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Shouldn’t this blind man, and this deaf man, be executed?

Shouldn’t this blind man, and this deaf man, be executed?

“… what grounds do we have for being angry with anyone? We use lables like ‘thief’ and ‘robber’ in connection with them, but what do those words mean? They merely signify that people are confused about what is good and what is bad. So should we be angry with them, or should we pity them instead. Show them where they go wrong and you will find that they’ll reform. but unless they see it, they are stuck with nothing better than their usual opinion as their practical guide.

‘Well shouldn’t we do away with thieves and degenerates?’ Try putting the question this way: Shouldn’t we rid ourselves of people deceived about what’s most important, people who are blind – not in their faculty of vision, their ability to distinguish white from black – but in the moral capacity to distinguish good from bad? Put it that way and you will realize how inhumane your position is. It is as if you were to say, ‘Shouldn’t this blind man, and this deaf man, be executed?’

If you must be affected by other people’s misfortunes, show them pity instead of contempt. Drop this readiness to hate and take offence.

We get angry because we put too high a premium on things that they can steal.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, c. 108 AD

Citizens of the world and children of God

Citizens of the world and children of God

“If what philosopher’s say about the kinship of God and man is true, then the only logical step is to do as Socrates did, never replying to the question of where he was from with ‘I am Athenian,’ or ‘I am from Corinth,’ but always, ‘I am a citizen of the world.’
– – –
But anyone who knows how the whole of the universe is administered knows that the first, all-inclusive state is the government composed of God and man, He appreciates it as the source of the seeds of being, descending upon his father, his father’s father – to every creature born and bred on earth, in fact, but to rational beings in particular, since they alone are entitled by nature to govern alongside God, by virtue of being connected with him through reason. So why not call ourselves citizens of the world and children of God? And why should we fear any human contingency?
– – –
Let us go home, then, to be free, finally from the shackles that restrain us and weigh us down. Here we find robbers and thieves, and law-courts, and so-called despots who imagine that they wield some power over us precisely because of our body and its possessions. Allow us to show them that they have power over precisely no one.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, c. 108 AD

Snake eating its own tail

“Conflict feeds dogma and closes minds, feeding more conflict. It’s a snake eating its own tail until almost nothing remains. Changing its mind is ever more difficult the more it eats.”

The morally right vs norms

“Living in accordance with the norms, or laws, of society and one’s peers does not by any means equate to making the morally ‘right’ choice, and not seldom means doing the opposite. The morally right transcends laws and customs, but the understanding of it is difficult and can lead us down both bright and very dark paths, depending on how clear-sighted and honest one is.”

In the ashes all men are levelled

“One thing I know: all the works of mortal men lie under sentence of mortality; we live among things that are destined to perish.
Such, then, are the comforting reflections I would offer… A setback has often cleared the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to more exalted heights.
– – –
So the spirit must be trained to a realization and an acceptance of its lot. It must come to see that there is nothing fortune will shrink from, that she wields the same authority over emperor and empire alike and the same power over cities as over men. There is no ground for resentment in this.
– – –
Resent a thing by all means if it represents an injustice decreed against you personally; but if this same constraint is binding on the lowest and the highest, then make your peace again with destiny, the destiny that unravels all ties… In the ashes all men are levelled. We’re born unequal, we die equal.”
– Seneca, in a letter to the boy who would become Emperor Nero

Worship what is divine, love what is human

“As things are, there is about wisdom a nobility and magnificence in the fact that she doesn’t just fall to a person’s lot, that each man owes her to his own efforts, that one doesn’t go to anyone other than oneself to find her. What would you have worth looking up to in philosophy if she were handed out free? Philosophy has the single task of discovering the truth about the divine and the human worlds. The religious conscience, the sense of duty, justice and all the rest of the close-knit, interdependent ‘company of virtues’, never leave her side. Philosophy has taught man to worship what is divine, to love what is human, telling us that with the gods belong authority, and among human beings fellowship.
– – –
She shows us what are real and what are only apparent evils. She strips men’s minds of empty thinking, bestows a greatness that is solid and administers a check to greatness where it is puffed up and all an empty show… ”
– Seneca, in a letter to the boy who would become Emperor Nero

Equal to the law

“I have no wish of weakening in the least degree our laws and institutions. All Roman citizens must be equal to the law. I ask my country then, to make the most of what I have done for her, but without me. If she owes it to me, that she is today a free country, let me also prove that she is free. If my stature has grown too great for her best interests, then out I go.”
-General and consul Scipio Africanus

The appearance of good

“A fundamental thing we need to understand about the people who do truly evil things is that a great many of them sincerely believe they are doing good, or at least something that is necessary in order to create good. This can make them very hard to distinguish as they will often have the appearance of good and moral men and women. The crucial difference lies in a craving for control over others, mind and body, instead of just their own lives, habitually passing moral judgements, aiming to restrict the lives of others and especially those different to themselves. We need to be very alert for such people, as giving them power and control is the first step towards an authoritarian society which turns its people into victims of itself. As has happened so many times before, especially as we move away from such a state of things.”

There is no path inbetween

“We can’t live outside of our existance, outside of the world and ourselves. Therefore there can never be any true neutrality and standing outside of events in it. Neutrality is no more than an invented concept and an often misused and misunderstood idea, used to avoid guilt and blame, and to protect conscience, believing neutrality equals blamelessness. It does not. And often quite the contrary.

Being alive and conscious means awareness and an unavoidable relation to everything, and to the activitity and inactivity of others. Action and inaction are both choices always made with intent and purpose, and both always have direct effects, either making, or affecting, things to happen in a certain way, or allowing things to run their course. There is no path inbetween, no middle-road.

This said, the desire to sometimes, even often, stay neutral and outside of things is very human, and understandable. It is just not truly possible.

This should not be confused with the notion of ‘with us or against us’ which is a social, not a consequential concept.”

Nothing ever disappears and nothing is ever wholly pure

“Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. What matters the most is what weighs the heaviest on the very last day, and even then the good done, for ever more, still remains good, and the bad done still remains bad. Nothing ever disappears and nothing is ever wholly pure, but believing anything is so often leads to great evil and brutality, with idealism blinding us to the reality of things.”

Here am I with a babel of noise

I cannot for the life of me see that quiet is necessary to a person who has shut himself away to do some studying as it is usually thought to be. Here am I with a babel of noise going on all about me. I have lodgings right over a public bath-house. Now imagine to yourself every kind of sound that can get you hating your years. When the streonuous types are doing their exercises, swinging weight-laden hands about, I hear the grunting as they toil away – or go through the motions of toiling away – at them, and the hissings and strident gasps every time they expel their pent up breath. When my attention turns to a less active fellow who is contenting himself with an ordinary inexpensive massage, I hear the smack of a hand pummeling his shoulders, the sound varying according as it comes down flat or cupped. But if on top of this some ball player comes along and starts shouting out the score, one’s done for! Now add someone starting up a brawl, and someone else caught thieving, and the fellow who likes the sound of his voice in the bath, and the people who leap into the pool with a tremendous splash, going beyond from those sounds which are, if nothing else, natural, call to mind the hair remover, repeatedly giving vent to his shrill and penetrating cry the better to advertise his presence, never silent unless it be while he is plucking someon’s armpits and making the client yell for him! Then think of the various cries of the man selling drinks, and the one selling sausages and the other selling pastries, and all the ones hawking for the catering shops, each publicizing his wares with a distinctive cry of his own.

 

‘You must be made of iron’ you may say, ‘or else hard of hearing if your mind is unaffected by all this babel of discordant noises around you, when continual “good morning” greetings were enough to finish off the Stoic Chrysippus!’ But I swear I no more notice all this roar of noise than I do the sound of waves or falling water – even if I am told the story of a people on the Nile who moved their capital solely because they could not stand the thundering of a cataract! Voices, I think, are more inclined to distract one than general noise; noise merely fills one’s ears, battering away at them while voices actually catch one’s attention. Among the things which create a racket all around me without distracting me at all I include the carriages hurrying by in the street, the carpenter who works in the same block, a man in the neighbourhood who saws, and this fellow tuning horns and flutes at the Trickling Fountain and emitting blasts instead of music. I still find an intermittent noise more irritating than a continuous one. But by now I have so steeled myself against all these things that I can even put up with a coxswain’s strident tones as he gives his oarsmen the rythm. For I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it. There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within, so long as fear and desire are not at loggerheads, so long as meanness and extravagance are not at odds and harassing each other. For what is the good of having silence throughout the neighbourhood if one’s emotions are in turmoil?

– Seneca in private letter to the boy who would become Emperor Nero (transl. by Robin Campbell)

True only in its small context

“It is perfectly possible to only see a part of a larger truth, and thus honestly believe one is correct, thinking it is the full truth, and still be quite wrong, because it really is only the larger, more complex truth that matters, and not the fragmented, incomplete piece thereof. So while true in its small context, it may still lead you to very flawed conclusions and views of the world. Not realising this, or refusing to acknowledge it is quite common in extremist circles.”

Value them according to their character

“You’re quite mistaken, though, if you imagine that I’d bar from the table certain slaves on the grounds of their relatively menial or dirty nature of their work – that muleteer, for example, or that cowhand. I propose to value them according to their character, not their jobs. Each man has a character of his own choosing; it is chance or fate that decides his choice of job. Have some of them dine with you because they deserve it, others in order to make them so deserving.
– – –
… only an absolute fool values a man according to his clothes, or according to his social position, which after all is only something that we wear like clothing.”
-Seneca in letter to the boy who would become Emperor Nero

Our fellow-slaves

‘I’m glad to hear, from these people who’ve been visiting you, that you live on friendly terms with your slaves. It is just what one expects of an enlightened, cultivated person like yourself. ‘They’re slaves,’ people say. No. They’re human beings. “They’re slaves.’ But they share the same roof as ourselves.’ They’re slaves.’ No, they’re friends, humble friends.’ They’re slaves.’ Strictly speaking they’re our fellow-slaves, if you once reflect that fortune has as much power over us as them.
– – –
… the essence of the advice I’d like to give is this: treat your inferiors in the way in which you would like to be treated by your own superiors. ”
– Letter from Seneca to the boy that would become Emperor Nero

On influence and pragmatic realities

“The easiest way to block communism from gaining power is to make sure there are few truly poor people, as communism normaly requires popular desperation igniting revolution, or military power in order to gain control.

 

The easiest way to implement fascism is to make sure the middle class majority feels disillusioned, lost, displeased and deserving of more, and then just play on fear, nostalgia and need for hope, while tweaking the current political system towards ‘temporary’ infractions of rights, adding restrictions and limitations on rights to choice, privacy and integrity for the people.

 

Consequently, to hinder fascism to grow, the middle-class needs to be made to feel safe and satisfied, with hope for the future. And neglecting this can nurture both communism and fascism, but the latter more and quicker than the former.

 

This also means that for some on the radical left, it lies in their interest to provoke the government and the powers that be to blatant oppression and a more divised, unequal society, leading to despair, so a broad support for revolt can be built. This is one of the motivations behind the 70’s left-wing terrorism, like the RAF.

 

It also means that, as a society moves from despair and poverty towards a good, decent standard, it becomes more vulnerable to be exploited by hard authoritarian powers. It is an inbuilt natural process.

 

Likewise, it means that the same authoritarian powers can choose to inflate ideas about the many problems with the current state of things to gain power, and that the only way of stopping that is education and awareness. Therefore those two will also be the first targets, attacking academia and press.”

A fine balance between acceptance and willful ignorance

“We humans really have a fantastic reluctance to see uncomfortable things for what they are and often do not until some cataclysmic event happens, and often not until it is too late. It is a blessing and a curse both, and it has kept us together, but has also brought us deep into brutality and cruelty so many times before.”

On war and truth

“If you plan on heading off to war, knowing your enemy is not enough. You also have to clearly see your own weaknesses well, so you avoid overestimating the strength of your own position. In the end, the victor isn’t necessarily the one who is right, but the one who has the strongest support, and it is his words that will be noted down in history as true. Failing to understand this can lead you to hurt the very thing you fight for.”

To remember and to know

“I have no doubt, too, they may be very helpful to the uninitiated and those who are still novices, for individual aphorisms in a small compass, rounded off in units rather like lines of verse, become fixed more readily in the mind. It is for this reason that we give children proverbs and what the Greeks call chriae to learn by heart, a child’s mind being able to take these in at a stage when anything more would be beyond its capacity. But in the case of a grown man who has made incontestable progress it is disgraceful to go hunting after gems of wisdom, and prop himself up with a minute number of the best known sayings, and be dependent on his memory as well, it is time he was standing on his own feet. He should be delivering himself of such sayings, not memorizing them.

– –
Assume authority yourself and utter something that may be handed down to posterity. Produce something from your own resources. This is why I look on people like this as a spiritless lot – the people who are forever lurking in someone else’s shadow. They never venture to do for themselves the things they have spent such a long time learning. They exercise their memory on things that are not their own. It is one thing, however, to remember, another to know.”

– Seneca, letters to the boy who would become Emperor Nero

In these times of a never ending stream of memes and quotes, a quote worth considering.

Uriah Heeps, everywhere

“Always be particularly careful and sceptical with things that appear to confirm your beliefs.”

Sea anchors and diversity

“Complex issues rarely have simple solutions, and differing perspectives are commonly needed to examine them fully. Consequently, you will not find the tools for solving the issues of society in a single political ideology, and while uniformity of thought, through its consistency, can make it temporarily strong, its singlemindedness also makes it very vulnerable to wandering astray, deep into authoritarianism and oppression which can only be maintained through thought control and violence. Diversity, on the other hand, can act as a sea anchor, allowing the society to explore issues from different angles of view, while at the same time, acting as a conservative force that stops it from going too far too quickly. This is particularly important in troubled times.”

Two different seeds for the same giant tree

“A crude form of communism often arises naturally in tribal context, and can be seen in many native cultures around the world, with a sharing of resources, and a concern for each other, even the weakest. These societies are not built around trade, even if it is part of it, and often lives in chime with nature. A strong sense of honour and decency often permeats such small societies, but there is also a strict perception of what is allowed behaviour, as change can equal threat, meaning a certain conservatism is seen as vital. However, adapting such communism to large scale societies is problematic, as the scale of things do not fit, at the same time as it gives enough room for exploitation, from above or below.
Neither does it work well with free enterprise and business, and will certainly be fought against by the same established controlling forces, thus requiring violent revolution to be implemented, and a new, strict authoritarian government in order to be maintained. So, the knight finally turns into a dragon.

 

Contrarily, the often perceived as polar opposite of fascism, fits quite well with commerce, as it commonly does not affect it in any negative way. Quite the opposite, it gives it more free reigns to handle its resources, i.e. people and nature. At the same time, it too also inevitably evolves into an authoritarian society that does not care for its weak, stripping away rights and benefits from minorities and the lower stratas of society. Here too, honour and decency is regarded as important, but seemingly more commonly used to judge others by, especially those perceived as below oneself. And as it does not cause any disturbance for commerce, nor drastic social changes, neither does it require radical change, just perpetuating status quo with small, incremental changes towards ever stricter control.
Unlike communism, which mostly finds its supporters among the individually powerless stratas of society, fascism appeals to both those with and without power to control, and can thus more easily be implemented, especially when done so, masked under propaganda. In this lies a great danger to democracy.

 

Communism can only arise under very particular, primitive or dire circumstances and will never have more than minor influence on greater, functioning societies. Fascism, however, can through its ties to actual power, actually arise again.

 

So, in essence, we have two different seeds for the same giant tree, although requiring different soil to take root. “

On the deviousness of propaganda

“The most devious thing about good propaganda, is that you want to hear it, so much so that validation of truthfulness will become less important.”

Straw men and compliance

“While there are people who exaggerate the number of fascists and racists and who see them where there aren’t any, the number of those people is also greatly exaggerated, and used to claim that the odd example is significant for the majority.

This also doesn’t mean there aren’t quite a few people with fascist and racist views who aren’t fully avowed and self-identified fascists. They don’t need to be though, for the buiilding of a fascist society. They just need to be compliant, while others build it.”

Taste and submission

“When someone uses ‘good taste’ as a class mark of their own superiority, then it is instantly stripped of both values, no longer being actual taste, nor a marker of ‘class’, outside of real or desired social class, that is, and just becomes an extension of politics and ego. The popular perception of ‘good taste’ is very easy to fulfill. It is just a question of money and willingness to conform. And, as it is predefined by others, it lacks soul and is nothing but a mark of submission. Truly good taste is individual, independent, unique and has little concern for the opinions of others, and through this becomes rich in soul and value. And it takes conscious effort, as it can’t develop without commitment and emotion. This is true for art, music, literature, movies, fashion and all such forms of culture. And it has has made our culture rich, spurring its growth. Still, the requirement for, and association with wealth commonly causes a confusion of ‘good taste’ with wealth itself, thus also consolidating the politics and ego too. Or to put it all more simply: Good taste can only come from inside, built brick by brick, not bought whole from someone else.

 

This, however, does not mean to suggest that appreciating classical culture in whatever form is a sign of lacking taste, commitment or emotion, quite the contrary. But neither does it separate it from appreciation of any other form of culture.”

Fanaticism, air castles and end times

Seeing issues and wanting to find solutions for them is important and vital for a healthy society, but belief in that a certain ideology can solve those issues seemingly more and more leads to a dangerous and harmful desire to see that ideology implemented regardless of cost. So much so, that grave issues are both seen where they really aren’t, while others are magnified or distorted, all to fit the proofs to the agenda rather than the other way around. It is ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand behaviour, only at the polar opposite, seeing nothing but problems instead of none. Fanaticism, and both toxic and contagious.

 

And more disturbingly, and more than a little contradictory; hard societal collapse is not only feared  but also *longed for* with a certain degree of tingling excitement, as that will finally proove the desired politics and beliefs to be right and necessary.
Likewise, admitting that the issues either do not exist or are not as serious or far-reaching as believed, thus becomes incredibly difficult, as that would mean that the desired politics is not the true answer to all things, or worse yet; that others are better.

 

Finally, there is also seemingly a certain degree of elitism and deep need for self-aggrandizing embedded into this, where these fanatics fantasize about, in the end, being proven as uniquely clear sighted, as prophets who see things the dumb and blind majority can’t. And thus great big air castles are built. This is also why the societal collapse is longed for. Without it there will be no release for the semi-conscious fantasies of greatness and righteousness. All dressed up and nowhere to go. And there won’t be any glorious opportunity to say ‘I told you so!’. Apocalyptus Interruptus, and spiritual blue balls.

 

This can be seen in a variety of extremist groups, ranging from some ‘preppers’, preparing for the apocalypse, to various radicals and reactionary at all sides of the political spectra, left, centre and right.

The only way to learn and truly understand

“Never trust the words of anyone else, not even the words spoken here. Too much of what is spoken is biased, flawed or outright propaganda. So, it is vital that we all strive to find stuff out for ourself, even if it takes a lot of work and time. It is also the only way to learn and truly understand.
 
