Good point on tolerance, Virgil. I think sometimes people are actively seeking things to get upset about - as if it somehow makes them more important, or more alive. That seems like such a waste to me. Why don't they seek out things they can do something about, like feeding the starving, or working to make our country a place where there are no children living below the poverty level?
Of course, for all I know, they do think they're doing that...
I have to disagree strongly with your belief that in the Garden of Eden there is no progress. Not that I believe in the garden... it's more that so many people in our country seem to believe that this (our culture) is not only the way the world is supposed to be, but that it's eminently natural and correct, and the best of all possible worlds. Voltaire would die laughing to hear that, I think... :-)
To make sure everyone knows what we're discussing here, I'll recap your words. Apologies if I mis-state you - I'll try to be accurate. You state that primitive hunter/gatherer societies are conformist, vulnerable to environmental change, frequently lose women in childbirth, and do not come up with new ideas and inventions, due to living in a seemingly ideal existence.
You later add that civilization arose:
because the population increased enough that there was a need for resource management, and because there was a need for greater social order, and there was a need for defense against raiders. But in the process of achieving these goals writing, science, architecture, mathematics, inventions, medicine and other things were developed. In addition, we saw the development of literature, arts, philosophy, and other things that make life better but don't directly enhance our survival.
Because our ancestors didn't live in idyllic surroundings, we now have a better chance of living to adulthood and old age. We have more choices as to how to live our lives and how to spend our time.
Whew! Quoting's easier than paraphrasing.
I apologize profusely for so often turning to papers I've already written in discussing issues. Unfortunately, with the advent of fall semester at a "real 4 year college - none of that sissy community college stuff for you!" (Scott Ruggels being amusingly sarcastic) I've been up to my ass in homework alligators! So if people find this annoying, let me know, and I'll stop. Otherwise, I'll take these intellectual shortcuts, in an attempt to say something to participate in an interesting discussion with folks here, rather than simply remaining silent and disagreeing due to lack of time for an adequate response.
Incidentally, these papers are parts of my take-home midterms for the independent study anthropology course that inspired the Minoan paper. The books referred to are Kenneth Feder's The Past in Perspective: An Introduction to Human Prehistory, and Jack Weatherford's Savages and Civilization: Who Will Survive? Both are highly recommended reading... for everyone else's copious spare time, of course.
a) Was the shift to food-production, and thus eventually to civilization, humanity's "worst mistake?" Why?
One very strong reason to believe this was not a mistake is to look around us at the culture we live in today. American culture exists solely because our ancestors moved to a food-production mode of living. The astonishing variety and wealth of tools we have, our ability to specialize in types of learning, the lack of violence in our rather easy lives, the length of our rather healthy lives, all have come about due to the rise of civilization that a change to food-production made possible. The cities this rise in civilization caused have given us things our ancestors could only dream of.
As Weatherford notes, cities allowed the rise of craftsmen and offered markets; increased inter-city trade, communications, and the spread of ideas; and gave one a protected place to rest between segments of a journey. Cities also allowed for a priesthood and the spread of religious ideas, as well as increased literacy and the "hope for some measure of orderly power over aspects of life beyond the control of the individual. (Feder 116)" Cities offered people a place to come to find other people (for whatever reason); and they allowed rulers to have a seat of power, a place that legitimized their (frequently allegedly god-given) right to rule, as well as a huge number of people that could be commanded to build beautiful and dramatic artifacts that would further legitimize the rulers' power and impress all who came to the city.
Finally, a food-production system allowed us to both have surplus food -- whether to tide us over the short times, to feed workers, or for some other need -- and to keep the necessary records a "higher" civilization demanded (Feder 368). Under those circumstances it is hard to say the shift to food-production was a mistake. We have achieved an amazing pinnacle of success as a species; we are unique in that we have managed to leave our planet. We have every reason to believe that someday we will expand our reach to the stars, where there will be other planets that can be used as resources when the Earth runs out.
