Category Archives: History

A Moslem Comments On ISIS

I’ve long held that the Moslem community in my country, ( USA ), is frequently misunderstood, if not deliberately misrepresented.

The link below connects to a post, (July 17, 2015),  expressing a Moslem doctor’s comments on ISIS, incidentally providing a few tidbits of perspective on Moslem beliefs, practices and prophesy.


The More It Changes, the More It’s The Same Thing ?

From about 3000 BCE into the Middle Ages, empires were agrarian empires.

Such societies had three primary social classes—urban rulers holding the reins of power, wealth, and social status, and, with their extended families, amounting to perhaps 2% of total population.

About 5% were a “retainer” class—the army, government officials, scribes, high ranking servants, upper echelons of the priesthood, etc.

At the bottom of the ladder were 90%+ of the population, rural peasants, mostly agricultural workers, (working as sharecroppers day-laborers, or slaves), plus fishermen/women, artisans, etc.

In such empires, about 66% of the wealth, (produced by the rural peasants), was pocketed by the 2% by means of taxing agricultural production, and/or ownership of agricultural land.

Consequences for the peasantry were: unending hard labor, marginal nutrition, high infant mortality rates, and greatly reduced life expectancy.

Such societies could be described by three key phrases: economic exploitation, (above described), political oppression, (the bottom 90%+ had no voice in ordering society), and religious legitimation, (the religion of the elites decreed social structures—aka God was said to prefer the rich). ¹ 

Considering the course of present-day world-wide social development, how many similarities can you find between then and now?

¹ This discussion of empires was drawn from: Marcus J. Borg, Reading The Bible Again for the First Time, ISBN 978-1- 4351- 4914 – 4

Borg credits Gerhardt Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).  (Publication antedates use of ISBN numbers.)

Our National Heroes

History – A Fable Agreed Upon By The Winners

On Columbus Day we celebrate a sort of Star Trek “boldly going where no one has gone before.”

Columbus discovered America!  He was a hero! 

Well, maybe not.

To begin, he wasn’t the first European to reach America.  Vikings beat him by a few centuries. 

And when he arrived he didn’t play nicely with the locals, the Arawak Indians, a tribe inhabiting the Bahama Islands.

The following quotations provide a grim summary of Columbus’ shortcomings in the hero department:

“The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.” ¹

“Endless testimonies. . .prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives. . . . But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then. . . . The admiral, (Columbus), it is true was blind as those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians. . . . ” ²

“What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortés did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.” ³

Unlike some critics of prominent historical figures, I don’t advocate condemning them because, judged by our present day standards, they fall far short.

To judge past conduct exclusively by present standards is laughably irrational.

Historical figures should be judged first according to the standards of their time, and only afterwards by the standards of ours.

Columbus was no hero, but neither was he a total failure as a human being.

To sail westward into the vast Atlantic ocean with no reliable charts, in three little ships, (the largest barely one hundred feet long), with only the vaguest idea of where he would end up required superb seamanship and immense courage.

Re-evaluating our national story / heroes more realistically can’t hurt us.

Accurate knowledge of our past is part of a good foundation of national mental health.

¹ Christopher Columbus, Mariner, 1954,  by Samuel Eliot Morrison

² History of the Indies, by Bartolomé de las Casas, (a contemporaneous record)

³ A People’s History of the United States, 2003, by Howard Zinn


Politics (4th)

Vote Suppression—A Tactic Throughout History,

In ancient Rome the patricians, (aka rich political class), wanted their own way and, among other tactics, sought to get it by ensuring that voting occurred in summer months when many lower class people were out of town, (thus away from polling places), earning money as seasonal agricultural labor.

A different tactic was espoused by Joseph Stalin.  He didn’t care who voted or how they voted, so long as he controlled the count.

A lesson of history is that politics of any kind are subject to ceaseless efforts at vote suppression/neutralization for the advantage of this or that group.

Recurrences are so numerous, so persistent, as to be almost boring.

Once again, in our time, people turn to a favorite page in a time-honored playbook of political skullduggery, once again running a belovéd play in happy anticipation of political advantages to be enjoyed by their group.

Be not upset at this.  These people may, for a time, seem to be very powerful and difficult to stop.

Over time, (sometimes a lot of time), their misconduct always generates their defeat.


Because “reciprocity” is the universal moral law.

It can be expressed another way:  “Put out what you want to take back.”  Another way  of saying the same thing:  “It is impossible to serve someone something without serving oneself the exact same thing.”  And the best known way, in our society:  “Whatsoever you sow, that surely will you reap.”

It is commonly believed that this law operates as a final judgement in the next world.

Whether or not that’s true, it operates in the here and now.

The consequence is inherent in the deed.

Ultimately, regardless of caste or class, nobody gets away with anything.  As stated in street language—”There’s no free lunch.”

So if your cause aligns harmoniously with the inflexible moral law of reciprocity, be in no doubt: there is no defeat so long as there is sustained moral effort.

Obviously, then, it’s better to lose a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be won, than to win a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be lost.

So let’s calmly, determinedly, shift into low gear, and recommit ourselves to the unending labor and vigilance that alone guarantee that “government of, by, and for (all) the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Ancestors (2nd)

Ancient Technology—Useful or Useless?

To the extent that we ignore ancient technology, we rob ourselves.  Our ancestors’ motivation to avoid pain, sickness, poverty, old age, and death was at least as intense as ours.

There having been no structural change in the human brain in the last 100,000 years, its a statistical certainty that ancient human populations contained a number of outright geniuses.

Granted, their science database wasn’t as lush as that presently available to, say, a recent MIT graduate.  On the other hand they generally possessed comprehensive awareness, acute and subtle ¹, of the natural world.

Add to that creativity and desire to survive and thrive and its likely they achieved much that’s lost to us without digging, (often literally), for it.

Researching ancient ways has already revealed that our ancestors were sometimes better than us moderns at solving certain problems, performing certain tasks.  We should keep digging, and put to good use as much as possible.

¹ That we moderns have been divorced for quite a while from an “acute and subtle” awareness of the natural world is well illustrated by the following:

North American white hunters were after wolves.  They were assisted by an Eskimo tracker, who at one point casually informed the hunters that one of the wolves was rabid.

The white hunters asked how he knew this.

His answer: Rabies caused tension in the wolf’s body, which caused change in the way it placed its feet, which the tracker detected by noticing subtle differences between the rabid wolf’s paw prints and those of its healthy pack members.

Not bad for a supposedly “ignorant native.”