnames of Butt have to endure being the butt of all jokes. I believe there is a football player with that name.

                            JE comments:  Didn't we desist from that a century or two ago?  The jerk/a**hole meaning of "bastard" has now fully taken over in popular parlance.

                            Regarding butts, I had this experience recently at a local diner.  One of the featured pies was butterscotch.  A wise-guy patron had erased the "erscotch" from the whiteboard, to leave "today's special:  butt     pie."


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                            • Jake Butt, Football Superstar (Patrick Mears, -Germany 05/06/17 9:54 AM)
                              In response to Ric Mauricio's recent musing: Yes, there is a football player named Butt, and a great one at that.

                              And thank God he is a Wolverine. http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/jake_butt_843340.html .

                              Among many other honors he amassed during his college career, he was an All-American tight end at Michigan and in his senior year was named Co-Captain of the team. Jake was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2017 and hopefully will be healthy enough to start this season, notwithstanding a fairly serious injury suffered in the Orange Bowl. http://www.freep.com/story/sports/college/university-michigan/wolverines/2017/04/27/michigan-football-jake-butt/100976186/ .

                              Go Blue!

                              JE comments:  Fortunately, the Butts resisted the temptation to name their son Seymour, or Fillmore.

                              I fear we're destined to go down the road of funny human and place names.  This happens once a year or so on WAIS.  For his part, John Heelan has reminded us of the village of Apse Heath, Isle of Wight, which is frequently having to fix its signs when someone converts the "P" to an "R."

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                              • Ric Mauricio on the Michigan Wolverines (John Eipper, USA 05/07/17 4:59 AM)

                                Ric Mauricio writes:

                                Yay! Go Michigan! Go Wolverines!

                                Ever since the San Francisco 49ers unceremoniously fired Jim Harbaugh and he got his new head coaching position at Michigan, I've been rooting for them. Especially since we 'Niner fans hate, and I mean hate in capital letters, the Yorks and now-fired General Manager Trent Baalke. Hopefully, things are changing due to the hiring of GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. The way the draft went this year gives us great hope. But we sure miss Harbaugh.

                                Did you know that Harbaugh is the highest-paid college head coach at $9 million? Yup, higher than Nick Saban.

                                John, do you root for Michigan or Michigan State?

                                JE comments:  My diploma's on the wall and I'm a Wolverine through and through, although the $9 million salary is one reason I direct my college donations elsewhere.  Having the world's highest-paid college coach is a twisted sort of prestige in and of itself, but couldn't a perfectly competent football guy be found, say, for one million?

                                By way of comparison, Stanford's David Shaw makes a "mere" $4 million.  Given the rent in Palo Alto, that's almost middle class.  See below:


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                          • Etymology of Puttanesca Sauce (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/22/17 10:27 AM)
                            John Eipper (5 May) asked about puttanesca sauce.

                            In the good old days when officially state-regulated brothels were lawful, until 20 September 1958, nothing was more mannerly and friendly than these clean, medically checked and strictly controlled places.

                            Pasta alla puttanesca, however, according to one legend, is said to come from the dinners that were arranged in some places in the countryside around Naples. Customers would bring in any kind of stuff and the young ladies would cook.

                            The recipes, therefore, are varied. However, "puttanesca" will always be a sauce made with capers, olives, anchovies, garlic, tomatoes, hot pepper, marjoram and whatever you still want to add, such as parsley.

                            It is also said that late one evening, a restaurant had run out of food when a group of customers came in and asked for anything, even for a "Puttanata" of pasta. The cook mixed what was left and it was highly appreciated.

                            JE comments:  I like the first explanation better, but either one is convincing.  Folk etymologies are endlessly fascinating, and over the years, with enough reinforcement, they become "true."

                            Eugenio:  what led to the closing of the legal brothels in 1958?

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                            • Buonismo and the End of the (Legal) Italian Brothel (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 05/23/17 9:56 AM)
                              John Eipper asked about Italy's proscription of legal and regulated prostitution in 1958. It was a result of the arrival of a democracy, "buonismo" (goodism?), one determined socialist lady, and perhaps some UN declaration against prostitution.

                              So now all the principal streets around Italy have open brothels with no checks at all and every possible type of crime, illness, and drugs.

                              JE comments:  It's hard to argue against goodism in theory, but in practice?

                              WAIS doesn't shy away from frank discussions, but with a few exceptions we've never addressed comparative prostitution law.  Some nations with legal or institutionalized prostitution surprise me:  Turkey and Bangladesh are examples.  (This is according to Wikipedia...not personal experience.)


