My DNA Results!

Leave a comment

I got my DNA results back from Ancestry.com (a Christmas gift from Chris), and they are largely in accord with my family history as I know it.

First the percentages with my comments:

From the Old World: 91%
Great Britain-England, Scotland, Wales+Irish living in Britain 26%
Ireland 21%
Western Europe 16%
Scandanavia-Viking Raids 9%
Findland/NW Russia-Viking Raids 2%
Spain 16%
Sephardic Jewish 1%
Joined in the New World: 7%
Native American (Europeans + Native Peoples) 6%
Senegalese (Europeans + Slaves) 1%
Traces  (% approximate) 2% Indian Subcontinent 0.66%
Middle East – Greece? Balkans? 0.66%
Caucausus – Georgia? Armenia? 0.66%

Now as Charts:

bar-dna

pie-dna

How it fits my family narrative:

Culturally, I identify as Irish and Hispanic.

From my Ancestry.com genealogical researches and family histories, the Spanish/Hispanic side of the family (Escontrias) came over with the Conquistadores and settled in the area that is now El Paso-Juárez (Texas/Chihuahua) in the early 1500s.

Some of my ancestors that were English/Scots/Welsh/Irish were among the first explorers to come to North America from Britain, in the late 1500s and early 1600s.

The final Irish part of my family (Cato/Armstrong) came first to Illinois before the Great Famine (Irishan Gorta Mór) and later made their way to El Paso. (Of course, the “famine” was largely inflicted on Irish Catholics by their British overlords.)

These facts are supported by the Old World DNA above. There was certainly admixture between Great Britain, Ireland, and Western Europe, and the Viking raids explain the northern contributions.

The Spanish heritage, with its small addition of Sephardic heritage is also consistent.

In the New World:

With so much time in North America, it is no surprise that the branches of my family would gather some Native American DNA over the centuries. Nor, tragically, is it surprising that there would have been some African DNA, since within the great evil of Slavery, the sexual use of slaves by slave owners was an evil corollary.

Traces:

As for the trace amounts of DNA <1% from the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East and the Caucasus Region, I have no theories, other than the general long interaction of these regions with Europe.

Just for Fun:

I thought a little photoshopping might provide some further insight into my Real DNA profile:

dna-fantasy-copy-copy

 

Thanks for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

 

 

Wise Up, Democrats and Progressives!

Leave a comment

When I read reports this week that some at the Baltimore Democratic Retreat were saying that there was nothing wrong with our messaging in the recent election, I got angry!

We must learn how to communicate in an entirely new way to return to power and serve the American people as they deserve.

This Blog post is a quick guide to what every single one of us can do to resist Trumpism, and retake at least one of the Houses of Congress in 2018. That must be our goal.

First, we have to admit this: we lost the election (in the Electoral College). It was ours to lose, and we did.

  • We lost to a man who bragged about grabbing women’s genitals.
  • We lost to a man who denigrated the handicapped, minorities, and just about every demographic except white males.
  • We lost to a man who is clearly self-obsessed, vindictive and chaotic.
  • We lost to a practiced liar who lives in his own, illusory world.
  • Not to put too fine a point on it: We lost to a throughly horrible human being.

We lost because we have forgotten how to communicate with the white working middle-class. We are using outmoded forms of discourse that deny the clear findings of Neuroscience and Cognitive science. (More on this below.)

So what do we do about it?

  1. By all means, keep up the peaceful protests. I am very proud of my fellow Americans who are doing this.
  2. Every time The Donald or his Administration puts forward one of the outrageous lies (like the press not covering most terrorists attacks), we need to blast the lie with hard facts for the record. Read this on the lies!
  3. Download The Indivisible Guide and follow its prescriptions: Tea Party tactics with the evil ideals of the Tea Party removed. The hostile crowds at GOP local town halls are wonderful to see! Hold their feet to the fire!indiv
  4. Join local organizations for action, and especially if you live in a secure blue district like I do, adopt a swing district at Swing Left.logo
  5. We must go beyond being right. Of course we’re right. But as Rahm Emanuel reminded us at Stanford this week, we have to win in order to put those right ideas into action. Being right and losing doesn’t help.
  6. Amid the resistance and action, take time to first educate yourself about modern messaging, and then contact your Democratic Congressional Delegation, and every Democratic group or official you can and give them the links to the educational materials I give below, and insist that they and their staff study these and change.

Framing the Discourse

I have already recommended a lot of reading. Here is the one to begin with: the work of George Lakoff.

george-lakoff-012

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

George Lakoff is a UC Berkeley linguist and cognitive scientist. Here is his website.

  1. First download the free PDF Thinking Points and read it. thinking-points
  2. Read his Don’t Think of an Elephant that explains how people think and how to persuade them. the-all-new-dont-think-of-an-elephant_george-lakoff-e1418105189992
  3. If you want to go deeper into the foundations of why this works, read his Moral Politics.moral-politics-e1375934767687

4. Here’s another great guide:

the-little-blue-book

Here is Wikipedia’s summary of Lakoff’s research and results:

Lakoff argues that the differences in opinions between liberals and conservatives follow from the fact that they subscribe with different strength to two different central metaphors about the relationship of the state to its citizens. Both, he claims, see governance through metaphors of the family. Conservatives would subscribe more strongly and more often to a model that he calls the “strict father model” and has a family structured around a strong, dominant “father” (government), and assumes that the “children” (citizens) need to be disciplined to be made into responsible “adults” (morality, self-financing). Once the “children” are “adults”, though, the “father” should not interfere with their lives: the government should stay out of the business of those in society who have proved their responsibility. In contrast, Lakoff argues that liberals place more support in a model of the family, which he calls the “nurturant parent model“, based on “nurturant values”, where both “mothers” and “fathers” work to keep the essentially good “children” away from “corrupting influences” (pollution, social injustice, poverty, etc.). Lakoff says that most people have a blend of both metaphors applied at different times, and that political speech works primarily by invoking these metaphors and urging the subscription of one over the other.[11]

Lakoff further argues that one of the reasons liberals have had difficulty since the 1980s is that they have not been as aware of their own guiding metaphors, and have too often accepted conservative terminology framed in a way to promote the strict father metaphor. Lakoff insists that liberals must cease using terms like partial birth abortion and tax relief because they are manufactured specifically to allow the possibilities of only certain types of opinions. Tax relief for example, implies explicitly that taxes are an affliction, something someone would want “relief” from. To use the terms of another metaphoric worldview, Lakoff insists, is to unconsciously support it. Liberals must support linguistic think tanks in the same way that conservatives do if they are going to succeed in appealing to those in the country who share their metaphors.[12]

Further, Layoff demonstrates that the deep structures of thinking are not rational in the Enlightenment sense of that term. Rather, a central world view metaphor is translated into many corollaries and this usually conditions the way we perceive reality, and analyze facts.

