Re: In Soviet Russia

1

Maybe this explains why they are always so grumpy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:21 AM
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In Soviet Russia, it's the chicken and the egg.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:23 AM
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I seem to recall the old Yakov Smirnoff was just "In Russia..." and it got converted to "In Soviet Russia" after the end of the Col War, to indicate that things have changed now.

I think its clear that things haven't changed all that much. It may be time to go back to the original "In Russia..." construction.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:47 AM
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"Vadim is no more"!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:54 AM
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Here's my Russia story. There is a video on Youtube showing a collection of accidents and near accidents recorded by dashcams in Russia. I was watching with a Russian. I said Russian's must be truly bonkers to drive as captured in the video. He said that exactly the same thing would happen during a bad winter in the UK. Then a military jet flew down the road, no more than 10m above the ground.

This video is representative of the genre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itMdLTd1l4E

I'm not surprised they don't last all that long.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:02 AM
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That's a really great article. Read it, y'all!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:04 AM
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Tragic and fascinating.

Centuries of Russian history, in a nutshell.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:07 AM
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The article is totally wrong. All those Russians, every last one, live in a five-mile radius from where I'm sitting. I can see it now: my eldest son, in rebellion, will flout the most important advice his father gives him: never date a Russian.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:11 AM
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I thought this was the most interesting bit:

Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarian rule is truly possible only in countries that are large enough to be able to afford depopulation. The Soviet Union proved itself to be just such a country on at least three occasions in the twentieth century--teaching its citizens in the process that their lives are worthless. Is it possible that this knowledge has been passed from generation to generation enough times that most Russians are now born with it and this is why they are born with a Bangladesh-level life expectancy?

I mean, Arendt's obviously wrong in the narrow sense, because there are tiny totalitarian states - Albania and North Korea for example. But the idea that the Russian government has been telling its people for so long that they are nothing and the State is everything that they have actually started to believe it is fairly plausible.

The article says that this sort of depopulation is unknown in peacetime, and of course that just isn'tr true: Ireland. The country went from over 8m just before the Potato Famine down to 4 million by 1920. Now, most of that isn't hunger deaths: 1850 the population was still around 7m. Most of that is emigration, and I would be interested to know how that's played into the Russian situation because there has surely been a lot more since 1990 than there was before.

8 is absolutely right.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:21 AM
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I would argue that Ireland wasn't at peace during that time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:23 AM
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There is a video on Youtube showing a collection of accidents and near accidents recorded by dashcams in Russia.

There's not just a video, there's hundreds of them. And to be fair to your Russian friend, part of the reason the genre exists is because of the prevalence of consumer dashboard cams in Russia rather than Russia being particularly insane road behaviour-wise. Though the reason dashboard cams are so popular is to counter insurance fraud and police shakedowns, which is it's own kind of road behaviour hairiness.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:24 AM
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ogged, what are you talking about? he can date a russian girl, he just can't marry her. she can be all crazy and smoking hot and fucking psycho though, seriously, but goddamn she will be HOT. then she can go ruin some other guy's life for a while. it's like you hate life itself.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:28 AM
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He's a sensitive boy. Some Russian girl will break him and not even notice.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:31 AM
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10: for the whole period from 1840 to 1920??


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:41 AM
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Some Russian girl will break him and not even notice.

They do tend to get heavy later in life.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:41 AM
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5 is amazing and terrifying. I particularly like the ones where it sounds like you're hearing an ordinary conversation and the driver isn't freaking out even as something completely insane is happening to him.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:41 AM
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12: Deep wisdom from alameida, ogged. Broaden the boy's horizons.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:44 AM
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5: it seems from this video that even the sheep have been afflicted with Slavic fatalism.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:44 AM
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14: From the Act of Union to the Treaty, at minimum.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:47 AM
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9: The article notes the Holomodor which wasn't technically a war, so I think by "peacetime" they mean there being an obvious external macroscopic cause to the suffering, particularly due to state action. (And the Potato Famine was clearly due to state action.)

12 is right. Toughen him up some.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:48 AM
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19: I think that's a meaninglessly wide definition of "being at war". Would you say China is at war, right now?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:49 AM
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18: Sheep are more fatalistic then deer. And you only need one that wants to end it all and they all run out in front of your car in an admittedly rather orderly form of mass suicide.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:50 AM
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21: I don't see why China is a good analogy even if we aren't going to ban analogies.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:59 AM
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Tibet?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:01 AM
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But 20 explains what the article's trying to get at, so thanks that makes sense.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:01 AM
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Maybe "occupation" is a better term that "war" if you insist. I suppose that would fit with other great population losses during "peace" (e.g. the Ukraine in the 30s).


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:03 AM
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Following 20 also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:03 AM
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Remember the D^2 post (on his now-private blog) in which he mentions how he likes to taunt Harvard(?) Consensus types about how massively they fucked up Russia, as evidenced by the precipitous drop in lifespan?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:27 AM
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D2 blog is public again, btw.

My own way of putting it is that this is how you can tell Harvard is better than Yale. The CIA took the best and the brightest from Yale, gave them billions of dollars in unaccountable budget to spend on overthrowing Soviet Russia, and they spent forty years trying, got a lot of innocent people killed and achieved sod-all. Then a few Harvard blokes go to Russia on their own dime (or get the Russians to pay them to do it) and within five years they've destroyed the country's entire economy without even trying.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:30 AM
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29.2 is nice.

12: wrong conclusion. Borderline psycho is fun, venal and vain is not. Yours in ethnic stereotyping,


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:51 AM
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I kind of want to check her numbers - the story is plausible but it relies on there being no clear cause-and-effect explanation for the elevated death rate, which could come out with more analysis.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:53 AM
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The prevalence of dashboard cams made for a gratifyingly large collection of meteorite videos.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:08 AM
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Which were also very instructive for learning Russian swearwords.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:16 AM
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Great article. I don't think people in the US have ever, in general, really grasped what a scandal and disaster Russia in the 90s was -- basically, the only real resources, oil and gas and minerals, were outright stolen by state-connected bankers who became billionaires while society collapsed for everyone else. People sort of half understand this but the joy at end of Cold War/triumph of Western goods in the streets of Moscow/victory for St Ronnie trump all. I don't think you need a strong cultural story about crazy, depressive Russians (though, let's be clear -- Russians are crazy and depressive) to understand why Russians are hopeless. I would be too.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:21 AM
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As a giant country with a gazillion deaths in the 20th century, China's a good comparison. Every Chinese person you meet will cheerfully tell you that there are too many Chinese people in China and Chinese lives are worthless, but then they'll go on to talk about how in 10 years they're going to be able to tour the Acropolis or send their kid to the US to study. Clearly feeling like the state thinks you're dispensable only leads to hopelessness in some places and not others.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:22 AM
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Don't know how "bankers" got into 34. I honestly was thinking "criminals" and wrote "bankers," ha ha. Though of course some of both the US shock therapy guys and Russians were both bankers and criminals.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:24 AM
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what a scandal and disaster Russia in the 90s was

Absolutely. Putin is pretty much exactly the leader you'd expect to emerge from that.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:31 AM
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See, there's a part of me (my inner Pole, I guess) that reads descriptions like 34 and thinks "good, they had it coming, serves them right". The USSR was a pretty nasty country, even in the 1980s. Shock therapy at least bought us a decade in which Russia wasn't able to do stuff like, well, like it's doing now, for example.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:32 AM
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32: It is convenient that the largest land-area country has such a high degree of auto-related fraud. But as Arendt says, you need a big country to allow for that sort of totalitarianism, so I guess those are correlated.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:33 AM
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38 seems like a fundamental confusion between "nasty country" and "country with nasty leadership". Doesn't that amount to saying that because Russians have been subject to unpleasant regimes for a long time, they deserve to be subject to even more unpleasant regimes indefinitely?

Man, I'm sanctimonious today. Maybe I should get some work done.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:36 AM
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a fundamental confusion between "nasty country" and "country with nasty leadership"
Putin is pretty popular, and his latest moves have only helped him.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:38 AM
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"good, they had it coming, serves them right". The USSR was a pretty nasty country

Except that the nastiest nasties of the lot (former KGB and organized crime) ended up running the country and living the sweet life. So I'm not seeing much poetic justice there.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:39 AM
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I'm hearing "Dream of the Blue Turtles" now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:39 AM
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Not that I endorse keeping the peasants under the thumb of the new czar.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:39 AM
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I've been a bit of a Russofile all my life, studied the language and history, and thought about this stuff for years. I'm particularly impressed by how the article shows that none of the usual suspects can have caused this, and also contextualizes how the decline predates the recent disasters.

The final thoughts about the collapse of hope, the culture's broken heart leaves me wondering: what about us? Our huge rustbelt, and the despair here. Reminds me of Susan Faludi's fine, prophetic book about the collapse of hope and purpose among American men, particularly working class: Stiffed!.