                              From the above, it's clear that policies towards prostitution cannot be generalized along a left-right or liberal-conservative divide.

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                              • "One Determined Socialist Lady": Lina Merlin (Roy Domenico, USA 05/23/17 11:52 AM)
                                In answering JE's question on the criminalization of prostitution in Italy, Eugenio Battaglia (23 May) mentioned some factors that may have pushed for it--democracy and buonismo, the UN and "one determined socialist lady." That would have been Lina Merlin--a socialist deputy from the Veneto. She gave her name to the "Merlin Law," ending legal prostitution in 1958. For all her trouble, however, the Socialists purged her from the Party, not supporting her in a 1961 run.

                                She then moved over to support the Christian Democrats (DC) in their unsuccessful 1974 referendum to end divorce (which had become legal by 1970 parliamentary votes.) The DC preferred to leave these issues alone in the hope that they'd just go away. It would certainly be awkward for a Catholic party to support prostitution--although it had been legal in the papal states. Maybe better than others, the Holy Mother Church and the Christian Democracy understood weaknesses of the flesh and the sins they lead to--so in the fine Italian tradition: regulate it, turn away and hope for the best.

                                JE comments:  I can see the criminalization of prostitution as a measure ostensibly in favor of women, but how could ending divorce be viewed that way?  Wikipedia says nothing more than "La socialista Merlin fu una convinta antidivorzista."  (There's no Wiki bio in English.)  I see no indication that she ever married--perhaps that's why she was against divorce.

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                                • Attitudes Towards Divorce in Italy, 1950s and '60s (Roy Domenico, USA 05/24/17 5:11 PM)
                                  I am literally writing on this topic--part of my manuscript on Catholic cultural politics in the 1950s and 1960s.  So, if JE forgives me, I can strike here while the iron's hot.

                                  As to the reasoning behind women's suspicion of divorce, a few issues. First, this is pre-feminist Italy. Most women were socially conservative.  They followed Church teachings and voted Christian Democrat (DC). The two big arguments from the DC--often fronted by prominent DC women deputies--was that divorce victimized women by allowing the husbands to cut the ties and run; and it harmed the children. Remember, good Catholic wives were--ideally--mothers. All DC propaganda promoted "Mamma." In Italian mythology she's right up there with il Papa, San Francesco and Padre Pio.

                                  When divorce went through at least the Catholics got a 5-year waiting period, later, I think, reduced to 3 in the 1980s. But still, divorce remains at pretty low levels in Italy, much lower than the US, and with a big stigma attached to it.

                                  JE comments:  Social causes can create unexpected bedfellows.  We take it for granted that legal divorce is an issue of women's rights.  But who are the "we"?  Roy Domenico takes us to another time and place, in which an inviolable marriage was considered a good thing for women.  The situation vis-à-vis divorce it Italy is somewhat parallel to the 19th-century feminist movement in the US, where prohibitionism was a goal almost as important as achieving the vote.

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                        • Namibia's Basters under German Colonization (Jose Manuel de Prada, -Spain 05/05/17 2:58 PM)
                          According to David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen, in their book The Kaiser's Holocaust (London: Faber & Faber 2010), the Rehoboth Basters were forced to fight with the Germans against the Herero under the terms of the treaty they had signed with the former when the colony was established, but refused to wage war against the Nama, who were led by a charismatic and capable leader called Hendrik Witbooi.

                          Witbooi, say Olusoga and Erichsen, in spite of having heard about the atrocities committed by the Germans against the Herero, chose to play by "the rules and conventions that were a central part of Nama tradition."

                          The Herero had also played by the rules and didn't target civilians, yet the Germans treated both them and Nama as decades later they would treat the Jews and the Slavs.

                          As for more recent history, according to this 1998 article published in The Independent, in the years previous to the independence of Nambia, at least some Basters engaged "in an ugly ideological marriage with South African apartheid."


                          I don't know how this community deals nowadays with its fraught past, and if they remember at all that before trekking to Namibia in 1868 they had participated in genocidal campaigns against the /xam Bushmen of the Karoo.

                          JE comments:  I read The Kaiser's Holocaust some years ago, at José Manuel de Prada's recommendation.  The historical record often paints Imperial German colonization as (slightly) more benign than that of the French, Belgians and even the British, but this was not the case in the nasty, genocidal campaigns the Germans waged in Namibia.