This central metaphor is essential to peoples’ conceptions of themselves, and therefore, any attack on either the central metaphor or its corollaries is an attack on the person him- or herself.

Any fact that is contrary to the metaphor/corollaries is problematic. Here is Lakoff:

We know from experiments that conscious perception is not immediate. To recognize a visual input, a sound, or a touch input you have to have in your brain neural circuitry that is able to recognize it— that fits it. What if your sense input doesn’t fit what is in your brain? Your brain changes it, if possible, to make it fit. Inputs from the senses presented to the eyes, ears, or touch take about one hundred milliseconds (a tenth of a second) before they can become conscious.

That is so fast for conscious functioning that we don’t notice any difference between the input to the senses and our conscious perception. But neurons fire on the scale of one millisecond (one thousandth of a second), and it take three to five milliseconds to fire again. It takes many neurons and a sequence of neural firings to take a sense input and turn it into a conscious perception. In that time, it is common for the visual, sound, or touch system to make a change, cancelling out part of what is present to the senses and creating a new input that fits the circuitry already in your brain.

This does not just happen in experiments with flashes of light, beeps, fast touches on the arm, and pictures and sounds of someone pronouncing syllables. It also happens with facts presented in language.

If the facts don’t fit one’s worldview, one of several things can happen:

• The fact may be changed to fit your worldview.

• The fact may be ignored.

• The fact may be rejected and possibly ridiculed.

• Or the facts, if threatening to your worldview, may be attacked.

All of these happen in political discourse. Deep and persisting moral worldviews tend to be part of your brain circuitry and tend to become part of your identity. In most cases, the neural wiring— and your identity— stay, and the facts are ignored, dismissed, ridiculed, or attacked. It takes extraordinary openness, training, and awareness of this phenomenon to pay critical attention to the vast number of facts we are presented with each day. Few members of the general public— or those in politics or the media— fit this profile.

This isn’t always so. Some facts are so traumatic that they effect a deep change. Such a change happened to me when I saw the image of the Twin Towers falling on 9/ 11— and when I heard of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and John and Robert Kennedy. They also happened to me in the early 1970s when I read the earliest report that the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere had recently risen one degree centigrade.

Recalling my MIT thermodynamics course, I had a traumatic realization: That is a huge amount of heat that would have massive horrible effects! But one degree sounds small and most people dismissed the report or never seriously entertained that fact, if they even noticed it. We now know why.

— Lakoff, George. Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, Third Edition. University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

This explains why arguing facts doesn’t work well with those whose central metaphor is different from ours.

Happily, there are those who have some of both central metaphors, and they can be worked with.

In addition, Liberals can appeal to Conservatives by sharing values, and arguing from them. This requires an entirely new way of speaking about things.

A telling fact is that most liberal students who plan to go into politics take political science courses. Conservatives take marketing. It shows! Let’s start taking Marketing as well as Political Science!

Yankeedom’s Preaching

The central Liberal coalition in America is led by Yankeedom (see the work of Colin Woodard). Yankees and those like me who have been initiated into the ways of Yankeedom, and our allies, can be preachy. We come by it from our colonial heritage.

great-awakening

Not that many people like being preached at. An excellent example is the Super Bowl LI commercial lineup.

I loved all the liberal ones, but I have otherwise liberal friends that felt preached-at, and resented the intrusion into the game.

We need to rethink our messaging and avoid being preachy. Lady Gaga got it. She didn’t compromise, and showed that liberals are patriotic.

Remember, the goal is not to make ourselves feel good, or to just be right (which we are). The goal is to win. And to do that, we have to convince others.

Let’s win, Brothers and Sisters!

— Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

How’d We Get Here and What We Can Do About It.

Leave a comment

The Holidays are over, and so we must now face what is coming our way.

As a year-end gift to my fellow liberals and progressives, I wanted to share with you some of my non-fiction reading I’ve been doing to understand this crazy time we’re in, and to prepare for what’s coming!

Semper Paratus!

The Coast Guard Motto (since we are a Coast  Guard Household) is my inspiration here.

There is a superb website and guide about how to realistically face the next four years, created by ex-Congressional Staffers: https://www.indivisibleguide.com . It’s the victory manual to resist the Trump/GOP agenda insofar as possible.

indiv

In addition to this, we must follow Bernie’s rallying cry to be present in every County in this Land, and with our humble deeds and work, show that we are on the side of the Blue Collar workers, and that the GOP sells them out every time.

We are the Maccabees, and the abomination of desolation is on its way.

Now, let me re-affirm to my Conservative friends: if Trump and Co. do anything good, I will applaud and support it. The transition period has not left me hopeful, however.

What does a Just Society look like?

This is the classic work on Justice. It should be in everyone’s reading device. I revisit it often:

John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971). We read it in Alexander Bickel’s Constitution Law class at Yale Law School.

71Z4rQriDHL

Why is America the Way it is?

The classic, but very lengthy, history/sociology tome on how we were formed as a several Nations is

Albion’s Seed (1989) by David Hackett Fischer:

514gs4f6hil-_sx334_bo1204203200_

If you don’t have time for its 972 pages, and for more recent updates, try Colin Woodard’s work:

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (2011)

  • This is essential reading!

…and

American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good (2016)

515uMZICQ1L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

51rSqoyEtOL

Both books are more than history. Woodard has some excellent insights into how we got here, and how to get out of the mess!

