Monday, September 24, 2018
Sunday, September 9, 2018
There have been some issues fairly recently that seem to have people baffled. Now I'm a puzzle-solver, it's in my nature. I don't always solve the puzzle, but I always try. And when I see something that doesn't make sense, I pick it up, turn it over, and turn it around backwards, maybe walk a few paces away and look back. A lot of problems come from looking at things from the wrong direction.
Let's start with some basics that you've probably heard before and probably take for granted. I think they call them postulates? Anyway, some reasonable assumptions that lead to everything else I'm going to try to remember to say. A lot of this you've heard before, and many of you will say "well of course" about a bunch of this.
Thousands of years ago, say maybe 50,000 years or so, human beings ran around naked, on the plains and the hills and the mountains and in the valleys, though the jungles and forests and swamps. We'd gather together in packs, chase down other animals, beat them to death with rocks and sticks, maybe some simple spears, eat their flesh raw, and pee and poop wherever and whenever we felt the need.
Like most critters that run in packs, we'd have rather drastic reactions to anyone who wasn't Us, our tribe, our pack. Wasn't about thinking, just lizard-brain level instincts. Sometimes we'd chase them off. Sometimes we'd kill them. I wouldn't be surprised if we'd sometimes eat them. Because if they weren't us, they weren't people.
Think that last bit is an exaggeration? Maybe. But some anthropologist pointed out if a tribe has a name for themselves, the literal translation of that name is almost always "The People." By extension, if we're THE People, and you ain't us...
As for the violence, at a much later time, the Tribes of Israel came up with the First Commandment, which you'll remember as Thou Shall Not Kill. Another anthropologist said it actually translates as Thou Shall Not Murder. Murder is killing one of The People. But if you ain't us... Then of course there's the story of how King Saul lost favor with God. I'll let you look that one up for yourself.
So, Way Back Before That, primitive humans, no language, not much for clothes, knee-jerk xenophobes. Not a way of thinking, something functioning back in the lizard-brain right on top of the spine. Three (there are always three) main drivers. Smell. You don't smell like us, you ain't us. Not just "you smell like a human." Our tribe chases something down kills it and eats it, we all eat it. We find berries, we all eat berries. We find bugs, we all eat bugs. Add to that common diet the peeing and pooping, plenty of smells. We cross a river, we all cross the river at the same time, so we all "bathe" to the same extent. We get sick, we all get sick. We all smell like Us.
Appearance? Well, to a certain extent. We're talking small packs of humans, living cheek-by-jowl day after day, so we know each other by sight. And then there's behavior. No language, so we learn how the tribe behaves by watching the rest of the tribe. Behave some other way, get whacked up side the head by mom or dad till you learn better. Or get chased off, and so on.
Smell, Appearance, Behavior. Because their's always three. Moving on.
Eventually we learned to take the hides from some of those critters we killed, so we weren't running around naked anymore. We even learned to tan leather. This is where all that peeing and pooping came in handy. The earliest way to tan leather was with urine, which is why in medeval towns nobody much wanted to live downwind from the tanner's street.
We also figured out fire somewhere in there, which helpfully meant we didn't have to eat all those critters raw anymore. And we picked up a few more clever tricks fairly early on. Yet another anthropologist concluded that those early fellas who chipped out all those flint spearpoints -- didn't actually know how, as such. They banged away till they started making some good sharp ones, and from then on worked from muscle memory. Damn all in the way of language, so they couldn't explain it, but they could do it, over and over.
Most remarkable thing we got from somewhere, was language. Someday I'll tell you my theories about language, once I have them. I have a couple half-theories, though.
So, we're wandering around in smelly hides with flint spears, and the usual rocks and clubs, basically going where the food is, because that's what we do. But we find places where there's an abundance of food, and we stay a bit longer... and a bit longer...
Let's say our exemplar tribe/pack/gaggle/mob finds a place by a river, maybe with a little bay, lots of fish. So we stick around for a while. We puzzle out some basic shelters, and our tribe settles down, not permanently, but for an indefinite period. Something remarkable happens. We don't die so fast, and our tribe grows. We spread out, this bigger tribe of ours, not cheek by jowl anymore.