Likewise, we must always be extremely careful in spreading the words of others, and strive to never do it before having had them validated outside of our own bias. Without this we make ourselves weak, allowing ourselves to be manipulated and exploited, while at the same time aiding the speaker in doing the same to others.”

Drops of water, falling on their own, have the power

“For anything that is hammered by a blow, day after day
However softly struck, at length is conquered and gives way.
Haven’t you seen how drops of water falling on their own
Have the power, over time, to wear their way through stone?”

– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, 50BC

This is quite fundamental for life and the importance of persistance, individually and for society. Many small changes together, over time, create large, important ones. And in this lies hope, but also great danger.

 

Rise above

“So, transgenders and homosexuality have existed in many, many cultures throughout history, and even animals exhibit such behaviour, but accepting them is a “social experiment” that threaten the fabric of society? Come on. This is all about not wanting our own narrow perceptions and identity shaken or questioned, demanding that everyone lives in accordance with the limits we set on things, because anything else makes us uncomfortable, having our set ideas disturbed.

 

Maybe it is about damn time that we rise above the old self-centred “morals” and the mistreatment of others that come with it, recognizing it for what it is, a not chosen life, just as for the rest of us. Acceptance of others is never a threat. Not accepting them, however, always is, and has led to some horrible crimes, half-heartedly motivated by “morals” and false logic, built on ignoring the reality of things.

 

Or in short; leave people the fuck alone to lead their lives as they want and have to. It will rarely affect your life in any tangible or important way. That is a choice we can make, quite unlike being born transgender or gay.”

New loyalty entangled with old prejudices

“Differences of national character and patriotic sentiment were not the most fundamental distinctions between men at this time. Although in each nation a common tradition or cultural environment imposed a certain uniformity on all its members, yet in each nation every mental type of character was present, though in different proportions. The most significant of all cultural differences between men, namely, the difference between the tribalists and the cosmopolitans, traversed the national boundaries. For throughout the world something like a new, cosmopolitan ‘nation’ with a new all-embracing patriotism was beginning to appear. In every land there was by now a salting of awakened minds who, whatever their temperament and politics of formal faith, were at one in respect of their allegiance to the humanity as a race or as an adventuring spirit.

 

Unfortunately this new loyalty was still entangled with old prejudices. In some minds the defence of the human spirit was sincerely identified with the defence of a particular nation, conceived as the home of all enlightenment. In others, social injustice kindled a militant proletarian loyalty, which though at heart cosmopolitan, infected alike its champions and its enemies with sectarian passions.”

 

– Olaf Stapledon, Last and First Men, 1930

Marionettes and sleight of hand

“Like a thrown bottle, a more loud and noisy evil can serve as a distraction, as cover to mask more severe and insidious acts that then pass by unnoticed, seemingly no longer as harmful or large. The former is a tool for the latter, and absolutely necessary for certain radical change when the majority doesn’t agree with it and when they can’t be persuaded through painting the opposite or the affected minorities as evil. Of course, both these methods can be used in combination, for even greater impact. Keep an eye on the flanks and shadows.”

Gods, Flesh and Spirit

“If you possess a firm grasp of these tenets, you will see
That Nature, rid of harsh taskmasters, all at once is free,
And everything she does, does on her own, so that gods play
No part. For by the holy hearts of gods, who while away
Their tranquil immortality in peace! – Who can hold sway
Over their measureless universe? Who is there who can keep
Hold of the reins that curb the power of the fathomless deep?

– – –

Flesh and spirit both are mortal that much is decided,
since both can be cut into many pieces and divided.

– – –
Thus I repeat, you must admit that spirits cannot be
Without beginnings, nor are they immune from Death’s decree.”

 

– Lucretius, On The Nature Of Things, 50BC

Vampiric cross-feeding

“While political and social concern can be an essential positive force, it also makes us vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation. All political powers and news media, not least alt-news, feed off of drama and stirred emotion. And where there is none it needs to be created, pitting people against each other, picking out and emphasizing minority extremes, claiming that their views are significant for all of the opposition, thus building a dynamic polarization for them to leech off of, and thereby gaining both power and strength.

 

This is often true also for individuals with a political interest, and therethrough the individual agendas connect to various news channels in a vampiric cross-feeding of this unholy trinity.”

To weave the cloth of mighty things

“Since empty space is limitless on all sides and the amount
Of atoms meandering in the measureless universe past count,
All flitting about in many different ways, endlessly hurled
In restless motion, it is most unlikely that this world,
This sky and rondure of the earth, was made the only one.
And all those atoms outside of our world get nothing done;
Especially since this world is the product of Nature, the happenstance
Of the seeds of things colliding into each other by pure chance
In every possible way, no aim in view, at random, blind,
Till sooner or later certain atoms suddenly combined
So that they lay the warp to weave the cloth of mighty things
Of earth, of sea, of sky, of all the species of living beings.
That’s why I say you must admit that there are other cases
Of congregations of matter that exist in other places
Like this one here of ours the aether ardently embraces.

 

Besides, when matter is available in great supply
Where there is space at hand, and nothing to be hindered by,
Things must happen and come to pass. That is a certainty.
And if there are so many atoms now no one could count,
In all the time Life has existed for, the full amount,
If the same Force and the same Nature abide everywhere
To throw together atoms just as they’re united here
You must confess that there are other worlds with other races
Of people and other kinds of animals in other places.”

– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, ca 50BC.

On nostalgia

“Nostalgia for a time you never lived in is by nature bound to be quite false. And, as it was experienced by a different you, even the times you lived through will in memory be quite different to actual reality, in memory filtered through later emotions and selectively noted in an ephemeral book limited by its pages. As such, nostalgia will always tell you more about the current than the past.”

Honour to control

“Honour, and perceptions of it, does not by itself in any way prevent men from doing evil. In fact, the opposite can be just as true. It can encourage it.”

Disregarding its own logical universe

Quite often provoked responses are a pretty good thermometer up the butt of society. And we clearly have some distance to go yet, needing to challenge our often fairly losely founded conceptions of the world. And it is the most apparent when questioning those at an advantage, temporarily elevating those who are not, such as often happens with issues of gender. Commonly it has no other argument for it than “tradition”, which is a very weak and time-bound argument, and sometimes the reasoning even disregards its own logical universe.

This can go so far as to blame the “victims”, only acting according to the opportunities given and the requirements put on them, instead of questioning the system and those who built it. Such as when slut shaming female actors for accepting nudity scenes, or the obligatory female shower scene.

Feeling unfairly excluded and disregarded really is a disturbing experience, which is why so many feel so provoked when they get a whiff of it, while others yet live their whole lives with a constant series of events soaked in this.

Phrases dyed a shade of purple

“For idiots admire things all the more
When they find them hidden in tangled words, and set great store
In anything that tickles the ear, in phrases dyed a shade of purple.”
-Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, ca 50BC.

What is lost at any given moment we can’t say

“… Year after circling year,
the ring upon a finger thins from the inside out with wear.
The steady drop of water causes stone to hollow and yield,
The curving iron of the ploughshare fritters in the field
By imperceptible degrees. The cobbles of the street
We see are polished smooth by now from throngs of passing feet.
And at the city gates, right hands of statues made of brass
Are worn away by touches of the greeting hands that pass.
And thus we see things dwindle by their being rubbed away-
But what is lost at any given moment we can’t say
Because our stingy sense of sight will never let us see.”

– Lucretius on Creation and Decay, speaking of matter and void, atoms and particles, and how those combined create mass and density of it. From De Rerum Natura, ca 50BC.

For the sake of each other

“Men are born for the sake of each other. So either teach or tolerate.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Another good one, which sums up a lot of his core philosophy…

I find his so called “meditations” a bit of a tough read due to its repetitiveness and dominant focus on death, but it is a journal after all, and the obsession with death perhaps not so strange given how many children he lost. And there a good number of chunks of gold in there, so a good read still.

Still trying to figure out the logical reasoning underneath his stoicism, but I think I finally begin to see it. It’s all about nature, and living in chime with it. Not so sure I agree with that definition of natural, though.

Trying to wrap my head around how to be indifferent and compassionate at the same time. I don’t think that is how nature works, but he differentiates between animals and humans in this. We don’t have the same nature, so to speak, and responding emotionally is ‘beastly’. In a way, I feel that he actually argues for acting unnaturally, against our nature, but he seems to think it is about releasing a different aspect of our nature, not distracted by the material.

That, of course, doesn’t relate much to the above quote, but more to the philosophy expressed in his “meditations”.

As a sidenote, being a journal, some of the passages I like the most, are where his flaws and humanity shines through, with contempt for others and grim darkness taking over, like when he writes:

“Just as you see your bath – all soap, sweat, grime, greasy water, the whole thing disgusting – so is every part of life and every object in it.”

… and

“How worthless are these little men in the public eye who think their actions have anything to do with philosophy! They are full of snot. And who will change their views? Without a change of view, what alternative is there to slavery?”

Clearly, he was struggling, and while much of it seems so serene and… stoic, the odd passage is not and sticks out. He was just a man, struggling with much the same issues as anyone, seeking solace and guidance in philosophy, trying to define things for himself.

Like the early Christians

“… remember too that the happy life depends on very little. And do no think, just because you have given up hope of becoming a philosopher or scientist, you should therefore despair of a free spirit, integrity, social conscience, obedience to god. It is wholly possible to become a divine man, without anybody’s recognition.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”

– The Bible, Acts, Ch 4

“One great difference in our ways is that, like the early Christians, the Indian was a Socialist. The tribe owned the ground, the rivers and the game; only personal property was owned by the individual, and even that, it was considered a shame to greatly increase. For they held that greed grew into crime, and much property made men forget the poor.

… The price of a very rich man is many poor ones, and peace of mind is worth more than railways and skyscrapers. In the Indian life there was no great wealth, so also poverty and starvation were unknown, excepting under the blight of national disaster, against which no system can insure. Without a thought of shame or mendicancy, the young, helpless and aged all were cared for by the nation that, in the days of their strength, they were taught and eager to serve.”

– Ernest Thompson Seton, The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore, 1912

Missing Dirty Dicks

More and more I miss all the odd little shops with the sometimes a bit peculiar shop keepers, the second hand comic book and record stores, the Dirty Dicks and their titty cups and punk stud belts, the local butcher’s with big old ladies calling you “sweetheart”, the antique/vintage/junk stores where you could make bargains because the owner hadn’t googled every damn item, and the over-many-generations family owned hardware stores that had everything you could ask for, including nuts and bolts of odd dimensions a 100 years old in boxes stored everywhere, and many more stores like this. All these are disappearing, pushed out by online shops and rising costs for rent, and even in a city of 600,000 people it is now getting increasingly difficult finding items that are today not in as frequent use in the general population, like e.g traditional Mora knives or just simple bench sharpeners which have been in use for centuries.
 
Everything is bit-by-bit replaced, either with chains and franchise, or by small stores all selling goods from the same suppliers, meaning there is less and less personality and diversity, very little *real* choice, and you commonly find the same things regardless of which city or neighbourhood you go to. It is a terrible side effect of the globalized IT “revolution” in combination with the ever growing corporations and “free” trade. It is slowly transforming itself into a uniform blob of grey mass, in effect not very different from the feared planned economy of the communist states. Of course the upside is that it also opens up the world in other ways, but the close reality is suffering.

Two rules

Always follow these two rules: first, act only on what your reasoning mind proposes for the good of humanity, and second, change your opinion if someone shows you it’s wrong. This change of mind must proceed only from the conviction that it’s both correct and for the common good, but not because it will give you pleasure and make you popular.

– Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

The quote and the art by Martin Schongauer are chosen to represent ideas which revolve around a few different topics. First of all hypocritical kindness to strangers, extending it only for personal benefit. See for instance in Grimnismál where King Geirröd makes a fool of himself by treating his guest, Odin in disquise, unhospitably and badly, and as a consequence loses all of Odin’s support, falling on his own sword, literally. A similar sentiment can maybe be traced in the ultimate betrayal of mankind, not recognizing the Son of Man, neither his divinity, nor his humanity. The outcome is of course different, as the sacrifice of the latter also saves mankind, while the former story is less hopeful. Both, however, revolve around people who unknowingly treat the important and divine badly, in a way they would never have, had they realized who they faced, thus exposing the hypocrisy of it all. Divinity can hide itself under the cover of rags and filth, catching us naked in our false kindness which we only extend to our peers and those above us. True kindness is extended to everyone, expecting nothing in return, not even satisfaction.

Likewise, doing what is good and right, might not make you popular. In fact, it may well do the opposite, as it can expose hypocrisy and guilt in others, leading to anger, and it may well come in conflict with the common norm, with the ideas accepted by the majority, but other’s perception of your actions should not be a factor in your decision making. This however, does not mean you should not listen to others. You should, but always guided by your sense of what is right, while not letting your vanity or pride come in the way.

Weighing your soul

“A person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values”
– – –
“Everything material soon disappears in the substance of the whole; and everything formal [causal] is very soon taken back into the universal reason; and the memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time.”

Marcus Aurelius, on the importance of valuing your spirit and soul over your body’s pleasure, and the divine in you over the ephemeral material, as it is the only thing that truly matters and is in your control.

 

My city

“As Antoninus, my city and country is Rome: as a human being, it is the world”.
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

The greatest seducer

“Vanity is the greatest seducer of reason: when you are most convinced that your work is important, that is when you are most under its spell.”

– Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Truth and authority

“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”

– Galatians 4:16, the Bible

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

– Albert Einsten, in letter to Jost Winteler, ca 1901

Something commonplace and benign, similar to you

The most devious form of extremism is the one that hides in plain sight and masks itself as something else, as something commonplace and benign, similar to you, and thus agreeable and sensible. This you will have great difficulty in distinguishing from yourself and your kin, as they are not likely to be arriving in uniform or wearing symbols that mark them. They will be like your friend, your brother and sister, kind or harsh, witty or boring, funny or serious, clever or dumb, attractive or ugly. Human. And an absolute terror if given the power to unleash their demons.

The best revenge…

“The best revenge is to not be like your enemy.”

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Who stands to gain?

There is a Latin tag “cui prodest?”, meaning “who stands to gain?” When it is not immediately apparent which political or social groups, forces or alignments advocate certain proposals, measures, etc., one should always ask: “Who stands to gain?”
– – –
We live in an age of commerce, when the bourgeoisie have no scruples about trading in honour or conscience.
– – –
Yes, indeed! In politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.

For instance, “Europe”, the states that call themselves “civilised”, are now engaged in a mad armaments hurdle-race. In thousands of ways, in thousands of newspapers, from thousands of pulpits, they shout and clamour about patriotism, culture, native land, peace, and progress—and all in order to justify new expenditures of tens and hundreds of millions of rubles for all manner of weapons of destruction—for guns, dreadnoughts, etc.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” one feels like saying about all these phrases mouthed by patriots, so-called. “Put no faith in phrase-mongering, it is better to see who stands to gain!”

A short while ago the renowned British firm Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. published its annual balance-sheet. The firm is engaged mainly in the manufacture of armaments of various kinds. A profit was shown of £ 877,000, about 8 million rubles, and a dividend of 12.5 per cent was declared! About 900,000 rubles were set aside as reserve capital, and so on and so forth.

That’s where the millions and milliards squeezed out of the workers and peasants for armaments go. Dividends of 12.5 per cent mean that capital is doubled in 8 years. And this is in addition to all kinds of fees to directors, etc. Arm strong in Britain, Krupp in Germany, Creusot in France, Cockerill in Belgium—how many of them are there in all the “civilised” countries? And the countless host of contractors?

These are the ones who stand to gain from the whipping up of chauvinism, from the chatter about “patriotism” (cannon patriotism), about the defence of culture (with weapons destructive of culture) and so forth!

– Pravda No. 84, April 11, 1913, V. I. Lenin

Between 1908 and 1913, the military spending of the European powers increased by 50%. The article was published nine months before WW1 and 4.5 years before the Russian Revolution.

How you are being manipulated

Yet another example of these constant propaganda and media manipulations. Here’s a clip supposedly showing the incompetence of the British police, being completely incapable of handling a knifeman. Comments revolve around immigration, muslims and broken society with coward and weak UK police, and suggesting arming the cops so they can shoot his head off.

What isn’t said is that the short 15 second video was clipped a second before the man is in fact tasered and apprehended without any injuries to anyone. It also doesn’t mention that the man was pepper sprayed before being tasered… And the 15s are shown twice, to make it less apparent that just a tiny bit of the incident is shown. As a result, many perceive it as longer than it really is.

This clip has currently had 1.1 million views on Facebook and has been shared 12,464 times. The same soundless clip is here on YouTube with “funny” music added to it.

The number of police has been criticized, but it seems like this happened fast and was over in minutes, and happened quite central, close to the police station less than 1.8km away, so a lot of cops went out to make sure he couldn’t escape and hurt civilians. Initially we see 10 cops at the scene of an attempted break in that probably has lasted for a bunch of minutes. The police had chased the perpetrator from a nearby garden to this location.

And a bit later, even more cops, unclear when they arrived, join in. At least one car appears to arrive during the incident. This represents about a 25th of the total number of police officers in the Hackney borough, a borough with a population of 269,000 and near 600 officers.

The policemen knew this guy well, knew of his history of mental illness and tried their best in avoiding injuring him, while also keeping the public safe. The perpetrator never really actually attacks anyone and doesn’t even properly stab in the air. He is basically just running towards the policemen several times, while holding the knife back. For a brief moment he looks like he intends to stab towards the police, but changes his mind and turns to another.

Since the area had five routes of escape, the cops tried to trap him by surrounding him. Their first choice was to apply pepper spray, although with batons ready, and then, when that didn’t work, 15 seconds later tasering him and apprehending him. Outside of a bit of stepping in each other’s way, I don’t see any tactical problems here.

I’d rather see too much resources in place than too few, and maybe it was a slow day… And while they weren’t necessarily all needed, it is always easier to judge a situation after it has happened… As bad as the guy with the knife is, he is someone’s son, brother, father or partner. The judging and sentencing comes later and shouldn’t be done by the policemen. Their function is different, to serve and protect, and all…

***

Finding all this out took no more than a handful of minutes, while finding a full clip of the actual event just took seconds. Don’t trust what you are shown! Always dig deeper than the surface!

And here is the full incident, without cuts.

False divisions

Political labels are meaningless other than as banners to rally around, which is their only real value. They can gather people around certain core ideas, but as a whole they rarely match the actual beliefs of any thinking individual, and for a good many people their beliefs overlap several different ideologies, regardless of the labels others and they themselves put on them. In that respect, these labels are also a great hinder for communication and exchange, as they bring false assumptions based on generalizations and lack of actual knowledge of individual beliefs, and enforce false division.

Furthermore, it is perfectly possible to as an individual, be both radical, conservative and progressive in different aspects, all at the same time, thus sharing beliefs and values over the various fences raised between people.