How Stupidity became a Virtue in America:

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (2010) by Charles P. Pierce

Hints (from the book):

  1. Anything that moves units in America is Good
  2. A Fact is what enough people believe
  3. Truth is how fervently they believe it
  4. The absolutely worst thing to be on any subject is an actual expert

This work is hilarious and infuriating at turns, and is a must-read!

51v2zhvjh3l-_sx269_bo1204203200_

How White Supremacy is one of the Dominant Themes Running though American History:

By James W. Loewen:

 Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (2007)

Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong (2007)

Loewen has many other hard hitting and revelatory works on race in America:

51JbV2jddoL

51elf4Ux8PL

… and:

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016) by Carol Anderson

41iv6yzfu3l-_sx327_bo1204203200_

The End of White Christian America (2016) by Robert P. Jones

 

417jlz3xehl

Two Caveats:

  1. The theses of these last two books are right, I believe, but the authors—as we now know—were a generation off. To paraphrase Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “They’re not dead yet!”
  1. By “Christian,” Jones mostly means “Protestant.”

How Movement Conservatism, which dominates the GOP, has Conquered All through its Web of Lies:

As we prepare for the term of the Liar-in-Chief, his Billionaire Boys Club and his Movement Conservative GOP Congress, we need to know how the lies became part of our National life.

Hint: It started with Big Tobacco!

The Big Con: Crackpot Economics and the Fleecing of America (2008) by Jonathan Chait

 

818dn5nndl

Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics (2016) by Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters for America

Hint from this last book: We live in a Pseustocracy, or more commonly Pseudocracy — Rule by Liars.

51bulcsqohl

Here is an excellent academic paper on the subject:

“When Did We Start Just Making Shit Up? Origins of U. S. Pseudocracy”

Why the American Blended Economy Worked so Well, and Why ours Today doesn’t:

American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (2016) by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

81hhwxmvdpl

My Upcoming Reading in this area of study:

The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted (2013) by Mike Lofgren (Yes, I know who he is!)

Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses (2016) by Lawrence Ross – A former student of mine at Loyola High School in Los Angeles… very proud of him!

Here’s his Website!

How did We get into this Mess: Politics, Equality, Nature (2016) by George Monbiot

It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism (2016) by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein

What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2005)
by Thomas Frank

God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (2006)
by Jim Wallis

How did I come to be one of the Demonized “Coastal Elites”?

Refer to the map below from Woodard’s American Nations to reference my narrative, and also compare to the electoral map at the bottom of the blog.

upinarms-map

I was born to parents who grew up in El Norte (El Paso), and who had moved to one of the capitals of the Far West, Phoenix. However, my Mother’s half-Hispanic heritage, my Catholicism, my Father’s family ties to Yankeedom (Illinois), and very frequent visits to my Grandmother’s house in El Paso, tempered me, orienting me toward El Norte culture.

el-paso-juarez-night-780x400

El Paso – Juárez Borderplex

A liberal Catholic and Jesuit education inspired me at St. Matthew’s and Brophy, and then I was thoroughly initiated into the ways of Yankeedom at Yale, since New Haven is one of the two capitals of New England culture. (Boston is the other.)

Yale Reunion

A very exclusive club: Brophy ’72 and Yale ’76: Bryan Murphy and me at our 40th Yale Reunion in 2016.

Novitiate in Santa Barbara (El Norte) continued the liberal influence. Then I went to Fordham and learned the tolerant, liberal and competitive ways of New Netherlands in NYC.

fordham1

Keating Hall and Edward’s Parade at Fordham Rose-Hill in the Bronx. 

From there I taught in Los Angeles, one of the capitals of El Norte. After Regency at Loyola High School, I returned to  Yankeedom, studying in the other capital of New England culture, Boston/Cambridge.

hellenic_college_and_holy_cross_greek_orthodox_school_of_theology_brookline_ma_-7

Chapel of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline MA, where I studied while in the Boston area, in addition to Weston, Harvard Divinity, and the Melkite Seminary

 

Following Ordination, I was posted to the cultural capital of The Left Coast, San Francisco, and have been here ever since. The Left Coast is a cultural extension of Yankeedom.

San Francisco, CA, USA

My coalition is Yankeedom and her allies. The whole history of the U.S. can be seen as a struggle primarily between Yankeedom and the Deep South. The other nations change their allegiances. Yankeedom preaches “Ordered Liberty.” The Deep South was influenced by Barbados, the most horrific Slave Colony of its day, among other influences.

In this election, most of Yankeedom and her children stayed blue, New Netherlands did too, and Colorado and New Mexico of El Norte joined. Tidewater came with us (Thanks Tim Kaine!).

California—since the majority of the population lives in either The Left Coast or El Norte—and its sometime ally Nevada, went blue. Hawai’i stayed Blue.

We lost pretty much everyone else.

It’s a bit eerie how close the Electoral map is to Woodard’s map of the Eleven Nations!

upinarms-map

map

 

Happy New Year!

 

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

The Two Most Wonderful Videos of the Season

1 Comment

This is just a quick post to commemorate the two most wonderful and hopeful videos of the Season:

Priest and Imam:

 

Bishop and Rabbi:

English:

 

 

…and the Spanish original:

 

(Note: Monsignor is a common title for Bishops in other languages. It means, “My Lord”as in the now archaic “Milord.”)

And here’s the reason for all this: “Love will conquer all!”

From The Canterbury Tales, which Mom and I saw in London in the summer of 1972:

 

Love to all!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Here I Stand

1 Comment

luther-here-i-stand

Hier stehe ich (“Here I stand”), is thought to be Martin Luther‘s statement at the Diet of Worms (1521), refusing to submit to the Church’s discipline, holding his positions to be correct.

History has, in general, vindicated some of his major positions. In fact, had the Roman Church not fallen away from Orthodox practices, such as married clergy and Communion under both kinds, there might not have been a Reformation.

I have adopted his declaration for a Post giving some of my thoughts on the current political situation in the U.S. and in part, the world.

Read these two paragraphs very carefully:

In this blog, I want to do something different, and I call on all who read this to react, not with debate, but with similar posts giving your fundamental principles (ἀξιώμᾰτᾰ — axiomata) and corollaries. 