We're still smelling the same, mostly of fish now. We're still mostly familiar with who's who in our tribe. But we're not always around that tight little group we used to be. So some of us change a bit. Some get chased off if they get too outlandish. But we gradually learn to tolerate a little bit of difference in the tribe.
The tribe up the way, they've found a crowd of wild pigs, even domesticated some. Initially we might do our usual thing and kill the tribe, but then we dunno what to do with pigs, so eventually we figure out we can trade some of our fish for their bacon. I mean, hey, it's bacon, ya know? And we can't just chase off or kill the pig guys, or we won't have them to trade with. So a little more tolerance.
And the rest is, well, history.
We learn to tolerate people a bit different from us. We learn behaviors that make that toleration easier. And remarkably, we learn how to teach our children to do the same. We in our little village, which becomes a town, which becomes a city. People from other tribes come to our little city. People from our tribe wander off to other cities, maybe even the pig guys, who do smell a bit funny, but hey, they have bacon!
There's a technical term for all that, civilization. You may have heard of it.
A side note on the smell thing. One of the first somewhat diverse yet successful societies was the Romans. Just about anyone could become a Roman citizen, and somehow for quite a while they stayed fairly cohesive. And what did Roman cities almost always have? Baths.
And here we are, way off from those confusing issues I mentioned at the beginning, looking at things from a whole nother perspective.
How'd I end up taking this long thought journey?
We've had a horrendous number of kids killing more other kids than we can bear. And when it happens, people always ask "How could our sweet innocent little kids end up as killers?" I suppose you end up with similar questions about all the other crimes, too.
Something might not have crossed your mind about this. Civilization, civilized behavior, is learned. Kids are not born with that behavior. Kids are born only with the genes we gave them. And those genes are not a whole lot different from those from the naked packs of feral humans, coursing hunters, chasing other critters down in packs and beating them to death, peeing and pooping at will.
Running around naked and peeing and pooping at will, that basically describes any young enough child, without a lot of supervision and a supply of diapers.
It is a damn good thing we don't see our own kids that way, that we see them as sweet and innocent and blameless. But it's a bit unfair to expect them to be born knowing those things we're supposed to teach them.
We have, by some wildly unlikely chance, figured out a way to teach our kids to not behave that way. But till they're taught, they're feral. And without a whole lot of watching, they'll do what feral humans do.
The remarkable thing isn't so many kids going feral. It's remarkable that most of them don't. It's truly amazing that somehow our parents learned to teach so many of us to not respond like a pack of wild animals. And somehow, some of us have taught their own kids the same.
And of course, some kids don't really learn civilization by it's positive rewards. Some simply learn the negative punishments. Some just behave because, well, that's the way the Tribe is behaving. Or they behave on the surface as civilized. Ever hear of the MacDonald Triad? Three behaviors that were at one time believed to be the precursors to becoming serial killers: bedwetting, fire setting, and killing small animals. Sound familiar?
You'll notice some small towns might only need one Sherriff, because most obey the law. Then there are the growing number of towns and cities with LEs in body armor with automatic weapons....
And there's more. A lot of these kids aren't going feral. What happens in schools, over and over again? Without close watching, kids form up in packs, and harass and attack those who are different. It is, as I've explained, feral human nature. A lot of those kids coming to school to attack their fellow students were subjected to those pack assaults. They've been taught that That's Not How You Treat People, by parents who know how at least somewhat. And that's not what they found. So not offered alternatives, not defended by the adults who are supposed to be teaching all the children to not attack strangers... a sad story. But not a surprising one.
Is it just kids? Of course not. Civilization is a learned and self-imposed set of behaviors. Tolerance is something civilized folks have to re-learn every day of their lives. Picture those wild humans with rocks and clubs. Now picture the scene from "Frankenstein," the mob of villagers with pitchforks and scythes and torches rumbling up toward the castle to attack the stranger, the Monster. Is that different? Picture the mob in the street with the signs and the flags.. and possibly torches and clubs, we've seen that... Is that different from those wild feral humans chasing down the strangers? The big game is over, all those happy people come pouring out of the stadium... and end up running through the street in packs, throwing rocks, breaking windows, turning over cars, setting fires... and sometimes killing.