Never making yourself slave or tyrant to any man

Love the art you have learnt, and take comfort in it. Go through the remainder of your life in sincere commitment of all your being to the gods, and never making yourself slave or tyrant to any man.

– Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

The ever ephemeral present

We must always seek to grasp the ever changing present as we walk, inescapably, right next to the abyss of nothingness. It is there in its very ephemerality that wonder hides, and it is that sense of wonder which quickens and heals our souls.

Benefactors and values

It’s a crying shame that a city the size of Gothenburg thinks it can’t afford the cost of keeping the exotic birds, with flamingos, pelicans and smaller more colorful ones, that had been kept in its central park since the 60s. Would really like to see that brought back. These kind of things mean more to people than most seem to realize.
 
I also think the old, strong tradition and culture of patrons and benefactors from business, supporting the city should be brought back again. It should not all about profit. Unfortunately, once companies go national or international, they often lose the local connection and the concern for its roots and its surroundings.

On the importance of role models

While it is something people often leave as they become adults, having good role models in life is hugely important as it allows us to hone our personalities and shape our lives with consciousness and defined intent, while keeping us humble and grateful. Living or dead, fictional or real, they can be prophets, philosophers, leaders, writers, parents or relatives, and if you are truly lucky; your partner or friend.

Each role model can provide you with a template with certain admirable characteristics that guide you in various aspects and contexts of life. And the deeper the insight into your chosen inspiration, the more rigid your understanding of your guide will be. Make sure to choose with great care, as they can also equally well mislead you, if chosen unwisely. And define for yourself what, specifically, you consider important.

Eat it, or leave it in peace

– As a general rule, it is OK to kill anything, if you eat it. Otherwise, leave it be. This goes for the smallest of lives too..

Little son, now looking a bit stressed at that little ant that’s been bugging him…

The destruction of history and whom not to blame

The Scandinavian Union Period, the Georgian Period, or whatever name you give it, which started just a few decades before the Victorians really was terrible in the sense that it started the whole large scale destruction of historical landmarks, tearing down old fortifications and buildings, turning them to rubble. And the same can be seen in so many places in Europe. And while fascists and nazis, old and new, often hated on and blame modernism and late modernity, not least in architecture and art, for this, this brutal destruction of historical landmarks quite clearly predates it by a good number of decades, starting already in the early 1800s.

Of course, this in turn was a result of a neglect over many decades, in turn due to changing times.

The illustration shows Gothenburg in the late 1600s, protected by a 15 meter tall city wall and 13 bastions and 7 ravelins, all of them except for two, and the two city gates, torn down in ca 1815-20.

Value that could have been

Every single person is important, as each and everyone carries potential for greatness. Not everyone realizes or wishes to recognize this though, thus voiding their importance, and stripping away value that could have been.

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall meet people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous, malicious, unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what is right, and the nature of evil is what is wrong, and I have reflected that the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own – not a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragment of divinity. Therefore, I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none will infect me with their wrong. Nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work in opposition to one another is against nature: and anger or rejection is opposition.

Self-harm, my soul, you are doing self-harm: and you will have no more opportunity for self-respect. Life for each of us is a mere moment, and this life of yours is nearly over, while you still show yourself no honour, but let your own welfare depend on other people’s souls.

– Meditations, Marcus Aurelius

Stand for something, or fall for anything

We are trying to show him not only what we are fighting against, but what we are fighting for. So many of these boys have only a very hazy idea of the real issues of the war. About all they see is “going back to the good old days.” This is a dangerous state. If they don’t stand for something, they will fall for anything. They need to realize that we are fighting two wars—the war of arms and the war of ideas—that other war of which the war of arms is one phase.

– Dr. Gordon A. Eadie on Mental Health needs for war veterans,  using a Boston saying on “standing for something”, January 1945

Negative naïveté

Just as there is a certain positive naïveté when looking at the world and society, there is also a negative one and the half-empty glass analogy is getting more and more relevant as more and more people seem to be changing towards the half empty outlook, rather than the opposite, never seeing the good, only the bad. And this inevitably leads to a very volatile combination of a sense of entitlement, fear, paranoia, and a corrosive loss of hope.

That combination in return can be exploited by redirecting it towards weak targets, by offering just a sliver of hope to the greater majority if we only exclude the few. Again, this is a cancer that feeds on itself, as once we exclude those, another minority will just take their place. And another, and another, looking for smaller and smaller differences that set us apart, seeking a forever unreachable uniformity rooted in a falsified image of history, while constantly making us weaker, poorer and less adaptable in the process.

And worse, promoting this image of half-emptiness will also nurture a certain kind of semi-paranoid sociopathic behavior with people who deem the current system broken beyond fixing, hoping for, and seeking, a complete violent breakdown of society so it can be rebooted with only the strong and pure, free from corruption and disease. We see these people everywhere around us now, waiting excitedly for the Ragnarök and a new dawn of man. And not just waiting, but acting to further the rapid breakdown of society, in a twisted attempt at conserving it.

Conservation, preservation and reconstruction

While the words carry somewhat different connotations in different contexts, conservation, preservation and reconstruction are not exchangeable terms, not in any part of life. In socio-cultural context, conservation seeks the static and to inhibit natural processes. Preservation protects and safeguards things that otherwise would be corrupted or would eventually disappear, but lets it live its natural life, while reconstruction will always be different to the original it seeks to reconstruct and more commonly than not is, in form, heavily influenced by contemporary ideals and not ideals of the time of its origin.

Ravening wolves

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

– Matthew 7:15-17

Water will smooth a rock

Just as water will smooth a rock, with time we will figure out the way forward, as the population growth that came with industrialism and the great medical advances of the 19th and 20th cent eases off. We will likely need to try looking at new and different models though, and to strive for decentralization and ruralization, truly putting power back in the hands of the majority, preferably in a controlled and peaceful fashion, as the alternative will likely be extremely damaging to all and can lead to horrible results very distant from what is needed.

None of this can happen peacefully without a common trust in those in control of these processes and the tools used, and currently that trust has been made dangerously weak, making violent change all the more likely. Belief in ethical behavior needs to permeate all of society, or at a minimum, there has to be a belief that it does, or it will collapse. And hope. Hope that change and improvement is possible, because not believing in this makes us extremely vulnerable and exploitable to false prophets. Devious lies will always be sexier than the truth.

What mighty power there is in a drop of water

He became thirsty and went to his favorite brook in the hills, to take a drink. As he was drawing the crystal clear water in his palm and putting it to his mouth, something caught his eye.

He saw drops of water falling on a huge stone – drip, drop – and directly where the drops were falling, there was a deep hole in the stone. Akiba was fascinated. He gazed at the drops, and at the stone.

“What mighty power there is in a drop of water, the shepherd thought.” “Could my stony heart ever be softened up that way?”

– About Rabbi Akiba, from D’Rabbi Natan, retold by Nissan Mindel

Well-being and its two sides

In well-being lies both something important, but also fundamentally dangerous, as a sense of satisfaction can be positive and inspiring, but complacency can lead to fossilization and stop growth.

Isms and the chimera

The idea of free market capitalism can really only work well at smaller scale. At larger scale, and especially when deeply connected with an overly regulatory state, and with national politics closely tied to business politics leading to large corporation subsidies, it bears little difference to corrupt communist planned economy, making the two, in pragmatic terms of people’s freedom and influence, nearly indistinguishable underneath the surface.
 
The same thing is also true for socialism and most other isms. The larger the scale, the greater the size and number of flaws. And this is the failure with most political models. They were devised long ago, for societies of a far smaller scale with very different circumstances. While they can work at small scale, it just does not as a large state. Likewise, this is also how much of our freedom of choice is largely chimeric, a core flaw thus far masked under a “good enough” existence and having the luxury of choosing the same crap, sold under various brand names owned by the very same people. Consumerism is not actual freedom, but commonly confused with it.
 
The key issue is scale and how it inevitably leads to disenfranchisement, to a disconnect and dehumanization of the “others”, meaning you can exploit them for your own purposes with little consequence, or completely disregard them or their need for help, this since you don’t perceive yourself as dependent on them, and vice versa.
 
This however, does not mean that all is without hope. Striving for good brings good things, and a society where we aim to look after each other, to help without any expectations of personal gain, makes us stronger together, and that sense of strength can also regulate the state, restraining it from violating their given trust too much. Conversely, a state can also seek to break that sense of unity in order to avoid that popular regulation. Sooner or later though, it is a tactic doomed to fail.
 
This is what Machiavelli spoke of when he said.
 
What’s more, a king can never be safe if the common people are hostile to him, because there are so many of them, but he can protect himself against the nobles, since there are not so many.
A man who becomes king with the support of the people, then, must keep those people on his side. This is easy enough since all they want is to be free from oppression.
While the fact that all political models were designed for much smaller populations living under very different circumstances is one of the core issues with modern society, it is also important to keep in mind that that scale, with dramatically boosted population in just 150 years, is a result of the success of the modern society. We are healthier, in many ways freer, better educated, and have more possibilities than ever before in history.
 
That comes at a cost though, and we are still learning how to minimize that cost. And this has to be allowed to take time, even if it has quite negative effects meanwhile, not least since the factors associated with it are constantly changing and evolving. Furthermore, with a turn away from religion and close-knit families staying in tight geographic areas, we are also struggling to redefine social ties, safety and even happiness itself, seeking it in more and finer possessions, in travelling, in love and in sex, in drugs, in virtual realities, in expression and more, often not even asking ourselves what being happy and satisfied actually means, and thus not really knowing where to look for it, often just satisfying the body, but not the soul.

On Rulers and the ruled

We are condemned now to rule people who do not want to be ruled by us. I have fears about the kind of seeds we will sow in the near future in the hearts of the occupied. Even more, I have fears about the seed that will be planted in the hearts of the occupiers.

– Amos Oz

The leash and the range of freedom

We don’t grasp the true range of freedom and possibilities until we look beyond the reach of the leash we let ourselves be controlled by.

Terrorism and Japan

Every now and then I see a post about Japan not having any Islamic terrorism, implying that their strict immigration policy and fairly uniform ethnicity keeps the nation safe, and yes it is true that Islamic terrorism in Japan is extremely rare, with a single islamic terrorism incident over the last few decades.

However, Islamic attacks on Tokyo would make about as much sense as the IRA bombing Tokyo, given that Japan is not considered an enemy to Islamists… And more importantly, their uniformity does not mean that the Japanese don’t suffer terrorism or mass attacks. Extreme left wing activists did multiple attacks in the 70s, the nationalist right in the 80s and onwards (with 23 attacks in 2002-2003 alone, and let’s not forget the 600 people injured in the Matsumoto sarin attack in -94, the 5,500 people who went to hospital after the sarin attack in the subway of Tokyo in -95, the 67 injured in the Wakayama arsenic attack of -98, or the nail bomb attack in Sapporo in 2000, or the man stabbing eight people to death in a school in Ikeda, or the man driving a truck into a crowd and then stabbing people in Tokyo in 2008, or the man who stabbed a number of people in Ibaraki in 2010, or the man who wounded 20 and stabbed 19 people to death in 2015 at a handicap facility. Mass murder is not a rare thing in Japan, despite the low numbers of muslims.

National pride and diversity

National pride and cohesion can also be built on diversity, inclusiveness, liberty and acceptance of differences, together building a greater whole. Conversely, forced driving towards strict monoculture and uniformity, can lead to both increased internal conflict and disenfranchisement, due to a growingly oppressive state, with stricter and stricter control of thought, expression and behaviour, and through this cause an eventual disintegration of both nation and empire. In short, nationalism can also, ironically, become a threat against the very thing it is seeking to protect and preserve.

Just as full equality can never be achieved, neither can full uniformity lead to complete unity. As you peel away the things that stand out, new layers with finer peculiarities will just take their place and there will always be someone at the bottom to kick around. Conformity eats itself like a cancer. The division stays the same, only the scale changes. And sooner or later many of those who are currently doing the kicking will find themselves at the bottom, receiving the kicking. True acceptance of and appreciation for diversity builds strength and adaptability.

On the percentage of immigrants in Sweden

As fear mongering about foreigners is still happening, and conciously done with inflated numbers, bunching a lot of people into a seemingly homogenous group, it is high time to break down the numbers in more detail. These are the actual statistics from 2014, for how many people living in Sweden were born in another country. It is still not 21-25% as is commonly argued.

The numbers include people who came many decades ago, during ww2, people who come to study, to work etc, and a very good chunk of them are other Scandinavians or Europeans. In fact about a third are other Scandinavians and about another third from Europe. Only a tiny minory are from the Middle-East or Africa, and we get muslims from Europe, just as we get Christians from other parts of the world.

These numbers include people who have come here through marriage and adoption, as students, for work & business, as refugees & relatives and just as unspecified migration. Obviously though, asylum seekers by far outnumber work migrants in the Middle-Eastern and African groups.

According to this out of the 16.5% that are born in another country, the division is like this:

2.5% of our total population are born in Scandinavia outside of Sweden
5% of our total population are born in Europe

3.9% of our total population are born in the “Middle-East”; e.g United-Arab Emirates, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Gaza, Afganistan or Turkey

2% of our total population are born in Asia, not counting countries that are commonly regarded as “Middle-Eastern (see above)

1.7% of our total population are born in Africa

0.3% of our total population are born in North America
0.7% of our total population are born in South America

______________________________________________

Breakdown of biggest nationalities above 10 000 people.

Finland 158 488
Denmark 42 374
Norway 42 301

Poland 81 697
Yugoslavia 67 892
Bosnia & Hercegovina 57 289
Germany 49 359
Romania 24 666
Great Britain & Northern Ireland 24 399
Greece 15 176

Iraq 130 178
Iran 68 436
Syria 67 671
Turkey 46 146
Afghanistan 28 443
Lebanon 25 699

Thailand 38 129
China 28 699
India 21 929
Russia 19 028
Vietnam 16 629

Somalia 57 906
Eritrea 21 827
Ethiopia 16 145

Chile 28 216
Colombia 11 709

Also, closely connected to this is the makeup of these groups and the reasons why they come, as refugees, to work or to study:

Included in the list of people born outside of Sweden but living here are those who intend to stay more than one year. 16.5% of our population was included in this, divided accordingly

2.5% of our total population are born in Scandinavia outside of Sweden
5% of our total population are born in Europe
3.9% of our total population are born in the “Middle-East”; e.g United-Arab Emirates, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Gaza, Afganistan or Turkey
2% of our total population are born in Asia, not counting countries that are commonly regarded as “Middle-Eastern (see above)
1.7% of our total population are born in Africa
0.3% of our total population are born in North America
0.7% of our total population are born in South America

For better understanding what all this means, the absolute majority of those listed from Europe, North-America and Asia, including Iran, Turkey and India, come here for work or to study, meaning they do not come to stay and will return to their home countries. Not counting those from ex-Yugoslavia and the Balkan Wars of the 90s of course.

In those numbers are also counted people who have lived here more than 50 years, for example the 158 488 Finns, of which 75% are 45+ years old and the majority coming in the 60s and 70s.

Out of the 105 102 foreigners who were given resident permit in Sweden in 2010 76% (70 718) belonged to these later categories, work, study, adoption, next-of-kin (non-refugee related) and just visiting. 14% (15 296) were given resident permit as asylum seekers or relatives of asylum seekers.

Looking at Iran, Iraq and “Other Countries” we also see the following:

90% (4 661) of those given a resident permit coming from Iran was for work, study or for visiting.
53% (2 645) of those given a resident permit coming from Iraq was for work, study or for visiting.
88% (47 379) of those given a resident permit coming from “other countries” was for work, study or for visiting.

One category is difficult to analyze though; “relatives” that aren’t connected to refugees. If we would count that as belonging to non-work-related immigration we wold get the following:

76% (3 940) of those given a resident permit coming from Iran was for work, study or for visiting.
12% (907) of those given a resident permit coming from Iraq was for work, study or for visiting.
64% (34 140) of those given a resident permit coming from “other countries” was for work, study or for visiting.

This has changed drastically in late 2014 though and the desperate Syrian crisis needs to be handled by Europe, Asia, the Middle-East and hopefully North-America too.

Of course, and for obvious reasons, many Syrians have arrived since 2014 and are currently awaiting decisions on their applications. The crisis intensified with the war in Syria and we had a lot of people coming in a very short period of time. 51 338 Syrians sought asylum in 2015 alone. About half of the total asylum seekers here in Sweden were granted asylum in 2015, although of course others who live here are waiting for a decision to be made, and others have stayed illegally when having their application rejected. For the Syrians specifically the numbers for approved asylum seekers are:

2015: 18 523
2016: 48 594

Adding a total of 67,117 Syrian refugees granted asylum in those two years. A number of them are likely to return again if the war settles, as has happened with other refugees. And since many of them have not been given permanent residency. Almost no Syrians have their applications rejected given the extreme circumstances they are coming from. They also make up +90% of the approved applications.

Also noteworthy is that changes in law mean that while people are granted asylum, it does not give automatic permanent residency. Since June 2016 a refugee is given a temporary 3-year residency, while people in need of protection are given a 13-month residency only. 75% of the approved asylum seekers belong to the latter category.

Likewise next-of-kin immigration is now also much more tightly restricted.

On civilizations

Manufacture, growth and expansion do not in any way equate to high degree of civilization or culture. A complex and highly civilized culture can exist with very little technology, and vice versa.

Kindness and hope

So, woke up on a cold, rainy morning with an extra blanket that I hadn’t on when I went to bed. It’s good to have a sweet caring wife. She’s my guiding light and has been so for nearly 25 years now. She’s the kind of woman who has dedicated her life to helping kids and people learn, the kind of woman who also donates a substantial amount to charity every month, even when times are tough. The kind of woman who adopted two lonely elders in our house, visited them regularly, helped them, even bought bags full of goodies and traditional foods for the bigger holidays. If only more people were like her, especially a few of those who talk big about the horrors of our society, but never, ever do anything good or actually important. We need more proper social justice warriors, and we need to believe in the possibility that we can make things better. We need that hope, or we are truly lost.

Masked cages

Watching the US is a lot like watching a kidnapping in progress, from a distance. Good people in the hands of some really evil and greedy fucks, but only some realize, or *want* to realize, what is going on. It’s a lovely country that I long to revisit, and I really like the people a LOT, but at the same time I am also glad I am not American with all the smoke and mirrors masking cages as freedom. It makes me sad to see friends caught in this confusing flux though.

Other countries are heading in the same direction, but the US always seems to be a bit ahead in this kind of extremism, perhaps partly due to the propaganda that has been connected with it ever since the 19th cent and especially since WW2. It is getting very hard to see a deeper difference between corrupted modern socialist and communist states, republics and Renaissance monarchies, with true freedom being a chimera in these corrupted systems, all of them instead giving us decorated and pretty dog collars that allow us free movement within the distance of the leash.