Our damage may not be as precipitous, but now, in the midst of a never-ending recession, we have to wonder.

I see that werdnA has just mentioned the relevance of all this to Rotherham, so I don't have to.

I also noticed the omission, in a meditation focused ultimately on hope, of any mention of religion. The Russians were once a very religious people. Even in the late Soviet era, dissident
intellectuals like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov drew strength from recovered Russian Christianity, but they're special cases.

For overwhelming numbers everywhere in the world, especially the developed world, religious resources are gone or cripplingly depleted, and those of us who have some can feel anomalous.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:40 AM
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42: Plus, all the Russians that park like assholes emigrated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:42 AM
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40. People from big countries, especially from their capitals, are all alike, US, Russia, China. The Steinberg cartoon about New York captures the problem.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:44 AM
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I honestly was thinking "criminals" and wrote "bankers,"

You say tomato, I say tamahto...


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:44 AM
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45: actually religion is a big part of Putin's whole Russian-nationalist approach - the Russian Orthodox Church has been in bed with him for years (in a robustly homophobic way of course). I wouldn't have said that Russia was suffering from a decline in religious observance. The reverse, if anything.

Doesn't that amount to saying that because Russians have been subject to unpleasant regimes for a long time, they deserve to be subject to even more unpleasant regimes indefinitely?

They do keep voting for them, mind. And supporting them. Putin isn't a complete dictator, he's had a staggeringly high approval rating for pretty much his entire time in office.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:47 AM
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I suppose, but I'd hate to be judged by the leaders we elect, and I suspect you feel the same.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:49 AM
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Maybe I'm being humorless/oversensitive this morning too, but I find Ajay's comments here pretty gross.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:50 AM
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If you - or we - were giving someone like Putin an 88% approval rating I'd think there was something pretty fundamentally wrong with us as a country, and I would understand others thinking the same thing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:51 AM
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I suppose, but I'd hate to be judged by the leaders we elect, and I suspect you feel the same.

Indeed.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:52 AM
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If the standard is "make the citizenry suffer for harms their arguably elected leaders inflicted on the world in the past" I'm afraid we're going to need to see some mass deaths in the UK. The US too, I suppose. And it's not hard to understand why Putin might be popular when you think about the mess of the 90s, a collective punishment that Ajay appears to endorse.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:55 AM
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Do you judge the people on their votes?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:56 AM
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When I took a course on the Russian Revolution, the professor was a total ideologue who did not even pretend to provide a balanced perspective. I say that because I don't consider myself well-informed on all things Russian.

But I remember listening to the description of the assassination of Rasputin and thinking that, in Russia, if there is a way for something to go wrong it will go wrong.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:56 AM
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54: we've had some mass deaths already, thanks. I was at some of the mass graves in question just last weekend.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:57 AM
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Let's not blame a guy for being hard to kill.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:57 AM
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Isn't a large part of Putin's popularity based on the fact that he controls the media? Imagine the kind of leaders we would elect if Fox News was the only media outlet.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:58 AM
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I remember listening to the description of the assassination of Rasputin and thinking that, in Russia, if there is a way for something to go wrong it will go wrong.

Actually by Russian-history standards the assassination of Rasputin went anomalously well. He did, after all, end up dead, which was the intention, and no one else did, which was good as well.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:58 AM
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Putin's current revanchist push seems to be at least partly a response to his sagging popularity. We gave GWB 90% approval briefly and it didn't drop to below 80% for six months - Putin doesn't have a 9/11, but he is whipping people up with state-directed media.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:59 AM
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Let's not blame a guy for being hard to kill.

Opinionated Oklahoma, is that you?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:00 AM
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I mean, a more typically Russian outcome would have been for Yusupov to accidentally stab himself in the leg, feed the poisoned cake to his wife, and then set the building on fire, while Rasputin got away with a flesh wound.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:00 AM
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62: No. I think my last was Opinionated Ham Sandwich.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:01 AM
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There is in fact something pretty deeply wrong with much of the US politically. Cheney/Bush were quite bad, and this was clear when they got reelected. The standard political science narrative of people voting their pocketbooks against incumbents seems to me to apply to 2008, much more so than some hypothetical collective change of heart.

Nobody is forcing me to keep my passport. While I'd prefer to be evaluated as an individual human being, I am not surprised at occasional hostility when I travel. I think this is similar to the way German friends tell me that they don't go out of their way to mention national identity when they visit Greece. This seems basically normal to me.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:04 AM
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56.2: What story? The story of how he didn't eat the poisoned food they gave him, they shot him a few times, he struggled a bit while fatally wounded, and then they dumped his corpse in the river? Or all the mythology?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:10 AM
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66: Just that they came up with an elaborate plan that was too complicated and then they couldn't manage to shoot him quickly and cleanly.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:13 AM
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The article reminded me that I've been meaning to read Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. At least from my wife's description, its backdrop is an interesting long arc look at 1920s-now through the prism of her family and food (although the author emigrated to the US in the '70s).

Larissa [author's mother - JPS] embraces the bountiful blandness of Wonder Bread and Oscar Meyer bologna in their new home, but for the young Anya it is as if food has lost its meaning, without the context of her "real" home -- where food meant so much more than just sustenance -- and family to share it with: "depleted of political pathos, hospitality, that heroic aura of scarcity, food didn't seem much of anything anymore."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:29 AM
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If the standard is "make the citizenry suffer for harms their arguably elected leaders inflicted on the world in the past" I'm afraid we're going to need to see some mass deaths in the UK. The US too, I suppose.

You suppose? If the UK is apparently deserving of the mass-death treatment, the US absolutely is.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:32 AM
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This asserts there are some problems with the Gessen article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2014/09/03/8-things-masha-gessen-got-wrong-about-russian-demography/

via Jamie Kenny, don't have any independent base of knowledge to evaluate either.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:34 AM
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Nobody is forcing me to keep my passport.

Is anyone inviting you to have another?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:35 AM
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68: I found that book largely meh, although did enjoy her father as a character.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:42 AM
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71: Yes, it's not exactly easy to switch.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:47 AM
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69 -- I dunno, there were what, 20 million excess deaths from famine in 19th century India alone, plus all the other consequences of empire? Not really sure how you get close to those numbers for the US alone, unless you include the slave trade and the post-1492 deaths of Indians from disease, both of which predate the US and at a minimum get split on both countries' balance sheets.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:49 AM
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My wife loved Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking too. A few weeks ago she was reading to me aloud the little set piece about Boy-meets-Girl in 1960s Moscow.

Mikoyan I already knew about as a character, a remarkable figure.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:01 AM
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Everyone should read the link in 70. I take away that the malaise is real, but some of the statistical support isn't. And that the situation may not be so dire after all.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:06 AM
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unless you include the slave trade

Why the slave trade but not slavery itself? No mass genocide, maybe, but huge premature mortality and general suffering.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:08 AM
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It was like the book about the Korda brothers by one of their sons - decent trashy read so long as the author kept himself pretty much out of it, but once he put himself at the center of things it went downhill fast. Although the story of his misadventures on the set of Bonnie Prince Charlie was pretty great.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:11 AM
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Ogged has already established that the whole species deserves to die, but he hasn't sent us our Buick Escalades yet.

I need to hang out with more cheerful people. I wasn't listening to Anthony Appiah the other day saying that if we all just talked enough, we can learn to tolerate our differences. It felt good, for a brief moment, not to believe that global warming is the only thing that is going to stop the boot from stomping on the human face forever.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:23 AM
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Buick Escalades

That's a little too much on the I-don't-even-see-an-SUV side, isn't it?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:25 AM
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A Buick Escalade running over a human face. Forever.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:25 AM
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I accidentally mailed by boss's password to everyone on a conference call. In my defense, the interface confused me.


Posted by: Gerald Ford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:26 AM
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I need to hang out with more cheerful people.

Man, I am not the cheerful people you are looking for. I have become so pessimistic about climate change that I don't waste my breath trying to warn people anymore. They'll figure it out in time to avert some suffering or they won't. My money's on "won't".


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:30 AM
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From the link in 70: "As I hope the above demonstrates, there is no relationship whatsoever between a country's "ability to hope" and its demographic stability."

I figured that part of Gessen's article had to be nonsense. It would take a lot of social scientific number crunching to turn "ability to hope" into a causal factor.

Still, I take it that the high Russian mortality rate is an anomaly that can't entirely be explained all the vodka and straight lard that gets consumed.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:34 AM
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82 is wonderful. Sorry, Gerald, but if that doesn't cheer up helpy-chalk, nothing will!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:36 AM
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D2 blog is public again, btw.