Let us look now at the other side of the debate. There are many reasons that might cause one to believe the shift was indeed a "worst mistake." As Feder points out,
When comparing parameters of health as revealed by prehistoric skeletons, in most instances older hunter/gatherer groups exhibited higher levels of health and nutrition than did the farmers who succeeded them. Specifically, there were higher levels of infection in farmers than in previous foragers in the same regions. ... Of course, agriculture itself doesn't cause disease; it merely established the conditions conducive for disease to spread: large, dense, sedentary populations.
Ironically chronic malnutrition seems to be another major problem that accompanied the shift to an agricultural way of life. While many people may stereotype hunter/gatherers as living hand-to-mouth, where every meal might be their last for some time, in most of the studies Cohen and Armelagos summarize, farmers show more evidence of malnutrition than do their foraging forebears....
Perhaps most remarkable of all, for the majority of cases reported in a symposium Cohen and Armelagos organized on this issue, where age at death was calculated for the archaeological samples, hunter/gatherers lived longer than did the farmers in the same regions. ...
Another rather nasty result of a shift to an agricultural way of life seems to have been the institutionalization of warfare and violence. Direct evidence of personal violence is rare in Pleistocene archaeological contexts. ... In the Neolithic, however, such evidence becomes far more common within a context not of just one person killing another, but of whole groups taking up arms against their neighbors. Perhaps the problems inherent in an agricultural way of life and the always-present potential for a collapse of the subsistence base are at the heart of this phenomenon. Agriculture, though potentially of enormous benefit, is a fragile basis for subsistence. It allows for the existence of large and dense populations so long as it works; but when it doesn't work, there are a lot of hungry people. And when the neighbors of starving people have food, the hungry may become violent.
Maybe agriculture wasn't a mistake, but it had a fundamental drawback: Though it allowed more people to live, many did not live as well as their hunter/gatherer ancestors. (350-1)"
To summarize: The adherents of agriculture had more incidence of disease, worsened diets, shortened life spans, and increased potential violence in their lives.
Furthermore, there seem to have been other detrimental changes caused by this alteration in food-production. Societies became non-egalitarian as some had food and others had to beg for it; the threat of force as a tool of rulers became so commonplace that we have trouble today comprehending a culture that doesn't use such a threat; increased human fertility has caused a population explosion with no end in sight even as the quality of life for the majority of people on the planet sinks into appalling squalor; and we've yet to figure out how to clean up our own messes on the planet -- something I believe is directly linked to the way cities drain resources from an area and then spew out garbage all around them, slowly and inexorably destroying the environment. The concept of territoriality may also be viably linked to the shift to agriculture, and if one is feeling uncharitable one could include organized religion (as a rank-based society that tells people how to live in exchange for "tribute") in the list of ills for which agriculture has to answer. Referring again to Feder:
Historian Jacques Gernet, in discussing the development of civilization in ancient China, points out that the archaeological evidence for most of the people whose work propped up the state organization shows "the existence of a peasantry whose culture and tools (stone knives and wooden spades with curved handles) do not seem to have been very different from those of the Neolithic Age" (1987:44). Such was the case for all of the early civilizations discussed. ...most people worked harder than did people who lived in simpler Neolithic villages, and they gave up much of the control they had over their lives. (396)
Life was better overall for those on top, of course, but the vast majority of people lost both quality of life and control over their own lives. The wonderful new cities civilization brought did not help the vast majority of people, either in the city itself or in the surrounding countryside. Weatherford states it succinctly, "Cities destroy. They consume the area around themselves, and if they cannot find new materials, they die. (175)"
In conclusion, if we look at the shift to agriculture only within the basis of our own American culture and our own comfort, then obviously the change was a good one -- we live longer, better, and easier lives than possibly anyone else on the planet ever has. If we look at the food-production style only with a critical eye towards the pain and/or happiness of everyone involved in it, both past and present, then shifting food-production towards agriculture was indeed a costly mistake for the majority of humankind. However, if we look at human history as an on-going process rather than something that ends with ourselves, we must realize that our current stage of "civilization" is merely a step in the progression of the Paleolithic, the Neolithic, today, and whatever comes after. Under those circumstances, the shift to agriculture cannot then be considered the "worst mistake in the history of the human race" (Diamond 1987). It is instead merely the current step in an on-going progression for human-kind -- we can neither go back nor stop in place.
