No, Islamic Spain was Not Tolerant

So sayeth this review of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. (h/t Vox Populi)

And yes, the reviewer is an Orthodox priest, if you want to ready your ad hominems, and he is positively scathing regarding the myth, even working in a Gone With the Wind reference.

As Fernandez-Morera’s book points out, the picture of a tolerant Islam can only be drawn by selecting among the facts and zeroing in on a few of the upper classes, while conveniently ignoring the mass of people and suppressing certain other facts—even facts about those upper classes.

Now, the fact that medieval Muslims forcibly oppressed Christians in their lands does not and should not surprise. Religions, if they’re worth anything, are totalizing, thus religious tolerance always has the tendency to border on being a contradiction in terms. So the status of Christian dhimmis in Muslim Spain as fifth-class subjects should not really be a revelation.

But it is, and this indicaes a broader problem, of a spiritual cancer at the heart of the West. There are those among us who are prepared to believe, and repeat, anything, if it makes our own culture look bad. The same people who tut derisively about the Crusades train themselves not to notice the wars of conquest by which Arab Muslims destroyed Christian Visigothic Spain in the eighth century. Their stunted ideology requires them to deplore the first thing and attack anyone who mentions the second thing as a racist (because, you know, Islam is a race. Oh, we know that it isn’t, but you’re too dumb to make that distinction). Attacking your own culture makes you virtuous, you see.

Even British Prime Minister Tony Blair climbed on the bandwagon, saying in 2007, “The standard-bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian ones”.

Given that the early Middle Ages were the time when Muslims attacked other lands specifically in the name of their religion, this statement beggars belief. I’d be hard pressed to think that Tony Blair even really thought this was true. It’s just the sort of thing we’re expected to say, a reading from the Catechism of the Blessed Dictatorship of Post-Cultural Relativism.

Myths of the Great Library

In History, the details are always hard to catch, yet always worth knowing. This long post at History for Atheists, worth absorbing in full, makes a number of discordant points about the Myth that the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by a Christian mob in 390 AD, thus setting science and technology back a thousand years. I will state them below in brief, and you may read the post in full.

  1. The Great Library of Alexandria was not the only Great Library of the Ancient World. It did not “contain all the wisdom of the ancient world”.
  2. The Great Library of Alexandria was a research institution, a Mouseion, devoted to the Nine Muses, which is to say, they were a product of Pagan religious inspiration, the worship of the gods.
  3. Consequently, most of the scholarship done at the Mouseion was focused on textual criticism and poetry, and not very much on what we moderns would call science.
  4. The Ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t really do science as we understand it today. Which is to say, their natural philosophy was largely inductive, not empirical, and they did not apply this philosophy to improving the technology of their culture.
  5. The Mouseion had almost certainly ceased to exist by 390 AD. A series of sackings of the city by Romans, beginning with Julius Caesar, greatly diminished the value of the place.
  6. What was destroyed in 390 AD was a daughter library, the Serapaeum. As with the Mouseion, the Serapaeum was first and foremost a pagan temple, devoted to the worship of the hybrid Greek-Egyptian God Serapis. It’s destruction in 390 was the result of a long series of hostilites between the pagan and Christian populations of the city. Which is to say, it was the result of a war between rival religious traditions, and not a war between religion and science. And according to primary sources, there may not even have been a library in the Serapaeum at the time.

Again, Read the Whole Thing (Hat Tip: Vox Populi)

Rethinking President Grant

I don’t link much to National Review anymore, but the resurrection of the popular image of Ulysses S. Grant has been a cause of mine since I wrote a bad term paper about it in college.

A pertinent fact: Grant was one of the more popular presidents of his era, winning two lopsided elections and very nearly getting the nomination for a third term in 1880.

When you combine the popular vote with Professor Michael McDonald’s historical approximations of the turnout rate of eligible voters, Grant in 1868 won 42.6 percent of all eligible voters, the highest proportion in U.S. history; his 1872 reelection ranked sixth

Check the whole article out.

This Crash Course is the Last Christmas of Alexander the Great YouTube Videos…

… it’s not actually about Alexander the Great, but some nonsense tertially related to Alexander the Great.

Normally I like Crash Course, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and usually provides some kind of interesting take on historical events. But this one is trying so hard to be Woke that it ends up saying absolutely nothing at all about its ostensible subject, and the things it does say are, well, wrong.