Oh, good to know. I checked not that long ago, but that could mean a year or more, who knows.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:37 AM
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77 -- not to minimize that harm or suffering, at all, but the total slave population in the US in 1860 was about 3 million; there was a total slave population in non-US British Empire of at least 750k at abolition, 30 years before before the US abolition (and those slaves were generally in the sugar industry and thus more likely to be worked to death than the bulk of US slaves), plus you have the extensive British involvement in the slave trade for the roughly 100 years prior to that goes on the balance sheet of the empire. And those numbers pale in comparison to excessive famine deaths in India -- the 18th century bengal famine (largely caused by the British East India Company) alone is estimated at around 10 million deaths. So in the "who caused more harm to the world" comparison it still looks to me like advantage: British Empire.

Obviously, these numbers aren't a reasonable calculation at all. But the question I thought we we were asking for fun is "whose quasi-democratically elected leaders have historically caused the most harm to the rest of the world" and just on numbers alone it's hard for the US to catch up with the British Empire, although much of that comes from (a) the BE having been around longer (indeed having started the US) and (b) having caused or exacerbated a bunch of famines in very-heavily-populated India.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:37 AM
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That's a little too much on the I-don't-even-see-an-SUV side, isn't it?

Oh, wait. I see. Its a Buick Enclave and a Cadillac Escalade.

The funny thing is that I checked the other post to see if Ogged really had talked about an Escalade. But I didn't check the manufacturer.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:37 AM
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I think the Enclave is quite a bit smaller and less absurdly planet-fucking.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:41 AM
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The Ford Planet-Fucker, on the other hand...


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:44 AM
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Enclave? Seriously? Like, a mobile gated community for the one percent? Your grandfather's Buick, if your grandfather was an asshole.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:46 AM
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70 is interesting: what does Anthony Appiah have to say these days? I'll check!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 11:50 AM
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92: What I was listening to is actually fairly old


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 12:19 PM
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92, 93: His books on identity and cosmopolitanism that I've read did, if I remember them correctly, have a cautiously optimistic tone overall.

Maybe recent events will change his mind and he will come out with a new book titled "I Take It All Back. We're Fucked."


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 12:30 PM
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70 is pretty damning. Looks like Geffen just reprinted an old article from about a decade ago.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 12:43 PM
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95. There's even a video


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 1:18 PM
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The vast majority of my Russian friends and acquaintances are either Jews, Mathematicians/Physicists, or Hare Krishnas/Gaudiya Vaishnavs. The Jews all seem bent on not being Russian any more, and thus super cheerful and family-oriented and mildly religious and career driven. The Mathematicians/Physicists (who are often also Jews, but it often seems almost tangential to their identity) seem to best fit into the general Russia stereotype, and most strongly identify as Russian, but they are all so mathematical I find it hard to imagine a nation full of people like them.

The Vaishnavs are the most remarkable: of all the non-South-Asian ethnic groups that became Vaishnav and spend time in India, they have noticably gone out of their way to to really emigrate there. They are much more likely to have gone through the extreme trouble of getting Indian citizenship, to speak extremely fluent and idiomatic Bengali (usually putting me to shame), to adopt the nittier grittier rules of monastic life (even as householders!), to raise their children there, to adopt the customs of local village life in rural Bengal, and to get into the local cuisine, etc.. The one place where they seem to fail to try to blend in is dress, among the women--they are often more puritanical and given to neutral colors and practical fabrics than anyone else. They always seem almost frighteningly healthy and strong---they seem to get up first, go to bed last, and work work work in between. Of all the foreign devotees who gather for the major holiday pilgrimages, theirs is the community that seems the most determined to make it home, not just a visit. Everyone else gets homesick at some point for their home cuisine or weather or landscape, and starts gallantly inviting each other to come visit in Fiji or Malaysia or Hawaii or France or Mexico or South Africa or England or Nigeria or China or Hong Kong or New Zealand or Bali or Venezuela or whatever. "Come see our temple!" "Come see our big park!" "Come see our mountains!" "Come see the big festival we put up for ____!" Not the Russians--the Russians always say--"come back here and visit us here," or "hopefully next time we are here you will come here too." If they invite, it's very humbly and grimly, "please come visit those devotees who are unable to leave."

The funny thing is my Gurudev apparently loved visiting Russia and had some of the most fantastic public kirtans there, jumping up and down and dancing through the streets. All the Bengali monks I know who've been there say it's a lovely place. Of course they all only went in the summer time.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 2:22 PM
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Nearly all the Russians I know are dancers or musicians. I don't know if that makes them a solidly representative sample or not.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 4:01 PM
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But you can't chalk anything prior to ~1865 up as "british quasi-democracy", because Britain wasn't really a quasi-democracy until that point, if you're also giving the US a clean break at 1775 or so.

Anyway, I don't think you can judge populations based on their support for evil leaders, because although I agree in principle in practice it just ends up with some pretty horrible outcomes.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 4:07 PM
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The Mathematicians/Physicists (who are often also Jews, but it often seems almost tangential to their identity) seem to best fit into the general Russia stereotype, and most strongly identify as Russian, but they are all so mathematical I find it hard to imagine a nation full of people like them.

Recently I heard a story about someone giving a talk on some new results that, after application of enormous effort and physical insight and mathematical awesomeness, reduced some physics problem to one really formidable-looking integral. The punchline of the talk was "we've reduced it to this, but now it'll either have to be done numerically or we'll need some brilliant new insight about how to do this integral." An older Russian man in the audience spoke up: "oh, that integral. I have done that integral." The speaker asked how. The Russian guy: "I started calculating and six months later I finished." Speaker: "what context did this integral come up in that you were working on?" Old Russian guy: "no context. I just decided to calculate it."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 4:46 PM
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97 and 100 are both truly wonderful.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 4:51 PM
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99: only mentioning because it stood out as such a shibboleth--we canonically put the clean break at 1776 even though there wasn't effective government for some time (or ever! Zing!).


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 4:59 PM
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99, 102 -- I was mentally starting Britain and its empire at 1688, the USA and its empire at 1776, using quasi-democracy as a fudge to cover up what "democracy" might mean there, and putting things like the 18th C slave trade 50/50 on each country's balance sheet.

Still, even if you only start Britain after the reform act of 1832 the various late 19thC Indian famines push the British empire way over the top in terms of comparative body count.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 5:12 PM
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The link in 70 seems vastly more accurate than the OP.

Also, Russia did have a 9/11, of sorts: the apartment bombings in '99. It appears to have functioned a lot like ours, politically


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 5:12 PM
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103.last: careful, now you're starting to sound like Mike Davis.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 5:17 PM
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Wow, 70 really does unravel the OP. Oh well, tragic Russians gonna be tragic. What can you do.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 5:34 PM
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In Soviet Russian seminar, audience talks to you.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 5:47 PM
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the total slave population in the US in 1860 was about 3 million

4 million, actually. Maybe if you think of the slaves as intellectual property, overseer, you'll find it easier to keep track of them.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:01 PM
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100 sounds like a cross between my statistical mechanics professor Chubu\kov, and a recurring nightmare I had before my thesis defense, where after I gave a talk some emigre in the audience would announce "this is theorems from proceedings of Academy of Agro-Technical Sciences of Outer Yajanistan in 1965".


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:37 PM
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A million here, a million there, pretty soon you have a something something.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:37 PM
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109.last is pretty much my understanding of the bulk of the foundations of modern statistics. Is this wrong?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 6:41 PM
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dude, essear, you owe it to use to make careful inquiries to assure us that that story is true, because it is the most beautiful, wonderful, old russian guy thing that has ever happened since an old russian guy tidied up his apartment by putting everything into a paper bag and then throwing it out the window onto the sidewalk. ERVER. also one of the best things that has ever happened in a seminar, though the guy giving the talk was probably pinching himself in a vain attempt to wake up.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:04 PM
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khal halford, content yourself with your victory tapestry, and don't get into womanish, wordy quibbles about which nation killed more people. each of us killed the most people; it's the foundation of our special relationship.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:07 PM
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111: Certainly that's what Vlad\imir Naum\ovich will tell you.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:14 PM
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Why 1832? Not universal manhood suffrage etc or anything, still predominately controlled by landed interests --- as far as determining popular democratic guilt goes. And also no women voting.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:20 PM
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And also no women voting.

Hell, if we can hold off on starting the genocide clock on our end until 1920, there's no contest.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:26 PM
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115 -- you can make it 1867 and it still doesn't change the comparative analysis, b/c of the Indian famines.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:27 PM
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114: haha, yes. Just the elderly Russian I had in mind.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:27 PM
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Keen observers will note that I appear to be contradicting my strong argument for the continuity of the south-east England state, but that's by the by.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:35 PM
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Is he the guy who yells at me for parking? The one with the son who drives a tow truck.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:36 PM
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OK, I skimmed the article in the OP and the link in 70, so maybe I missed it, but where is the data on accident investigation and consumer product safety?