Indeed, we may be seeing the beginnings of this next step. Just as cities provided for a centralization of food, power, population, and record keeping that allowed for labor specialization and great works, so now the de-centralization of information (as shown by the 'net') may be the next step or progression for civilization. Consider: the current mad dash to regulate the net may be due to the sudden realization of the current "bully" class that they are losing control of their monopoly on information -- and thus their ability to convince the masses that the bullies should control the lives of the masses. It raises an interesting question. Will we successfully take this new step in the progression of civilization, or will we choke in our own garbage?
b) What is "the dilemma" involved in civilization needing the invigoration of tribal values in order to survive? In what ways has this problem been resolved in developing civilizations? Or has it?
Weatherford states, "According to Ibn Khaldun, civilization faces an eternal dilemma. Civilization needs the tribal values to survive; yet civilized urban life in most parts of the world destroys tribal people whenever contact is made. (121)" This can be explained thusly: A hunter/gatherer society has strong inter-personal and inter-family bonds. Strong inter-family bonds would be a necessity, considering that seasonal migrations would potentially require the cooperation of several families in order to more efficiently bring down large prey. Strong inter-personal bonds would make sure everyone in the tribe could eat -- smaller clusters within the family would routinely work together, such as gender specific groups. Thus small sets of individuals, working cooperatively, could collect enough foodstuffs for many people; even if for some reason the hunting was not sufficient there'd be gathered food, and vice versa.
The city is both a product of agriculture, and one of the bases of civilization. Its support requires far different logistics than a hunter/gatherer band. In order to feed the masses living within a city there must be farming, which is a more intensive food-production method. In order to store the surplus food that farming hopefully produces, and to give it to those that need it, there must be storage facilities and record keeping. In order to build those facilities there must be someone to order construction. Here we have the basis of what I refer to as the Big Lie: someone must convince a lot of people that they should not only give most of what they produce to him or her, but they should also do what he or she says, rather than living as they please -- and this, declares the 'Liar,' will enrich the lives of those fooled masses. It is a wonder that in spite of facts to the contrary the Big Lie so frequently works.
Cities require a successful application of the Big Lie. Cleisthenes managed to successfully pull off the Big Lie for Athens. He did so by setting up a situation whereby the people of Athens and the surrounding countryside were loyal to both his faction and to the concept of Athens the city, rather than to their particular families. This was due to his breaking down the previous political situation and setting up a new one. In specific, he:
...made the pre-existing villages of the countryside and the neighborhoods of the city of Athens (both called "demes," demoi) the constituent units of Athenian political organization. Organized in their demes, the male citizens participated directly in the running of their government: they kept track in deme registers of which males were citizens and therefore eligible at eighteen to attend the assembly to vote on laws and public policies. The demes in turn were grouped for other administrative functions into ten so-called tribes (phylai), replacing an earlier division into four tribes. [Martin, Thomas, Overview of Archaic & Classical Greek History, written for Perseus, College of the Holy Cross, Yale University Press, 1996.]
With this action, Cleisthenes remade the tribal family unit into a similarly named but artificially constructed unit that was, due to its participation in the government, loyal to a city. He deliberately eliminated the last traces of the old hunter/gatherer society left in the new agricultural society, and started up the new set of attitudes required to successfully maintain both a city and a new level of civilization.