A big part of the problem, regardless of system, is numbers. Number of people, which has grown madly over the last 150 years, in a way that is beyond any comparison in history. And this combined with how good, decent people, with a strong sense of duty, stay calm as long as life is “good enough” and seemingly largely undisturbed by those in power, means that those in power, who are ultimately rather few, can work and exploit the great numbers of people just a little each, literally feeding them sugared shit and surrounding them with crap so profit can be maximized, with no pride in anything but profit, something which with large numbers of people will add up to insane amounts, and yet leaves most people largely undisturbed, not realizing what is happening.

But this mellowness and simple satisfaction combined with the great numbers also inevitably leads to disenfranchisement and ever growing dissatisfaction and outright anger among some, where some of the latter also gets directed in the wrong direction, kicking downwards as it is easier and feels good. And this is where things get really dangerous and volatile, with the risk of igniting either a reaction against those in power, or a reinforcement of their strength and control, shifting blame towards the weaker, and building a truly authoritarian “fascist” state. Currently things seem to be moving towards the latter in a great many places. Just as planned.

Assessing a state’s strength

“German cities are completely independent, don’t have much territory around them and obey the emperor only when it suits. They are not afraid of him, nor any other powerful rulers in the area. This is because these towns are so well fortified that everyone realizes what an ardous wearisome business it would be to attack them. They all have properly sized moats and walls; they have the necessary artillery; they have public warehouses with food, drink and firewood for a year; what’s more, to keep people well fed without draining the public purse, they stock materials for a year’s worth of work in whatever trades are the lifeblood of the city and whatever jobs the common folk earn their keep with. They hold military exercises in high regard and make all kinds of arrangements to make sure they are routinely practiced.”

– Niccoló Machiavelli on Assessing a state’s strength.

On monarchy with public support

A king who comes to power with the help of the rich nobles will have more trouble keeping it than the king who gets there with the support of the people, because he is surrounded by men who considers themselves his equals, and that will make it hard for him to give them orders or to manage affairs as he wants.

But a man coming to power with the support of the common people holds it alone and has no one, or hardly anyone, around him who is unwilling to obey. What’s more, you can’t in good faith give the nobles what they want without doing harm to others, but you can with the people. Because the people’s aspirations are more honourable than the nobles: the nobles want to oppress the people, while the people want to be free from oppression.

What’s more, a king can never be safe if the common people are hostile to him, because there are so many of them, but he can protect himself against the nobles, since there are not so many.

A man who becomes king with the support of the people, then, must keep those people on his side. This is easy enough since all they want is to be free from oppression.

-Niccoló Machiavelli on monarchy with public support

On States won by the new ruler’s own forces and abilities

…nothing is harder to organize, more likely to fail, or more dangerous to see through, than the introduction of a new system of government. The person bringing in the changes will make enemies of everyone who was doing well under the old system, while the people who stand to gain from the new arrangements will not offer whole-hearted support, partly because they are afraid of their opponents, who still have the laws on their side, and partly because people are naturally skeptical: no one really believes in change until they have solid experience of it. So as soon as the opponents of the new system see a chance, they’ll go on the offenseive with the determination of an embattled faction, while the supporters will offer only half-hearted resistance, something that will put the new rulers’s position at risk too.

…on top of everything else we must remember that it is easy to convince people of something, but hard to keep them convinced. So when they stop believing in you, you must be in a position to force them to believe.”

-Niccoló Machiavelli on States won by the new ruler’s own forces and abilities

On establishing new monarchies in territories with different language and culture

If, on the other hand, you decide to send an occupying army rather than establish colonies, the operation will be far more expensive and all the revenues from the new territories will be used up in defending it, turning what should have been a gain into a loss. And you’ll provoke more hostility: An army moving about requisitioning lodgings will do damage across the entire territory, something that has consequences for the whole population and turns them all into enemies. And these are enemies who can hit back, people beaten but still on their own ground.

– Niccoló Machiavelli on establishing new monarchies in territories with different language and culture

On new monarchies

…men are quick to change ruler when they imagine they can improve their lot – it is this conviction that prompts them to take up arms and rebel – then later they discover they were wrong and that things have got worse rather than better.

So not only do you make enemies of those whose interests you damaged… but you can’t even keep the friendship of the people who helped you take power, this for the simple reason that you can’t give them as much as they expected.

– Niccoló Machiavelli on new monarchies

In the company of ghosts

Come evening, I walk home and go into my study. In the passage I take off my ordinary clothes, caked with mud and slime, and put on my formal palace gowns. Then when I am properly dressed I take my place in the courts of the past where the ancients welcome me kindly and I eat my fill of the only food that is really mine and that I was born for, I’m quite at ease talking to them and asking them why they did the things they did, and they are generous with their answers. So for four hours at a time I feel no pain, I forget all my worries. I’m not afraid of poverty and death doesn’t frighten me. I put myself entirely in their minds.

– Machiavelli, private letter to a friend

Politics and disconnect

So much in politics and society depend on disconnect. Much like it is easier for most people to kill at a distance, dropping a bomb from 30,000ft rather than killing up close with a knife or club, it is also far easier to argue against free healthcare, social benefits, foreign aid and refugees when you don’t see the consequences up close, with the actual suffering caused.

Ideally, everyone who makes the decisions should be forced to get a taste of the up close experience first. I’d even extend it to anyone who likes to express an opinion, at least if you desire influence on things. Theoretical ideas disconnected from reality are always potentially very dangerous

Despise no man of low birth, nor of small stature

Therefore, dear son Alexander, despise no man of low birth, nor of small stature, if you see any science or any wisdom in him, and if he also has good behaviour and manners in him, and keeps from vices. Anyone so well-mannered is worthy to be loved by princes and kings. And you should do nothing without counseling. And I pray, dear son, that you love him that love truth & who counsel you faithfully and sometimes in opposition to your opinion. For such a man is steadfast of courage, faithful & just to you & your subjects. And the counsel of such a man is good for the governance of the king & of his realm.

***

Therefore dere sone Alexander dyspyse no man of lowe byrthe nor of small stature yf thou se ony scyence or ony wysdome in hym, and that he have also cood condycyons and maners in hym, and dooth exchewe vyces. Suche one so wel manered is worthy to be loved of prynces and kynges. And thou ought for to do nothynge without councell. And I pray the dere sone that thou love hym that loveth trouthe & that counceleth the faythfully & somtyme contrary to thyn opynyon. For suche a man is stedfast of courage, faythfull & Just to the & thy subgectes. And the councel of such a man is good to the governayle of the kynge & of his realme.”

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, 10th cent. (in modern and 1528 translation)

Do not break your trust

Above all things (dear son) beware that you do not break your trust and the oaths that you have made. For it belongs to violators and whores, and also to people that do not keep, nor care for their trust and oath. Wherefore keep your trust that you have promised, for and if you do otherwise, it will come to an evil end at last.

And if you break your trust, you shall be regarded by every man as a child or a brute beast so beware thereof.

And if you wish to know what was the destruction of Nubia and the Assyrians, I certify that their king made oaths deceitfully, to deceive the men and citizens next by. And broke his alliances and promises that he had made, because they were profitable to his realm. And also to his subjects he made many false oaths to destroy their next neighbours. The righteous Judge could sustain nor suffer them no longer.

***

Above all thynge (dere sone) beware that thou breke not thy faythe and othe that thou hast made. For it is belongynge to strompettes, and also to people that kepe not, nor do not care for theyre faythe and othe. Wherfore kepe thy faythe that thou hast promysed, for and yf that thou do otherwyse, it wyll come to an evyll ende at the last.

And yf thou breke thy fayth thou shalt be reputed of every man as a chylde or a brute beest than beware therof.

And yf thou wylt wyte what was the destruccyon of Nubye, and of the assyryens. I certyfye the that theyr kynge made othes gylefully, to deceyve the men and cytezens next by. And brake his alyaunces and promysses that he had made, bycause they were profytable to his realme. And also to his subgectes he made many fals othes to destroy theyr next neyghboures. The ryghtwyse Juge coude susteyne nor suffre them no longer.

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, 10th cent, (and 1528 translation)

Think and inquire oftentimes about your poor subjects

I require you, sweet son, that you out of your goodness, think and inquire oftentimes about your poor subjects, and know their necessities. And set among them such men as be virtuous and who love god and Justice and who know their manners, and understand their way of speaking, and can govern them peaceably and in love. And if you do it in that way, you shall do the pleasure of your Creator, And it shall be a safeguarde to your realm, and gladness of you and your people.

***

I requyre the swete sone that thou of thy goodnesse thynke and inquyre oftentymes of thy poore subgectes, and knowe theyr necessytees. And set amonge them suche men as be vertuous and that loveth god and Justyce and that knoweth theyr maners, and understandeth theyr speches, and can governe them peasybly and in love. And yf thou do thus, thou shalt do the pleasure of thy creatoure. And it shall be saufegarde to thy realme, and gladnesse of the and thy people.

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, 10th cent, (and 1528 translation)

Covet not always worldy things, for they are corruptible

Alexander right worthy son, covet not always worldy things, for they are corruptible. And know that you must leave everything. Desire then such things that can not corrupt. That is the life that can not change and the eternal realm. And raise your thoughts in goodness, and therein keep yourself strong and glorious. And leave the life of beasts that always live in their filthiness. Believe not lightly all things that are told to you.

***

Alexander ryght worthy sone, coveyt not alwayes worldly thynges, for they be corruptyble. And thynke that thou must leave all. Demaunde than suche thynges as can not be corrupte. That is the lyfe that can not chaunge and the relme perdurable. And reyse thy thoughts in goodnesse, and therin kepe the stronge & gloryous. And leave the lyfe of bestes that alwaye lyve in theyr fylthynesse. Beleve not lyghtly al thynge that is tolde to thee

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, 10th century, (and 1528 translation)

When the king speaks but little

Sweet son Alexander it is a good thing precious, and honourable when the king speaks but little, but if ever great need require it. It is better that the ears of the people be willing to hear the words of a king, than to be weary of his too much speaking. For when the ears be glutted with the king’s speech (and twittering) their hearts be weary to see him.

***

Swete sone Alexander it is a goodly thyng precyous, and honourable whan the kynge speketh but lytell. But yf over grete nede requyre it. It is better that the eeres of the people be wylling to here the wordes of a kynge, than to be wery of his to moche spekyng. For whan the eeres be glutted with the kynges speche theyr hertes be wery to se hym.

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, from Kitab Sirr al-Asrar, 10th cent, (2nd passage from 1528 translation).

A piece of advice more than a few rulers could learn from today…

Cause all your people to learn their children letters

Take heed that you have studies and schools in your cities. And cause all your people to learn their children letters and noble sciences, and use them to study. For you ought to help and succor the governance of studies and poor scholars. And give advantages and prerogatives to good students that profit to their learning…

***

Take hede that thou have studyes and scoles in thy cytees. And cause all thy people to lerne theyr chyldren lettres and noble scyences, and use them to studye. For thou ought to helpe and socoure the governayle of studyes and poore scolers. And gyve avauntages and prerogatyves to good studyentes that proufyte to theyr lernynge…

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, Kitab Sirr Aal-Asrar, 10th century, and the 1528 translation

Give as your power will to them that have need

And then you ought to give as your power will (by measure) to them that have need, and be glad of it. For he that gives otherwise he breaks the rule of largess and charity. And he that gives his goods to him that has no need, he gets no thanks. And all that he gives to them that be not glad of it, is lost. And he that spends his goods outrageously, shall soon come to the wildest edge of poverty, and is like him that gives victory to his enemies over him. But a king that gives his goods measurably to them that have need, is liberal to himself and his subjects. And his realm shall come to great prosperity, and his commandment shall be fulfilled.

– Aristotle to Alexander the Great, Kitab Sirr Al-Asrar, 10th cent

Devouring

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

– Galatians 5:15

On free speech

Very few of the people who claim to stand for completely free speech actually do want completely free speech. It is just a matter of where the line is drawn, not a matter of if a line should be drawn at all.

The perfect polarity of black skies

There are things I miss from my childhood on my home island up north, and it usually revolves around nature and seasons, like the perfect polarity of black skies and white ground in winter, and now in spring; the breaking of the ice on the strait, and the ground frost kissing the old dirt roads good bye.

On elitism

Elitism will only appeal to those who feel included and part of it and will only be respected by the masses as long as it speaks gently to them, although the respect can be intact, even reinforced, as long as it is unkind only to a small outsider minority. Inevitably though, the mask will fall off, with the ugliness behind becoming apparent and that same unkindness and contempt extended to the masses, by the self-righteous “elite” that seeks to rule them.

The childish and savage taste of men and women

The childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns keeps how many shaking and squinting through kaleidoscopes that they may discover the particular figure which this generation requires today. The manufacturers have learned that this taste is merely whimsical. Of two patterns which differ only by a few threads more or less of a particular color, the one will be sold readily, the other lie on the shelf, though it frequently happens that after the lapse of a season the latter becomes the most fashionable.

Comparatively, tattooing is not the hideous custom which it is called. It is not barbarous merely because the printing is skin-deep and unalterable.

– Walden, and other things. Henry David Thoreau

In other words he considered a tattoo a strong individual statement based on firm conviction, while fashion meant submitting to the wills of others and a sign of a weak identity.

Of course there is fashion in tattoos too, so it is not that simple. And there are fashionable people who don’t care neither for established traditions, nor what others wear, and Thoreau would also have been part of some form of fashion, even if it was traditionally conservative and he thus didn’t consider it as such. It’s all in the why and the how. Both are a social message and/or a message to oneself, so it depends on what the message is and why it is sent. Neither can be neutral and message-free.

On modern and classical art

So, modern art sucks in comparison to medieval and Renaissance art, huh? I strongly disagree for a number of reasons.

First, of all what we consider art and artists were not quite what we define them as today. Most art was illustrative, depicting scenes, or more importantly, portraits, and made on order from the rich or the Church. And much of it was also quite topically boring, with little relevance today outside of its display of technical skill. It has mostly lost its original meaning to people who today largely admire it for very different reasons. What once carried meaning through its symbolism and intentional references, has become merely decorative and “pretty”. That said, there is still a great amount of artwork from history that is important and valuable for a great many different reasons.

Still, these pieces of art were painted by painters, not artists, which was a proper *profession*, like any craftsmen in the guilds. And this required study of technique and knowing certain symbolism. And it was strictly regulated by conventions, where even slight derivations from these were considered grave. This was true for centuries. Durer’s use of the divine frontal stance for his self-portrait is just one such at the time very controversial example. Early modern art, like Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters and Manet’s Olympia are examples of the same, considered quite harmless and even beautiful today. Controversial artwork was not seldom assaulted and burned or otherwise ruined.

Art in the medieval and Renaissance period too could be quite ugly and even surreal at times. And certainly also bad, even if it would be far more difficult to sell, and little of the bad art remains for us to see today, although you can certainly find it of you look for it. There are a whole lot of technically skilled but merely decorative doodles with no real value. It just doesn’t get displayed at museums.

And the depictions of the madness of the times, with war and slaughter are still often quite disturbing. In fact, it could be argued that the seeds of modern art are to be found in this period already, first stepping away from the divine and beautification towards the real and objectivity, towards science, and later towards subjectivity and experience, although one could also argue that there is no single point in history but a continuous evolution that could not happen any differently.

However, with the invention of photography, much of this becomes, not irrelevant, but far less important and interesting. Why paint realistically, when you can take a quick picture of the same? It is no coincidence that this period of early photography also launches an explosion of art movements, and we are all the richer for it. This is where artistry really become defined as a concept, as interpreters and expressors of thought, filtered through their personalities and leading to impressionism, expressionism, pointillism, surrealism, cubism, futurism, dadaism, etc, etc. Another great misunderstanding is that modern artists can’t paint. A great many of them were/are schooled in realism first, but then choose to do other, to them and others, more interesting things. They are perfectly capable of realism though, which you easily see when browsing their body of work.

Of course, the fascists and the nazis hated the modern art and modernism, with all it stood for, and I am very glad they lost the war. Personally, I am very happy that our global culture is so rich and has evolved the way it has in this respect, with a fantastic diversity in expression and flavour. I feel the same about food. I would hate to live on mostly grain and potatos, with the rare chance of fish and meat, which was the traditional sustenance for the common man, for much of our history.

***

And some loose comments from debating this: I also do think that quality is a difficult thing to measure and it is about more than just technique. It is about having a feeling, an “eye” for it, that works on symmetry/asymmetry, on composition and extension of lines and relationship between elements, about colour, contrast and complement. All of these things combine into giving quality.

Of course it is easier to hide lack of skill with non-realistic art. Quality though, is not really easier to provide.

Also, we mustn’t confuse decorative art with meaningful art. This mistake I think is very common. Non-figurative art is commonly more akin to ornamental art in history, which is a type of art that is over-abundant, but little discussed and known by most people.

I too think comics are a bit of a forgotten kind of art in this and I have a deep respect for it, not least the more serious works where years are spent on each book, working in water colours etc. Framed, much of it would be considered pure, traditional art.

Modern art is a loose definition these days though. The majority of the works shown above are all considered “modern art”, and the borders are fuzzy towards the Renaissance and the Middle Ages in some cases… People tend to think more about boobs dipped in paint and pressed against canvas though.

***

Finally, some examples of fantastic modern art. Enjoy.

 

Acquiring knowledge in the current age

As much as I like the good things that have come with it, I think we are now finally seeing the results of the Google generations. Knowledge used to be difficult and hard to gain, requiring going to school and university for years, or to libraries, and digging through archives, registries and hundreds if not thousands of books in a lifetime, line by line. Today, for good and bad, it is very different, and data is just a keyword entry away.

However, as online debates move quickly, and are commonly not based on *actual* knowledge, but rather on quickly and superficially collected data, this data is never really given any in depth analysis, and the sources it is collected from is never really read in full, no matter if it is a simple blog or a full scientific/academic report. This superficial and incomplete “knowledge” is with time amassed, forming a block of believed “truths”, built on often misinterpreted or mismatched uncorrelated data, and not seldom contradicted by the very sources the data is collected from.

Inevitably this disconnect leads to a belief that the self-collected “knowledge” is as valid as formal research, because the data is there, “available” to everyone, and also to conflicts and even a, in places, growing disregard for science and academia. In fact self-collected knowledge is even considered *better*, as the education received at school and university is seen as rooted in political indoctrination, whilst the personal views are “objective” and untainted.

This is exactly what was debated and feared by teachers about 20 years ago, seeing how pupils believed everything they found online, never thinking deeper about what they read. And here we are, with those kids in their 30s now. Knowledge has turned into a consumer product that we get quickly, use and then lose, with everyone briefly being knowledgeable on the latest chosen topic of discussion.

Simply put: Take your time, don’t cherry-pick, and check your sources.