I mean, a lot of what they describe seems to be a society that lacks both the infrastructure of, say, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the private incentive for risk management (insurance rules, liability, etc).

So these one-off deaths become multipley-off deaths because nobody traces back how they happened in the first place.

I mean, I KNOW Russia has epidemiologists and public health practitioners. Are they just doing their level best to function in a system that isn't set up to identify and reduce risks?

I'm feeling horrendously ignorant, so I'll stop here.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:37 PM
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117: you can also make a case for adding a few million to Britain's ledger for the Biafra War. Also, depending on how you allocate responsibility for the casualties of the Taiping Rebellion, it could tip the balance either way.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:42 PM
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oh shit, biafra, yeah. that and benghal so recent are both on the sticky wicket side, but 'I'll proudly standUP
next to you, and saaayyyy: we killed plenty people us Americans, God Bless the USA!!1!!'--lee greenwoodTM. look, can we all agree that the belgians are the real villains and they have escaped from the lash of shame despite having, by all accounts, killed some ten million congolese people in the very recent past--none of this 'oh, it was called tenochitlan then' bullshit, it was 18 motherfucking 95. and when are they made to feel bad, or pay reparations? when are they embarrassed when their prime minister (if they can scrape one up) visits the grave of belgian war criminals in a morning coat? when, I say, I ask, good sirs?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:54 PM
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I thought waffles were named after them to mark their shame.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:57 PM
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I oppose genocide and all that sort of thing but I am not going to go without spekuloos.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 7:59 PM
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Or speculoos.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:00 PM
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109: Well, you would have been in good company. The first correct calculation of asymptotic freedom in nonabelian gauge theory that I've been able to dig up was published in a Soviet journal four years before anyone in the US calculated it. I wonder how many Nobel prizes the Soviets missed out on due to poor communication with the West.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:00 PM
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Probably fewer than missed because of vodka.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:06 PM
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Come on, they've got waffles AND delicious chocolate? You know I can't stay mad at you, Belgium.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:07 PM
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Brown liquors: Because hangovers make it harder to kill too many brain cells.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:08 PM
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The link in 70 appears to be sourced mainly to the Russian State Statistics Service. The World Bank fertility data he links to, the only bit I looked up, confirms the general upward trend. But Gessen may have been using the 1.6 number from the World Bank for 2012, which is the most recent year in that data.

I guess I could read the Gessen article and see what sources she used. It's not like I have an overdue Piketty summary to write.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:39 PM
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118: The first time I heard him speak or met him was at this conference. People had told me that he was a bit eccentric, and I was expecting a lot of "my field, which was invented by me", which with a little charity would've been mere pardonable exaggeration. This did not even remotely hint at the reality. By around slide 26, it was clear that we had left mere priority-mongering far behind, and were instead receiving communications channeled from somewhere out around the orbit of Saturn.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 8:50 PM
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I bow to no man in my willingness to accuse the British of complicity in genocide, but I'm not sure Halford's attempt here makes much sense since it's based almost entirely on the fact that India is a really big country. Which, yes, it is, and the British happened to be the colonial/imperial overlords there in the nineteenth century which meant they were responsible for various atrocities because that's how imperialism works, but it's not like any other imperial power is likely to have acted very differently in that situation. The other ones just happened to commit their atrocities in countries with fewer people in them.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 9:21 PM
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Wasn't there some article recently about how there's continuing bad affects from having France as your imperial overlords rather than the British?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09- 3-14 10:28 PM
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133: so what you're looking for is the Value Over Replacement Imperialist? Sabermetrics, basically, but with real sabres.

134: despite the fact that they generally reinforce all my dearest beliefs, I have to be a bit sceptical of such studies because the history of 18th and 19th century Europe consists largely of the British repeatedly beating up the French and nicking all their nicest colonies off them, so you're dealing with a slightly skewed sample.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 1:48 AM
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Russia did have a 9/11, of sorts: the apartment bombings in '99. It appears to have functioned a lot like ours, politically

Including sparking a vocal movement that argued that the bombings had been carried out by the Russian government and not by Chechens after all. Though the movement became less vocal after its members started mysteriously falling seven stories from their second-story flats, mysteriously diving down stairwells, mysteriously dying of radiation poisoning after mysteriously drinking tea with mysterious Russian government agents, etc, etc.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 1:55 AM
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122: Also, whoa there, you do not get to lay the dead of the Taiping Rebellion at our door. That was Chinese rebels vs the Qing Dynasty. Dynastic rebellions were happening in China four hundred years before the start of recorded British history. That's what Chinese history is. But Hong Xiuquan reads one London Missionary Society pamphlet before he has an epileptic fit, decides he's God's younger son and launches the biggest war in history, and suddenly that makes it our fault?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 1:59 AM
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whoa there, you do not get to lay the dead of the Taiping Rebellion at our door. That was Chinese rebels vs the Qing Dynasty.

I'm not saying the British bear all the responsibility, or even most of it, but they didn't sit passively on the sidelines, either. Granted, there was an American in a similar role, which is why I suggested allocating the responsibility, but the American was not working in an official capacity.

Hong Xiuquan reads one London Missionary Society pamphlet before he has an epileptic fit, decides he's God's younger son and launches the biggest war in history

It does make you appreciate why the Chinese Communist Party feels compelled to suppress Falun Gong so ruthlessly.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 4:37 AM
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137: The dramatic new element in the situation in China was the western conquest, which had utterly defeated the Empire in the first Opium War (1839-42). The shock of this capitulation to a modest naval force of the British was enormous, for it revealed the fragility of the imperial system, and even parts of popular opinion outside the few areas immediately affected may have become conscious of it. At all events there was a marked and immediate increase in the activities of various forces of opposition, notably the powerful and deeply rooted secret societies such as the Triad of south China, dedicated to the overthrow of the foreign Manchurian dynasty and the restoration of the Ming. The imperial administration had set up militia forces against the British, and thus helped to distribute arms among the civilian population. It only required a spark to produce an explosion.


Posted by: Eric Hobsbawm | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 4:54 AM
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138: it's ludicrous to suggest that Ward or Gordon bear any significant responsibility for the Taiping Rebellion. Neither of them got involved until 1860, years after the Taipings had already taken Nanjing and a vast area of southern China, and in any case they were fighting against the Taipings. They were mercenaries, fighting on the side of the Imperial government.

139: No, that's far too indirect a link to merit an assignment of responsibility. Hobsbawm is being silly.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 5:07 AM
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Not the first time Eric has been silly.

I do kind of resent Halford's attacks on the Raj, not entirely from family pride (one of my grandfathers survived two assassination attempts while a judge there). There isn't really anyone who governed India for 200 years without breaking a few omelettes.

I am aware that there is something slightly odd in the coexistence in my mother's mind of the the fixed belief that the Indians loved the Raj, alongside the knowledge of her father's bodyguards. But that's imperialism for you.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 5:19 AM
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The only admirable characteristic of the British as imperialists (which we shared with the French) is that we weren't whiny about it. In the glory days of Empire, our theory of geopolitics was entirely "This looks nice and therefore we're having it", and our theory of ethnic politics was "whatever happens we have got / a Maxim gun and they have not".

There was none of this "we are constantly persecuted by bordering countries, all of whom hate us for reasons we apparently cannot understand, and therefore we deserve a few free hits in return" (Russia), "our great gifts to world civilisation hundreds of years ago mean we should be in charge now" (China) or "we are only bringing you the benefits of our wonderful system, ignore those dead nuns" (USA).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 5:42 AM
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142: Huh? The contemporary literature is full of transparently self-justifying rhetoric in Britain and France alike. The phrase mission civilisatrice was coined for just that purpose. Even unapologetic imperialists like the Viscount Milner knew how to dress up his designs in enlightened language when necessary. You might object that this was just pablum for mass consumption, window dressing to obscure the amorality of the principals driving the policy. To which I say: Do you think Cheney sincerely believed the "we are only bringing you the benefits of our wonderful system" rhetoric?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 5:54 AM
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143: that's about half a century later than the period dsquared is talking about. The glory days of Empire for Britain were about 1790-1860. Milner's a turn-of-the-century man.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 5:58 AM
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144: Then he's comparing apples and oranges. Catherine the Great wasn't mouthing any empty pieties to justify snatching territory from the Persians, Turks, and Poles.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:10 AM
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134: Are those primarily anxious or depressed affects?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:13 AM
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Whining about other people making inappropriate historical comparisons is another common feature of a lot of lesser imperial powers. The Victorian Royal Navy in its heyday enforced the analogy ban wherever the Union Flag flew.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:16 AM
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Also, dsquared mentions the Maxim gun, which is contemporary with Milner, not Cornwallis.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:20 AM
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dsquared's ignorance of the history of firearms is one of his many personality flaws, but it's hardly germane to the discussion.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:20 AM
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That was a counterexample, not an analogy, good sir. I'll not be accused of being a scofflaw.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:23 AM
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147: rum, sodomy, rhetorical soundness, and the lash.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:23 AM
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142 et seq.: My vote goes to Charles Napier, whose response to suttee was "Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs."