I’m not prejudging, but if your comments are arguing or debating against my fundamental principles and corollaries, instead of enunciating your own, I will probably delete your comment, no matter how deep or long our (real) friendship is. And of course, no Ad Hominem.

I’m not interested in acrimonious debate…I am interested in sincerely learning what your worldview is. That way, actual dialogue can take place in the future.

OK, let’s go…my axiomata and some corollaries. Here I Stand:

st-reagan

The most dangerous Forces in the U.S. and the World Today, in descending order:

  1. Human Caused Climate Change and other environmental degradation and the concurrent Climate Deniers
  2. Movement Conservatism, and its wholly owned subsidiary, today’s Republican Party Office holders and officials (not the rank and file)
  3. Rule by the Gut: The abandonment of reason and intellect in our national discourse. See Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
    by Charles P. Pierce
  4. The 1% (with a few exceptions, see below), Corporate Personhood, “Too Big to Fail” institutions
  5. Trickle-Down Economic theories (Voodoo Economics — Reaganomics)
  6. White Supremacism / White Nationalism (US and elsewhere) and their hate groups. See Lies My Teacher Told Me, Lies Across America, and other works by James W. Loewen, as well as White Rage by White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson Ph.D.
  7. Daesh, Al Qaida, Wahabism, Salafism, and other Radical Muslim terrorist and hate movements (The real War on Christianity, and everyone else)
  8. Radical Christian terrorism and hate groups
  9. The Religious Right in the U.S., and that includes the Right Wing of the Catholic Church

The reason why Movement Conservatism and Current GOP rank so high, is because Movement Conservatism is a quasi-religious cult complete with Oaths, Saints, and Excommunication. It promotes the evils above (except #7, and possibly #8). See The Big Con: Crackpot Economics and the Fleecing of America by Jonathan Chait (Author).

The current GOP wins elections with a clever, but dishonest strategy. Their candidates promise to fight for the middle-class, defeat LGBT rights, stop abortion, etc. Once elected, they do none of those things, but rather consistently act in favor of the rich and super-rich, and materially and deliberately hurt the common person. See What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank.

My View of the Recent Election

Having moved through the Stages of Grief after the morning of November 9, I remain heartbroken and disgusted, but mostly puzzled.

This is what I see in Donald J. Trump after listening to him incessantly for–what was it–12+ months of an excruciating campaign (more about that later).

  • A man born with a silver spoon in his mouth
  • A man who has demonstrated his misogyny over and over in his life
  • A business man who has largely made his wealth by shorting or stiffing his contractors outright. (Ask the good folks in Atlantic City… Nucky Thompson was kinder to the city that spawned Monopoly). He’s a big-time Con-Man.
  • A man who, with insidious cleverness, read the White Rage and and Middle-Class angst in the U.S. and exploited it shamelessly
    • Anyone who does not think that “Make America Great Again” was a “dog whistle”for “Make America White Again” wasn’t really paying attention to who listened, and cheered
    • I do not see DJT as a racist…but he sure used American Racism, playing on it constantly
  • A man who showed reckless disregard for the truth, openly lying, clearly just making stuff up as he went along
  • A man who proposed a completely Unconstitutional Religious Test, to be used against Muslims
  • A man who used school-yard bullying and personal insult to put down his Republican and Democratic opponents
  • A man who is so thin-skinned that he used Twitter to try to intimidate and lie when he felt slighted. He seems to enjoy threatening ordinary people who oppose him.
  • A man with absolutely no experience in the Military or Government.
  • A man with no visible political, philosophical, ethical or religious convictions. His only apparent goal was to win, possibly to self-aggrandize and make money for his companies.
  • A man who made all kinds of campaign promises that it is clear now were a bait-and switch. Well at least there, he is in solid Current GOP territory.
    • He is actually saying things like “In the election, we said it was rigged. But we won, so we don’t care any more.”

My conclusion was, and is, that this man is a cad, a liar, a con-man, and basically a pretty thoroughly disgusting human being.

steve_bannon_2010

By Don Irvine – Steve Bannon, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53441636

Now, as he assembles his administration, he has made a few good picks, however, on balance, he has a leader of the Alt-Right as his chief strategist (above). Several of his appointees seem to be designed to destroy the very agencies departments they will lead. And all the billionaire kleptocrats! And Roger Ailes, one of the chief evils of the age is in the background. His “drain the swamp” has turned into “Import more Alligators”!

In The Nation, Susan McWilliams makes an excellent point that Hunter S. Thompson predicted the Trumpism of Total Retaliation in his Hell’s Angels. Read the commentary which is thoughtful and important for us Liberals to understand. Trumpism is embraced by those who feel society has left behind.

So, my conservative true friends, I know that you are intelligent, good people, and that you have not been left behind. In your statement of axiomata and corollaries, please (and I mean this sincerely), let me know how you could have voted for this man I loathe.

By the way, while I see Hillary Clinton as a good, Methodist Grandmother, who has been in public service most of her life, her campaign was very poorly run. That’s why I say that we have an evil party (GOP) and a stupid party (Democrats) in the U.S.

hillary-clinton-gc1996-523x388

My depression was in large part because I hoped that this year, a fundamentally decent person, Mrs. Clinton, would break the US glass ceiling (the only glass ceiling higher is the Papacy!), as the best qualified candidate in modern history. The sword was supposed to be driven through the heart of the GOP Dragon, and Good would triumph. That’s a hard dream to see shattered.

One final word: I acknowledge that DJT is the President of my Country, and I want him to succeed. Unlike the Republicans of Congress who made it their sole guiding principle to make President Obama’s Presidency fail (they didn’t succeed), I will support every good thing DJT does, and will decry any bad thing he does, even-handedly.

Historical Perspective

the_bosses_of_the_senate_by_joseph_keppler

I have spoken about this before, but it is worth mentioning that I see us moving into a new Gilded Age.

I further fear that there are many signs that we are repeating mistakes of 1930s Germany.

I can elaborate about those things in future posts.

My Suspicion of the Super-Rich

rich

If a person is Super-Rich, or if the company is one of the mega-corporations, I am instinctively suspicious. The super-rich and big corporations have to prove to me they are not crooks and kleptocrats. A few have:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Elon Musk
  • George Soros
  • Mark Cuban
  • Warren Buffet

… for example.