Those magical moments of solitude

Really missing the woods now and all those magical moments of solitude; the talkative raven, that lone hooting owl above me at night, the singing ice, the dancing fog rolling out over the lake from the swamp at 5 in the morning, the smell of pine resin and fire, and of dried pine needles in the sun, and the sound of nothing but the wind in the trees, how the wind calms down in the evening, and the bats flying over the lake at twilight. Unfortunately I am tied up with numerous obligations, but soon… I have to. Maybe you do too, without knowing it.

On compromises

Compromises are important, but can also lead to accepting evil, hoping it will lead to something better. Commonly though, it does not.

A fart curse

Write these staves on white calfskin with your own blood; take the blood from your thigh and say:

I write you eight áss-runes, nine naudh-runes, thirteen thurs-runes – that will plague thy belly with bad shit and gas, and all of these will plague thy belly with great farting. May it loosen thee from thy place and burst thy guts; may thy farting never stop, neither day or night, thou wilt be as weak as the fiend Loki, who was bound by all the gods; in thy mightiest name Lord, God, Spirit, Shaper, Ódhinn, Thórr, Saviour, Frey, Freyja, Oper, Satan, Beelzebub, helpers, mighty god, warding with the companions of Oteos, Mors, Notke, Vitales”

– Galdrabók, late 16th -17th cent.

Looking away

Every time you look away you lose another bit of your compassion

Compassion is not, I believe, a hindrance in moral decision making. In fact I think it is crucial even, and lack thereof inevitably leads to flawed decisions. And it is not just about political decision making, but also about everyday life.

However, I also think that losing compassion is one of the many methods of the human psyche to cope with the brutalities of reality, which is why many soldiers, cops, firemen and ambulance staff end up with some pretty rough humor and in some cases a distinct distancing from the people they attend to.

Politicians and other decision makers often go down a similar route, but I think for very different reasons, more to do with personal comfort. And many “civilians” go down the same route. Which leads to no one but a rare few checking up on that homeless person lying on the ground in near subzero temperatures.

To be clear, I am not taking any moral highground here. I do this too. It is impossible to care all the time, but it is also easy to take the easy way out.

And I find it striking how insensitivized we unknowingly are and how different it can be. I remember watching a documentary, some years ago, showing a travelling bus cinema where the owner travelled between rural villages in India to show Bollywood action movies, and in recluse villages people were actually completely shocked and very naseous from the fairly “harmless” violence on display; the odd fist fights, some shooting, but no blood or bruising and mixed with dancing and singing. These people were completely unexposed to violence and had never seen any, nor any movies. And they felt assaulted, with the majority leaving mid-movie. It was pretty disturbing in many ways.

Regarding honour and society

In this twilight of its declining age, it too frequently mistakes the colours of good and evil.

– George Mackenzie, 1667

Regarding the idea that men, ready to use violence to defend their honour would equate to pillars of society: There is a historical backside to this notion too, and it was a topic hotly debated back in the day with a number of books treating the subject greatly outnumbering the fencing treatises. In fact, it was even at times considered a *threat* to the very stability of society, leading to harsh punishment and restrictions against such behaviour, ranging all the way up to the death penalty.

And contemporary critics argued that this kind of violent behaviour went against morality, religion, common sense and was even in opposition to honour itself. Proponents, of course, saw it differently.

In 1667, George Mackenzie wrote that the world was becoming old as “in this twilight of its declining age, it too frequently mistakes the colours of good and evil” and argued that by far the most dangerous of these conflations concerned honour. Daniel Defoe argued that duels were fought over “mistaken point of honour” and a later anonymous 18th cent writer declared that “the Notion of Honour is certainly very corrupt.. more in fault than our Duelling, which is chiefly occasioned through its falsehood”. All these regarded this as false perceptions of honour, kept by vain and proud people, as mere masquerade and shadow appearance, not being actual true honour, which according to 17th cent writer William Darrell was based on conscience.

In a wider context, the concept of honour in connection with duelling is a hugely complicated topic that has always been controversial and hotly debated since violence was always a potential threat to stability in society, something which also at times affected the public view of young fencers, duelists and prize fighters. The fencing guilds can be regarded as a way of harnessing and controlling this potential for violence.

***

If honour is rooted in conscience, then it is strong and can live on its own. This is how most of societies have worked for most daily life with behaviour and conflict management. Actual threat and use of violence hasn’t been as big a part in this as some would like to make it up to be. Not counting drunken brawling or the distorted honour duels.

If, however it is primarily rooted in the perception of others, then the perception, not actual honour is what is defended, and the whole systems quickly gets corrupted with violence for the smallest perceived slight. This is what happened and how it got distorted. Which is why it had to be managed.

In an ideal world both the internal virtue and external reputation could act to build a working honour culture. Unfortunately, since the former is often lacking, the second can’t take its place, and thus it just becomes a fantasy that would lead down the same path again, with duels fought more for pride and vanity than actual serious matters.

Ideals are tricky like that. We need them, but the world we apply them to can never be. Especially not today with so many other changes, and fractioned cities and population hundredfold bigger than in the fairly small towns and tight communities where these honour systems originated.

Syrian teachers

So my terrible, evil SJW of a wife is teaching a class of mostly Syrian refugee teachers, helping them get into university quicker so they can start teaching in schools in a few years. She is the definition of decency and honour to me, and I am damn proud of both her and my country.

The fascist game can be played in many forms

Quoting Umberto Eco again, because I think a lot of people just don’t recognize what they are seeing. As Eco put it:

“There was only one Nazism… But the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change.”

Don’t skip through it. Give it time. This is important.

***

1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.

Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counter-revolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but it was born in the late Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of them indulgently accepted by the Roman Pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages—in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little known religions of Asia.

This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, “the combination of different forms of belief or practice”; such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and whenever they seem to say different or incompatible things it is only because all are alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.

As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.

One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements. The most influential theoretical source of the theories of the new Italian right, Julius Evola, merged the Holy Grail with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alchemy with the Holy Roman and Germanic Empire. The very fact that the Italian right, in order to show its open-mindedness, recently broadened its syllabus to include works by De Maistre, Guenon, and Gramsci, is a blatant proof of syncretism.

If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled as New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge—that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.

2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism.

Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life, but it mainly concerned the rejection of the Spirit of 1789 (and of 1776, of course). The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake.

Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Goering’s alleged statement (“When I hear talk of culture I reach for my gun”) to the frequent use of such expressions as “degenerate intellectuals,” “eggheads,” “effete snobs,” “universities are a nest of reds.” The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism.

The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration.

That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old “proletarians” are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.

7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.

This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the US, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson’s The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.

When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.

Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak.

Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler. Since the group is hierarchically organized (according to a military model), every subordinate leader despises his own underlings, and each of them despises his inferiors. This reinforces the sense of mass elitism.

11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero.

In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Falangists was Viva la Muerte (in English it should be translated as “Long Live Death!”). In non-fascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.

12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.

This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.

13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view—one follows the decisions of the majority.

For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. To have a good instance of qualitative populism we no longer need the Piazza Venezia in Rome or the Nuremberg Stadium. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.

Because of its qualitative populism Ur-Fascism must be against “rotten” parliamentary governments. One of the first sentences uttered by Mussolini in the Italian parliament was “I could have transformed this deaf and gloomy place into a bivouac for my maniples”—“maniples” being a subdivision of the traditional Roman legion. As a matter of fact, he immediately found better housing for his maniples, but a little later he liquidated the parliament. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.

Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in 1984, as the official language of Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.

On the morning of July 27, 1943, I was told that, according to radio reports, fascism had collapsed and Mussolini was under arrest. When my mother sent me out to buy the newspaper, I saw that the papers at the nearest newsstand had different titles. Moreover, after seeing the headlines, I realized that each newspaper said different things. I bought one of them, blindly, and read a message on the first page signed by five or six political parties—among them the Democrazia Cristiana, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party, the Partito d’Azione, and the Liberal Party.

Until then, I had believed that there was a single party in every country and that in Italy it was the Partito Nazionale Fascista. Now I was discovering that in my country several parties could exist at the same time. Since I was a clever boy, I immediately realized that so many parties could not have been born overnight, and they must have existed for some time as clandestine organizations.

The message on the front celebrated the end of the dictatorship and the return of freedom: freedom of speech, of press, of political association. These words, “freedom,” “dictatorship,” “liberty,”—I now read them for the first time in my life. I was reborn as a free Western man by virtue of these new words.

We must keep alert, so that the sense of these words will not be forgotten again. Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier, for us, if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Black Shirts to parade again in the Italian squares.” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances—every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task.

Copyright © by Umberto Eco

How fascism grows in a nation

This is exactly how fascism grows in a nation. Self-righteousness, mixed with a strong sense of not knowing where we are going, feeling bereaved, and seemingly strong leaders, at all levels, speaking simple truths that seem to heal this, making the many feel good on behalf of the few and a great number of people not recognizing what they are seeing. And then the inevitable appeal to honour and decency contrasted by a scenario of doom, of the fall of society caused by the different, scaring you into accepting concessions on the decent to repair the proclaimed deficiencies at the root of it all.

I will never accept any leader who even hints at this.

On the Aegishjalmur and the Vegvisir

Just a comment since I know symbols like the Aegishjalmur and the Vegvisir are popular motifs for norse-inspired tattoos.

To my knowledge, the absolute majority of these date to 17th century and later, like the Aegishjalmur from 1670AD, with a rare few symbols stretching back to 14th century and some, like the Vegvisir, dating to the second half of the 1800s. While indeed icelandic, they are just a bit more “viking” than Shakespeare, but not by much.

Magical runes existed earlier of course, but that is something different to this and many were changed in the 19th century. The tradition of magical symbols was also popular all over Europe in the Renaissance and seen in for instance the fencing treatise of Achille Marozzo.

They are still fantastic, but I think it is important to know what they are.

On historical overview

One interesting aspect of tradition and culture is that in many ways we have a vastly better historical overview of this now than people ever had before the 20th century. This is why e.g. in medieval and Renaissance artwork depicting the ancients, the depicted scenes show people dressed in contemporary clothing of the time, with pluderhosen and doublets. Bits by bit we have learned since, through ancient texts and archaeology, but the actual historical understanding of history was quite short in span and mostly based off of what the priests told you in church.

This of course also means that history, in a historical perspective, hasn’t been regarded as terribly important outside of the religious context, for a particularly long time, and is basically a very modern concept only evolved with archeology in the late 19th cent, where also nationalromanticism grows, defining cultural traits claimed to be rooted in history, but often on very loose grounds.

On provocations

Provocations can often be good as they function as a thermometer up the butt of society, indicating the health of it. The more reactions to them, the greater the unhealthiness and drive towards authoritarianism and control over the members of the society.

Are you racist?

Are you racist? Probably not. But there is a pretty good chance that you are xenophobic to some degree as most of us are, even I. And this can easily lead to various racist attitudes and actions, even for people who are against racism. This is why it is easy to appreciate, even celebrate, other cultures from a distance or when travelling, enjoying their exoticism, but not as much when they affect your own, at home.

Actual systematic racism isn’t so much of a problem in society. Xenophobia however, is far more spread and can lead to issues at all levels. To understand it, we basically need to separate between three things .

  • The act
  • The individual
  • The system

An individual can do a racist or xenophobic act quite unintentionally and unawares, and through this perpetuate a racist system. It doesn’t necessarily make the individual racist though. Many of us fall into this category since xenophobia is a very human tribal characteristic.
Racism can also exist in individuals without a formal system, but instead creating an informal one.

We also all have a degree of responsibility in educating ourselves about our society and the world, and that complicates things. Claiming ignorance as equaling innocence doesn’t always work, as is clear with crime and law. This is also true for social issues like racism. And if we don’t we also have to suffer the consequences of our chosen ignorance.

Related to this topic is also the issue of freedom of speech, where it is often argued that even racists must be allowed to speak freely, but this question isn’t quite as easy as it may seem. Most countries don’t allow everything, despite having “freedom of speech” protected by law. Child pornography and material in similar areas for example, is often not considered to be within the range of this freedom, just because it by extension can lead to various damaging effects to people. Racism, even verbal such, really falls under that same category. Exactly where the line is to be drawn is problematic.

We all like to think of ourselves as good, decent people and very few admit to racism and xenophobia, even those who quite obviously habitually do racist acts. And yet we daily see arguments and ideas about refugees, ethnicity & crime, expressed hate towards “modernism”, modern art and architecture while promoting the importance of one’s own pre-modernism tradition and “culture” and declaring oneself as “oppressed”, and looking for connections between race, genetics and intelligence, wanting meritocracy & eliticism, essentially with “social darvinism” as a foundation for society, and speaking of and fearing the End Times and the imminent collapse of Western Society, and contempt, even hate towards academia and media, most of it perfectly fine separate in moderate forms, but as a *whole* coming straight out of the nazi and fascist handbooks. And this now at highest political level, not seldom with direct or indirect ties to open racists even self-confessed neonazis.

But no, these aren’t nazis or fascists in the historical sense. They do share a great many of the very ideas that enabled the horrible actions and societies they built though. And that should be disturbing to you. So please recognize what you are looking at and where it might lead. And consider your part in this, whatever it may be. It is not the terms that are dangerous, but the ideas behind them and the society they create.

***

Xenophobia is a natural, human instinct, a response to anything perceived as foreign, which can potentially threaten the stability of the system you live in, the “tribe” and the resources for living, etc. In most cases it is irrelevant and an unnecessary reaction in today’s society.

While it commonly takes its roots in xenophobia, racism is different in that it is formalized as a set of ideals and rules that regulate behaviour and society, and does so based on concepts of race and ethnicity. With racism, as described above, you have three different levels which can be independent of each other; act, individual and system. The former two exist in most societies. The latter however, is much more rare and usually come in informal varieties, as a consequence of individuals and acts who aren’t necessarily intentionally racist per se.

As for the US, it is a very big and complex nation, comprised of quite individual states and thousands upon thousands of quite small communities with just a few thousand individuals each. Not long ago I would have said that the US as a nation does not have systemic racism, even if it may occur at lower levels and at smaller scales. Today, I am not as confident about where the US is heading towards though. And the same is true for Europe.

Quotes on kindness to strangers

“Washed and fed,
one may fare to the Ting:
Though one’s clothes be the worse for Wear,
None need be ashamed of his shoes or hose,
Nor of the horse he owns,
Although no thoroughbred.

Fire is needed by the newcomer
Whose knees are frozen numb;
Meat and clean linen a man needs
Who has fared across the fells,
Water, too, that he may wash before eating,
Handcloth’s and a hearty welcome,
Courteous words, then courteous silence
That he may tell his tale.

The sitters in the hall seldom know
The kin of the new-comer:
The best man is marred by faults,
The worst is not without worth.

I give you advice Loddfáfnir – heed it well!
You will use it if you learn it,
it will get you good if you understand it.
Do not abuse a guest – or drive him out the door.
Instead do well for the wretched.
– Hávamál

Though all Northerners are noted for their hospitality, our Swedes are supreme. To them worse than any infamy is to deny hospitality to travellers, so there is rivalry or competition as to which of them shall have the honour of entertaining a guest. To him they extend all the humane courtesies for as many days as he wants to remain there, and they take him to their friends in their various homes. Good things like this are part of their customs.

They have kings of ancient family. Their power, however, is dependent on the will of the people – what everyone has approved by common agreement the king must confirm…”
– Adam of Bremen on the Swedes, Gesta Hammarburgensis, ca1073AD

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his heart of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?
– 1 John 3:17

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
– Matthew 6:24

What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; yet you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
– James 2:14

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, you shall open your hand wide unto your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land.
– Deuteronomy 15:11

Sell what you have, and give alms; provide yourselves purses which grow not old, a treasure in the heavens that fails not, where no thief approaches, neither moth corrupts. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
– Luke 12:33

Love you therefore the stranger: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
– Deuteronomy 10:19

But the stranger that dwells with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 19:34

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that any of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
– Acts 4:32

I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Since you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.
– Matthew 25:43

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
– Ephesians 4:29

A nation drunk as fuck

Never thought I’d see it, but the US right now seems like one of those late teen pre-club parties where everyone is drunk as fuck and everyone suddenly decides it’s time to head out and realizes that the designated driver is wasted too, and another dude, drunk out of his mind and loud, convinces everyone to hand him the car keys. And it’s off to town, excited and a wee bit scared, zigzagging across the narrow forest road as the car windows start fogging up with all the dudes in a mess in the back seat and one of them looking a bit pale and starting to make funny noises.

Quotes on hospitality

“I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”

– On the Final Judgment, Matthew 25:43, The Bible

…”he was wearing a blue cloak and said his name was Grimnir but would say nothing further about himself when he was asked. The king said he would be forced to speak and set him between two fires; and he sat there for eight nights. King Geirrod had a son ten years old and had named him Agnar after his own brother.

Agnar went to see Grimnir and brought him a horn full of wine to drink and said that the king did wrong to torment him for no reason. Grimnir emptied the horn. The fire was by that time so close that it was burning Grimnir’s cloak.

He said:

Fire, you’re too hot, and much too fierce,
take your flames further away!
My cloak is singed though I hold it high;
sparks fly against the fur.

Eight nights I sat bound between these fires
denied all food and drink
til Agnar come— and he alone,
Geirrod’s son, shall rule the Goths.

You’ll live happy Agnar; Odin, lord of men,
will grant you all good fortune.
You won’t again for just one drink
receive so great a reward.

My name is Grim, my name is Gangleri,
Herjan and Hjalmberi,
Thekk and Thridi, Thund and Ud,
Helblindi and Har.

Sath and Svipal and Sanngetal,
Herteit and Hnikar-
I’ve never been known by one name only
since I have wandered the world.

Too much ale, Geirrod, muddles your mind,
trusted friends betray you;
I can see the sword you carry,
with its blade all wet with blood.

Ygg will soon summon the slain;
your life won’t last much longer.
The Norns don’t smile on you- now you see I’m Odin!
Come close to me, if you can!”

King Geirrod was sitting down with a half-sheathed sword on his lap. When he heard that his visitor was Odin, he stood up, intending to take Odin away from the fires. The sword slipped out of his hand and fell, hilt down. The king stumbled and fell forward against the point of the sword; and so he died. Odin vanished. Then Agnar was king in that land for a long time.”

– Grímnismál

A taliban calling someone else a fanatic

Here’s something that has been bugging me for a few years now.

Quite commonly, I see a whole lot of people on the right spewing insults to anyone they perceive as “left”, habitually calling them snowflakes, delicate flowers, libtards, morons, naive children, etc, etc. And this comes from people I am supposed to respect, who demand my respect and who ask other people to behave with honour.

This really pisses me off, not least since these people also commonly are so easily triggered and sensitive to anything that goes against their own worldviews. It’s very much like a taliban calling someone else a fanatic.

But more importantly, when you use such words, it doesn’t just insult people directly in front of you, but also loved ones, families and relatives going back many generations. In my case, four generations behind me, who were all socialists. They are/were very far from the image you paint of the left, not caught up in debates on pc, gender and safe spaces, (a claimed “leftist” issue that to me seem very exaggerated by the conservative right and more of right-wing propaganda). Instead they talked about fairness and a better society where people had a chance at education, of good long-lasting health and a decent chance in life, no matter what families they were born in. This is the kind of socialism I grew up with, a quite sound variant that focused on some basic human core values that you can equally well find in the Bible.