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:24 AM
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Keep our Empire undismembered
Guide our Forces by Thy Hand,
Gallant blacks from far Jamaica,
Honduras and Togoland;
Protect them, Lord, in all their fights,
And, even more, protect the whites.

Think of what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boot's and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.
Lord, put beneath Thy special care
One-eighty-nine Cadogan Square.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:25 AM
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the Maxim gun, which is contemporary with Milner, not Cornwallis

Wasn't there a scene in The Patriot where Mel Gibson rushed the redcoats with one in each hand?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:26 AM
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154: ...in slow motion, yelling "Freeeedoooom!"


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:30 AM
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155: I thought it was "You fucking Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world!"


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:33 AM
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156: Director's cut.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:34 AM
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I recently finished The Sleepwalkers, and it really does drive home how the standard "WWI was the worst calamity of the modern age and swept away the lovely civilized belle epoque" is very very Europe-centric.

One of the early chapters about shifting relationships between the great powers in the decades leading up to the war makes constant casual reference to the fact that they were all eagerly grabbing every last piece of African and Asian soil they could lay their hands on.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:45 AM
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135: so what you're looking for is the Value Over Replacement Imperialist? Sabermetrics, basically

138: I'm not saying the British bear all the responsibility, or even most of it, but they didn't sit passively on the sidelines, either. Granted, there was an American in a similar role,

OK, we're going to need to go to very advanced stats to get this right. Building on the approach pioneered by Mick Jagger*, we apportion responsibility based on national, religious and ethnic identification as well as individual actions (voting versus not voting, manning the machine gun that levels the crowd versus passively reaping the benefits back in the home country; that kind of thing). Properly balancing the role of people from the past versus the living left as an exercise for the reader.

*Conceptually sound, but overly simple and numerically incoherent--what, you and me each get .5 hit points for each the Kennedys?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 6:47 AM
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both the belgians and the dutch are getting overlooked as major players here! they killed hella colonial subjects and are getting no love. and does deutsch sud-west afrika merit nothing or are we full up on blaming germans?
derauqsd that is such total, utter bullshit. the british thought that they were sending all the peoples of the world to learn the virtues taught in 'boy's own' books and at miserable boarding schools: don't blubber on like a girl; buck up; everyone lend a hand; be a good sport, but better you just win at them; don't trust wogs and gypsies, and whatever else one may learn in watered down weak tea versions in enid blyton (whom the wogs themselves were meant to trust is unclear.) god, I remember reading some elderly english history of rome that actually said, 'just as an unwilling britain had the crown of india thrust upon her...etc. so were the romans forced to take over the dalmatian coast because...pirates made them?' BULLSHIT. it was such bullshit in both cases, was what made it so hilarious. the pro-roman propaganda was needed to form a granule around which pro-british imperial propaganda could form. bulllllshit.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 7:45 AM
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Witt characteristically asks a very good question about how many of these deaths are due to lapses in the safety consciousness/prevention culture which we take for granted and think of as having transformed our culture in the course of a lifetime--mine. The carelessness of society about untold numbers of risks, obvious and hidden when I was young is amazing and frightening to remember, and it's normal to assume the change in style has had huge impacts, which it may have.

But it may not have, or not the night-and-day impact we may expect. I don't know the statistics either, and I've grown skeptical.

About Imperial Justification/Maxim Gun yadda yadda, I recommend Walter Bagehot's Physics and Politics for several reasons. First is that the date, 1872 is early enough to take machine guns out of the equation. His example, a sort of exploration of the political implications of Darwinism, is the conquest of New Zeeland, presumably by muzzle loaders--still an overwhelming technical advantage. He says something like "The superiority is entirely due to being able to kill them whenever we like."

The second thing his book demonstrates is the obvious ambivalence of many educated Westerners to the process. They were not blind to the moral risks and dubiousness of the whole enterprise, and said so, in tracts, pamphlets, books and sermons and fiction, such as Heart of Darkness


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 7:52 AM
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whom the wogs themselves were meant to trust is unclear

Us, duh.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 7:52 AM
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160: it still isn't whiny, though. "We're doing this for your own good! So you can eventually be nearly as awesome as us!" is qualitatively different from "we don't want to do this, but we're doing it because everyone in the world has been mean and unfair to us and we deserve better" which I think is the whininess that dsquared is identifying in justifications for Russian and Chinese (and for that matter German) imperialism. His error was putting the US on the whiny side.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 7:56 AM
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I cannot remember where I read a characterization of the spirit of the British Empire as a determination to make the desert bloom like the rose, combined with a blithe disregard for whose desert it was in the first place.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:02 AM
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163: "The White Man's Burden" isn't whiny?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:06 AM
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and does deutsch sud-west afrika merit nothing or are we full up on blaming germans?

The German colonization of Southwest Africa was fairly benign as these things go, not due to any superior virtue on the part of the Germans, but the simple fact that the land was and is almost bereft of inhabitants. And it's not like conditions improved much for the natives once the British empire moved in during the Great War.

alameida would have a better argument with German East Africa, where the early colonists engaged in some signature Teutonic brutality. The consolation is that they left behind some remnants of signature Teutonic administrative efficiency. I have previously opined that Germany is in contention for Least Bad Imperialist, Africa Division


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:21 AM
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165: Not written by an American.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:22 AM
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166: I think the fact that there weren't that many Herero to start with doesn't mean that what happened wasn't a pretty clear and horrible genocide.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:28 AM
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165: it is rather. It can be summarised as "Yeah, see? Not as easy as it looked, is it?"


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:30 AM
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Just to beat the dead horse that is dsquared's original assertion, if he is going to praise straightforwardly venal motivations for imperialism, he really ought to give due consideration to the Americans who promoted Yankee colonization of Latin America and the Caribbean with the expressed goal of strengthening the pro-slavery constituency in the Congress.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:32 AM
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"The Belgians" also substantially maligned here. The Congo was never a Belgian state colony. It was the personal property of King Leopold, who, despite introducing significant democratic reforms domestically, absolutely resisted any attempt by the Belgian parliament to encroach on his royal prerogative there. So if we are to attribute the horrors of the Congo anywhere, it's to supporters of abstract property rights. I once used to annoy Brad DeLong by adding the Congo, the Irish Famine and a few others together to make a Black Book Of Liberalism.

165: You have to understand that Kipling was being sarcastic. Just like when he wrote "making mock of uniforms that guard you when you sleep", about a British Army which was regularly used to fire on unarmed demonstrators domestically.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:33 AM
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170: yes, the Americans used to have real mojo, it was only relatively recently that they started the "actually, we're only bombing these villages in order to promote gay marriage" thing. I blame Christopher Hitchens for a lot of that too, and I think he might have been English at one point in the far past.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:35 AM
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168: Yeah, there is that...


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:36 AM
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You have to understand that Kipling was being sarcastic.

That's some impressively dry, deadpan, sarcasm.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:37 AM
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171: It was a Belgian colony after, under international pressure, they took the Free State back from Leopold. That was in 1908, so it was a direct Belgian colony for much longer than it was Leopold's fiefdom. My impression is that things there were better than before, but still pretty horrible.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:39 AM
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It's funny, because the general reputation of British people in China is "racist imperialist bastards who won't apologize for the Opium war." Aside apportioning blame for the Taiping Rebellion, forcing a country to get addicted to opium causes a lot of damage and a very large loss of human life.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:39 AM
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Maybe dsquared is being sarcastic too. We simple Americans can never tell.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:40 AM
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The clue is in the first two lines. Kipling spent a lot of his life in India. You can't possibly think that when he described colonial administrators as "the best ye breed", he was doing it with a straight face. (also, published 1899; Scouting for Boys significantly later. A lot of these iconic Empire figures are from the shoddy arse end when it all went sentimental and inevitably fell apart)


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:41 AM
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165. That poem was aimed at the whiny (q. v.) Germans, so it was at least somewhat ironic.

168. How many of us first learned about the Herero genocide from "Gravity's Rainbow"?

170. Including that of Texas.

171. Belgium did a pretty good job of looking the other way when it was the King's personal property, and only took it over after an enormous, non-Belgian international campaign. After which it got "better," but only in the sense that any positive number is greater than zero.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:46 AM
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You can't possibly think that when he described colonial administrators as "the best ye breed", he was doing it with a straight face.

Interesting theory, but it seems to eliminate the possibility of simple wrongness.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:48 AM
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Pwned by 175!