There's a video you can find on YouTube called "Don't Be A Sucker." A casual group of individual, well-enough-dressed, civilized humans gather and listen to a demagogue. What's the message? All those strangers, they're not like us, we need to defend our tribe... oddly of course no one notices the demagogue is presenting each member of the crowd as one of the tribe, but also as the enemy. But if he can turn them into a pack, they'll respond without thought. Because we do that, Smell, Appearance, Behavior, if they're different, chase them off or kill them.
No thought required. With the smallest excuse we stop thinking. And civilization requires thought. Thought is hard work for a wild animal with a club and a pack to belong to.
When the government wants to take a bunch of citizens and send them to war, what do they do? Put them in a big group. Get them all dressed the same, with their hair cut the same, make them all behave the same. Make them spend a whole lot of time running together, often carrying weapons. And of course make them bathe a lot, so they all smell the same.
A lot of the small-town folks at the beginning of World War II didn't bathe often, maybe once a week, because bathing was a huge chore, getting hot water together and a tub and a place to bathe. But the recruits and draftees? Showers. And when they went off to war in Europe and Asia, they couldn't bathe all that often. They were given a fair supply of cigarettes -- which supresses the smell. But your own unit, your own little pack, you all smell the same anyway.
And soldiers don't fight for the government, they don't fight for the American Way of Life, they don't fight for Mom and Dad or the Girl They Left Behind. They fight for the guys around them. The rest of the pack.
We need to remember that we need to teach all of our children, all of the time, to treat everyone the way civilized people do. We need to remind ourselves every day, sometimes every moment, to do the same. Kids still learn by watching Mom and Dad and the rest of the tribe. And every day, Mom and Dad could find themselves in the middle of a pack becoming a mob, and acting and reacting the way our genes predispose us to do. Grabbing a sign or a flag, a club or a torch, a scythe or a pitchfork, and running off or running down those who aren't The People.
We. The People.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
Exhausted, all my tech is failing, including this podcast. Oh, did I mention I'm losing my hearing and half-blind in one eye? So, how's your year been going. See also one of my earliest podcast episodes, "Some Old Guy Whining."
Sunday, April 29, 2018
I recently completed the Audible version of "Prince Martin Wins His Sword" for the author, Brandon Hale. While recording this rhyming book, I noticed a particular piece of music fit the rhyme scheme perfectly. And then I also noticed the promotional language on the book's page on Amazon also rhymed the same way.
And the rest is history... a promo was born!
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180419 - Federalist # 16 - The Same Subject Continued: The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
Back in the saddle, with a few saddle sores. And a bit of news. And then, The Same Subject Continued.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180208 - Federalist # 15 - The Insufficiency of the Present Confederation to Preserve the Union
Everybody agreed the Articles of Confederacy weren't working. Not everyone agreed how much needed to be changed.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180201 - Federalist # 14 - Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory Answered
Hello, welcome back for Federalist # 14, "Objections to the Proposed Constitution From Extent of Territory Answered."
You know, I do love reading these older works aloud for you. I like to think it adds a living energy to words to which you and I have paid far too little attention for far too long. I've mentioned that I don't read ahead very much, to keep the material fresh for me. I like suprises as much as you folks do. Much of the Federalist papers are rather calm, rather clerical, rather tame. The first part of this essay is much the same. But towards the end, there's quite a crescendo, lemme tell ya.
This one purports to be written by James Madison, though the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society argues that most or all were written by Hamilton. That's possible. But it seems to me the more firey essays do seem to be attributed to Madison. So it's an intriguing question. And it's nice to find an intriguing question about something written 230 years ago. Hope I do it justice.
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180125 - Federalist # 13 - Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government
Hello, we meet again, this time for Federalist # 13, "Advantage of the Union in Respect to Economy in Government."
Once again, the Federalist's primary argument for the Constitution is that it is the only way to preserve the Union, all the states working together. That argument is assumed throughout this essay. And once again, the Federalist gives us an answer to a question raised in our current era.
Hamilton contends that there are functions that must be carried out by the national government, whether that nation be one state, one of three or more confederacies, or a nation comprised of all the thirteen states. With that in mind, a single government would be most economical, without duplicating necessary national functions three times, or thirteen times.