The socialism my ancestors confessed to was born out of utter despair, living in a very conservative, hierarchical and brutal society with a powerful micro-minority who gave fuck all about their lives as long as they could work hard for a few years before they were broken and replaced with others who also led equally poor and miserable lives. These people worked 12-14 hours per day, six days per week, for salaries that barely paid for food, sometimes even starving. And they were broken in less than ten years, damaged for life. And they were used and abused by wealthy people who were little more than criminal scam artists and who were deeply damaging to both nature and society, using both to get extremely rich.

The conservative politics offered them absolutely no hope and just maintained the existing system, seeking to preserve it at status quo, managed and designed by men who saw themselves as the “tough fathers” of the population, put in place by God, and with the rest of the people as inferior, as children who needed to be governed and to know their place. And of course, those criminals were quite respected for their wealth, even considered heros by the contemporary god-fearing conservatives.

So when you use such words, these are the kind of people you insult, their suffering, and their legacy which so many of us enjoy today and for that I sincerely say fuck you. Fuck you for being such an ignorant and arrogant self-important prick. You are better than that. Don’t degrade yourself by using cheap suckerpunches, lies and insulting generalized propaganda. Show some fucking dignity and respect.

This of course also goes for *any* person dedicated to political or religious causes of whatever kind.

The picture shows my grandmother’s grandmother whom my mother was named after. She was born the year after Lenin and was a dedicated communist as well as deeply christian, just like most people in the north. And I am proud of all these relatives and their part in building something good and decent. We would be living in a very different society without their sacrifice and work.

The party told you

The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.

– 1984, George Orwell

They had all things in common

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

– The Bible, Acts, Ch 4

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all
– The Bible, Colossians 3:11

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
– The Bible, Galatians 3:28

One great difference in our ways is that, like the early Christians, the Indian was a Socialist. The tribe owned the ground, the rivers and the game; only personal property was owned by the individual, and even that, it was considered a shame to greatly increase. For they held that greed grew into crime, and much property made men forget the poor. …The price of a very rich man is many poor ones, and peace of mind is worth more than railways and skyscrapers. In the Indian life there was no great wealth, so also poverty and starvation were unknown, excepting under the blight of national disaster, against which no system can insure. Without a thought of shame or mendicancy, the young, helpless and aged all were cared for by the nation that, in the days of their strength, they were taught and eager to serve.

– Ernest Thompson Seton, The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore, 1912

On ideals

Ideals are by their very nature unfulfillable as true perfection can never be achieved. That however, does not mean ideals are pointless as the journey towards the goal has a great value on its own, especially the closer you get to the goal.

The closer you get, however, the more difficult it gets holding on to them, since you easily loose sight of both the starting point and the distance travelled, focusing on the small distance ahead, and like the event horizon of a black hole, close to it the remaining distance seems to extend, stretching to appear longer than it actually is.

The distance travelled, the starting point and the reason for the journey musn’t be forgotten though. Anything else is a betrayal to ourselves and a great disrespect to our forefathers.

This is true for both individual perspective and for society.

The Fall of Western Civilization, or just a bump in the road

It might seem odd writing about civilization and city life on a site that focuses on nature and traditional way of life, but as the latter connects to history and our reading of it, and to our way of applying our understanding of it to our own time and our place in nature, I think the topic discussed here is very relevant, and growingly more so by the day, even. So please bear with me for a bit.

I will begin by speaking a little bit about ideals. Ideals are by their very nature unfulfillable as true perfection can never be achieved. That however, does not mean ideals are pointless as the journey towards the goal has a great value on its own, especially the closer you get to the goal.
The closer you get, however, the more difficult it gets holding on to them, since you easily loose sight of both the starting point and the distance travelled, focusing on the small distance ahead, and like the event horizon of a black hole, close to it the remaining distance seems to extend, stretching to appear longer than it actually is.

The distance travelled, the starting point and the reason for the journey musn’t be forgotten though. Anything else is both a betrayal to ourselves and a great disrespect to our forefathers who fought for the ideals we today greatly benefit from.

This is true for both individual perspective and for society.

Now, some argue that we are at the brink of catastrophy and societal collapse, that things used to be so much better at some unspecified point in time, but generally before our own. If you are one of them, if you think Western society of today is in a decline, then you really should read the personal stories of people living in the first few decades of the 20th century, which means the generations that are just now dying off.

Families living in the “barracks”, the simple houses with one room apartments let to the families of the saw mill workers. The workers were sometimes paid with special “company money” and later with recorded “credits”, and the company often required them to make their purchases in the company owned supplies store. These houses are gone now, but remained when I was a child.

On the surface things can look idyllic in old photos, with romantic dresses and men in suits like in the paintings of Anders Zorn and Carl Larsson, but when you scratch on things, they quickly fall apart. But, to understand this, we need to look at the precursors of proper 19th cent industrialism, with business and industry relating to primarily mines and forest. In Sweden, processing of such raw materials to refined products like iron ore, planks, charcoal, glass and paper was often done at special remote farms called “bruk”. This term is noted as far back as 16th cent and directly translated means “making/using”, but is roughly equivalent to “company village”. These were independent small factories, and unlike e.g. tool making did not need state/crown permission. These villages were very important for the development of modern states, but were often run as small kingdoms by investors seeking quick profit in lands where resources and workforce was cheap.

Billnäs company village, founded in 1641, but depicted ca 1890.

Up until the end of WW2 in 1945, the majority of the Swedish population still lived in the countryside, while in 1910-20 only ca 25% lived in cities, and around 1870 less than 12% did the same. Most cities were still very small. By the end of the 1700s, Sweden’s two largest cities, Stockholm had 75,000 inhabitants, while Gothenburg had a mere 12,800 citizens. It is in this light, the processing factories, the bruk, should be regarded.

Around these bruk, villages called “brukssamhällen” were formed, with people mainly employed by the owner of the “bruk”, often with a somewhat particular identity and customs, and much of this controlled by the owner. Commonly it was forbidden to let out a room to someone not employed by the company, thus controlling the amount of strangers in the village. Likewise, it was commonly forbidden to run a business from one’s farm. Other characteristics for these societies was strict social control, low interest in higher education, little social mobility and little social interchange between classes.

Workers and families in front of the mansion of Lögdö Bruk in 1882, four years after the iron ore blast furnaces had been closed down in lieu of the quickly expanding timber industry. My grandmother’s grandmother’s parents and grandparents lived here in the late 18th and 19th century, although of course in much simpler housing.

The absolute majority of the population would start working already as small children, like my own grandfather who started working in the  woods at the age of 5, then as young men and women working 12-14 hours per day, not counting overtime which was unpaid. Working six days per week, and no vacation, but not being paid enough even to cover what they ate during the work day, earning less than what was spent on the food for prisoners. Walking long distances, up to 10km/6mi, to work every morning and evening was not uncommon, sometimes carrying heavy work equipment every time. This would add several hours to the already long work day. Housing was crude, with families often living in a single room so covered in beds that it was difficult to even move, with very basic sustenance, at times literally starving.

Child miners working in 19th cent coal mines. Their small bodies worked well in the narrow passages, fitting into the tightest of spaces. Life expectancy for the child miners was death before the age of 13.

Having no real influence or power over their lives, the workers could count on losing jobs regularly and without forewarning, and on being robbed of earned pay by abusive employers. Bachelors had it even rougher, often renting a small, unheated room from a family or living in cramped, filthy and cockroach and lice-ridden barracks, sharing a small bed with another man, and being forced to travel long distances on foot for job opportunities. Financially they were slightly better off than families though, as the latter commonly only had just enough money for food, but not for clothes.

Commonly they were forced to buy their supplies from the company’s supplies store, never receiving any cash, but only getting credits in the company store, and often ending up in deep debt to the company due to the wages being so low that they couldn’t cover the expenses of a normal family. Cash money, the workers often had to apply for, and were forced to explain the reasons why they needed it, but commonly not getting what they asked for. Some companies even printed their own money which could only be used in their own stores.

By the early 1900s nearly half the previously privately owned land in provinces like Jämtland and parts of Värmland had been sold to the timber companies. In some parishes nearly all land was sold. Whole villages were bit by bit put into debt as the farmers, often analphabets, were first filled up with booze and scammed into selling their forests for scandalously low amounts of money, like the farmers of Skålan, Sweden where some of my forefathers lived, who sold a 50-year right to fell trees in their woods for 7,000 Swedish Crowns, a right expected to earn the company about 100,000,000 Swedish Crowns. This was common practice and normally between 1 percent and 1 permille of the actual value was paid. In the cases where the farmers didn’t agree it was not uncommon for them to be threatened or simply beat up with sticks or whips until they did.

Many of the farmers were then tricked into switching to working in the promised lucrative timber industry on their previously owned land, but too late realized the debt-incurring trap their contract put them in. A timber sled/carriage driver could well end up several hundreds of Swedish Crowns in debt in a single winter, which would have indebted him for life. And through this, they soon ended up in bankruptcy, seeing their homes falling into disrepair and being forced to sell their horses and cattle, with villages in the end completely abandoned. The enormous wealth in profit ending up solely in the pockets of what often amounted to outright criminals, with much of it also ending up in the pockets of foreign stock holders. And the profit was immense. Between 1875-1895 alone, the profit from the northern woods was an estimated 2,000 million SEK, this at a time when a year’s salary for the normal 72-84 hour workweek paid about 4-500SEK.

This is how my own grandfather lived as a young man, preparing charcoal for the city folks, living in the hut by the side of the charcoal kiln for much of his youth in the 1920-30s. Charcoal kilning was a dirty job with low pay but relative freedom. The process took 3-8 weeks and while work days were only 10 hours, there was little sleep at night as the kilns had to be constantly checked. It could be dangerous as accidents with men falling into partly collapsing kilns happened, leading to severe burns or even complete cremation. Photo: Samuel Lindskog, Örebro Museum

Child chimney sweep in Victorian England. Children as young as 3 years old were intentionally starved to stay lean and sent up narrow chimneys. Many got stuck and were sometimes even forgotten, slowly dying in the chimneys.

In an old book with saw mill worker autobiographies one of them tells how he considers himself lucky to only have spent about 15 months hospitalized with broken limbs in his 30 year career, this since according to him most men lost limbs working in the saw mill, with the saws and machinery being completely exposed and the workers commonly worn out and dead tired. And the drinking among the workers was crazy heavy by today’s standards, even at young age, with fist and knife fights very common, further adding to the risk of severe bodily harm. Luckily the worker’s sobriety movement would in time improve on this.

Still, even if you managed to escape accidents and injuries, the work was physically extremely hard and a stacker would be worn out in six to eight years, which is what happened to my grandfather in the 1940s, with neck damage for the rest of his life, making it impossible for him to turn his head. MP and Aftonbladet’s Chief Editor Ernst Beckman describes the stackers in the following words:

The stackers are easily recognized, their clothes are soaked in sweat, sticking to their limbs, their body, naturally strong, is twisted, one shoulder raised, the chest sunken, the skin not seldom greyish, a sign of general overexertion. They sacrifice a lot to bring the world beautiful floors and sturdy ship decks. If any mortal, when the night falls, needs rest and deserves her, it is them, they are the martyrs of the timber movement.

With early industrialization of the 19th cent, toxic waste was poured straight into the streams, rivers and oceans that people lived with and used, leading up to my own birth island being nicknamed the “Cancer Island” due to the dioxin waste of the heavy industries and saw mills nearby ruining people’s health. People who got old or cronically ill were simply fired and unless they had relatives to help, they ended up as beggars with soon death.

My grandfather’s father’s cousin and his friend working as log drivers in Haverö, Sweden. While looking sharp in their suits, the majority of people commonly had one set of clothes only, with some extra underwear and shirts. Consequently, they worked and went to church in that single set of clothes. Some of them even doing so in the “Lutheran Confirmation” suit they were obligated to buy for the equivalent of one or two month’s full salary, indebting them for years, in the cases they were unable to borrow. Log drivers commonly worked bare feet, even with ice and snow.

Social travelling, from a worker or peasant family to becoming a merchant or academic, was almost non-existant as there simply were no real means available for it. Outside of a military “career”, farming, crafting or industry were the only options available for the majority, with the first being a risky prospect as it relied on the unreliable forces of nature, and the last risky due to the lack of safety regulations in the very dangerous working environments. As for commercial crafting there were rarely any opportunities to learn, and do business with, such trades outside of the cities”, and commonly not allowed in the “company villages”.

The summer house of sawmill owner Fredrik Bünsow.

Meanwhile the rich sawmill owners led extremely luxurious lives, completely disconnected from the harsh realities of the people they exploited. This is very well exemplified by the timber crisis of 1879, where the state of Sweden gave an emergency loan of 3 million Swedish Crowns to the largest company owners, to cover for a drastic drop in timber prices which was affecting the whole timber industry.
However, to fully compensate for the drop in profit, the sawmill owners had already lowered the wages for the workers by 20%, far below the starving point, and children were at the time noted as literally dying of starvation with several recorded deaths. Ignoring this, the sawmill owners put all of the emergency loan in their own pockets, letting the workers alone take the hit of the crisis. As a result the sawmill owners saw no drop in profit, despite the crisis, even gaining a beneficial loan for further investment.

Happy with their great fortune the sawmill owners held a great party to celebrate. When the starving workers learned of all this, they became furious and went on a peaceful strike with regular prayer meetings, supported and calmed by the religious sobriety movement. This strike never went violent from the workers’ side, but ended after eight days with a brutal display of power as King Oscar II sent General Weidenhielm, along with six cannon boats and one mine ship with in total 300 navy soldiers, and another near 700 infantry soldiers, armed with rifles, bayonets, sabres and heavy machine guns, completely surrounding the gathered 1,200 striking workers.

Nobleman, and strict conservative, Governor Curry Treffenberg then gave the workers the “fatherly advice” to without furher delay return to the sawmills or risk lethal violence, (something which was indeed put to use 50 years later in Ådalen in 1931, where five workers were killed by rifle and machine gun fire). Continuing, the governor appealead to their belief in God, stating that they by divine order had to obey their king, that not doing so would be blasphemy. Furthermore, they would risk being arrested, replaced by strike breakers, and evicted from their homes. Under these threats, the strike finally caved in and the workers returned, without having been met in their demands for having full salary again. Following this, another 200 soldiers under the command of Colonel Rehausen, arrived, sent to further safeguard the company interests.

Happy with this victory and shortly after, the sawmill owners  held another party to celebrate, while their threats were made good and the chosen strike leaders, picked as such by the governor, were fired with their families being evicted from their homes, and the men forced to do hard labour since they were now considered drifters. The strikers in reality had no leaders, being a leaderless roots movement and spokespersons just chosen by coincidence and due to happening to stand near the governor at the rally. Although incarcerated for a very harsh six weeks, none of them were convicted in court. Many were however prohibited from ever working in the city again.

Conservative newspapers at the time portrayed Governor Treffenberg as a hero for his “courageous display of restraint” and his “protecting of society“. The official conservative explanation for the strike was that the causes were to be found within the ties between Christian anarchism and political radicalism, with evil forces seeking to take possessions and freedoms from the pillars of society.

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are whithered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd — But he shuns the shadow of the oak and pine

– George “Nessmuk” Washington Sears, Woodcraft, 1884

What about public safety then? Well, in the larger cities criminality was rampant with organized gangs of young men robbing and stealing, fighting the police and other gangs with clubs and knives, making the streets very unsafe for everyone. All industrial cities suffered from them and in some, like Paris, they were tens of thousands strong, making them up to four times stronger than the police force.

The Apaches of Paris, a criminal subculture of 19th cent France. Back then criminality was 48 times as high as today according to some sources. 8,000 Parisian policemen faced more than an estimated 30,000 gang members, not counting unorganized criminals or domestic violence.

Turning to Sweden again, the quick growth of Stockholm had caused a severe shortage of housing. By the first decades of the 1900s, Stockholm was nearing 400,000 people, almost a 100,000 more people than 20 years before. Many poor families lived in unthinkable conditions, with the fortunate ones sharing a small single room for five people, oftentimes sleeping in shifts. Others worse off slept in factories and sheds, in filthy and cramped barracks, even living under boats and tool sheds with children half-blind and crippled from never really walking in the cramped, dark and sooty spaces.

Crude housing in the shantytown of Stockholm, 1902

Carl Wilhelm “Piggen” Strand, first arrested in late 1800s, at the age of 9 for theft, then again at the age of 11 for stealing beer. A member of the 42 man Great Gang of Stockholm, he served three months of hard labour as a young teen and 11 months more shortly after. The gang was arrested in 1895, with fellow members sentenced to up to six years of hard labour for theft, burglery and robbery.

The shantytown of Stockholm, built from cardboard boxes and tin sheets had lone children lying in the dirt while their parents were away working in the factories. In some parts of Stockholm, half the youths and children quit school before sixth grade. Many joined gangs and lived off of smalltime robberies, theft and scamming, and were reported hassling passengers and staff on the commuter trains, even throwing rocks at the trains and breaking lamps. Every fourth prisoner at the Långholmen prison was under the age of 21.

Stepping back a bit in time again, by the middle of the 1800s, Sweden saw about 150 murders per year, compared to today’s ca 100, despite a population of just above 3.4 million, i.e. about a third of today. Medical and social advances of course account for some of the lower numbers of today, but not all, as the relative number of reported acts of violence, not least knife violence, has also dropped in half, and considering how violence in the home and fisticuffs between drunk men, even using clubs and kicking people lying down was both very common and, more or less, socially accepted and thus commonly never reported, while today people are far more likely to report most such incidents.

The big change in Sweden came with the sobriety movement and the social improvements of the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century, something which would turn for the worse again with the mid to late 20th century, and the quickly expanding drug market.

French opium den in 1903

Opium, morphine and cocaine addictions, or “habits” as they were called, were growingly more common in cities like Paris, London, San Fransisco, Chicago, New York, Nashville, Memphis and Victoria, Canada, ever since the 1800s. This was a hugely important and profitable trade, and the British Empire literally fought wars in order to safeguard its international drug trade, while China was suffering badly from widespread drug use, driven by this foreign trade.

From China, this then spread to the West where these drugs were used mainly by the middle and the upper classes, with notable authors like Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens being associated with the use. At one time, opium is said to have been as popular as alcohol in 19th cent England, this among both men and women.

Without this valuable and essential medicine it would be next to impossible for a Physician to practice his profession with any considerable degree of success. It may…be called the…soothing angel of moral and physical pain.