  1. The only reason Alexander didn’t build institutions is because he died before he could build them. At the time of his death he was back in Babylon and preparing himself to build the Hellenistic Empire that would have fit the Hellenistic Culture that arose in his wake. His death without an adult male heir is also the reason that Empire collapsed, despite the efforts of at least some of the Diodachoi to hold it together. For further reading, check out Ghost On the Throne
  2. Alexander wasn’t a very destructive conqueror. Most of the deaths of his wars were military ones, i.e., his soldiers and the ones he was fighting. He wasn’t a sacker of cities, and indeed was careful to respect the lives and property of the people he subjugated. He was so as a matter of policy, pertaining to point 1: He wanted the Greek and the Persian, the Greek and the Egyptian, the Greek and the Syrian, etc., to come together in a single realm. He acted accordingly.
  3. Alexander pursued Darius because Darius was the crowned King of Persia, and Alexander’s reign would never be secure until he was dead. And after Darius died, Bessus claimed the throne. Comparing this to Ahab’s monomaniacal obsession is deeply silly. Do you not understand how monarchies work?
  4. Other conquerors didn’t just decide to emulate Alexander randomly. Why, for example, did Julius make Alexander his hero, and not, say Hannibal? Or Scipio Africanus? Or Phyrrus of Epirus? They were all great generals, too. Why  Alexander particularly?

    The answer lies in what Alexander was fighting for. His aura was never merely about war and conquest, but war and conquest in the name of a unified world. War to end wars, if you will. That appealed to Caesar, and Napoleon, and others, precisely because it was what they wanted to accomplish, too. Both Caesar and Napoleon grew up in times of political disorder and wanted to bequeath an ordered world to posterity. So did Alexander. Their admiration is neither accident nor dumb-jock hero-worship, as your endless references to dimwit reality stars seems to imply.

  5. And as regards that, we get it, you’re Too Smart for The Jersey Shore. But you’re not smart enough to ignore it, so it infects this video about a legendary historical figure for some reason, and in an ironic twist, to your beginning moaning, ensures that people will know about Jersey Shore as long as this video exists on YouTube. Nice job.

A final point, germain to my title: If you want to teach us about Alexander the Great, teach us about Alexander the Great. If you want to teach us about people who haven’t been talked about nearly as much as Alexander, but who deserve to be, then teach us about that. But don’t talk about one in a video about the other, because you end up teaching about neither.

And yes, I know that blogging about a video published in 2012 might as well be commenting about 50’s Fashion Tips, but there’s plenty of internet people doing exactly that, so welcome to the Post-Modern Age. Everything is Too Old to talk about, and nothing is.

We Don’t Actually Want Another Civil War

A rare political post that I’m throwing up because it touches upon an area I just finished writing about.

Larry Correia takes the world’s dumbest tweet by a Congressman, and drops a hydrogen bomb of truth on it, and makes the rubble bounce.

Last week a congressman embarrassed himself on Twitter. He got into a debate about gun control, suggested a mandatory buyback—which is basically confiscation with a happy face sticker on it—and when someone told him that they would resist, he said resistance was futile because the government has nukes.

And everybody was like, wait, what?

Not a new statement. Whenever this comes up, proggies love to retort that the armed populace of the US could not possibly resist the U.S. Military. This is, sadly, a meme among them.

It’s dumb for a number of reasons, most obviously the fact that a high school senior today has never known a time when the U.S. Military has not been actively engaged against insurgents in Afghanistan, and by all accounts, we are not getting anywhere. Afghanistan is Vietnam with a lower body count (and according to some authors, we actually made some progress in Vietnam after Westmoreland left in ’68. But whatever):

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Barack Obama launched over five hundred drone strikes during his eight years in office. We’ve used Apaches (that’s the scary looking helicopter in the picture for my peacenik liberal friends), smart bombs, tanks, I don’t know how many thousand s of raids on houses and compounds, all the stuff that the lefty memes say they’re willing to do to crush the gun nut right, and we’ve spent something like 6 trillion dollars on the global war on terror so far.

And yet they’re still fighting.

Extrapolate that to the resources necessary for the U.S. Military to conquer North America, and some 20-30 million (if we go with the low estimates) of gun owners. Keep in mind that it took the better part of a century – from Fallen Timbers to Wounded Knee, for the U.S. Military to take North America from a variety of Indian nations, all of whom stepped out of the Stone Age no sooner than their first encounter with Europeans. I recently went horseback riding with some Blackfeet in Montana, and they told me that until the early 18th century, no Blackfeet had ever seen a horse. The Indians fought back with every weapon they had at their disposal, at a massive disadvantage in population and firepower, and it still took decades to defeat them. And they weren’t even unified. The Apache, Comanche, Iriquois, Dakota, etc., each fought their own individual war against the invader. And they each went down hard.

Oh, but that was when we had an emaciated army, underfunded and undermanned? Sure. But Correia reminds us not to be to sure of that high-tech, all volunteer military, to say nothing of the cops:

The problem with all those advanced weapons systems you don’t understand, but keep sticking onto memes, is guess who builds them, maintains them, and drives them?… Those drones you guys like to go on about, and barely understand? One of the contracts I worked on was maintaining the servers for them. Guess which way most military contractors vote? Duh. Though honestly, if I was still in my Evil Military Industrial Complex job when this went down, I’d just quietly embezzle and funnel millions of DOD dollars to the rebels.