Modern politicians often argue that the Federal government is too expensive and inefficient. I'd counter that people governing themselves is expensive and inefficient, and worth preserving. The alternative offered is not some better Federal government. It is a Federal government that doesn't actually perform the necessary work. When one completes half the work, or none of the work, one can sure save a lot of money. Monarchy or tyranny is relatively cheap, and can look a lot more efficient, what with the trains running on time, and all those parades of marching uniforms.
But I digress. Let's let Mr Hamilton speak for himself. Good day!
Monday, January 22, 2018
We all tell stories, and listen to stories, and learn from stories. And our stories tell us, too.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Hello again. Tonight is Federalist # 12, which is all about Revenue. Or in other words, tax collecting.
Naturally this one is written by Alexander Hamilton, the banker. He founded the Bank of New York. Later on, President George Washington appointed him as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and in that capacity he also founded the first Bank of the United States. So he would be the one to write an essay to convince the people of New York that the Constitution would be a great idea, because the government would be better at collecting taxes. I admit I got a bit of a chuckle out of that. Can't picture a modern legislator promoting anything with the idea it'd let the Federal government collect more taxes. Anyway, I found it a bit amusing. Then again, I also get many of the dirty jokes in Shakespeare.
The modern debates on reforming the tax code, basically started with the work of Alexander Hamilton.
But he does make some valid points. No government can do much without revenue, no one can, really. If it's got to be done, and it does, it ought to be done well. And he does say that most of that revenue would come from duties on imports, and not from landowners and especially not from farmers, who generally don't have much cash anyway. That had to go over rather well in a largely agrarian society.
This is a short one, but has value of it's own. Good day.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180111 - Federalist # 11 - The Utility of the Union in Respect to Commercial Relations and a Navy
Hello again. Tonight I'm recording Federalist #11. This is not the most exciting essay to the modern ear, being primarily about international trade, especially by sea. The ending does get a bit firey.
I am not a trained historian, just a history fan, I suppose. In 1787 America didn't have much of a navy to speak of. And British naval power, or French for that matter, was much stronger. The only advantage we had was the very long way they had to travel to do much of anything to us, and the ongoing conflicts between Britain and France, which made conflict with us an inconvenient side issue in many ways. I find the coverage of American Naval potential interesting in the very different resources necessary for naval building in those days: tar, pitch, turpentine and the strong wood available from the southern states, oh, and some of the iron from the north, too.
The essay also mentions hypothetically cutting off direct trade with Britain, and how it might put us in a strong position negotiating a trade treaty with them. Twenty-five years later we were at war once again with Britain, after cutting off trade, in part due to trusting France, in part due to our still lacking a strong enough navy to keep Britain from kidnapping our merchant seamen and impressing them into the British navy. We won again, largely due to the internal lines of supply also discussed here, which same have also been the foundation of every war we've won, in my amateur opinion. We didn't always build the best of anything, but we sure built a lot of 'em in a hurry.
The most strongly worded part of this essay is at the end, suggesting a European opinion that America weakened anyone who went there. I wasn't around at the time, so I'll take Hamilton's word on that. We were still desperately vulnerable, and building a strong navy was probably a very good idea. But I believe what saved us was largely the French conflict with Britain, and our willingness to persist in fighting long enough that Britain couldn't sustain a war against us. And finally, it was the commercial side, internal and external trade, that allowed us to become a strong, viable nation.
And the Union, providing a framework for our internal cooperation, was essential to our later external strength.
Monday, January 8, 2018
Hello ladies and gentlemen.
This is David Grizzly Smith. You probably guessed that, of course.
I normally wouldn't do what I'm going to do tonight. This is rather unusual for Grizzly's Growls -- though Grizzly's Growls doesn't have a strict format, and besides it's mine, I can do what I want.
As you know, I've been getting a few episodes ahead in my recording of the Federalist Papers. Tonight I recorded Federalist #14, the whole of which you'll hear when it drops on February 1st. Every time I've recorded a book, it seems, there's that one part I have to record two or three times. It gets me right in the heart, and I break down a bit trying to get the words out. So I do it over till I can finish it intelligibly, more or less.