Thus Cleisthenes exemplifies the dilemma Ibn Khaldun speaks of: the city could not have been created without the old tribal values that said people should cooperate in order to accomplish a goal an individual could not accomplish alone. However, in order to inspire people to pull together in a manner that transcended the old tribal affiliations (as the city required), Cleisthenes had to destroy the tribal connections and replace them with something new. This something new is loyalty to a city or a state, and is also part of what I've referred to as the Big Lie.
This problem still exists today. Many people feel these new loyalties are not as strong or as durable as family affiliations, since cities consume their environments and eventually die; however families can move, split, and/or grow in a fashion that cities cannot duplicate. American culture today is a simple and direct example. As the now non-tribal peoples become more numerous, more urban, and more mobile they have lost even their slight affiliational loyalties to cities. Since the masses will not be living in any one city for any length of time they do not really care what happens there. Their kinship bonds are shattered as family members move across continents; thus they never develop any sense of mutual assistance as a natural part of life. Add to that the growing sense of anomie in the masses caused by increasing stratification of wealth and the inner decay of the cities, and you end up with masses that indifferently do not participate in the community and are loyal to nothing in particular.
This is unfortunately a repeating pattern one can see elsewhere in developing civilizations today. A look at Africa will suffice to illustrate this situation. Sub-Saharan Africa has been trying for several generations now to break itself into manageable nation-states, each containing several tribes. This would appear to require a deliberate breaking-down of these tribes. Indeed, the old tribal affiliations are already badly weakened due to many factors: the occasional tribal genocide and accompanying slave trade caused by constant warfare, the warfare itself, government attempts to overcome the old tribal values, the appeal of supposedly easy city living, and the breaking of kinship bonds due to the necessity to wander widely to find food and/or resources. Unfortunately currently there is nothing to replace those old tribal values -- the new city affiliations cannot really form due to an inability of the land and the people to properly support a dynamic and thriving city. Furthermore, the drain of resources cities cause has been vastly exacerbated by the increasing numbers of people and the excesses of the colonial ages. Famines, terrible diseases, and constantly shifting alliances between ever-changing governments are only some of the problems currently tearing through the African continent.
Thus the dilemma of Ibn Khaldun has taken a terrible new turn. The cities are indeed working to destroy the old tribal affiliations. However, this leaves civilization face to face with two predicaments. First, due to current logistical problems the cities are themselves dying -- they have consumed their environments, and are consequently beyond the invigoration the tribal values might have been able to offer, had those values not been deliberately destroyed. Second, there just aren't that many tribes left for the cities to consume -- and what tribal cultures are left are already under desperate siege due to the resource depletion caused by the cities themselves. Under those circumstances one would probably reluctantly conclude that Ibn Khaldun's dilemma is reaching its unpleasant and inevitable conclusion: when there are no more tribes to invigorate a 'civilized' culture, when no one is left to bring either new ideas or a sense of kinship or of 'tribal' mutual assistance to the cities, then the cities themselves will lose their already fragile sense of community -- they will stagnate, and ultimately die.
You also assert that primitive hunter/gatherers do not need to come up with new ideas and inventions. In some environments or 'cultures' of the time that may have been the case... but we have no real way to be sure... and there is certainly a profusion of stone (and sometimes antler) tools to be found. How many more that were made of perishable substances will we never discover? I'd like to offer the following from another midterm - be patient with me please, it's short!
The Australian Aborigines and the Arctic Inuit demonstrate different emphases in foraging lifestyles. The Aborigines have a gatherer/hunter focus. The individual women all carry coolamons [carrying baskets or slabs of bark] of varying sizes. This way there's always a container/carrying tool available for a person to collect food into, whether they are alone or not. It shows there's a wide variety of foods available for gathering: small animals, amphibians, fish, insects, and a huge amount of plant life. The women always carry these tools with them, showing that food gathering is not a specialized job, but rather is something they do almost constantly through their day. The Aboriginal men are hunters. They go out to track and bring back larger animals, and they tend to function more in groups than the women apparently do. At some specific time the people all gather together and pool their collected resources. They do not use a wide variety of tools in their foraging.