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                    • On Bastardry and Crimes Against Humanity; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 05/04/17 4:24 AM)

                      Gary Moore writes:

                      Re John Heelan and "Come hither you little bastard" (May 3):
                      Too close for comfort! The proverbial genealogical aunt in my
                      family (remarkable librarian and archivist Linda Jensen) long ago
                      found that we seem to be descended from the scandalously active
                      Mary Boleyn, one of the Fitz-progenitors John listed (in our case,
                      supposedly, through later Lord De La Warr [Delaware], though
                      presumably not when he was in the colonies for scorched earth

                      And re that latter theme: Serendipitously, though belatedly,
                      I've come across in my notes two sources for our discussion
                      of how to classify, jurisprudentially, the transatlantic slave trade
                      (and confirming the comment by Timothy Ashby):

                      1. “Emerging Challenges for Criminology: Drawing the Margins of Crimes against Humanity,” International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, Vol. 6, No.2, March 2013, 1150-1160, by Nikos Theodorakis (Harvard Law and University of Cambridge) and David P. Farrington (University of Cambridge).

                      Some quotes:
                      "The field of international criminal law is a continuously evolving and challenging area of study."

                      "The broader notion of crimes against humanity is as old as humanity itself. However the present status has evolved mainly throughout the twentieth century, greatly influenced by the Nuremberg Trials."

                      "The latest development was the consensus in defining Crimes against Humanity during the ICC Diplomatic Conference of 1998, which can be considered as a milestone for the international community in the fight against human rights violations (Mettraux, 2002)."

                      "Crimes against humanity encompass attacks and violations on a wide range of civilian populations, which can be committed in times of peace and do not result necessarily in the physical extermination of the victims (Olmo, 2006). In contrast, the term 'genocide' is narrower, and 'war crimes' can only be committed during an armed conflict."

                      "The expression 'laws' or 'principles of humanity' embodies the idea that some transcendental humanitarian principles exist beyond conventional law that are not subject to any form of violation (Ntoubandi, 2007)."

                      "Crimes against humanity are therefore offences against humankind and injuries to humanness. Their gravity qualifies the perpetrators hostis humani generis, offending fundamental values not adequately defended in internal legal systems, urging international intervention (Stahn and van den Herik, 2010)."

                      "The very essence of 'humanitas' can be traced to the landmark concept in Greek philosophy of 'philanthropia' and the Roman concept of 'ethos' (Bauman, 1996)."

                      "Crimes against humanity are characterized by acts so abhorrent that shock our sense of human dignity (Kastrup, 2000)."

                      "The mens rea for crimes against humanity has a cognitive character, with the tribunals requiring that a
                      defendant must have actual knowledge that his act is a part of a widespread or systematic attack on a
                      civilian population and pursuant to a plan."

                      2. The second source is Michel Gurfinkel of the Roussau Institute, as relayed by the Middle East Forum, April 24, 2015. (This one goes controversially farther in narrowing the terms, placing the Holocaust in a unique extreme category
                      beyond mere genocide, different even from the Armenian genocide. The logic demands attention, since it speaks
                      to the psychopathology underlying fanaticism; key quote, below: "crime was an end unto itself.")

                      "For the sake of clarity and decency, one must delineate between (a) genocides (documented attempts to wipe off a race or a nation); (b) non-genocidal mass murders; (c) enslavement of large numbers of people; (d) planned dispossession and expulsion of large numbers of people; and (e) secondary effects of wars and other crises. In that order.  The Holocaust qualifies under point (a). So does the starvation program against the Hereros (in German Southwest Africa shortly before WWI), and the further genocidal operations against the Armenians, the Iraqi Chaldeans, the black minority in the Dominican Republic, the Roma/Sinti in Europe, and the Tutsis in Rwanda."

                      "The Soviet, Red Chinese, and Khmer Rouge domestic massacres qualify under point (b), as well as the Nazi treatment of European nations (like the Poles), the Japanese atrocities in China, and many further ethnic and religious massacres in the Balkans, South Asia, and Africa."

                      "The African slave trade and the slavery regimes in both Islamic countries and the Christian colonies in the Americas and elsewhere qualify under point (c). So do massive slave work programs in the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, in Maoist China, and in present-day North Korea."

                      "Qualifying under point (d): The US treatment of many Native Americans in the 19th century; the French treatment of Kabyles in Algeria in 1871; the alternate expulsion of Turks, Greeks, and Turks again between 1912 and 1923; the expulsion of Poles and French from areas slated for German colonization during WWII; the expulsion of ethnic Germans from East Prussia, Transoderian Germany, and Czechoslovakia in 1945; the mass anti-Christian pogroms in Turkey in 1955; the expulsion of Christians and Jews from Arab or Islamic countries from 1956 on (Egypt, North Africa, the Middle East); and the expulsion of ethnic Greeks from Northern Cyprus."

