Saturday, April 22, 2006

Points to Ponder:
(On the Difficulty of the General Historian and the Whig Fallacy)

[Prefatory Note: This is a continuation of sorts from a previous "points to ponder" mini-series on the whig view of history which was run back in September and October of 2005. However, unlike almost all the other series threads posted to this humble weblog, this ended up being somewhat unplanned; ergo I did not link to the various threads in it start to finish as is my wont to do. However, the other threads will be noted below in a footnote{1} for perusal by the reader should they be interested in reading more on this subject matter.-ISM]

The difficulty of the general historian is that he has abridge and that he must do it without altering the meaning and the peculiar message of history. The danger in any survey of the past is lest we argue in a circle and impute lessons to history which history has never taught and historical research has never discovered – lessons which are really inferences from the particular organization that we have given to our knowledge.

We may believe in some doctrine of evolution or some idea of progress and we may use this in our interpretation of the history of centuries; but what our history contributes is not evolution but rather the realization of how crooked and perverse the ways of progress are, with what wilfulness and waste it twists and turns, and takes anything but the straight track to its goal, and how often it seems to go astray, and to be deflected by any conjuncture, to return to us – if it does return – by a back-door.

We may believe in some providence that guides the destiny of men and we may if we like read this into our history; but what our history brings to us is not proof of providence but rather the realization of how mysterious are its ways, how strange its caprices – the knowledge that this providence uses any means to get to its end and works often at cross-purposes with itself and is curiously wayward.

Our assumption do not matter if we are conscious that they are assumptions, but the most fallacious thing in the world is to organize our historical knowledge upon an assumption without realizing what we are doing, and then to make inferences from that organization and claim that these are the voice of history. It is at this point that we tend to fall into what I have nicknamed the whig fallacy. [Herbert Butterfield -From The Whig Interpretation of History (c. 1931)]

Note:

{1} For those who may have forgotten (or were not reading this weblog when they were posted), here are the other installments on the subject of the whig view of history:

Points to Ponder From Herbert Butterfield on How Historians Should Treat Events and Situations of the Past (circa September 12, 2005)

Points to Ponder From Herbert Butterfield on Real Historical Understanding and How to Properly Approach the Past (circa September 20, 2005)

Points to Ponder From Herbert Butterfield on the Role of the Historian (circa October 14, 2005)

Points to Ponder From Herbert Butterfield on the Myopic Vision of the Whig Historian (circa October 17, 2005)

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Bryan Preston of the JunkYard BLOG reminds us all that it was 170 years ago today that the Texans routed the Mexicans at San Jacinton and became their own sovereign nation (among other Texas factoids worth remembering)

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Points to Ponder:
(On a Different Kind of War)

Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future. [Adolf Hitler]

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On the American Conservative Webring and Our Involvement Therein:
(Musings of your humble servant at Rerum Novarum)

Those who wonder what this webring is, it is basically a coalition of sorts of people whose viewpoints are generally considered "conservative." As of this morning, We at Rerum Novarum are a part of this coalition. As I can anticipate what some may think with such an affiliation, it seems appropriate at the present time to dispel some potential misconceptions right off the bat.

To start with, this affiliation does not mean that I have changed an iota. No my friends, I am still the same iconoclastic{1} sometimes-curmudgeonly Independent that I was prior to yesterday. Nor does this affiliation mean that I am going to be any more of a shill for the Republicans than I have been up to the present time at this humble weblog.{2} I say this because not infrequently I have read (or heard of via the grapevine) certain positional opponents (to put it nicely) presuming that my views are due to either some kind of loyalty to either George W. Bush and/or the Republicans or to some kind of misplaced nationalism.

Now I know that a reading of the archives of this weblog would disabuse anyone without a polemical axe to grind from such presumptions. And as such errors and misconceptions continue to be proliferated at times; it therefore seems appropriate to remind others who may have heard of this humble weblog from certain positional opponents that there is more here than casually meets the eye.