Dr. John C. Gunn, on opium, 1830

Today’s issues with drug addiction finds its roots in the late 19th cent pharmaceutical industry. Even as early as in 1782, it was common practice for women in some parts of Massachusetts to take a dose of opium every morning. And women of all social standings used it, either out of boredom, stress and anxiety, or to be able to endure the long workhours in the factories, or the harsh life of a prostitute, where 2/3 of the latter were reported to use it in 1870’s New York. Unlike alcohol, the use of opiates was far less stigmatizing and thus tempting for women in particular. An estimated 150,000-200,000 opiate users were living in the US in the late 19th century, this at a time when the USA had a population of ca 40 million.

The upper class women commonly received the drug from their private physicians, but it was readily available to everyone in various forms, not least in drinks and tinctures like Coca ColaPeruvian Wine of Coca and Pemberton’s French Wine. Cocaine itself was at first regarded as a cure against opiate addiction and was readily sold in drug stores. By 1900 it grew immensely popular in large parts of the US and people of all social standings injected, sniffed or drank it. Heroin too was a commercial product, from the Bayer pharmaceutical company, first sold in 1898. It was heavily marketed as non-addictive, and this too used to “cure” morphine addiction. Within a decade New York City alone had an estimated 200,000 heroin addicts, this with a population of 4.7 million.

While first synthesized already in 1887 and sold from 1934 as benzedrine, amphetamine became properly popular with WW2, used by both the Allied and the Axis forces to stimulate the worn out soldiers. After the war, now with a surplus of already produced amphetamine, the drug was liberally prescribed to millions of American and European housewives, curing them of their “moods” and “nerves”, enabling them to work more, and keeping them slim.

The late 19th century is also the period of the intense drinking of absinthe, which the French drank 36 million litres per year of, on top of their 5 billion litres of wine. This for a total population of 40 million, men, women and children. Sweden, on the other hand, originally driven by the workers’ sobriety movements, introduced a system for limiting the amount of alcohol people were allowed to buy each month in 1919. The limitations were very mild by today’s standards, which says something about the levels of drinking at the time, limiting the allowable amount for purchase of hard liquour to 3 litres per month, not counting beer or wine. You could also apply for larger purchases, which the wealthy commonly did and were granted, in some cases up to 50 litres per year. The USA went even farther, completely forbidding the production, import, transport and sale of alchohol with the Prohibition of 1920, something which would last until 1933.

***

Advice for how a young nobleman can rob a peasant, Codex Wallerstein, ca 1420AD

Disregarding the heavy drug and alcohol abuse, circumstances were not much better earlier in history for the greater masses of people, especially in the late Middle Ages and onwards. While it came to its extreme with early industrialization and the quick growth of the cities, life for the greater majority was extremely harsh even before this. That said before the 16th century there were some, to many surprising, social efforts made, for instance free public schooling in the cities in the early 14th century, as recommended by “Aristotle” to Alexander the Great, in one of the most read books of the time, Kitab Sirr al-Asrar (Book of Secrets). However, only a very small minority of the European population actually lived in cities.

Shut up, peasant, and bear in mind what I am saying; I cannot withhold the truth any more:
You should be punished every year
With the sword, as a willow
Is wounded every year, naked and bare
And the next year it is all the more fruitful;
Its thicket would otherwise hinder its growth.

– Rhymed chronicle of the Swabian War

In the Middle Ages, the common “noble” and Christan view was that peasants couldn’t handle peace and prosperity well, becoming complacent and demanding, and therefore needed to be “pruned” regularly, i.e. having their farms burned and cattle killed, or be killed themselves. This in order to keep the peasant stock strong and sound. This also safeguarded that they were kept in place and didn’t grow wild.

Peasants are best when they grieve, and worst when they rejoice.

– Medieval saying

In short, peace, prosperity and luxury was for the nobility and patricians alone, by divine order, and anything else threatened the very fabric of society. Like with a husband and his wife and children, the poor had to be kept on a tight leash by their masters, and would benefit from it.

This may perhaps also be regarded as a somewhat perverted form of the ideas expressed by both Plato and Aristotle and debated by St. Thomas of Aquinas in his Summa Thelogica, written in 1265-74 AD, where he states.

Further, just as in a kingdom there is a ruler and subject, so also is there in a household. If therefore domestic like political is a species of prudence, there should be a paternal corresponding to regnative prudence.

Aquinas, like Plato and Aristotle argued that the function of the state was to promote virtue, which would lead to happiness, and in Aquinas’ case, this meant promoting virtuous subjects in order to serve God, which in turn would lead to happiness. In this, the benevolent father was a strong symbol used, as expressed by Aristotle:

The government of a household is a monarchy, since every house is governed by a single ruler.

This very imagery and ideas would persist well into the early 20th century with the rich company owners forbidding the forming of workers unions as they were “not in the interest of the workers” and “against both human law and divine order” and immensely dangerous as they would “disintegrate society“, as proclaimed by a sawmill owner in my hometown in 1899. Instead the company owner would see to that the workers’ needs were satisfied, of course therethrough also having the power to make the decision what exactly those needs were, just like a father with his family. And as we’ve seen, usually not doing more than what was absolutely necessary for people to at all survive, sometimes not even that.

***

In between this, there is of course also a small group of relatively richer farmers, with farmsteads that employed several people and who also travelled to regional markets to sell surplus of crops and cattle. And you also have the small group of townspeople, living safe within high and strong city walls, busy with work as craftsmen, buying and selling goods, and this is what we mostly think of when we think of “history”. Written history mostly revolves around the select few, the rich and those who made a personal mark in history records, the kings and nobility, the military leaders, the artists and the merchants, all against a backdrop of the city, so we mostly only see the nicer side of things. Not that of the poor, the rural peasants and workers who made up the masses. Still, the cities were a nursery, an engine for rapid development of invention and culture, for good and bad.

My grandmother’s grandmother whose name my mother was given. Born the year after Lenin, she, like the majority of the workers and worker families in the harsh north, turned to communist, sobriety and religious movements for hope, as none was given from those who truly had the means to give it. The photo was taken at her 70th birthday in 1941. She lived for another 20 years, seeing her country change immensely through the political struggles of the workers of the north. I still have the painting on the right.

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

– The Bible, Acts 4:33

 

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all

– The Bible, Colossians 3:11

 

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus

– The Bible, Galatians 3:28

 

One great difference in our ways is that, like the early Christians, the Indian was a Socialist. The tribe owned the ground, the rivers and the game; only personal property was owned by the individual, and even that, it was considered a shame to greatly increase. For they held that greed grew into crime, and much property made men forget the poor. …The price of a very rich man is many poor ones, and peace of mind is worth more than railways and skyscrapers. In the Indian life there was no great wealth, so also poverty and starvation were unknown, excepting under the blight of national disaster, against which no system can insure. Without a thought of shame or mendicancy, the young, helpless and aged all were cared for by the nation that, in the days of their strength, they were taught and eager to serve.

– Ernest Thompson Seton, The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore, 1912

This is what socialism really grew out of, not out of some theoretical, academic and youthful desire for revolution, nor out of some greedy grab for power and riches, but out of utter despair and an almost completely free and unfettered, brutal exploitation of people and nature. And from deeply Christian people who turned to socialism as they saw the words of Jesus as being quite close to the core message of socialism, that the poorest had as much fundamental value as those most wealthy and that greed was the true corruptor of society and against the word of God.

Truth is, we are always in a decline compared to a glorified past, and some things will evolve while others will degrade. Empires will come and go, like the Carolingian Empire, The Macedonian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, The Austrian, Swedish, Dutch, German, British, French, Italian and Belgian empires, but we all go on in new forms, adapting and evolving, mingling and mixing with shifting powers, alliances and conflicts. After several millennias, people today still take pride in their old history thousands of years old, despite those particular empires being long gone, since their impact remains much, much longer than their actual lifespan. And considering how pretty much all of the great civilizations and empires got rich in part through war, slavery and theft on a grand scale, in one form or the other, one could question their greatness to humanity in a larger perspective. For sure, a great many people saw a great improvement in their conditions of life with the Fall of Rome, and the same is true for most of the empires. Still, empires are seemingly an unavoidable development of human society.

Serrano’s Esoteric Nazi “Black Sun” symbol

Regardless, the fear of the fall of civilization has always been around, going back to antiquity, and expressed very clearly in the Renaissance, by men like fencing master Joachim Meyer who, with the Fall of the Roman Empire clear in mind, and living in post-“Roman” cities, felt we all needed to practice martial arts or risk the same fate as the ancients. Those very fears were exploited by the fascists and the nazis of the Third Empire and beyond, with thinkers like Oswald Spengler and even more so Julius Evola, Miguel Serrano and Savitri Devi, speaking of Kali Yuga and taking the hated modernism and the perceived degeneration of art, architecture and other forms of culture as proof thereof, while looking to Hitler as the great saviour of the white man in their esoteric Nazism.

And the same ideas are now circulated again, in slightly new forms among exoticists, xenophobes and racists, and among some neo-pagans, “preppers” and reactionary conservatives, even among some people on the far left. That society is degenerating and that we need to be afraid of the very weakest in it; the foreigners, and their way of life, as their ethnicity threatens our own and even our very existance.
Likewise, we again hear echoes of the paternalistic, medieval Christian notion, kept alive by the 19th cent conservatives, that a prosperous life for the majority is inherently dangerous to society, with “undeserving” young or foreign people asking for benefits they have no rightful claim to, trying to steal freedoms and properties from those who do. And we hear how people have no fundamental value and aren’t to be assumed equal until they provenly have accomplished something, that meritocracy, rooted in social darwinism and elitism, should be the rule, no matter what the circumstances, and letting all this take priority over our compassion for those worst off in life, for people living under harsh circumstances not too dissimilar to those of our ancestors, finally stepping into the shoes of the people who made the lives of our ancestors so difficult.

Yes, we have issues that we need to work on and there are great dangers around us too. And eventually the existing empires will dwindle away for something else. But in many ways we have come a lot farther than anything before us, riding on the backs of our ancestors who worked and bled to make this a reality, fighting for the rights of everyone, against racism, sexism, exploitation and various forms of oppression. We mustn’t forget or disrespect their sacrifice by listening to the very voices they fought. Without it, few of us would be in the place we are, instead leading lives a lot closer to those described above.

In that perspective, we are now mostly looking at smaller setbacks, even if there are steep cliffs right by the road we are on, not least with our relationship to nature, and we need to regard those dangers with great concern still.

***

The photo at the top is from one of the early 20th cent sawmills on the island I grew up on, showing the workers, and the youngest, the 5-year-olds in front.

Quotes on hypocrites

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”
– Luke 6:42

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
– Matthew 7:1-7:5

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
– Matthew 23:27

“When you see them, their outward form appeals to you, and if they speak you listen to what they say. But they are like propped-up planks of wood. They imagine every cry to be against them. They are the enemy, so beware of them. May Allah destroy them! How they are perverted! ”
– Quran, Surat al-Munafiqun, 4

“O you who believe, why do
you say what you do not do?
Most abominable in the sight of GOD
is that you say what you do not do.”
– Quran 61:2- 61:3

“An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered.”
– Proverbs 11:9

So, here’s some good news

So, here’s some good news to balance some of all of the negative bullshit we hear about primarily the young “effeminate” men of today. Looking at Sweden, over the last few decades, and especially in the last 15, they seem to be turning towards a lifestyle of less alcohol, drugs, violence and crime. The drop in drinking is in the range of 50-80% for 15-year olds and the lowest since 1971. And the number of very young teens which have gotten drunk before the age of 13 is cut in half.

Drugs too are dropping over the last few years, with the exception of cannabis which has increased a bit. Drug use was about three times as common in the 70s with about 15% of the students, but dropped with the heavy youth-targeting anti-drug campaigns of the 80s to a third, then rose again as the campaigns disappeared, to finally drop again in the last six years today down to about 5%, but 14-22% for the 17-18-year-olds. Drug use is especially common in the Stockholm region and Skåne, with distinctly lower numbers for the rest of the country, differing from 17% to 12.5%, and especially low in the north, dropping to 9-7% for 18-year-olds, all of it of course a lot lower for the 15-year-olds, for them halving those numbers or more.

As a result kids less commonly do stupid things out of reduced judgement. They more seldom end up brawling and fighting, they more seldom end up with unwanted pregnancies and they more seldom end up vandalizing stuff. Smoking is still high though, and a few years later, getting close to 18 years old, both smoking and drinking is common, but still dropping steadily and quickly.

Staying at home playing games is a pretty safe bet as one of the major causes, and yes most of us would prefer if they read books on history, philosophy, science and religion instead, but looking at how my sons play, with games like WOW and GTA that requires careful planning of campaigns, 4-5 hours to complete a complex mission, and where the older son takes on a leader roll, guiding the rest of the team, who all serve in supportive functions with distinct roles, in order to solve sometimes fairly complex puzzles and tasks, all of it under increasing stress and under social pressure. This of course also requires learning to be clear with orders when giving or taking them, and learning to solve conflicts, as these are very much social interaction games, sometimes with friends, but also with strangers, or a mix of both, and commonly performed in English as international friends are common. And, which may be hard for us adults to see, also a distinct sense of accomplishment, pride and skill, building confidence.

it really is not a terribly bad thing to dedicate time to. Especially when considering both boys love the gym. And admittedly in many ways better than how I spent some of my time as a young man.

Causes for the growth of organized crime in Sweden

Fuck it I am sick and tired of people arguing that it is the different culture and ethnicity of immigrants that is the current driving cause behind the (organized) crime in society.

Here are some of the real causes also presented by criminologists.

1. Biker gangs establishing themselves in Sweden in the 90s

While there has always been crime in various forms in cities, yes even at a time when Sweden was near 100% ethnically “Swedish”, sometimes even organized (just look at the larger 19th cent cities, e.g. in England, Italy, France and even little Sweden, then smaller than a great many cities are today), it changed drastically when Hells Angels and Bandidos established themselves in Sweden in the 90s. The Swedish police and law failed at countering them, not knowing how to handle this new threat and at the time the war between the biker gangs was quite brutal, with shootings, assassinations and bombings being a common thing, very similar to today.

Drug business was of course the root of all this, commonly sold in the suburbs by these biker gangs. Soon a few unorganized smalltime criminals in these neighbourhoods decided to organize themselves and kick out these biker gangs, and take over the business done in their own areas, and new fronts were added to these wars. The new gangs mimicked the biker gangs, minus the bikes, and initially even wore vests. The hierarchical brotherhood structure was the same, with a president, Sergeant at arms, oaths of loyalty etc, etc.

Over time the wars for control over the drug trade have fluctuated, sometimes calmer, sometimes worse, but generally, the violence inbetween the gangs have gotten worse. For a period they were active in blackmailing local business owners, but this seems less common right now, with drugs being the main focus. The absolute majority of the violent crime is between these gangs. Lately though, violence has spiked, with vendettas going back and forth and the violence feeding itself, with innocent relatives getting caught and killed in the assassinations too in a few instances.

These gangs also contain “ethnic” Swedes and generally do not have a single ethnicity profile.

2. The fall of the Soviet

The collapse of the Soviet quickly led to extreme corruption and to exploitation of people as result. The push from Europe and the US to create a modern democracy out of Russia wasn’t too successful with robbing of the corpse of the Soviet, and organized crime flourished at the same time as Europe was opening up its borders both to Russia and within itself. The Russian mob quickly spread its business over Europe, establishing direct and indirect connections with local criminals.

3. The fall of Yugoslavia
Just like with any war, the legal system gets fuzzy and sometimes even collapses, opening up for a quickly expanding black market creating extremely powerful warlords. Just look at London during WW2, which had effects lasting for many decades after in regards to organized crime. With peace, the criminal warlords remained, as did their means and routes for trafficking goods. And they had connections all over the now borderless Europe to use.

4. Quick expansion of the Internet
This cannot be overestimated. The possibilities for simple, international communication that grew from the 90s made international crime very easy, not least with the growth of the Darkweb and the TOR browser. Impossible to keep an overwatch over and making it dead easy for criminals to communicate and “civilians” to find whatever they want, drugs, guns, stolen objects, prostitutes of whatever age, even assassins.

5. Schengen
Europe opening up its borders is a great freedom for us all, but also a wonderful opportunity for smugglers and traffickers with drastically lowered risks of getting caught, and causing a boom in organized crime as the profit vs risk changed overnight.

To this we can also add minor causes, like the US hip hop culture spreading over the world and in part celebrating a “gangster” culture that became mainstream as record companies sold it through all regular channels, creating extreme role models always talking about drugs, guns and whores and greatly admired by kids, just like Scarface always is a favourite movie among these criminals.

Likewise, unbalanced cities are a problem, especially when you get many quite young in specific areas, and especially when they hang around in the streets and squares with little to do. This is why in my own city, a nice neighbourhood where a lot of young and middle class families with babies and small kids decided to move to, decisions leading to one of the most youth dense areas in Europe, also ended up as the area with most vandalism of cars and public spaces and being the only one where the tram had security guards protecting it from drunken teens brawling and fighting. This with kids from “nice” Swedish families.

Also, the automation of industry is a great game changer, that leads to drastic effects on society. Work places that just some decades ago had hundreds of employees are doing the same work with less than ten people. Some factories appear like shells of ghosts when you visit them, built for ten times as many people who work there today. And hundreds of thousands of simple manual labour job opportunities that used to be available for those with low or lacking education, and immigrants and refugees before simply do not exist anymore.
This is the driving force behind much of the unemployment of today and society and people are not yet managing to cope with these very “profitable” changes and challenges.

***

These are the main causes behind the situation we have today. not ethnicity or culture of war refugees. This is why you run a six times higher risk of ending up a criminal if you grow up in the rough suburbs compared to the nicer neighbourhoods. This is also why not all neighbourhoods with many immigrants go bad, like my own with a majority of immigrant background. And this is why only a small minority of the immigrants still end up with a life of crime.

And despite all this, we can still handle these criminals, but it wil take some changes, including funding the police properly, which may require more taxes. And we can change the trend where we have closed almost all the public youth houses, and follow the advice which was a revelation in the -40s, a time when youths ran around in the streets breaking shop windows, flipping cars and causing general trouble. A revelation we somehow forgot: That youth houses can calm things down, giving the kids something better to do, letting them meet good role models who work there. And funding social work properly, and not letting kids with mental problems fall through, as is happening today, every fucking day because we “can¨t afford child psychiatric care”, instead pushing them into the hands of criminals which costs us many times more in the end.

It’s a fucking disgrace all over, but not impossible to handle, if we really want to. As a society we are certainly rich enough to do it, but it is so much easier to bitch about jews, niggers or muslims online.

***

Now,  I am not denying that there are problems with gangs that have a lot of people of immigrant origin. Some of them in part even depend on it. What I am saying is that it is not their ethnicity that explains the evolution of crime. Even today, most of the violence is localized and inbetween the gangs. Shootings and bombings rarely affect “civilians”, other than hurting our sense of security. The recent vendettas are getting more and more careless though, which is disconcerting, but similar to how any vendettas between organized crime evolve.