The Arctic Inuit have a less gatherer lifestyle, and focus more on hunting. The men do the hunting, but there is much more specialization in their groups, both in what they hunt (e.g. megafauna such as whales and/or fur seals), what tools they use (e.g. specialized long poles, "sticker" and "ripper" knives, "nipper" clamps), and how they hunt it (e.g. with modern technology such as two-way radios and metal harpoon guns). There is gathering of seabird eggs, sealife, and some plant life, but this is seasonal. Also, there are native corporations, something the Aborigines do not have.
What does this tell us about the Paleolithic foraging lifestyle? It shows us some possibilities for various cultural reactions to various types of environments.
In an environment with megafauna there is potentially more specialization, both in gender roles and in the roles of each individual hunter. Consequently there will be potentially more tool specialization and (possibly) tool use. There will be more cooperation amongst the hunters, since it's more efficient and less risky to have several people work together to bring down one very large animal rather than many individual hunters tracking a wide variety of smaller animals. All the parts of the animals thus hunted are used: large bones for living structures, smaller bones for tools, skin for clothing. Migrations of the people would follow the migrations of the animals they fed on.
In an environment where there is more and greater varieties of food available there may be less pressure to work cooperatively, or to develop more specialized tools. There would also possibly not be such strong selection for gender specialization. Permanent homes wouldn't be as necessary in a more temperate environment, and seasonal migration would be an option rather than a necessity.
However, the examples of the Aborigines and the Inuit do not tell us with certainty how our Paleolithic ancestors foraged. The Inuit and Aborigines are not untouched by modern life, and their technology is not "frozen in time." They show their own specific cultural adaptations to their particular environments. We do not know if the Paleolithic environment exactly mirrored these modern environments.
Hopefully this was interesting and/or of possible use in a game to folks.
Re: your comment to me about your GMing style and skills: please don't think I want a GM that never has to look anything up. What I object to are GMs that have to look everything up, or that stop the game for far too long in order to find a particularly obscure ruling. I'm not terribly fond of games where each rule interpretation provokes half an hour or so of heated argument either. I'm there to have fun... not make up a new rules system on the fly.
Re: Clinton. I find it interesting that you feel he's not really been that bad as a president. I don't feel I can vote for him, myself. He made a promise of support for the gay community, in exchange for their backing and assistance in getting him elected. Once he got into office, he simply reneged... because he could! After all, the gay community was a minority and a political liability to him... so why bother with them? I look at his actions, and I wonder... how long until I'm part of a group he's made a promise to... and he decides keeping his promises to me aren't worth his time?
*amused sigh* Not that I think Dole's that much better... upon reflection I'm coming to the tentative conclusion that my vote would be best spent voting for Ralph Nader (of the Green party, I think?). True, there are subjects we disagree on, and things he'll vote for that I don't want to see happen. However, ask yourself the following question: do you want someone that will vote with the whims of the majority, or that will do what he's promised to do? If I could, I'd put a statesman in office; someone that will vote their conscience - not someone that will do what's most expedient for their continued political career. I may disagree with some of Nader's beliefs... but if he says he'll do something, I believe he'll do it. I don't believe that for either Clinton or Dole.Tara Glover
Hi again! I must say, I always rather enjoy reading your zines. Re your comment to me, concerning a possible link between the status of women and the amount they're covered up: I'd have to say that if you don't mind a gross generalization (Bad collie! Generalizing again! ;-), such a link does indeed seem to exist today. To whit: the more repressive a culture is towards women, the more the women seem to be compelled (whether by societal mores or immediate family members) to cover themselves.
There are two most extreme examples of this that I know of. One is exemplified by the chador (sp? correct usage?), which if I am remembering correctly is a garment that loosely covers the woman so completely (from crown to toes and everything in-between) that nothing, not even an outline of her shape, can be seen. Even her face is completely covered - there's a wide-weave panel of fabric covering the eyes so that she can see out.