This time, so far at least, it was Federalist #14. It purports to have been written by James Madison, and I can believe that, it seems the most heartfelt essays came from Madison. Some sources'd say Hamilton really wrote them. I'd go with Madison, even so.
The first part of the essay is along the workmanlike likes of those just prior. And then I got to the last part. And I could hear in the words the voice of a warrior for American independence, and American innovation, at a time when Kings and Queens were the order of the day for much of the world. And at a time when some in this country were arguing for dividing us up into fragments, rather than preserving the Union which made the American revolution possible.
Seems to me there are those forces and those voices today who likewise would like to divide us. And we need words that express those fundamental values and that fundamental unity in which almost all of us believe. We are quarreling amongst ourselves, as families do sometimes. And there are certainly those who'd like to encourage those quarrels, to weaken us and strengthen their own grasp on their wealth and power over us.
I think James Madison said it well, so I'm going to let him say his piece. If you're interested, the background music is Johann Sebastian Bach's "Prelude in C Major" played by Kevin MacLeod, the theme music for the whole series. Enjoy. And I hope you take it to heart, as I did.
Thursday, January 4, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180104 - Federalist # 10 - The Same Subject Continued: The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
Hello again and welcome to Federalist #10. You may remember I mentioned I'd be recording this the same night as #9.
I was startled to notice that #9, "The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection" was written by Hamilton, and was rather intellectual. But #10, "The Same Subject Continued" came from James Madison, who seems so staid in the pictures, but who's a bit of a firebrand in this essay.
There's a lot to love about this one. Once again the author wrote a couple of centuries back, but seems to have watched TV last night. While I'm sure there was a temptation to high-flown rhetoric, Madison was cold-bloodedly pragmatic about the vulnerabilities of the Republic. He knew it wouldn't be perfect, but he knew it could be protected and made better.
I also noted Madison's reference to "the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction," which reminded me of John Stuart Mill's mention in On Liberty, Chapter One, of "the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority," more than a century later. Madison shows a realistic view of government one might not expect from the Federalist, if one approaches it as some sort of religious work, rather than what it is, a political work intended to convey rationally how one might form a durable republic, and to convince the citizens that this new Constitution would accomplish that.
It has been pointed out elsewhere that the founders assumed the citizens, if provided with the facts, would make intelligent choices. I'd expect that to be necessary in the foundation of any Republic. If the citizens aren't equipped to choose correctly, then you either equip them, or you choose a different form of government. But I think this essay makes clear that the founders understood the people could also make incredibly bad choices. The hope was that there'd be enough people making enough choices that it'd all come out fairly well even so.
I hope so, too.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Hiber-Nation 20180101 - Federalist # 9 - The Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
Tonight I'm recording Federalist number 9. I'm sorry that I'm way behind the weekly recordings I originally planned. It was such a lovely plan, wasn't it? I'm going to try to record two tonight, so I can get caught back up.
I feel like there ought to be three aspects of this essay for me to comment about, but I can only think of two. First I note that Hamilton describes generally the best and worst of the ancient Greek and Roman republics. These descriptions feel all too well fitted around our own necks. Listen for yourself, tell me I'm wrong, because I'd like to be.
Secondly I note that Hamilton defends the new Constitution by pointing out new innovations in republican government that should prevent the worst excesses of past republics. He's quite right, they should. But these new ideas aren't magical incantations, inscriptions and annointings that will frighten off all possible future demons. These are practices and processes, habits and jobs. And these jobs must be done every day by those we've hired to do them, or there are no protections, there are no checks and there is no balance.
And now I see that third thing I figured must be there ... because there are always three things, ask anyone who's written a speech or an essay.
Hamilton's republic demands that we are lead by our best and brightest, who we choose from among ourselves. If our best aren't all that good, and our brightest not always very bright, we elect enough of them that they will improve their results by working together. If we trust a few who are not worthy of trust, the rest will demand better behavior of them, and check their worst abuses. But if we fail, if we choose representatives who will not act in the public interest, or who will not act at all unless marching obediently behind the fools they follow, there is no magical incantation in the Constitution that can save us.
No magic but time. If we and our Republic survive, perhaps we will have a chance to choose better next time.