                      "A lot of tragedies befell civilian populations over the past hundred years, as a result of war, civil war, revolution, or other political or social upheaval. Many were cynically and deliberately engineered by governments or the military; the mass murder of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire paved the way. Many were planned and implemented along near-industrial methods. Still, there was something unique about the Holocaust, as the world realized in 1945, when the Nazi concentration camps were liberated."

                      "Crime, including political crime and politically or militarily motivated mass murder, is usually a means to achieve some higher purpose or to bring about some practical benefit. For instance, the Ottoman rationale in 1915 was to 'remove' the Armenian minority from Turkish Anatolia in order to prevent a pro-Russian Armenian uprising and to achieve geostrategic cohesion. They had no further racial or metaphysical concerns. The few Armenians who converted to Islam were spared; many Armenian orphans were adopted by Turkish families and raised as Turks."

                      "As far as the Holocaust was concerned, however, crime was an end unto itself. Under the Nazi genocidal project, no Jew was allowed to survive, neither by renouncing Judaism nor even as a pariah or a slave, and in fact very few Jews in the Nazi-controlled areas managed to survive. Moreover, the annihilation of the Jews was to take precedence over Germany's strategic considerations, and did actually divert and waste crucial resources in manpower, energy, and transportation needed by German forces. Finally, the Jews were not just to be murdered: they had to be murdered in the most gruesome and sadistic way, not just with physical cruelty but with moral or mental cruelty as well."

                      JE comments:  These are very useful working definitions.  Ultimately, however, "Crimes against Humanity" boil down to the Potter Stewart test of "I know it when I see it."  A case in point is the transatlantic slave trade, which Southern apologists considered a cornerstone of the timeless "natural order."  More importantly, it was legal.

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                      • Bastards Poor and Rich (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/05/17 10:26 AM)
                        Most people get quite indignant by the "ghetto" culture, whereby irresponsible young people take advantage of social welfare to freely engage in the creation of bastards. The WAIS discussion about bastard creation by royalty shows that the self-indulgence is universal, with royalty also making taxpayers pay for their promiscuity. Both groups are just like many animal species that do not mate for life and/or neglect their offspring.

                        Regarding crimes against humanity (see Gary Moore, 4 May), it seems as if the law is way ahead of its enforcement. The evidence is clear that might makes right, since powerful countries get away with proverbial murder, simply refusing to abide by rulings from international courts. Without enforcement, any law becomes useless. Thus, powerful countries refusing to accept responsibility for their crimes merely point fingers at the crimes committed by their accusers on the other side.

                        JE comments:  Traditionally, the bastard was the child of a nobleman.  Here's the 13th-century French definition:  "acknowledged child of a nobleman by a woman other than his wife."  Note the operative term acknowledged.  Presumably, legitimacy didn't matter if you were a commoner, as there was no property or inheritance to squabble over.

                        Bastardry is proving to be a popular topic for WAISers.  Next up:  Edward Jajko.

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              • Was Moses Historical, or Mythical? (Istvan Simon, USA 04/30/17 6:41 PM)
                I am grateful to Robert Whealey (29 April) for his informative and very interesting essay on various religions from a historian's perspective. I would like to add a minor comment to Robert's essay.

                I met Alice Whealey, Robert's daughter, who is also a historian. Furthermore, Alice read the original sources on ancient history, including reading in Greek and Aramaic about the Bible. I would like to add the observation that Robert's daughter thinks that Moses is a mythical rather than historical figure. I'd like to suggest that Robert discuss his ideas about Moses with his daughter Alice.

                JE comments:  I am reminded of Ed Jajko's recent comment that "all of the Bible is true, and some of it actually happened."  So...hmm...what do we know about Moses?

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              • Please Don't Blame the Children (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/02/17 9:23 AM)
                I found Robert Whealey's post of April 29th quite interesting and historically informational, with a few exceptions.

                Robert stated: "The time of King David is the beginning of real history." I am surprised by Robert, because that seems like a very chauvinistic, narrow-minded thing to say. Real history started as early as historians can investigate.