176. How should we feel about Mexico and Columbia, then? Surely, as is true today in the US, there was local demand for the drug, and there appear to be a lot of people who say, "Well, the drugs should be legal, and we can't blame the suppliers."


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:49 AM
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How should we feel about Mexico and Columbia, then?

Remind me again, in what year did the Colombian gunboats cruise up the Potomac and shell the Capitol to force through the bill to legalize cocaine importation?


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:53 AM
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...and compensate the Medellin cartel for cargos previously seized by the DEA.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:53 AM
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179: How many of us first learned about the Herero genocide from "Gravity's Rainbow"?

Raises hand.

He goes into much more detail about it V.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:57 AM
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It really is unfortunate that opium as such isn't a popular drug anymore; if they were called the Heroin Wars there'd be more recognition of how on the face of it horrible they were.

182: Interesting alternate history idea.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:59 AM
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179/184: Shamefully, I've read neither, but I guess this means I can use my knowledge of history to sound literate.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:00 AM
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Maybe Kipling was the Bruce Springsteen of his time -- that is, maybe many of his fans didn't that a lot of the patriotism was intended ironically.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:06 AM
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That poem was aimed at the whiny (q. v.) Germans, so it was at least somewhat ironic.

It was subtitled "The United States and the Philippine Islands" so I don't think you're right here...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:08 AM
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It really is unfortunate that opium as such isn't a popular drug anymore; if they were called the Heroin Wars there'd be more recognition of how on the face of it horrible they were.

Or not. Heroin isn't opium. How bad is opium as a recreational drug, compared to, say, tobacco or gin? (It was legal in China for centuries; generally thought to be medicinal. Importation was banned, along with importation of everything else foreign, because of balance-of-trade concerns; the Qing needed the trade surplus to pay for crushing various rebellions in the west of the empire.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:11 AM
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Except Born in the USA isn't sarcastically patriotic, it's straightforwardly non-patriotic. (And dsquared's thesis about Kipling's irony, particularly in Tommy is characteristically, um, challenging? up there with his opinions about the high quality of Budweiser.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:13 AM
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188: It's addressed to the Americans, exhorting them to be good imperialists like the British rather than bad imperialists like the Germans ("lesser breeds without the law"), I'd thought.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:15 AM
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Budweiser is pretty good. It's what I drank when I was back in Nebraska because my usual drink was either not there or very much more expensive than in PA.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:16 AM
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191: "lesser breeds without the Law" is definitely a reference to the Germans, but it's a line from "Recessional", not from "The White Man's Burden".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:18 AM
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And dsquared's thesis about Kipling's irony, particularly in Tommy is characteristically, um, challenging

I know, I challenged it last time he suggested it, which is probably 2011 or something. It's a bad sign that he's replaying his greatest hits rather than coming up with new stuff.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:19 AM
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This will teach me not to opine blithely without rereading things. (No it won't, nothing will.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:19 AM
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195 to 193, which is perfectly correct.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:21 AM
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It's addressed to the Americans, exhorting them to be good imperialists like the British rather than bad imperialists like the Germans

It's addressed to the Americans, informing them, through the medium of repeated leaden sarcasm that being an imperial power often kind of sucks, particularly if you're going to be the "we're here to help" type of imperialist rather than the "that's going in my pocket" type. (If it hadn't been for the first world war, instead of "one small step for man, a giant leap for mankind", we'd have had "I name this moon Elizabethland and claim it for the crown"). It's a big mistake to think that Kipling, Housman and all that lot didn't do irony.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:21 AM
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194: The man's on vacation; he can't be expected to be coming up with new material.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:21 AM
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It's not that Kipling didn't do irony, it's that he isn't doing irony in the specific poems and the specific way you're claiming. (How could anyone think Housman didn't do irony? Housman is very little but giant piles of heavy-handed irony.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:24 AM
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It's a big mistake to think that Kipling, Housman and all that lot didn't do irony.

They were imperialist hipsters?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:24 AM
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197: it's not sarcastic, though. It's perfectly explicit: it's got lines like "the hate of those you guard" and "go build them with your living/ And mark them with your dead". That isn't sarcasm. Sarcasm would be saying "You'll love being an imperialist, none of your subject peoples will ever protest HONEST" (makes chin gesture).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:25 AM
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Except Born in the USA isn't sarcastically patriotic, it's straightforwardly non-patriotic.

Then why does it end, "I'm a cool rocking Daddy in the U.S.A." ? Bruce is a patriot! He just didn't support the Vietnam War.

That's kind of besides the point though. I don't think dsquared's interpretation of Kipling is that unconventional.



Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:25 AM
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201: Exactly.

"Making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep" would be ironic if Kipling had meant it ironically, but there seems to be literally no evidence that he did.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:27 AM
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A good bit is always worth repeating. Seriously, nobody who lived through the second half of the nineteenth century could possibly have mistaken the British Army for a defence force. It was an instrument of foreign aggression, domestic repression and occasional strikebreaking; that's why it was so widely disliked by the general population of the UK (Orwell is also dead wrong about this when he attributes the unpopularity of the British Army in Britain to any sort of native pacifism; if he'd asked anyone about the subject on his trips to the north, he'd have known).

Kipling wasn't likely to have been joking in "Tommy", he was just dead wrong. But "White Man's Burden" is definitely sarcastic.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:28 AM
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I don't think dsquared's interpretation of Kipling is that unconventional.

That Kipling sometimes used irony? Yeah, I'd agree that that's conventional. That White Man's Burden wasn't a sincere exhortation to do good through colonialism is a little less conventional. (And that Tommy should have been understood as a scathing condemnation of the use of British troops against British civilians even less so.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:29 AM
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197, 201: the sarcasm is in the implicit message that the costs of empire are a divine duty or "white man's burden" rather than a simple policy mistake. Rather like saying "go and become an adjunct professor, you'll have terrible pay and amazingly shitty working conditions but this is what makes you part of the guild of scholars who willingly bear these burdens for the glory of knowledge".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:31 AM
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195. Seconding this; I was getting my Kiplings in a twist. LB is right.

182. While there have been no gunboats, there's been a war in Colombia and a semi-war in Mexico, so they haven't had the resources. Didn't I read recently that a Mexican gang(?) had bought a submarine?

So: only a matter of time.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:33 AM
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206: That's not textually impossible, but it's hard (to put it mildly) to look at Kipling's body of work as a whole and believe that he thought of imperialism as a policy mistake.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:34 AM
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207: Right only in admitting that I was completely wrong when my wrongness was called to my attention. I'm good at that, but it does come up often.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:35 AM
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Seriously, nobody who lived through the second half of the nineteenth century could possibly have mistaken the British Army for a defence force.

As I pointed out at the time, that may wall have been true to a British Briton, but Kipling was above all a British Indian, and the British Army in the nineteenth century was very definitely seen as a defence force by British Indians. Cawnpore Well, Relief of Lucknow, etc. Read "Kim" and "Stalky & Co." for heaven's sake.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:36 AM
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that's why it was so widely disliked by the general population of the UK

Is this really true? I don't claim any particular knowledge one way or the other, but it seems surprising to me in light of the fact the Conservatives achieved a convincing victory in the general election of 1900 (the first "Khaki Election") by basking in the reflected glory of the army to an extent that recalls Karl Rove circa 2004.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:38 AM
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208: agreed. If you're saying that Kipling was an anti-imperialist who thought that the Raj was a huge policy mistake that should never have been started and should be abandoned as soon as possible, then frankly I think you've been at the foreign devils' black smoke again and are in need of a swift intervention from Commissioner Clear Sky Lin.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:39 AM
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Speaking of Kipling's body of work as a whole, I believe that tierce did a rereading of all of Kipling a few years back for some project of his. I haven't seen him around these parts in a while but I'd like to see what his fine lit-crit mind makes of the idea of ironic hipster Kipling.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:41 AM
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that's why it was so widely disliked by the general population of the UK (Orwell is also dead wrong about this when he attributes the unpopularity of the British Army in Britain to any sort of native pacifism; if he'd asked anyone about the subject on his trips to the north, he'd have known).