And (of course) our positional opponents (to put it nicely) have had an amazing trackrecord of consistent misrepresentation of the views of your host. I present for evidence once again the nearly 2,000 posts in this weblog's archive spanning the forty-four odd months of Our existence here.{3} But that is neither here nor there.

In thinking of a description of this weblog for inclusion to that site, obviously the subheading which I have used from day one at this weblog{4} was not going to be sufficient so I expanded upon it a bit. Here is what I submitted to the webring as a description of this weblog:

My take on issues is generally what would be called "conservative" though I also take issue with certain presumptions common to those who are called "conservatives" too. In a nutshell, I muse on whatever I want to muse on and that is the best description I can give of the site.

Though I doubt I will replace my original site subheading; nonetheless, the latter bears noting for those who continue to misrepresent me as some Bush/Republican yesman and/or some jingoist nationalist (I am neither of these things and never have been). But enough on this subject for now.

[Update: The webring has been ended and a blogroll enacted in its place...see the side margin of this weblog for details. - ISM 4/26/06 6:15pm]

Notes:

{1} I do not use the "iconoclast" term to imply any affiliation whatsoever with the eight century heresy of Iconoclasm. As it seems expedient to use the Wikipedia definition as a point of reference, that is what I will do now:

Iconoclast (Wikipedia)

It also bears noting that I do not use the term to imply that I have a defacto disdain for authority in general. However, I do use it in the context of being one who rejects commonly "accepted" views of popular culture, political and social "conventional wisdom" in not a few areas, and also theological/philosophical theologoumenon-elevated-to-dogmatic-status kinds of issues. (The discussion of which has gotten me in dutch with a couple of old friends and acquaintances in the past year.) While more could be noted than this, the above brief explanation will have to suffice for the time being.

{2} I have not reverted to Republican loyalty with this affiliation my friends: not by a long shot.

{3} See the side margin archive scroll as well as the links in the side margin (which are also in the aforementioned archive scroll).

{4} My musings on ...well...basically whatever I want to muse on...[Rerum Novarum Site Subtitle (circa approx. August 22, 2002)]

I say "approximately" because admittedly I cannot remember when I started using that tagline. A few minutes ago on a whim, I checked the internet archive thinking it may refresh my memory on this but the earliest page it has is November 28, 2002. (The quote was unquestionably in use at that time.) So it at least has been used from that period on but at the same time, I cannot find any posts in the archives where I actually used this phrasing. This gives me ample reason to believe the quote originated with the founding of the weblog because everything I can think of that has made it into that side margin also is somewhere in the archive in some form or another: a pattern I started not long after this weblog was "born" and began its development.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A group weblog I just discovered and anticipate I will enjoy reading:

Western Alliance

Though I have not looked at all the blogs yet, it appears to me that they are all Californians. I wonder if there would be room for someone from The People's Democratic Republic of Washington State on there. After all, we in the Glorious Workers Paradise Evergreen State who are ruled by commandante governor Chris Gregoire{1} are also on the left coast after all. Anyway, just wondering aloud as I peruse the aforementioned weblog.

As far as opening my yapper on anything else today, nada though perhaps tomorrow or so I will. Stay tuned though (same Bat time...same Bat blog) because there are a few things boiling in the pot which may be ready for serving by then. Till then, ciao.

Note:

{1} In case there is actually someone out there who is not aware of it, I am not exactly a fan of commandante governor Chris.