I am also automatically suspicious of the management of large, and mega corporations.

11-08toobigtofail

Sources of News

I get my news from a wide variety of sources. Here are a few

  • The NY Times (the American Paper of Record)
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Economist
  • The Washington Post
  • Huff Post
  • The Atlantic
  • Network News (including looking in on CNN and even Fox–shudder!–from time to time)
  • Local TV and internet news
  • NPR
  • Occasionally Pacifica Radio
  • The LA Times

media_news.jpg

  • The SF Chronicle
  • The SF Examiner
  • BBC
  • CBC
  • Occasionally French press
  • The New Republic
  • National Catholic Reporter
  • America Magazine
  • Crux News service
  • The Nation
  • The reporting of Fr. Tom Reese, S.J.
  • Snopes.com for fact-checking

Each of these has some bias in the way stories are chosen, written, etc. For example, the WSJ has a bias toward business. Huff Post is progressive. If a story strikes me, I will then drill down to find primary sources.

I don’t like dismissing news stories because of their publication source–actual Fake News is the Exception. If it gets reported, and I’m interested in it, I will investigate further to see if it happened, the circumstances, and read several viewpoints from different sources to get a feel for it.

Gone, thank heavens, are the days when the press conspired to keep FDR’s disabilities a secret.

My big beef with the press in this election is how they gave so much free time to Trump, and never effectively held his feet to the fire about his many problems, such as

  • Misogyny
  • Trump U
  • Taxes
  • Bankrupting Companies

…while brutalizing Secretary Clinton on emails, etc.

This Saturday Night Live skit summed up how I saw the mainstream press this election cycle, and deplored their actions:

 

Is there Liberal Bias in Mainstream Media and the Media industry?

In a word: Yes. But not why most people think.

In my experience on this planet, the Liberal/Progressive position is the factually, philosophically, and ethically  correct position roughly 75-80% of the time. Liberals, however, are divided among themselves and often very poor communicators, while Conservatives are amazingly effective communicators (see below).

Therefore the Media and Entertainment naturally gravitate toward truth and away from self-serving falsehood. Therefore they only appear to have a liberal bias, they actually have a bias toward truth.

orlando-ferguson-flat-earth-map_edit

We have developed a weird idea in Idiot America: that there are two sides to every story, and that both sides must be given equal time. There are not always two sides, as I outlined in a previous post.  For example:

  • The world is not flat
  • Earth revolves around the Sun, not vice versa
  • Human-caused negative environmental change is real
  • Creationism is not science, and belongs in philosophy and theology classes, not in science classes
  • Humans and Dinosaurs did not co-exist (Sorry Sarah Palin)

Charles Pierce did a good job in Idiot America in enunciating these fundamental laws at work today in the U.S.:

  • Anything that moves units is good (sales)
  • A fact is what enough people believe
  • Truth is how fervently they believe it (truthiness…thank you Stephen Colbert)
  • The worst thing to be on any topic is a genuine expert in the field.

What we Progressives need to do is

  • Organize as effective a communications apparatus as the Right Wing has
  • Re-examine ourselves humbly as to how we got arrogant and comfortable
  • Be present in every community and convince Middle-Class and Blue Collar Americans that we have their backs, and really do so! (Thanks Bernie!)

When Centrist seems Leftist: the Right and Left are not at parity.

In The Big Con: Crackpot Economics and the Fleecing of America, Jonathan Chait demonstrates how the “Center” of American politics has moved steadily Right-ward, and also the incredible lock-step propaganda machine of the Right.

One great example of the non-parity is the institution of the Think Tank.

think-tank-pic

Liberal Think-Tanks were founded to explore fact-based policies, and to offer solutions to situations that had been vetted by the best and brightest scholars in the field. Members often disagree with one another publicly.

Right-Wing Think-Tanks were founded to propagate and defend dogmatic positions, usually of Movement Conservatism. Their agenda is set a priori.

These two institutions look alike, but they are not really alike at all, and are a wonderful illustration of the difference between current Left and Right in the U.S.

How did I get here?

Now, you may ask, how did I get here?

I base this on these excellent works of US History:

upinarms-map

Using Woodard’s expansion of Fischer’s schema of the separate cultural areas (Nations) that make up North America, here is my journey:

I was born to parents who grew up in El Norte (El Paso), and who had moved to one of the capitals of the Far West, Phoenix. However, my Mother’s half-Hispanic heritage, my Father’s family ties to Yankeedom (Illinois), and very frequent visits to my Grandmother’s house in El Paso, tempered me, orienting me toward El Norte culture.

A liberal Catholic and Jesuit education inspired me, and then I was thoroughly initiated into the ways of Yankeedom at Yale, New Haven being one of the two capitals of New England culture. (Boston is the other.)

Novitiate in Santa Barbara (El Norte) continued the liberal influence. Then I went to Fordham and learned the tolerant, liberal and competitive ways of New Netherlands in NYC.

From there I taught in Los Angeles, one of the capitals of El Norte. After Regency at Loyola High School, I returned to the Yankeedom, studying in the other capital of New England culture, Boston/Cambridge.

Following Ordination, I was posted to the cultural capital of The Left Coast, San Francisco, and have been here ever since. The Left Coast is a cultural extension of Yankeedom.

If I didn’t turn out to be a liberal, part Hispanic, Yankee, it would be very strange. My coalition is Yankeedom and her allies. The whole history of the U.S. can be seen as a struggle between primarily Yankeedom and the Deep South. The other nations change their allegiances. Yankeedom preaches “Ordered Liberty.”

In this election, most of Yankeedom and her children stayed blue, New Netherlands did too, and Colorado and New Mexico of El Norte joined. California, since the majority of the population lives in either The Left Coast or El Norte, California, and its sometime ally Nevada went blue. We lost pretty much everyone else.

Read Woodard’s work to get further insight.

What am I in favor of?

Most of this post so far has set down what I am against. Now let’s flip it and see what I am for!