                Also he declared:  "Carl Sagan as an astronomer, has sound reasons in believing in atheism. But mass, militant atheism failed in the French Revolution, and it failed a second time in the USSR 1917 to 1991." The French Revolution and the USSR failed for many reasons, none of which have much to do with atheism or any other religion. They failed because they did not have the chance to study my book God for Atheists and Scientists (Sorry!). By the way, our beautiful nation is going down the drain for similar reasons: the lack of things like law and order, true democracy, justice, etc. Why do we have so much corruption in the social, political, and economic sub-systems? As I wrote in my book that no one seems to read, it is because ultimately our religion is not Judaism or Christianity. Our nation's underlying gods are self indulgence and increasing wealth/profit.

                Last, I have no idea what Robert means by "The great mass of children 18-21 being too emotional to learn philosophy until the college and university levels." This strikes me as scary. If it is true, our society is doomed beyond redemption. On the other hand, I believe our philosophical/religious knowledge accumulated over the centuries adds up to a lot of BS to the "great mass of children 18-21." It has not produced a good world and has lead us to corruption, billionaire aristocracy, violence, mass poverty, wars and destruction.  Don't blame the children.

                JE comments:  The French and Russian revolutions constructed their own gods to replace traditional religion.  How could we describe the situation in today's China?  Are Mammon and Deng's "glory of riches" the only gods beyond an ever-dwindling cult of the Party?

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              • Fundamentalists and Evangelicals (Robert Whealey, USA 05/07/17 8:36 AM)
                Garry Wills, a liberal Catholic, has traced Fundamentalism back to the Great Awakening. That is his historical rewrite and interpretation.

                My mother who belong to a Fundamentalist Methodist Church and quoted her minister, who claimed the movement as having started among a small group of Princeton theologians in 1910. Their theology was caused by the rejection of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. The first Fundamentalist principle was that the earth was created in six days. The second principle of Fundamentalism was that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, which contradicted all scientific understanding. Paradoxically, the Fundamentalists had no problem with the Roman Catholics about the Virgin Mary, but the Catholics later invented a new doctrine, the Immaculate Conception.

                Fundamentalists in 1948 were usually pious people who did not have an education beyond high school. In 1948 Billy Graham, who was originally a Methodist Fundamentalist, could see that he could make more converts in Yankee Stadium on TV by calling himself an "Evangelical." The Evangelicals were far more liberal and came from the idea that John the Baptist called himself an Evangelical. Gradually in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Fundamentalists gave up their hard and fast dogmatism and became more flexible Evangelicals.

                Today there are conservative Evangelicals and liberal Evangelicals. I don't think I ever met a Fundamentalist after I left college in 1952. In 1948 at Bates College, there were only two or three Fundamentalists on campus. And I had a great debate during my freshman year with a half a dozen students.

                When I arrived on the Bates campus in September 1949, I told my roommate Stelian Dukakis, the brother of the more famous Micheal Dukakis, that I was no longer a Fundamentalist. Stelian, raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, laughed. Later Stelian took me to Beacon Street, the First Unitarian Church on the Boston Commons. This was my first visit to any Unitarian Church. Later Michael Dukakis married Kitty in a Unitarian Church.

                JE comments:  Are there any Liberal Evangelicals left?  And a second question:  Doesn't the Catholic doctrine of Immaculate Conception go back centuries?  Ed Jajko--can you answer this?

                I was curious and did a Google search:  Stelian Dukakis died in a bicycle accident in 1973.

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          • Enslaving Ourselves (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/25/17 4:40 AM)
            Ric Mauricio (23 April) made some profound statements regarding the most important human problem: How more powerful human beings treat the less powerful ones, just like other animals do. Everything about humanity depends on this problem. These "what if?" questions may seem silly to some people, but they are critical if mankind is to ever rise above the miserable conditions that most humans live under today. And it seems to be getting increasingly worse lately.

            Ric followed up with the observation that humans engage in stupid ideological debates akin to religious confrontations, where both sides believe they are right and the other side not bothering to get to the truth behind the arguments. That was exactly my primary motivation for writing the book God for Atheists and Scientists, whereby God is Truth and humanity's only way to get there is through scientific methods, not ideology, and certainly not religion. To the extent that we avoid the Truth for immediate selfish reasons or just plain stupidity, we become slaves to the wrong master and are more likely to become evil.

            Lastly, I agree with most of Ric's statements regarding fiat currency, the manipulative Fed, the need for less religion, less corruption and politics, and more science in the discipline of economics. Keynes seems to be right about the need for consumer demand (give them income and they will spend) as the primary driving force for economic development. Schumpeterian economics (Austrian School) is also truthful but is heavily dependent on innovation (which, supposedly just like poetry, humans are much less fond of).