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I have come to the conclusion my friends that I have been mistaken all along. Earlier this month I posted a "points to ponder" thread on revising a previously revised world view but I never thought it would apply to the subject of the war. But I must confess now that it has...proving that sometimes we walk the right path blindly before we are given sight. I have been given sight now and have concluded that the war has to be ended and we need to recognize that our very going to war was wrong to begin with. I point you to Ned Rice's recent piece on the war which can be read here:

Miserable Failure: The war is an unwinnable exercise in imperialistic hubris

Speaking only for myself, I am at a loss to explain how the obvious could have been missed...I apologize to you my friends for my misdirection lo these many years.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

One thing I do not post enough of at this humble weblog is poetry. Perhaps one of the reasons is that I am not a poet however much I may wish I was one (if that makes any sense). I mean sure, I can wing a haiku on the spot with perfect stanza form and write limerick-kinda stuff. But longform poems I doubt I have written more than seven in my life and none of them were any good. So I am in the position of really appreciating poetry and recognizing that I write poetry about as well as I can draw (okay, not that bad but bad enough I assure you). That is why beyond a rare haiku or three here and there, you will ony see poems on this site if they were written by other people.

After all, just because I cannot write a decent longform poem does not mean I cannot post threads to this weblog of poems from others as I have done in the past. That is why poems from greats such as Robert Frost, A.E. Houseman and Rudyard Kipling have been posted to this weblog in the past as well as poems from lessor known poets such as my friend Albert Cipriani. It is in the latter mould that I post a poem today written by someone known for brilliance but not of the poetic kind. Nonetheless, this is a very moving poem and I have had in mind posting it for quite some time; ergo now seems as good a time as any for it so here goes...

THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY

Through the travail of the ages,
Midst the pomp and toil of war,
Have I fought and strove and perished
Countless times upon this star.


In the form of many people
In all panoplies of time
Have I seen the luring vision
Of the Victory Maid, sublime.


I have battled for fresh mammoth,
I have warred for pastures new,
I have listed to the whispers
When the race trek instinct grew.


I have known the call to battle
In each changeless changing shape
From the high souled voice of conscience
To the beastly lust for rape.


I have sinned and I have suffered,
Played the hero and the knave;
Fought for belly, shame, or country,
And for each have found a grave.


I cannot name my battles
For the visions are not clear,
Yet, I see the twisted faces
And I feel the rending spear.


Perhaps I stabbed our Savior
In His sacred helpless side.
Yet, I've called His name in blessing
When after times I died.


In the dimness of the shadows
Where we hairy heathens warred,
I can taste in thought the lifeblood;
We used teeth before the sword.


While in later clearer vision
I can sense the coppery sweat,
Feel the pikes grow wet and slippery
When our Phalanx, Cyrus met.


Hear the rattle of the harness
Where the Persian darts bounced clear,
See their chariots wheel in panic
From the Hoplite's leveled spear.


See the goal grow monthly longer,
Reaching for the walls of Tyre.
Hear the crash of tons of granite,
Smell the quenchless eastern fire.


Still more clearly as a Roman,
Can I see the Legion close,
As our third rank moved in forward
And the short sword found our foes.


Once again I feel the anguish
Of that blistering treeless plain
When the Parthian showered death bolts,
And our discipline was in vain.


I remember all the suffering
Of those arrows in my neck.
Yet, I stabbed a grinning savage
As I died upon my back.


Once again I smell the heat sparks
When my Flemish plate gave way
And the lance ripped through my entrails
As on Crecy's field I lay.


In the windless, blinding stillness
Of the glittering tropic sea
I can see the bubbles rising
Where we set the captives free.


Midst the spume of half a tempest
I have heard the bulwarks go
When the crashing, point blank round shot
Sent destruction to our foe.


I have fought with gun and cutlass
On the red and slippery deck
With all Hell aflame within me
And a rope around my neck.


And still later as a General
Have I galloped with Murat
When we laughed at death and numbers
Trusting in the Emperor's Star.


Till at last our star faded,
And we shouted to our doom
Where the sunken road of Ohein
Closed us in it's quivering gloom.


So but now with Tanks a'clatter
Have I waddled on the foe
Belching death at twenty paces,
By the star shell's ghastly glow.


So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.


And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o'er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.


So forever in the future,
Shall I battle as of yore,
Dying to be born a fighter,
But to die again, once more.
[Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.]

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