My stance was essentially formed by my Western and Eastern Christianity, and my education.

pascha-header

Fundamental is my belief in the liberating message, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, full of acceptance and wholeness, and full of justice for the poor. The rich can take care of themselves, God’s predilection is for the poor and powerless. This should be our’s too.

hierarchs_detail01

In the realm of economics, I stand with the Cappadocian Fathers (St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Gregory of Nyssa) and the teacher of many of them, St. Macrina.

In this view, being an entrepreneur is a talent given by God like any other, shipbuilding, cooking, etc. The entrepreneur may legitimately make a lot of money for his/her family if the following conditions are upheld:

  • He/she provides a good product/service at a reasonable price
  • He/she pays a living, competitive wage to workers, in safe and healthy conditions
  • He/she does not fall victim to luxury, and gives sacrificially to the poor

Health Care was not thought of, because the Roman Empire in the East had a free, public/private health-care system in the major cities. Like most of the civilized, industrialized world quite sensibly has today, with one big exception!

hagiasophia-12thc

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century.

Furthermore, I am for a mixed, blended economy. The Economy is a human artifact, and we can make it anything we want to.

Just like with Gas and Electric, let these elements each do what they do best:

  • Fairly regulated, ethical capitalism
  • Collective work, Socialism
  • A balance and cooperation between Business and Government

I am a huge supporter of small-to-medium businesses and business owners, and the middle-class. I know many very ethical  small-to-medium businesses and business owners. They and the middle-class backbone of America.

I support:

  • Strong Labor Unions
  • Universal health care
  • The New Deal–Updated for today. We promise to work as hard as we can, and Society promises to take care of us if something goes wrong
  • A level playing field for opportunities for all
hith-roosevelts-e

Our Father and Mother among the Saints, Franklin and Eleanor

In the realm of Justice, I follow John Rawls’ A Theory of JusticeIn a nutshell, nothing must ever benefit the highest in society without also benefitting the lowest in society. That’s why I love the line from G.K. Chesterton’s “O God of Earth and Altar“:

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all.

I strongly support our military and Law Enforcement, while wanting to make sure that Law Enforcement lives up to the high ethical standards we need. The attacks on Police must end.

I do see that, largely due to the white supremacist tendencies in America (see above), African Americans have never had full freedom and acceptance in America, even after the end of Slavery, and this must be addressed. Black (and Brown) lives do matter just as much as White lives do. We have to live up this.

In the realm of Politics, we need Election Reform. I have blogged quite a bit about this in the past: See here and here.

Here are my views in a nutshell:

slide1

To this I now add:

  • Remove Corporate Personhood
  • Reform the Electoral College so that either all Electoral Votes are proportionately assigned, or States pledge to give their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. (I’ll have a full blog post on this later).
  • Remove all Voter Suppression laws and consider issuing a free National ID Card, and making voting mandatory for all citizens, as in Australia (more on this in the same future Blog Post).

In the realm of Society, I not only tolerate diversity, I celebrate it. We were never a Christian country, we were a Country where the majority of people were Protestant and Anglican Christians. We were founded on the ideas of The Enlightenment, Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

Here are a few things I support:

  • I advocate to protect ethnic minorities and the poor from the tyranny of the majority.
  • Full rights and justice for Indigenous Peoples
  • Women must have full and complete equality in society, including equal pay for equal work.
  • LGBT peoples’ rights must be protected
  • African-Americans must finally be fully free and empowered in the US
  • White European Males and their descendants have generally been in charge of the world since the European Invasion of the rest of the World in the 15oos and following. They did some good, they did some bad. Time to share the power.
  • Reasonable border security
  • A road to citizenship for those already here
  • In a coalition with others, improving the conditions in Central America: Colombia did it, so can others.
  • Reducing the number of abortions to as few as possible by great health care, education, and prudent use of birth control. As Hillary believes, bortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
  • Eliminate Poverty in America
  • Provide the means for the Homeless to return to Society, or be cared for.

Watch the tear-producing 60 Minutes segment on Colombia improvements.

My endgame: The Rosicrucian Utopia–The Federation

In the long term, I look for movement toward the Rosicrucian Utopia Gene Roddenberry so beautifully depicted in Star Trek’s Federation.

starfleet_headquarters_2150s

Here are some of what I hope we will evolve toward in the next few centuries. The “” indicate citations from the Rosicrucian Utopia. I have also added my own thoughts, not in quotes.

  • “Politicians are profoundly humanitarian and strive to serve the common good.”
  • “Economists manage state finances with discernment and in the interest of all.”
  • “Scientists are spiritualistic and seek their inspiration in the Book of Nature”
  • “Artists are inspired and express the beauty and purity of the Divine Plan in their works”
  • “Physicians are motivated by love for their fellow beings and treat both the soul and the body.”
  • “Misery and poverty have vanished, for everyone has what he or she needs to live happily.”
  • “Work is not regarded as a chore, but as a source of growth and well-being”
  • “Nature is considered to be the most beautiful temple of all, and animals are considered to be our brothers and sisters on the path of evolution”
  • “A World Government composed of the leaders of all nations, working in the interest of humanity, has come into existence.”
  • “Human relations are founded upon love, friendship, and fraternity, so that the whole world lives in peace and harmony.”

And my own additions:

  • Eventually sane economics leads, as in The Federation, to the elimination of money, and that everyone has what she/he needs to be successful for them selves, and to benefit society.
  • In the realm of Religion and Spirituality, all initiates of every Path recognize the initiates of all other Paths, and that we all value the many ways to the same Source of Being, as in this wonderful clip from Babylon 5:

 

I consider this the anthem of my quest, from Wm. Blake’s Milton (in its original text):

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

 

So, there are some of my fundamentals and corollaries. This took more than a month of thought and introspection, and is still woefully incomplete. I invite you to do the same, and share with us your “Here I Stand.” Through this, we can come to understand one another better, and move forward together.