In the period we are talking about - the late 19th and early 20th centuries - this is just plain wrong as well. The army was hated as "the scum of the earth", enlisted through want and hardship, throughout the Napoleonic Wars and for a few decades thereafter, which is when they really were an instrument of domestic repression - strikebreaking, riot control, Peterloo etc. By the time Kipling was writing, though, soldiering had become dead trendy. The great Volunteer Movement started in the 1860s ("Form, Riflemen, Form!") and gathered pace thereafter in line with the trend towards civic conscription on the Continent, peaking with the Boer War and the First World War.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:44 AM
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204. "Tommy" seems utterly straightforward, and the only sarcasm is directed at the people who dislike soldiers in peacetime. It is possible that the prejudice against "red-coats" back in Britain is due to resentment at their role in putting down strikes and such. However, Kipling clearly ascribes it to a public view that soldiers are uncouth drunks, etc.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:48 AM
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I mean honestly. Find me one example of Kipling saying that the British should never have taken India. Find me an example even of a remotely sympathetic character in anything Kipling ever wrote saying so. Find me, even, a remotely sympathetic Indian character in Kipling saying that he wants the Brits out. Then I might believe this deranged somewhat heterodox interpretation.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:51 AM
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211 -- not directly on point, but I've been reading The Sleepwalkers as well (sorry last chapters of Piketty) and one really interesting point that I hadn't known was that the Conservatives and the British Army favored getting into the war and sending an expeditionary force to Belgium and France in large part because the alternative for "Army Deployment: Fall 1914" was sending the army to Ulster to deal with the fallout from giving the Irish home rule, and there was a serious within-the-British-army movement of prospectively refusing to follow orders to protect Irish Catholic rights. So sending the army to France or Belgium to fight the Germans and not implementing Irish home rule looked like a much better deal. (The other, more directly on point, reason they and (unlike Ireland) the liberals favored it was to keep the Russians happy and the Germans down so as to enjoy untroubled rule over the empire).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:52 AM
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Gawd, are we really going to take this all seriously?

1. Of course Kipling was an imperialist.

2. However, in "White Man's Burden", he is specifically not talking about what a great thing Empire is.

3. Kipling in WMB is addressing the USA, sarcastically.

4. The message of it is "Oh, USA, you're trying to be an Empire, like us? Sure, it's because you, like us, understand that all the costs of Empire have to be borne because they're the divine way of right".

5. Kipling might or might not have believed this about England; he didn't about the USA. Kipling in general believed a lot of things that were demonstrably stupid, and wasn't at all always consistent. The best guess is that, like a lot of people of his background he probably thought the British Empire was a great thing because shut up how dare you.

6. It's likely, though, that he thought the USA was trying to take the Philippines out of a belief that to do so would be profitable, and that this was a bad mistake; he saw, earlier than most, that the USA probably wasn't a committed imperialist.

7. Mainly because the USA was a democracy and thus less likely to do stupid and pointless things for an ill-defined sense of glory.

8. By this time, the UK was also getting more genuinely democratic and inclined to question the value of empire-building, a fact which depressed Kipling greatly.

9. All these tendencies, like more or less everything else in history, had countervailing tendencies, and it's not exactly unprecedented that Britain started talking up the cult of empire and militarism at the same time as it stopped doing it.

10. Nevertheless, WMB is shot through with irony.

11. In "Tommy", Kipling is of course not really talking about working class attitudes. He's writing for the benefit of his own class, specifically those members of his own class who weren't prepared to politically support a blank cheque for stealing other people's stuff and putting them in concentration camps. He's doing so because he genuinely doesn't understand the difference between "guarding you as you sleep" and "stealing other people's stuff in the name of Empire".


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 10:28 AM
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189: I know heroin isn't opium; my point was that the distance given by a drug that isn't used anymore makes them sound quaint; if they were instead the Heroin Wars or the Cocaine Wars or the Meth Wars or any other modern and clearly destructive drug, there might be stronger recognition of them as travesties.

Opium is much more destructive than tobacco and possibly worse than alcohol. (Not an expert, though, and don't have any sources.) And opiates are legal for medicinal use nowadays, which doesn't mean that they aren't a pretty bad thing to have a large portion of your population addicted to.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 10:32 AM
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if they were instead the Heroin Wars or the Cocaine Wars or the Meth Wars or any other modern and clearly destructive drug, there might be stronger recognition of them as travesties.

The Late Opium Unpleasantness.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 10:42 AM
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I recall reading somewhere that the pipes used in China at the time were much more efficient at vaporizing opium which made the addiction that much more destructive than the pipes used to smoke opium in Iran. A mild addiction to opium, especially among the elderly, was considered a peccadillo in Iran until very recently and was quite common among scholars.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 10:49 AM
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Gawd, are we really going to take this all seriously?

Always.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 11:07 AM
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218.7

HA! In your face, Kipling! In your face!

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 11:10 AM
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Opium schmopium! I don't think opium & the Opium War is a big deal, so why should the Chinese?

You're doing a good job representing the arrogant pro-imperialist attitude which so irks of Chinese people and lots of other victims of British Imperialism worldwide. Glad you think your Empire was so benign, but turns out the people on the receiving end don't feel the same way.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 7:47 PM
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Opium Consumption Program-related Activities.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:46 PM
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The British have colonized a thread on Russia. That's like something Hitler would do.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 8:57 PM
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And then whine about when it went wrong.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-14 9:05 PM
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224: tell you what, you blindly support your still-existing grotesquely brutal murderous oppressive empire, I'll occasionally say nice things about my no-longer-existing grotesquely brutal murderous oppressive empire. Fair?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 2:01 AM
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Actual, like, living Chinese people who are not historians are worked up about the Opium Wars and British imperialism? For real?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:58 AM
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229: massively. The PRC bases a lot of its claim to legitimacy - just as it did when Mao made his big speech in Tiananmen Square on 1 October 1949 - to overseeing the process of "China Standing Up". They have an official National Day of Humiliation (September 18th) which is actually IIRC the anniversary of the start of the 1895 Sino-Japanese War but is used as a jumping-off point for discussion of the whole Century of Humiliation period (roughly 1840-1950), the Unequal Treaties etc.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:43 AM
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They have an official National Day of Humiliation

That's awesome. More countries should have those.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:54 AM
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231: Around here, we call it "St. Patrick's Day".


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:58 AM
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Not Election Day?


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:11 AM
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We don't vote.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:30 AM
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'... the very definition of a "good guy with a gun."'


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:59 AM
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231: it is pretty much the definition of whininess in the sense that dsquared meant it.

I agree that a National Day of Humiliation would be a good thing. Remember that it comes from the same root as "humble". A Day of the Puncturing of Pretension. An ice bucket challenge for the soul. Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal, and just to remind you, you will now be ceremonially wedgied by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:00 AM
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We could adapt Ash Wednesday.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:01 AM
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March 30 1863 was a designated day for national prayer and humiliation in the US.http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/fast.htm


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:09 AM
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The puritan colonies had (for quite a while) fast days which served pretty much the same purpose.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:14 AM
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Fast day evolved into the day where they run the marathon. I hope that fucks with somebody's graduate thesis in 3054 or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:18 AM
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219, 221: opium's not a worse drug than alcohol only because almost nothing else is. meth, ok, freebasing coke, heroin...and...oh, PCP? that ain't even so right though because people don't ruin their lives doing PCP for 25 years. and yes, new equipment was developed that made opium much more powerful and addictive during the period. opium is great, it's just no one can ever get any and the preparation is difficult. people end up just eating it if they go somewhere where it's cheap. now that everyone has a vaporisor I guess that should change, but you probably shouldn't lug one around north vietnam.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:39 AM
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228: ajay, I accept your reasonable bargain!


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:42 AM
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Glad you think your Empire was so benign, but turns out the people on the receiving end don't feel the same way.

A creditable anti imperialist point of view, but I'd be circumspect about who you said it to in China.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:18 PM
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231: while I'm in summer reruns, how about the time that the Americans decided to commemorate the time that they murdered an indigenous population and stole all their stuff, but unaccountably decided to call the festival "Thanksgiving" instead of "Empire Day"?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:25 PM
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I have a Native American neighbor who refers to Columbus Day as something like Colonialism Day -- can't remember her phrasing precisely, but she's vocal about it (quite reasonably so, of course).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:32 PM
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On the other hand, she's all for Thanksgiving, and decorates the building's bulletin boards with unpleasant sounding traditional recipes made from acorns in celebration.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:33 PM
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Indigenous People Day?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:36 PM
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It was the same on the rez as what LB describes: everyone celebrated Thanksgiving, but no one celebrated Columbus day, and if it was marked at all, it was by anti-colonialist flyers and/or meetings.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:39 PM
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anti-colonialist flyers and/or meetings

[Crassly sarcastic, sneering comment redacted for reasons of crushing white guilt.]


