Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dacia, Decebalus, and Sarmizegetusa

Today in Ancient Civilizations class I will be discussing the era of the Officially Good Emperors and will touch on the emperor Trajan's conquest of the kingdom of Dacia (roughly modern Romania over the Danube). About a year ago a good friend of mine was trekking through Dacia and visited the ruins of its pre-Roman capital, Sarmizegetusa. His account and reflections on Dacia are here. The various episodes are in blog-order: You have to start with the entry for May 12 or 13 and work up the page.

Image: The ruins of Sarmizegetusa today.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Well, I was wrong -- the children of Lidice

After the last post I read Phil Paine's First Meditation on Dictatorship. Those of you who were tracking Phil's European journey may have wondered why his reports (see tag at the end of the post) abruptly ended. Read the Meditation and find out.

You should know, if you don't already, that Lidice is a Czech village that the Nazis destroyed down to the last house-pet and corpse in the graveyard. And, of course, the last child.

Some excerpts:

Nearly half the world still lives under the boots of dictators. ...You have to keep reminding yourself of the most important and essential fact about these criminals: every one of them has a Lidice. Every one of them. They are all murderers of children. Some of them are responsible for dozens of Lidices, or hundreds of Lidices, or thousands of Lidices. But there is always a Lidice for any dictator.

Dictators only rule because we allow them to. They cannot rule unless they are given legitimacy by the world’s financial and political institutions, and all the world’s political and financial institutions conspire to do exactly that. They are given the power by us to buy the weapons with which they murder, torture, and make war. They are given the power by us to spend the riches that they extort from their victims, and they are allowed by us to bank their stolen goods in banks, and they are allowed by us to flounce around the globe, bragging of their crimes, without fear of ever being arrested, tried, or punished.

Read the rest here.

Image: Monument at Lidice, via Phil Paine.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Second meditation on democracy

I'm back from my vacation. I had a lot of fun and ignored the outside world very successfully. I had a few thoughts that are relevant to the blog, but I'll post them later.

In the meantime let be give you a link to Phil Paine's second meditation on democracy, springing from his recent trip to Europe and years of research and thought. Go here and read under August 7. Here's a sample:

The achievement of civil societies in this sense has been a very slow and painful struggle, and at the moment, only a minority of human beings are lucky enough to live in them. The majority still live under outright tyranny, or in societies in which civil and democratic institutions are a sham, or too corrupted to be effective. But the minority of functioning civil societies demonstrate to human beings everywhere that improved conditions are possible. The relative success of such societies by material measures has at least exposed one of the loudest lies of totalitarian ideologies: the claim that tyranny is more “efficient” than democracy. This notion was once so widely believed that a majority of intellectuals, even in democratic countries, subscribed to it. Now even the most isolated peasant knows that it’s a crock.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

What happened to Phil Paine in Europe?

Some time back I promised to keep my readers informed about the adventures of independent scholar Phil Paine as he traveled across Europe. Some of his blog entries were linked to from here (use the label "Phil Paine in Europe" at the bottom of the entry here) until they abruptly stopped. Not, fortunately, because something happened to Phil. Or maybe something did. He explains:

My last week in Czech Republic involved experiences so emotionally intense for me that it has taken two months for me to mull them over. I visited two strikingly different mining towns. One was a ancient city where miners where powerful enough to build their own magnificent cathedral, where the carvings and frescoes represented miners and metalworkers at their tasks, along with the traditional holy subjects. The other was a uranium mine run as a concentration camp by the Communists. Another moving event was a visit to the site of Lidice, the town in which the Nazis exterminated the entire population, including the dogs and cats, removed all the buildings and even dug the bodies from the graveyards, all for the purpose of celebrating their brutality and omnipotence. All this was taking place in a disturbing contemporary background ― one of my hosts’ friends had just been nearly killed by Neo-Nazi thugs, who infest the country, and enjoy the tacit support and encouragement of the corrupt police.

I will discuss all these events in detail, as they become relevant. But, they have impelled me to put down this series of meditations.
The meditations are on the subject of democracy, something that he and I have long been interested and have published about. The first of them are here, listed under July 25, 2007.

More as it becomes available, including the interrupted tale of the European trip.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Phil Paine in Transylvania and other adventures

Phil Paine, who has been hitchiking around Eastern Europe, seeing historical sites and the current scene, is catching up on his travel blog.

Image: a view of Sarmizegetusa.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Phil Paine in Europe -- Prague

Phil Paine's account of his trip to Europe has been interrupted by the inaccessibility of Internet connections in places like Transylvania. But now he's in Prague and beginning to catch up.

Image: Lots of people crammed into a picturesque old street, sans tacky signs.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Help send an independent scholar to Transylvania

Phil Paine, my sometime collaborator, is going to Transylvania. He's still raising funds for the trip. If you have work he could do from a Toronto base, have a look at this post and his description of contract research work he's done in the past.

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