Thanks for Reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

 

 

 

 

Untruth and Falsehood do NOT Deserve Equal Time

1 Comment

A blogger for USNews, Peter Roff, wrote this back in 2013, and it is worthwhile to examine it once again:

Now comes a study from the George Mason University Center for Media and Public Affairs that demonstrates empirically that PolitiFact.org, one of the nation’s leading “fact checkers,” finds that Republicans are dishonest in their claims three times as often as Democrats. “PolitiFact.com has rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims during President Obama’s second term,” the Center said in a release, “despite controversies over Obama administration statements on Benghazi, the IRS and the AP.” http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/peter-roff/2013/05/28/study-finds-fact-checkers-biased-against-republicans

I have no doubt at all that the Study was correct. The fact checkers most probably do rank Democratic Politicians as more truthful about 3 times as often as Republican Politicians.

(I say politicians because Democratic and Republican American ordinary Citizens are NOT the subject of anything I am about to say.)

There is a simple reason for this, and it is not bias (although of course some bias can always creep in).

The reason is this:

The Democratic Politicians ARE three times more truthful and accurate than the Republican Politicians.

We Americans, and in particular the press, have gotten a funny–and dangerous–notion into our heads: In ANY argument, the two sides have equal validity, and must be given equal time and equal acceptance.

This of course is a corollary of the Laws of Idiot America that Charles Pierce discovered:

  1. Anything is good/true/valuable if it moves units (sells things/makes money).
  2. A fact is what enough people believe.
  3. Truth is how fervently they believe it.

From these also flows the idea that any one’s opinion about something is the equal to an educated opinion from a bonafide expert in the field, and indeed opinions Trump® (actual) Facts.

Read Pierces’s book for the whole horrible story:

51v2ZhvJh3L._SX269_BO1,204,203,200_

A fact-based decision making process, a requirement for our Democratic Republic as the Founders knew, is scarcely to be seen.

We progressives of the Yankeedom-led coalition are not blameless in how experts came to be distrusted. During the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, we attempted a wholesale reliance on “experts” to run our society, and they made some whopping mistakes.

We need to admit this and work to restore the legitimate place of expertise in our National Discourse.

(For the coalitions that make up the United States, see these two works:

515uMZICQ1L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

51rSqoyEtOL

…and more.)

Nevertheless, the meretricious and lying scheme to bamboozle the American People into believing falsehood was cooked up to keep on selling tobacco long after the Tobacco Industry knew it was deadly.

Pierce outlines how the Tobacco Industry called on a Madison Avenue Advertising firm to help them, and a strategy of subterfuge was plotted to create a false “scientific” controversy about the effects of tobacco with falsified studies, purchased “experts,” calling any one with an MS a “Scientist,” and generally pseudo-scientific skepticism.

It worked for a long time. Hey, the GOP VEEP candidate, Mike Pence still believes it:

“Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill,” he wrote on his old Mike Pence for Congress website in 1998BuzzFeed first reported more than a year ago.

(And don’t forget, if Trump® wins, he and Trump’s kids are actually going to running the country…you don’t think The Donald® wants to work that hard, do you?)

More recently, the Creationists and the Climate Change Deniers (the Fossil Fuel industry) have used the same strategy with great success. So too the Birthers, the Speed Boaters, and the “Crooked Hillary” crowd. (Fact Checkers–remember them?–rate her the most honest of all the candidates in this cycle.)

In a perverted mockery of the Fairness Doctrine, the Media have decided that on any issue, both sides deserve equal time, regardless of the factually demonstrated falsity of one side. However:

  • Creationism is not an alternative scientific theory. It is a religious and philosophical viewpoint that belongs in a different classroom, not in science curriculum.
  • Humanity’s effect on the global climate is the clear consensus from the vast majority of real scientists and studies. We see the effects all around us. Must we wait for Florida to become an Archipelago to act?

Once the falsity of claims like these and those of the Birthers, the Speed Boaters and the “Crooked Hillary” crowd are shown to be false, the media should stop covering their politically-motivated supporters who don’t have the civility to shut up. Falsehood, Lies and Untruth do not deserve a voice.

I am not suggesting that they should stop speaking—thank God and the people of New Netherlands that we have Freedom of Speech—I am suggesting that we, and our media, ignore them.

There are answers—actually scientific, factual answers—to the questions that face us today. We must stop letting our “gut” rule us, and get back to listening to the Head—and the Heart!

Enough ranting for today! Thanks for reading!

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant

Ave Atque Vale: The 564th Anniversary of the Fall of the Roman Empire

Leave a comment
Hieromonk Mark Ciccone, S.J. at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco

Hieromonk Mark Ciccone, S.J. at Our Lady of Fatima Byzantine Catholic Church, San Francisco, serving Divine Liturgy in continuity with the Roman Empire in 1453. The Legacy continues.

Ave Atque Vale: The 564th Anniversary of the Fall of the Roman Empire

Hail and Farewell!

I cannot let today go by without commemorating one of the most pivotal events in history. On Tuesday May 29, 1453, at about 2:00 in the afternoon, the walls of New Rome (Constantinople) were breached by the Ottoman Turks, and the Roman Empire, whose legacy stretched back through the Republic to the Kingdom to 753 BCE, the founding of Rome. 2100 years of Ῥωμαιοσύνη–Rōmaiosúnē–Romanness, which, of course, by 1453, was Greekness, came to an end at its center.

Romanitas (the Latin equivalent of Ῥωμαιοσύνη) had been withdrawn from Western Europe earlier, with the Fall of the Old Capital of Rome in 476, and then after its recovery, the final loss of Roman power there after the Emperor Justinian’s reconquest, was complete. Western Europe was in darkness.

Today, Ῥωμαιοσύνη is perpetuated not only in the Churches, but in every Nation which has an

Russian Double-Headed Eagle

Russian Double-Headed Eagle

Eagle as its standard (the early single headed eagle, as in the United States, or the later Roman Double-Headed Eagle used by Russia), uses the Fasces as an emblem, and builds its National structures in the Roman fashion. We are children of Alexander, and heirs of Rome. 

I am only mentioning this briefly this morning as I commute on CalTrain to Rosicrucian Park, as I have blogged extensively about this before to commemorate this watershed event. The two events, Tuesday May 29, 1453 and October 12, 1492, when Columbus rediscovered the New World, are the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the modern world.