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:42 PM
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So Columbus (who just made landfall and then fucked off, more or less harmlessly) gets all the blame and the WASPS get remembered as the nice guys? Glasgow Rangers are clearly missing a trick by not marketing their replica shirts to the Native American community.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 3:53 PM
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229, 230: Yes, I have also had that conversation with severalth-generation ABC in SF's Chinatown, and an overseas business PhD student who was really interesting on organizational structure. With the latter, we came to an empires deadlock between Tibet and Central America.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:03 PM
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All But, hm, Cissertation? (On the near side of oral argument?)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:11 PM
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UPDATE: I successfully worked out what "ABC" actually stands for in 251.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:11 PM
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Already been chewed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:27 PM
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So Columbus (who just made landfall and then fucked off, more or less harmlessly)

Not a very accurate description of Columbus' activities in Hispaniola. He was actually put on trial in Spain for "tyranny" in his governorship of the place. And I don't believe that the Spaniards of that era were exactly bleeding heart liberals.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:32 PM
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Always Be Cuddlin'


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:47 PM
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OPINIONATED DECIMATED TAINO POPULATION has some issues with 250, although to be fair OPINIONATED DESTROYED AND ENSLAVED WAMPANOAG POPULATION is not super psyched about what's left out of the Thanksgiving story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 4:53 PM
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257: Chillax, Massasoit.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:03 PM
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Calm down, Tillamooker.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:18 PM
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American Born Chinese?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:38 PM
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Mellow out, Plenty Coups.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:40 PM
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Always Be Columbusing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:40 PM
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I think a mild opium addiction in my old age would perhaps be rather enjoyable.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:48 PM
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Opium is lovely stuff. That reminds me, I should probably have more of this vicodin that the dentist told me I shouldn't take unless I absolutely had to.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:50 PM
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You can make pretty strong opium tea from ornamental dried poppy pods.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:52 PM
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I had opium once, but I was too stoned to remember what it was like.

I did try smoking black tar heroin one time, I remember it made my brain feel all warm and fuzzy. Probably a good thing I didn't have a steady connection for that.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:56 PM
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Yikes. Heroin stayed pretty darn solid on my impressively diminished No list.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 5:59 PM
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265 is more fun if you hear it followed by the NBC public service announcement music.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:01 PM
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Well, white powder heroin is on my No list, but black tar made it past the goalie.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:02 PM
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I heard a story about a former colleague whose consumption of prescription opiates caused him such miserable constipation that he ruptured a disc, necessitating surgery and additional opiates.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:07 PM
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268: hahaha

I have a good friend and old roommate who smoked a bunch of opium at a SLAC during college. He said it was truly amazingly a productivity black hole.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:10 PM
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You can make pretty strong opiate tea from vicodin tablets.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:10 PM
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It was pretty weird to actually get prescription painkillers by prescription. I think I've only ever done that once before (also dentist-related).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:11 PM
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I still have mine left over from the relevant major dental work, years ago. Which was such a relief, in terms of ending the toothache pain, that the opiates never seemed necessary. I would have killed to have them before the extraction, though.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:16 PM
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Dilaudid is pretty great stuff, though hard to get, yeah, and likely to plug you up.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:19 PM
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Maybe you could chase it with prune juice.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:25 PM
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Oh man, that was the best part of having my gall bladder out last year -- 1 mg/hour (IIRC) of IV dilaudid. Soooooooooo gooooooooood.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:28 PM
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I Know Matt Damon.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:30 PM
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Be careful combining Dilaudid and blow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:31 PM
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You'll all be happy to know that I've always thrown my prescription painkillers away. Don't worry, your kids are getting them through the groundwater.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:33 PM
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You fill the prescription and then throw them away?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:34 PM
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Why anyone would want to fuck up perfectly good Dilaudid by doing it with blow is beyond me.

Regardless, MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE CAREFUL! Yeah, I thought so.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:34 PM
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Just don't put a goddamn hat on the bed.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:34 PM
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You fill the prescription and then throw them away?

Pretty sure they just gave me some at the hospital.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:35 PM
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And by last year I mean "in early 2012".

Also, have any dude-bodied people here had much experience with passing kidney stones? I'm feeling like there might be something in my urethra right now, but maybe that's just psychosomatic. It's not painful, just weird and tingly.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:36 PM
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That's not a kidney stone, it's a baby wood elf.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:36 PM
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I'm not dude bodied, but my kidney stone passing experience featured a lot of intermittent "huh, what's that weird feeling? Is it... something?"


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:38 PM
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286: I thought it was "baby wood rose" and "machine elves", unless you're mixing again, I suppose.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:40 PM
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The earlier parts were more characterized by an unremitting state of "GOD, WHAT IS THIS! THIS FEELS HORRIBLE. It's kind of like... labor," which since it was not all that long after I'd in fact had a baby should be nicely affirming for anyone who's ever said that kidney stones are the most labor-like thing men get to experience.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:41 PM
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But kidney stones don't stick around for 18 years after you pass them.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:43 PM
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They grow up so fast.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:44 PM
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a lot of intermittent "huh, what's that weird feeling? Is it... something?"

That was interspersed with stretches of achy nothingness as well as of course also sharp ouchings. I expect those later parts are worse if you've got a penis involved, but for me the early phase was so very much worse that the later parts were basically fine: not something I would sign up for on purpose, but much better than the earlier abject misery. I hope it will be the same for you!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:46 PM
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285: Mr. Robot says that he's been able to tell when kidney stones have passed through the urethra.

I have vivid memories of him puking in my car on the way to the ER in Hopkins the last time he had a kidney stone. Not fun for anyone! Hope you're feeling better soon.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:48 PM
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I expect those later parts are worse if you've got a penis involved

Mouseover.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:48 PM
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Somebody should preemptively get natilo some opium.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:51 PM
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I drink lots of water and coffee all day at work and a fair amount of beer in the evenings. Will this produce enough downstream current to block formation of stones?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:52 PM
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And a fish bowl, in case it's a candiru.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 6:53 PM
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So, RFTS, when you say "the early stages" do you mean when it was still in the kidney/bladder? Like, right now it feels like there's something small about halfway through. I am taking lots of pain killers though, so hopefully we won't have to deal with any puking.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:07 PM
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265 -

And a reasonably strong one if you wash some brands of commercially available poppy seeds as well. It turns out that the level of cleaning required to get all the opium off of the seeds before they're sold is pretty significant.

Apparently more and more companies are putting an effort into actually cleaning the things, though, so check online reviews (the code words are "tea" and "unwashed") to be sure you're getting the good stuff. If you do find the right ones though you'll get a decent enough dose to, if you're me, confirm that actually you just sort of don't like opiates in general and that it wasn't just the vicodin you didn't like.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:08 PM
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So, RFTS, when you say "the early stages" do you mean when it was still in the kidney/bladder?

Yep. The parts where I could feel it migrating down were much better.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:09 PM
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285: My son the stoic said he could tell and it wasn't fun.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:13 PM
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285. Having once had a kidney stone, I can say that if you're not sure, it probably isn't one, or at least not one of any respectable size. It's one of the few times I've had the serious opiates. They gave me a funnel-shaped filter to catch it when it passed, but seriously, ARE YOU KIDDING?

Also, it's the closest a "dude-bodied" person can come to the fun of giving birth, or so I'm told.

296. Cranberry juice is recommended. It's very acidic.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:14 PM
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The kidney/bladder pain was, as I said before, just about as bad as when my gall bladder was "almost completely necrotic". Right now it just feels kinda funny.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:15 PM
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Besides the obvious (I have random drug tests and am just not that interested in non-wine or beer intoxicants of any sort), I don't want to end up tossing a dirham or two to urchins with outstretched hands and wondering if my kids are thinking of me, etc.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 09- 5-14 7:20 PM
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I have a Native American neighbor who refers to Columbus Day as something like Colonialism Day -- can't remember her phrasing precisely, but she's vocal about it (quite reasonably so, of course).

In 4th and 5th grade we commemorated both Columbus Day and Thanksgiving as genocide remembrance days. Our social studies theme was "genocides committed by white people against brown people," with genocides against Native Americans (N & S) as the focal point, along with the Middle Passage. Even in kindergarten, when I'm pretty sure we were doing turkey hands for Thanksgiving, we learned that Columbus killed a bunch of people in pretty terrible ways.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 09- 6-14 8:31 PM
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305:

I'm sorry, but that seems grotesque to me. I'm surprised you're not incensed about it.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09- 6-14 8:45 PM
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296. Cranberry juice is recommended. It's very acidic.

But what if he's not a vodka guy? I prefer my regime of adding orange or lime juice to my gin.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 7-14 12:10 AM
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Americans are hilariously censorious about alcohol (present company excepted) for people consuming prescription narcotics like sweeties.

As per previous conversations, I've had surgery four times (three if you only count ones with anaesthesia) and apart from
a single morphine, after one op, the strongest I 've been given was codeine (with acetaminophen).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 7-14 3:40 AM
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308.1: We're hypocrites. Have you noticed?

I love the British attitude to alcohol. Having a pint at lunch in a pub with families in it? Completely legit. I like that your pints are bigger yet to compensate your beers are slightly weaker yet still tasty. (I'm comparing British beers to fancy-style American beers, obviously.) We don't really have "session beer" down.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 7-14 5:15 AM
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Having a pint at lunch in a pub with families in it? Completely legit.

Why wouldn't it be?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09- 8-14 3:43 AM
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