Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boring History

The boring book from the last post is Peter Hunter Blair's Roman Britain and Early England, 55 BC - AD 871, published in 1963. I had forgotten what that old style of writing history was like, listing the rulers, generals, and battles and describing the construction of buildings and the layouts of towns.
Although it was not constructed on such a massive scale and was neither so broad or so lofty, the Silchester basilica was longer than the Norman nave of Ely Cathedral. At either end in apsidal recesses were the raised platforms, tribunalia, upon which rested the seats of magistrates. Beyond the basilica was a further range of rooms with the curia, the meeting-place of the cantonal senate, centrally placed. The floors of the basilica were of red tesserae set in cement, its walls were frescoed, and its columns were made of Bath stone with Corinthian capitals. Part at least of the curia was lined with Italian marble and much Purbeck marble in other parts of the building. Among its statuary were a stone image, twice life-size, of the guardian deity or tutela of the Atrebates...
I am halfway through the book and halfway through that 900 years and have learned almost nothing about the inhabitants of Britain, except where they lost battles. Nothing about their religion, their form of government, their foods, their customs, their clothing, nothing. I have learned a bit about the people who ruled them, who when they departed had left little mark on the genetics, language, or customs. They left roads, walls, some buildings, and a little technology.

That was what history used to be - who conquered, who ruled. I have grown so used to modern cultural histories that I had forgotten.


David Smith said...

The curious thing about those old-fashioned histories is that I generally take them at face value - at least in the time-frame that you're talking about. That probably was the King's name, that's probably where the battle took place, that's probably when the cathedral was consecrated.

With "cultural history" I'm a lot more agnostic except when it's backed by straightforward archaeology (tankards were leather, trenchers were oaken, that sort of thing). Beyond that, I suspect that they may tell us as much or more about the authors' background as the subject's.

Both are best read with a grain of salt, I guess.

Jeff said...

Here's my reply to your post on Neoneocon's blog. You're welcome do delete this after you've read it.

I'm using envy as it's defined here:
Envy, Jealousy, Greed: A Kleinian approach. Earlier in life Neoneocon held liberal values but she's remarkably experienced an inversion, and quite publicly. That's the context in which envy can take root.

Ariana Huffington and a bevy of other liberals argue that Fox News cut away from the Q&A 20 minutes early (!) because the event didn't match the network's framing of Obama. And you're seeing the same thing here with Neocon sifting through a well-regarded event to find a negative upon which to focus. Is it possible she can express any gratitude (as discussed in the paper's conclusion) towards Obama for any aspects of that Q&A?

Jeff said...

No, I'm not Stevie. Sigh.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I only delete spam and obscenity.

Well, Jeff not Stevie, you miss on several counts. First, using a word - envy - in a technical sense without indicating that. Second, using a psychoanalytic sense for any word. Because my field is acute psychiatric emergencies and I have done that for over 30 years, I have considerable animosity toward the main psychological fad of the 20th C and the damage it caused. While you had no way of knowing that, you are nonetheless responsible for words, especially when using them in fairly idiosyncratic ways. "The context in which envy can take root" still requires evidence of actual envy before you make that accusation. (See Bulverism.)

Tangent, and I won't count this as number three against you. Your use of "liberal values" in that context may give away more about your thought than you would wish. It's only a guess from my experience, but I would venture a small wager that you are inserting a significant change of meaning, suggesting that she has abandoned classically liberal values - the usual meaning when values is used instead of beliefs, or ideas - when her "remarkable inversion has been of purely current political attitudes. Perhaps I overinterpret there, but I have had too many discussions with people telling me that liberals must be openminded because that's what liberal means.

Third, you expect neo to express some gratitude for Obama's doing his job, and doing it deceitfully. In a context of an administration in which the POTUS had made many gestures of openness to those across the aisle, this recent display of Obama's might barely count as a small additional bit of evidence for his goodwill. In his context, it is at best neutral, and more likely the smirkingly insulting gesture neo saw it as.

Jeff said...

Neoneocon aside, sounds like you reject the Hiles paper itself.

I can't imagine how that neocon's writing would be different if she were to begin indulging envy tomorrow.

I'm done with the American culture wars, AVI. My interest is simply understanding reasonable conservative thinking.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Let this be a red flag for you: whenever you catch yourself using the phrasing "I am only..." "I am simply..." "I was just..." the odds are very high that you are doing the precise opposite. That is not a Jeff thing, that is a humankind thing. (See Screwtape)

It first takes humility to understand uncongenial thoughts. You have insisted on your categories and framing and have not answered what I have actually said at either location. You are reacting viscerally to statements outside your framing and calling that discomfort "reason."

Many people who have moved from liberal ideas to conservative ones have discovered that while the ideas provided the pressure, a personal change was required before any progress could be made. Self-honesty of one's actual motives seems to be required. Failing that, it is unlikely that any change of ideas, political, social, or religious, is in the cards for you. Or most anyone, actually.

Jeff said...

Your points, in order ...

1) the technical term envy

Do you accept the definition of envy as presented by Hiles?

2) the psychoanalytical in general

You can't expect me to spend time framing an argument using Hiles if a likely response is dismissing the paper or the domain itself.

3) gratitude

That's gratitude as defined by Hiles. Again, where do you stand on the paper?

Gringo said...

Jeff: I'm done with the American culture wars, AVI. My interest is simply understanding reasonable conservative thinking.

If that is the case, then my suggestion is to use Ockham’s razor. Neo has written extensively on her change. At the top right of her web page you will find the following:

“Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.”

Moreover, there are TWO LINKS embedded there. Just below that on the right hand side of the page you will see Categories. The first category is “A mind is a difficult thing to change: my change story (15),” which has even more essays for you to explore on why Neo made her change.

Before indulging yourself in pseudopsychoanalyzing about envy, I would recommend that you first read the essays Neo has written about her change. Find out straight from the horses’s mouth IF you are really interested in “understanding reasonable conservative thinking.”

A substantial proportion of Neo’s readers are like Neo, AVI, and myself, Post Liberals- to use AVI’s term. Here is a short comment on why I left the Peace Democrats.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I will not comment on the paper or its terms. You descended upon both cocktail parties insisting "I think we should talk about this instead. Everyone read the info I have and then we will talk about whether it indicts you or not." That is ridiculous. Forget the paper. Use words in their common sense or give a brief note how your sense differs, then proceed with the discussion as it comes to you.

You stated that neo had envy. When I challenged you to give evidence, you said, in effect "well by envy I really meant that she fits a possible psychoanalytic theory of why she might be pathological. Or maybe I meant snowmen." You have diagnosed before discovering symptoms.

As to my points, you have not answered them, despite numbering them. Attend to content.