So much flowed from these two events. From the Fall of Rome, the ancient wisdom and mysteries were communicated to Renaissance Italy. These had been preserved in the East, and in Islam, and fueled the Renaissance fascination with Hermetism and other mysteries. From Columbus’s landing on Hispañola came the massacre of millions of New World Natives (there were as many people in North and South America as there were in Europe at the time), and the beginning of the war of conquest waged by Europe against the rest of the world which has resulted in the world as we know it.

An excellent video and documentary on the lamentable Fall can be found here: http://www.crashonline.eu/darkest-day-in-history-of-hellenism-fall-of-constantinople-29-may-1453-video/. Link to this page, as they have linked to us!

The Fall of the Roman Empire?

Molly Ivins

Molly Ivins

Those educated in our school systems are probably now asking themselves, “Didn’t the Roman Empire fall in 476? That’s what they taught us in History Class?” Well, I can only relate an anecdote about what authorities teach us:

Molly Ivins, the late, and much missed Journalist and Author, tells the story about how her parents taught her to only drink from the “Whites” fountain in public places like the train station, and not to drink from the “Coloreds” Fountain, because “it was dirty.” One day at the depot, she walked past the “Coloreds” Fountain and saw that it was pristine. She then wondered…”What else have they been lying to me about?”

As she put it: “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point — race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.”

Your History teachers weren’t so much lying, as they and their teachers had been lied to. No one puts it better than Kelley L. Ross, PhD, whose site Rome and Romania is my hands-down, absolute favorite for the subject of the Roman Empire and many other historical items. He and I might disagree about some modern political ideas, but I applaud his forthrightness, and agree on our allegiance to the Constitution. On history, I know no better source. Bookmark it! I quote from his preface at length because he nails it:

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century. For Real: Stop this from being converted into a Mosque!

Hagia Sophia, The Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople as it was in the 12th Century. For Real: Stop this from being converted into a Mosque!

What most people would probably regard as an obscure and possibly unpleasant footnote to Mediaeval history, the Byzantine Empire, was in fact still the Roman Empire, known to Western Europeans, “Latins” or “Franks” at the time, as Romania, already the name of the Empire in Late Antiquity. In the Middle Ages, the Greeks used the Classical word for “Greeks,” Hellênes, Ἕλληνες, to mean the ancient pagan Greeks, as the word is used in the New Testament–sometimes the Latin word for Greeks would be borrowed, as Graikoi, Γραικοί, if this was needed for contemporary reference, as for the language. In 1354 Demetrius Cydones even translated the Summa Contra Gentiles of St. Thomas Aquinas into Greek as the Book against the Hellenes. Mediaeval Greek speakers, and the other citizens of the Empire, whom we would now regard as different nationalities, Armenians, Albanians, Vlachs, etc., were themselves always Romans, Ρωμαῖοι, Rhômaîoi, and the Empire was always ἡ Ρωμαίων Ἀρχή hê Rhômaíôn Arkhê, ἡ Ρωμαίων Βασιλεία, hê Rhômaíôn Basileía, “the Empire of the Romans,” or even Ῥωμανία, Rhômania, as in Latin. (See the “Note on ‘Romania‘”.)

It is then natural that Classicists, to whom the Romans were the last people who proudly weren’t Christians, would prefer the hostile modern neologism “Byzantine” for the continuing Empire, rather than pollute the memory of Augustus and Trajan with that of Justinian, Heraclius, or Basil II. Yet even Justinian wore no beard and was still speaking Latin — and what Classicist will dare, and I dare them, to fault the others for speaking Greek? The very people, as it happens, thanks to whom we possess Classical Greek and its literature. Indeed, even Edward Gibbon, who actually called Mediaeval Romans (and he does frequently call them that) “a degenerate people” [The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Modern Library, p.299], nevertheless, when speaking of the replacement of Latin by Greek in the Law, Court, and Army, referred to “the Greek, whose intrinsic merit deserved indeed the preference” [p.295, boldface added]. So we find that Gibbon was a Hellenophile.

Historians sometimes note the humiliation of the Greeks in being conquered by Rome, and sometimes the irony of the Romans admiring and adopting Greek thought, architecture, literature, etc. — Horace said, Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, “Captive Greece captured the wild victor.” But I have never seen the stark truth put this way: The Greeks inherited the Roman Empire, without, however, ceasing to identify with it. Why does no one say that? They must be thinking that those Christian Greeks are no longer really Greeks, who by definition were pagans. Of course, Basil II and Alexius Comnenus would agree. They are no longer Hellênes; they are Rhômaîoi. But if, to historians, they are neither Greeks nor Romans, what can they be? Oh, let’s make up a word. They are “Byzantines” — and we all know how nasty that is. But the Romans, who were the last Classical people who were not Christians, were also, as it happens, the first who were. Classicists, as with Gibbon’s “triumph of barbarism and religion” [ibid. p.865], seem to choke on this simple truth.

… I have in fact never seen a book or treatment of the Roman Empire that addresses it as an institution with a continuous history from Augustus to Constantine XI. Classicist “Roman” historians lose interest in the 4th century and throw in the towel in the 5th, while “Byzantinists” generally begin with Constantine. This is a distortion due to modern prejudices, written by historians whom the Romans would have dismissed as “Franks.” The Rhômaîoi themselves possessed a strong sense of their identity and the continuity of their history, which is reflected in the popularity of continuous histories and chronicles written by Mediaeval historians in Constantinople. For instance, John Zonaras, writing in the 12th century, produced an Epitome, or abbreviated history, starting with the Creation, that was so popular that 79 partial or complete manuscripts survive today. Zonaras, drawing on sources that are now often lost, such as much of the history of Cassius Dio, divided his treatment in half, with Book II running from 106 BC down to his own day [cf. Warren Treadgold, “John Zonaras,” The Middle Byzantine Historians, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp.388-399].

Read the whole study here, you won’t be disappointed!

So refuse the lies of Edward Gibbon and those classicists who follow his lead. The truth will set you free to think for yourself!

Remembering Rome

There is always so much to say, but this is enough for today. Remember Rome, as did William Butler Yeats:

Sailing to Byzantium (1926)

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the treesSail
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire

Byzantine Mosaic

Byzantine Mosaic

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Steven A. Armstrong
Tutor, Editor, Consultant