This is what prompted me to come into this, as someone who just finished writing a novel that takes place in the Civil War, especially Sherman’s March: in 1861, the U.S. Military had about 16,000 men and 1,100 commissioned officers. Of those, about 20% defected and joined the Confederacy. Of the 200 West Point graduates who came out of retirement, nearly half joined the Confederacy.

How long did it take to defeat the South again? 4 years. Despite the fact that the North had over double the population, five times the railroads, and virtually all the industrial capacity. Despite the fact that of the southern population, one-third were slaves who were by definition (until the very end) banned from military service. Despite all of that, it took the advanced, industrialized, highly populated section of the country 4 years of bloody conflict to crush the agrarian, thinly populated half. And that was only because at the end those West-Point-trained Southerners honored their commitments to peace. That’s right, that was after four years of conventional warfare. The Confederates didn’t even try a guerrilla insurgency.

So how many current members of the U.S. Military are right-wing enough to have a real problem with firing on civilians in support of the abrogation of the 2nd Amendment? Wanna bet it’s higher than 20%? How many Robert E. Lees join the rebellion this time? How many Apache attack helicopters do they take with them? How many Abrams tanks?

Hell, how many nukes? Do you know where we keep all of our land-based missiles? That’s right: out in flyover country. When I was a kid, the running gag held that if Montana and the Dakotas seceded from the Union, they would instantly be the third-largest nuclear power on earth. I don’t think they have as many missiles now as they did in the 80’s. But they still have some.

How hard would it be for the governors of those states to order their respective National Guards to take over the missile silos? How many guys inside the missile silos would help them do it? And how many cities would they need to wipe out to win the war?

Two. New York and Washington. Game over.

Now, of course, it might not break down like that. War is never as clear in reality as it seems at the outset. But that’s my point. The scenario in which the 1.3 million members of the U.S. Military are going to be able to contain a guerrilla revolt by a group an order of magnitude larger than them, and within the country they draw their logistical support from?

That’s not gonna be over by Christmas.

Woodie Guthrie was a Showboating Commie Stooge, and He Never Killed a Single Fascist

220px-woody_guthrie_nywtsI don’t blog about politics anymore. Politics is a numb suckhole of fools and swine stabbing at each other with bent knives. This is not about that.

This is about taking down a liar.

I could give a tinker’s damn about the policies of the Old Left, because the Old Left hasn’t been relevant for two generations. But I tire of the shallow iconography of ersatz revolutionaries.

Really what set me off was reading a Neil Hilborn poem about Ol’ Woodie, rhapsodizing that today he’d be a crust punk spraying his famous catchphrase on walls like Bastiat or some nonsense. I rather think that if Guthrie were alive today, he’d be shaming people for appropriating blues music and telling people on Twitter which of their opinions are Hate Speech. Party Men are like that.

Woody personified what Orwell wrote about the Socialists of England.

Many intellectuals of the Left were flabbily pacifist up to 1935, shrieked for war against Germany in the years 1935-9, and then promptly cooled off when the war started.

When the Nazi-Soviet pact was a thing, Woody Guthrie followed Pete Seeger’s lead with the rest of the Almanac Singers, and wrote songs about how war was bad and a phony capitalist lie:

Franklin D, listen to me,
You ain’t a-gonna send me ‘cross the sea.
You may say it’s for defense
That kinda talk ain’t got no sense.

Only after Operation Barbarossa was it time to kill Fascists. Which he did not do. He instead did everything he could to avoid Army service, eventually enlisting the U.S. Merchant Marine. Now, the Merchant Marine was hardly a safe service in WW2, and he was on a ship that took a few torpedoes off of Utah Beach in 1944. But the Sea Porpoise didn’t sink, and he was fine. A lot of guys on Utah Beach were not so lucky.

And yes, I get the idea that by rallying the people at home, by raising the spirits, he was doing his bit. It’s not wrong exactly, but there’s something slimy about that particular martial self-congratulation regarding it. Bob Hope did at least as much to keep the troops happy, but he never claimed to be winning the war himself.

So to that aesthetic bit of self-importance, no, that “machine” does not kill fascists. M-1 Garlands and Browning Automatic Rifles kill fascists. Sherman tanks kill fascists. And yes, Russian burp guns and T-34s kill fascists (when they aren’t helping them invade Poland). Your guitar just sings your self-conception disguised as communal spirit, helping to birth the culture of overgrown children who had the temerity to be angry when Bob Dylan picked up a Stratocaster. The guitar does nothing without the hand that plays it. And I know whose hand was playing yours.

When Blog Posts Expand

I’ve had this draft about the organizational differences between the Army of the Potomac and Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and I was working on it yesterday. The detail involved in it is turning into a minor essay, which is making me wonder if I should take it off WordPress and publish it to Kindle on its own. I may or may not.

These things have a way of getting away from you sometimes.