I put one of these on once. It gives an interesting sensation. I felt rather odd in it -- I was completely anonymous. No one could have told who I was by my silhouette, non-verbal gestural language, or body shape. In a way, I'd know that anyone that befriended me while I was wearing this was truly interested in me, rather than in what I looked like. But in another way, it was unpleasantly... almost claustrophobic. True, I could see out remarkably well... but I didn't like the thought that I should have to cover myself up, that I should be ashamed to show my body in public. I like my body -- and I like feeling myself move, and the sun on my skin, and sensations of touch from friends... I don't feel shame at my body, and I discovered that I was not willing to cover it up just to 'protect' myself from lascivious glances. If I have a problem with people staring at me, I'll let them know, in no uncertain terms, rather than always hide in fear of the possible occasional rude stare. All very 'Western,' of course... I'm a dutiful participant in my culture! :-)
The other extreme example of extensive female clothing/lack of female status that I know of is societies that do not allow women to leave their houses at all, to prevent strange men from accidentally viewing them. Again, this is an extreme form.
Of course, this train of thought immediately raises the issue of what a culture with extremely high female status/low male status might consider appropriate clothing for each gender. Imagine women unashamedly and almost completely nude, and men modestly swaddled in layer upon layer of shape-disguising cloth! What would be considered a taboo part of the body for men in such a society? Their beards? Feet, perhaps? Maybe a man that allowed a non-relative female to see his beard or his 'naughty bits' would be considered a 'hussy'? Now that's an alternative culture to try in a game!
If I understand correctly, Crete being an island was but one of many reasons it flourished while others didn't. There was also its formidable merchant marine, its technological advancements, the homogeneity of its people and culture, and the extremely friendly environment as well.Michael A. Lavoie
Re your question regarding why more warriors didn't aim for horses, I think there may be a variety of reasons. The lack of 'manliness' of such an action could be one. Also, warriors sometimes rode to battles, dismounted, and then fought. In addition, horses are a valid exchange item - would you deliberately rip up the armor of a man if it was composed of $100 bills? :-)
Finally, there seems to be something in fighting men (whether only soldiers, warriors, or both I don't know) that 'prevents' them from doing that. In All Quiet on the Western Front, the author (Eric Maria Remarque, or something like that - I don't remember exactly, unfortunately) notes that soldiers could sit impassively in the trenches and listen to men in no-man's land dying slowly while screaming and weeping from the pain. These same men would place themselves in considerable personal danger in order to creep out onto the field, with attacks going on overhead, in order to put an injured and screaming horse out of its misery. If I remember correctly, one soldier, upon being questioned as to why he'd just endangered his life in order to silence a horse in such a condition, uncomfortably muttered that men chose to be there... but horses were the last innocents in war, and deserved a clean death.
Re your comment to me and my "great intelligence and love of the written word," - pretentious? Of course not! Pray, tell me more! :-)Timothy E. Emrick
Many years ago, my then-boyfriend was a grave digger in Gainesville, Florida. He took me to a remote and solitarily beautiful graveyard once, and pointed at an isolated and oddly raised grave slab. "There," he said, "-don't you think it looks like the tomb that had the phone line down into it, where H. P.'s friend went down to explore - and after increasingly horrified messages from the friend, followed by a scream and then a long and terrifying silence something told H. P. over the phone line that his friend would never come back?"
Funny how history, whether fictional or truth, adds interest, depth, and meaning to location.
Re your comment to me about being friends with your fellow gamers: I like the dinner idea. I've heard of it being quite successfully used, with some frequency. Unfortunately, much though I'd love to, I don't have a day to devote to gaming any more... school has sucked up all my time, with the avidity of an insane vacuum cleaner!