            JE comments:  Isn't innovation what humans do best?  Am I too optimistic?  Look at it this way--we are far better at innovating than at bringing justice to the world.

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            • Innovation in Humans, Bacteria (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/01/17 4:24 AM)
              In my post of April 25th, I mentioned that humans are usually more fond of the status quo rather than change and innovation. John Eipper commented: "Isn't innovation what humans do best? ... Look at it this way--we are far better at innovating than at bringing justice to the world."

              John's last sentence has the key to this apparent puzzle. Humans are good innovators at some things when they are forced to innovate or the benefits are clear like in the cases of business or war, for examples. Nothing is more true than necessity being the mother of invention. But innovation to achieve long-term benefits like from justice, getting along with rivals, changing business processes while attempting to improve customer service, the benefits are less obvious and it takes considerably more effort in leadership, cajoling, and even some form of butt-kicking. Such forms of innovation are closer to the Schumpeterian economic principles we were discussing in my last post.

              Another interesting perspective regarding innovation is that biological evolution seems to be the most basic and powerful innovation process. Among bacteria today, the process of evolution (notwithstanding the religious deniers) would make Darwin very proud of his theory (a universal law as obvious as gravity).

              Bacteria are winning the war against humanity. Because of our carelessness with using and abusing antibiotics, whichever bacteria are not killed genetically mutate into stronger and stronger (super bacteria) strains capable of surviving any of the presently available antibiotics. In some cases, the available arsenal has been proven useless and the bacteria have killed specific patients. To complicate the issue, because the profit margin from research on new antibiotics is relatively small, the pharmaceutical industry is less than motivated in this antibiotic war. So the bacteria are innovating faster (more effectively?) than the humans.

              JE comments:  Shouldn't we make a distinction between innovation in (evolution) and innovation by?  The latter involves some form of intentionality.

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        • Enslaving Europeans (John Heelan, -UK 04/23/17 5:27 AM)
          When one goes back in history, one discovers that European victors in conflicts collected slaves as part of their tribute. The Romans were large users of slaves taken from their conquered peoples and displayed when the triumphant military leader paraded through Rome. One recalls Pope Gregory's (AD 540-604) comment on seeing the pale-skinned English (Angle) boy slaves "Non Angli, sed angeli."

          It is thought that much of Cicero's works were in fact written by his slave secretary whom he later freed. (One hopes that there was not some form of pederasty afflicting the Church at that time.) I am currently reading a novel about the Danes (Vikings) ravages of Saxon kingdoms a few hundred years later. Their slaves were called "thralls" (from which we get the verb enthrall).

          Then we can fast-forward to the 20th Century and remember the slave labourers in Germany and the USSR. So we should not be too hard on the Arabs for being slavers as they learned from Europeans.

          JE comments:  And let us not forget etymology:  Slave comes from the word Slav.

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  • Slave Ships: The "Brookes" (Robert Gibbs, USA 04/20/17 12:34 PM)

    The ubiquitous engraving of the transatlantic slave ship that John appended to my last post is what pushed me to look into the trade. The image is bogus, more accurately a propaganda piece.
    Wilberforce and others wanted the trade ended and were not beyond stretching the truth.

    Also, no one has ever seen such a ship.
    How many slaves could survive a 3-4 month trip chained like that? Moreover, the crew would also suffer disease. 
    With this ship, how were they fed or given water? Chained as they were in a choking position?

    To clarify, the only thing I was suggesting was that all numeric figures for the transatlantic slave trade are at best questionable. Whether it was one or a dozen, or the full 80 million, the trade was both immoral and wrong.

    I did argue that ships at that time made 5 to 7 knots best over months of travel and had to use the yearly trades and currents. This limited the amount and frequency of the trade.

    Then again there is the constant problem of food and water.

    JE comments:  I've done some more digging.  The Brookes image is a 1788 engraving of a real ship--the Liverpool slave ship Brookes, which was legally permitted (!) to confine 454 humans in its "cargo."  The engraving, according to those who've counted, depicts 487 people on two decks.  The ship had reportedly carried as many as 744 on one journey.

    Consider the provisioning, the vile sanitation and disease, and the infernal cruelty.  There must be figures somewhere on the mortality rate in transit, but I would think 50% or higher.

    On a far more pleasant note, it's Robert Gibbs's birthday--the legendary "four-twenty."  Happy birthday, Bob!  Hope to talk to you soon.


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