Re idealism in regards to a GM: You betcha! If we don't strive towards an ideal, even if we know we most likely won't make it, what then should we do? Sink into a lethargic apathy due to ever-increasing anomie? I'd rather keep struggling ever onwards, thanks all the same - like Childe Roland, I find the voyage is just as important as the destination! :-)
Good luck with the SCA - my time as the first fighting princess of Trimaris (Florida) was one of the most enjoyable learning experiences of my life!David W. Dickie
I'd have to agree with you about your assessment of "interesting stories concern overcoming obstacles and growing through the process..." If there's no change, how does one grow? I find this to be as true in real life as in fiction and RPG.
Wish I could answer your question about the relationship between Linear B and Linear A. Linear A has been broken - read John Chadwick's The Decipherment of Linear B - he did the code-breaking! Unfortunately, about all I can tell you regarding such a supposed relationship is that there's currently no known Rosetta Stone for it, and it's not a one-to-one relationship - or it would have been broken by now! Haven't read the Cottrell, but I'll keep an eye out for it - in my copious free time!
Regarding my definitions of GM as being "GOD" - hmm, we could be on to something here! "There is no GM but GOD, and I am its prophet!" :-)David Dunham
Re your comment about the professor taking an approach that's currently "in vogue in game supplements," I don't believe she did so deliberately. However, I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say that I was very glad she did so, and that I took full advantage of my RPG experience in writing the paper! I'll have to look up the Castledon book - I didn't find it in time to either read it or integrate it in the paper. Embarrassed thanks on pointing out the slash errors! :-)
Re weddings: Please consider the following a strictly personal musing, within the pages of Interregnum. By no means am I trying to imply that anyone who is married is an idiot, and in no way am I trying to disparage what was obviously to Mr. Dunham an important and meaningful ceremony. I've no intent to offend, so the readership of IR should feel free to just skip several paragraphs to the next header if they believe in the sanctity of marriage.
I've been to only 5 weddings in my life - none of them mine, fortunately. :-) I understand that shared rituals can give meaning, a physical 'rite of passage,' or possibly closure to people's lives. I just don't like weddings - all too often I see them used merely as establishing property rights for the man over the woman involved in the ceremony. Don't get me wrong - if someone wants to get married, that's their business, not mine! However, I consider weddings (in my own, stupid personal opinion ;-) to be outdated types of ceremonies. I think it's high time we came up with something better.
Consider: the marriage ceremony starts out by stating that it was established by God. Yet nowhere in the bible is there a passage whereby Yahweh or Jesus set out the formula for a wedding. Jesus gives us the Lord's Prayer. Yahweh lays down commandments for proper living and for proper worship of him. But there's nothing definitively saying how one should run a wedding. So statements concerning the supposed establishment of the marriage ceremony by God seem to be mostly wishful thinking by the ceremony's authors.
Furthermore, in his letters Paul seems rather disparaging of marriage: Widows and the unmarried should "remain single as I do" because "it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" - so if one "could not exercise self-control" then that person should marry (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). True, Paul expected the apocalypse and/or return of Jesus any day... but this says to me that marriage wasn't particularly respected then, and certainly wasn't established by Jesus. So I can't find a good reason, religiously speaking, to marry.
Nor do I wish to publicly state that I intend to tie myself to one other person for the rest of my life. I wouldn't say that unless I really meant it... and how could I possibly know how I'd feel in 5, 10, or 30 years? Considering that the marriage norm in American society is serial polygamy (one spouse at a time, and you're supposed to divorce the last one before taking another), it seems most other folks in my country are operating under the same lack of foreknowledge.
Ahhh... I'm getting pedantic. Enough ranting! David, I'm glad you had a nice time being the father of the bride, and I couldn't agree more that shared rituals help bring magic and meaning to people's lives. If you've got more daughters and it's what you want, I hope you get to be father of the bride again... and may you never have to attend any divorce parties for family members! :-)Kiralee McCauley
I'm strongly with you, re trusting the government with cryptography. As Jim Warren put it in the 80's:
The first measure of a free society is not that its government performs the will of the majority. We had that in 1930's Germany and in the South until the '60's. The first measure of a free society is that its government protects the just freedoms of its minorities. The majority is quite capable of protecting itself.
It is my suspicion that what Jim Warren is referring to here is what you refer to the 'cultural oligarchy.' The day I trust the 'majority' to decide what's best for me is the day I admit that everyday life should be run by statistical analysis.
Of course, in a sense that's what we have now. Americans seem to believe in probabilistic outcomes, as Bob (one of my roomies) is fond of saying. Highways are built so they can carry most of the traffic most of the time; of course when they can't is when the worst accidents and traffic jams occur. Power systems, parking lots, computer systems - they're all designed so that if there were maximum use they'd be overloaded.
No, I don't believe the government or the cultural oligarchy has my best interests at heart. How could they? They don't know me. To them I'm just another statistic. So I agree with you - I want my privacy, so I can run my own life the way I want. If I'm not hurting anyone, what I do is no business of anyone else's.
Re your frustration on writing comments: to me, communication is one of the most important parts of an APA; and comments are where I get to 'talk' to other zine writers. I would not censor my spoken conversation, in order to create a monologue later, whilst speaking with a friend, so I don't see any reason to do so in an APA either. I don't know why some people put their comments in smaller type, as if it was an unimportant afterthought - I want to know what folks think, and I don't want to have to struggle to read it!
You, for example, frequently make short comments that make me feel you're editing yourself for brevity's sake. I like what you write. If you have a lot to say, my urging would be to just go ahead and say it! I certainly want to read it, and I'd be surprised if others didn't agree with me.
Re your comment on the deciphering of Linear A being lost due to an auto accident - that's tragic. I'd not heard that, and I'm sorry it happened. I'd love to find out what the Minoans were really saying, and I'd love to find out if my half-baked hypotheses were nonsense or not! :-)
As far as my resources, interesting you should say American libraries are behind European ones. I wouldn't know, but then I didn't depend on American libraries. Most of my information was pulled from the net, with the occasional book then being looked up in American libraries - that's where all my illustrations came from, for example. However, it is true that most of the authors whose nationalities were known to me were not American -- not that I knew them all.
I've discovered that when I wish to do competent research on certain subjects, I have the most luck at getting good information by finding authors that seem to have their heads screwed on straight in their writings. I then compare their bibliographies. If you have 4 or 5 authors you believe may be respectable, and their bibliographies have some cross reference with each other, and when you mention the authors' names to your professor she says things like, "Oh, Hawkes! The old grand dame of archaeology! Sure, she's good source material!" then you can tentatively assign some veracity to your primary source materials. At the very least, you'll be writing from sources your professor approves of!
Yes, it is true many of my sources are now considered out of date... the ancient Greek writers in particular, I'd suspect. :-) It is also true that many of the authors in the bibliography had a personal belief or prejudice they pushed in their writings, whether it was their pet theory on something or other, or a belief in the workings of their deities being manifest in their writings.
Evans and Stone in particular seem to have been doing 'advocacy research' - they had a pre-conceived notion that the facts were made to fit. In my defense I'll point out that the sum total of what I took from Evans and Stone for my paper was a few descriptions of what was physically found at the sites, and two photographs (the 'little ladies' statuettes). Unsurprisingly, Evans and Stone seemed to fall vehemently on opposing sides of the patriarchy argument - so I used them to corroborate each other. If only one of them described a particular object or frieze, I didn't mention it in the paper. If they both did, I'd use the physical description, and discard the interpretations they both gave. Yes, their interpretations always differed strongly. :-)
If you want more up-to-date info on the Minoan excavations, I'd suggest Nicholas Platon's most recent works. He and his wife were (last I heard) the official excavators of the site, and authorized by the local government. Alternatively, try the net - it's been invaluable to me, and far more timely than any library. In my free time I frequently browse there. May I suggest Argos as a search engine for topics related to ancient history?
Last Updated: Sat May 17 1997