That said, there are other types of crime too which can be discussed, but few of them truly unique to a certain ethnicity, and much of it relating to either social issues and unbalanced cities with great numbers of people with difficulties finding simpler jobs, or with great numbers of young people gathering, at a time where we have decided to cut back on youth houses and leisure activities for kids, and on physicatric help for kids because we don’t like to pay taxes for it, instead spending it on smartphones, Netflix, broadband, at least two cars, summer houses and yearly trips to Thailand, all of it extreme luxuries compared to both our parents and grandparents who built our society.

Of course once you get this established, then things feed itself, but to break it we need to look at the root causes. These kind of issues grew radically with industrialization and the growth of the cities of the 19th century and existed even long before that too, and we are heading in the that direction again, forgetting the lessons we learned on the way.

And yes these gangs of young men are a serious problem. They are criminals and need to be dealt with, at the same time as we need to remember that the absolute majority of the immigrants and refugees are perfectly fine people that have gone through terrible things to get here.

***

There is a quite recent development though, with targeting of police, and to a lesser degree of firemen and medics, which is largely a teen subculture of fairly few individuals, not terribly unlike the riots of the 50s, 60s and 70s in the sense that the police and the state are regarded as the enemy by young extremists.

But yes, there is an immigrant problem in certain ways, a problem difficult to avoid if we wish to keep our humanity with the wars happening near and far. Internationally we need to deal with it better, so that the national problems don’t get quite as bad, with forming of ghettos with greater than average unemployment and crime etc. We just have to dig for the actual causes not stopping at the simple surface of things, and see the complexity instead of the simple propaganda used by various groups. Otherwise we are truly lost and put shame to what our grandparents fought for during ww2.

A dangerous paradox

Here is a dangerous paradox. The better our lives get, as a society, the more demanding and displeased we get, not appreciating the immense wealth we possess. And this easily leads us to long for simpler times, when “people were happy”. But in doing so we ignore the fact that people were happy with simple luxuries just because life in so many other ways sucked so badly and they consequently were happy with the smallest and simplest of blessings. So we dream of the old days, thinking things were better, when it really is the suckiness of the times that signify them for the greater majority.

You don’t have to go very far back in time to see this, even my own grandparents, hell even my own parents when they were young. No influence, no proper education, broken bodies before the age of 40, crappy food, no healthcare for a whole lot of medical conditions or for the poor, no social security etc, etc. Or like in the picture attached, with an old relative of mine, looking sharp in his suit, but wearing it when working as a log driver because it was the only clothes he had, with a couple of shirts to change with.

And we constantly hear how bad things are, causing us to lose hope for the future, while at the same time, globaly and historically looking, things are actually a whole lot better now in terms of poverty, healthcare, child/birth mortality, literacy and education, democracy, and for most people we live in utter luxury compared to our grandparents, both in material aspect, but also in the possibilities we have in life.

Yes, there are issues and challenges still for society, not least in an international perspective, but we also need to realize that we are also in a very good position to handle many of them, if we only raise the gaze from our own shoes.

***

The photo shows my grandfather’s father’s cousin and his friend working as log drivers in Haverö, Sweden. While looking sharp in their suits, the majority of people commonly had one or two sets of clothes only, with some extra underwear and shirts. Consequently, they not seldom worked and went to church in the same set of clothes. Some of them even doing so in the “Lutheran Confirmation” suit they were obligated to buy for the equivalent of one or two month’s full salary, indebting them for years, in the cases they were unable to borrow. Log drivers commonly worked bare feet, even with ice and snow.

The 13 Tricks of the Devil

The Devil, in whatever form he takes, will always start by telling you that you are fantastic, a deception which works especially well with those who feel entitled, mistreated, misunderstood and deserving of more, something which is true for most of us, to varying degrees.

The second trick the Devil will use is to tell you that you need to be afraid, because things are far worse than you know and believe, and then he will point to someone weak, different and defenseless to blame, promising a change for the better if you follow his command.

The third trick of the Devil is to tell you that you and him are the same, that he understands you completely, that you are family, leading you to identify more and more with him and his followers.

The fourth trick of the Devil is to appeal to your sense of loss and to your growingly inescapable longing for things you can’t have back, for the sense of safety of your childhood, for comforting familiarity, leading you more and more to withdraw from the different, regarding them as wrong by nature, and growing more and more resentful against them.

The fifth trick of the Devil is to convince you that belief is always as good as, or even more important than, knowledge, since it is truer on a deeper, larger and more profound level, and factual truth is thus made inferior to believed plausible truths. That way his ambitious and agenda driven beliefs are established as truths and always treated as such.

The sixth trick of the Devil is to exploit our fundamental need for hope, which requires belief, by leading us to believe that there is hope only as long as we share his beliefs, making us more and more confuse belief with hope itself.

The seventh trick of the Devil is to teach you about “natural order” of things, and how we should not fight our nature but instead unleash it, teaching you that in that order no one has any value until they have proven it, while building a pyramid of carefully chosen ideals which puts him at the top as an honorable ideal for all to follow.

The eighth trick of the Devil is to tell you that the greater majority are blind and ignorant sheep and only he and you see the world as it really is, without blindfolds, and thus are the ones best equipped to change the world for the better, but will be persecuted for telling the hard “truths”, thus transforming the both of you into holy martyrs. This is a position the Devil desires; always standing as the the opposer, the challenger, the heckler and the victimized, regardless of argument, as it seemingly validates his claims and gives him power, while stealing it from actual victims.

The ninth trick of the Devil is to mix carefully chosen fragments of larger and more complex *truths with his lies and exaggerations so that it all will give off the appearance of being true or at least possibly true. Likewise, he will also steal the arguments of the opponent, but slowly twisting the original meaning and intention around, making it appear as if he too is standing up for those his opponents seek to protect, gaining their support, although he really seeks to subject and exploit them.
In the same way he will argue against his opponents, protesting against simplistic ideas and thoughts they have never even professed to, thus associating them with those false ideas before the eyes of others, making his opponents appear naïve and abnormal and presenting himself as the sensible norm to adhere to.

The tenth trick of the Devil is to offer you his wine in the smallest of cups, making it difficult for you to judge how you change before you are too drunk to care anymore.

The eleventh trick of the Devil is to teach you that doubting and questioning of his declared “simple truths” equals weakness, childish naivety and lack of comprehension, while conviction and firmness equals strength, reliability and honour, thus both silencing any oppositional thought against him, and at the same time making you less open to the thoughts of others, and more susceptible to radical action.

The Devil knows that we all believe that we at heart are good people and will go to great lengths to justify our wrongful acts, and our passivity and inactivity before those committed by others. And that we do the same with our friends and those we admire. Knowing all this, the twelfth trick of the Devil is to declare that you sometimes must set aside things you know is right for the greater good, thus convincing you to commit acts of evil out of your goodness, thereby giving you the justification you require while absolving you from the sin and doubt associated with the acts, and with time converting you to believe that even those acts in themselves are good.

The thirteenth trick of the Devil is to tell you that the solution to all problems is simple, but it requires strength and bravery from noble and honorable people, thus transforming you into a self-perceived hero and savior as you join him fighting for his proclaimed cause of good and just, completely reshaped, finally, in his infectious image.

***

Despite all his tricks the Devil only has the power and influence we allow him by listening or by choosing not to see. And hope lies in the fact that we all have a choice and can learn to see.

There is hope too, in our children

I do believe people can be good just as they have potential for bad. It is all in how we raise our children, in what examples we set, and in what hope we give people. I don’t believe people are egotistic by nature, as is often claimed today, and even it it were true, you could also argue that violence is natural and thus shouldn’t be unlawful. Society is not built around what is in “human nature”, but often in opposition to it, especially against what is in the nature of a small minority. We together set rules and boundaries for what we want as a society. Some will always break and exploit them, but that is true for any system, and society can’t be built around their behaviour. It must provide all its people with hope and faith in it, or it will always crumble.

The systems themselves aren’t really the problem. Cities and large congregations of people are, as has been argued ever since antiquity, and this was greatly magnified with industrialization and international trade, as the cities and consumption culture grew exponentially and very quick, with population growing 10 or 20-fold in just decades, and a few people knowing to exploit this, like small packs of wolves around large flocks of unaware sheep. George Washington Sears expressed the same sentiment in 1884.

“For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are whithered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd — But he shuns the shadow of the oak and pine”

Today is no different, and while extremes of dictatorship, full monarchy, socialism, liberalism, libertarianism and capitalism always lead to extreme problems in various ways, more moderate examples can all work in smaller scale, as cohesion, connection and adaptation to realities will always be more direct. All those are lost, or intentionally obscured or broken, in large cities and in nations and empires.

Unfortunately, this is also why the future is looking rather bleak and grim, since the cities are always growing, and consumption culture, for financial reasons, has grown radically especially since the 70’s, with intentionally shortened life span of products and conscious breeding of a culture of quick changing fashion forcing people to buy new more often than they actually need. Most societies today are built around the concept of egocentrism, sometimes with a thin layer of commune on top of it.

And people argue over politics instead or realizing the far deeper issues and changes required. We need to change, all of us, at a very profound level, and return to a simpler way of life that focuses less on the material and more on the social and spiritual. We need something truly and perpetually sustainable for everyone.

And there is hope too, in our children, and in the fact that everyone has a potential for good. Almost all religious systems and most political systems tell us that we, to varying degrees, need to look out for one another, and help even strangers. It is a pretty universal thought that most humans believe in. So I don’t think it is too late to turn things around, but as we march fast forward in then opposite direction, time is running out. But change is indeed possible, just as when we turned into this direction in the 19th century, we can also turn in the other direction.

***

Many of the problems that come just from crowding people together in cities are mistakenly blamed on political systems when they have rather little to do with them. Many of these problems are inevitable, although they can be managed better or worse and especially the causes for them.

But the actual system is not necessarily so important when it comes to happiness and satisfaction for people, and many and quite opposed systems can work, if they adapt to changes and work for a satisfactory benefit of all. I know, for example, how there are examples of working communism in China, on a small, local level, in villages, but as a nation or even in regions or larger cities it just doesn’t work.

Small communities too can of course also have their issues and get corrupted, but less easily as they do not have the same disconnect and disenfranchisement that larger cities inevitably have. It’s a difference in scale of things.

Nature in itself is brutal and uncaring. I am just saying we need to find a more sustainable way of life. As it is, our way of life relies completely on a lot of people being worse off, and on us pretending that we don’t realize that we are messing up the Earth, and any change in that, without turning towards sustainability will just break things even faster.

People have been looking towards this several times in history, in Antiquity, in the 18th cent with Rousseau and early 19th cent with Thoreau and Swedish Almqvist, and with the 19th cent outdoors people like Sears, Kephart, Seton and Powell mentioned above, and we even have a similar trend today, which both hipsters, HEMA, bushcrafters and preppers all being part of the same driving need. I even see a lot of people taking part of several of these communities, moving to the countryside and getting chicken and goats for their little farmsteads, storing beans and foods when not swinging swords.

Data mining and your role in it

Remember how a couple of years ago Facebook took the liberty of experimenting on unknowing users, adjusting their feed to see how it would affect their views on the world? Like I said then, this was of course not just an experiment but a testing of a product to be sold.

And it has now been used for both Brexit and the US Election, e.g. by Cambridge Analytica. Be very aware of the changing media, data mining and your role in it.

Read more about Cambridge Analytica
The Secret Agenda of a Facebook Quiz
These Toys Don’t Just Listen To Your Kid; They Send What They Hear
How the Trump Campaign Built an Identity Database and Used Facebook Ads to Win the Election

On beggars

If you don’t want to give money to the beggars outside of the stores and supermarkets, at least consider giving a sandwich, a cup of coffee or something along those lines. It’s a really shitty position to be in and small things will make their lives a tiny bit easier. Of course there are larger political actions that need to be done, but that is far above everyday life for these people, and quite distant in time, likely to never really have any positive affect on their lives.

My wife has helped with contacts with charity organisations, raised some money for needed items and they know us so well that they aren’t afraid to ask for something, without being pushy or expecting to get anything. Simple things that make life slightly less shitty. They still have it very rough though, sleeping in an unheated, beat up car at winter temperatures. Currently many of our beggars come from eastern Europe, there living under rather horrible circumstances. And yes, they are primarily the responsibility of those countries, but as noted earlier, such political reasoning does litte to help these people now, or ever. As such though, they usually have no issues with alcohol or drugs. They are just very poor, uneducated and unemployed. Let’s be decent here.

The Einstein Intersection

From The Einstein Intersection, as awesome today as when I first read it about 30 years ago, as awesome as when Delany wrote it more than 50 years ago. There are a few things to ponder here, but above all, the idea is so great…

“Again, what do you know about mythology?`- I’m not asking you what myths you know, nor even where they come from, but why we have them, what we use them for.”
“I… don’t know”, I said. “When I left my village La Dire told me the myth of Orpheus.”
Spider held up the skull and leaned forward. “Why?”

“Lobey, Earth, the world, fifth planet from the sun – the species that stands on two legs and roams this thin wet crust; it’s changing, Lobey. It’s not the same. Some people walk under the sun and accept that change, others close their eyes, clap their hands to their ears, and deny the world with their tongues. Most snicker, giggle, jeer, and point when they think no one else is looking – that’s how the humans acted throughout their history. We have taken over their abandoned world, and something new is happening to the fragments, something we can’t even define with mankind’s left-over vocabulary. You must take its importance exactly as that: it is indefinable; you are involved in it; it is wonderful; fearful, deep, ineffable to your explanations, opaque to your efforts to see through it; yet it demands you take journeys, defines your stopping and starting points, can propel you with love and hate, even to seek death for Kid Death – ”
“-or make me make music,” I finished for him. “What are you talking about, Spider?”

“I know where you can find Friza. I can let you through the gate. Though Kid Death may kill me, I want you to know that. He is younger, crueler, and much stronger. Do you want to go on?”
I dropped my blade. “It’s fixed!” I said. “I’ll fail! La Dire said Orpheus failed. You’re trying to tell me that those stories tell us just what is going to happen. You’ve been telling me we’re so much older than we think we are; this is all schematic for a reality I can’t change! Your’re telling me right now that I’ve failed as soon as I start.”
“Do you believe that?”
“That’s what you’ve said.”
“As we are able to retain more and more of our past, it takes us longer and longer to become old; Lobey, everything changes. The labyrinth today does not follow the same path it did at Knossos fifty thousand years ago. You may be Orpheus; you may be someone else; who dares death and succeeds. Green-eye may go to the tree this evening, hang there, rot and never come down. The world is not the same. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. It’s different.”
“But – ”
“There’s just as much suspense today as there was when the first singer woke from his song to discover the worth of the concomitant sacrifice. You don’t know, Lobey. This all may be a false note, at best a passing dissonance in the harmonies of the great rock and the great roll.”
I thought for a while. Then I said, “I want to run away.”
Spider nodded. “Some mason set the double-headed labrys on the stones at Pheistos. You carry a two-edge knife that sings. One wonders if Thyeseus built the maze as he wandered through it.”
“I don’t think so,” I said, defensive and dry.” The stones give you a law to follow-”
“-that you can either break or obey.”
“They set you a goal -”
“-and you can either fail that goal, succeed, or surpass it.”
“Why?” I demanded. “Why can’t you just ignore the old stories?” I’ll go on plumb the sea, find the Kid without your help. I can ignore those tales!”
“You’re living in the real world now,” Spider said sadly.
“It’s come from something. It’s going to something. Myths always lie in the most difficult places to ignore. They confound all family love and hate. You shy at them on entering or exiting any endeavor.” He put the skull on the table. “Do you know why Kid needs you as much as he needs Green-eye?”
I shook my head.
“I do.”
“The Kid needs me?”
“Why do you think you’re here?”
“Is the reason… different?”
“Primarily. Sit back and listen.” Spider himself leaned back in his chair. I stayed where I was. “The Kid can change anything in the range of his intelligence. He can make a rock into a tree, a mouse into a handful of moss. But he cannot create something from nothing. He cannot take this skull and leave a vacuum. Green-eye can. And that is why the Kid needs Green-eye.”
I remembered the encounter on the mountain where the malicious redhead had tried to tempt the depthless vision of the herder-prince.
“The other thing he needs is music, Lobey.”
“Music?”
“This is why he is chasing you – or making you chase him. He needs order. He needs patterning, relation, the knowledge that comes when six notes predict a seventh, when three notes beat against one another and define a mode, a melody defines a scale. Music is the pure language of temporal and co-temporal relation. He knows nothing of this, Lobey. Kid Death can control, but he cannot create, which is why he needs Green-eye. He can control, but he cannot order. And that is why he needs you.”
“But how-?”
“Not in any way your village vocabulary or my urban refinement can state. Differently, Lobey. Things passing in a world of difference have their surrealistic corollaries in the present. Green-eye creates, but it is an oblique side effect of something else. You receive and conceive music; again only an oblique characteristic of who you are -”
“Who am I?”
My question had contained a demand. His answer held a chuckle.
“But he needs you both,” Spider went on. “What are you going to give him?”
“My knife in his belly till blood floods the holes and leaks out the mouthpiece. I’ll chase the sea-floor till we both fall on sand.”

Travelling market traders

Looking out our kitchen window I am struck by the crazy hard work of the travelling market traders, many of them fairly old, and none of them young.

They get up damn early in the morning to get prepared, travel to a new market every day (shifting between some 20-30 locations each month), set up the numerous take-down stands for products, set up the stalls for shelter, and then stand up for a full day (which is a killer for anyone) selling stuff, regardless of weather. Then put everything back in their trucks and tomorrow they will be at a new market place, perhaps even another city. And in between all of this they need to handle import/ordering of goods, book keeping, taxes etc, etc, like any other business owner.

They work harder than most people I know and yet they pretty much gain no respect for it. They are hardly even regarded as business owners.

Striking the 2nd line

Here’s a thought. When you take part in debates, especially political debates, and you choose to make derogatory generalizations like “The left/right are evil, infantile, nazi, ignorant, fascist, sjw, morons, snowflakes” etc. etc, you are not deriding some general, shapeless theoretical mass, but quite often the friends and loved ones; the children, parents and partners, of a great many people, striking far beyond the actual person you are attempting to debate.

While the person you talk to might not be particularly personally offended, it may well be deeply offensive for that very reason, not least when those loved ones have dedicated their lives to help others. It is also a very childish way of arguing and not cool, tough or witty.

The easiest person to fool

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.

– Richard Feynman

The universal golden rule

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self.”
– Mahabharata

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”
– Tripitaka

A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.”
– Sutrakritanga

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”
– Confucius

“Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.”
– Thales

“Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.”
– Isocrates

Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you
– Seneca

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.”
– Talmud

“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself.”
– Leviticus

“Do to others what you would want them to do to you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. ”
– Luke

“Do to no one what you yourself dislike.”
– Tobit

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
– Galatians

“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself. That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.”
– The Hadith

The kids are alright

As a father of two young men I really think there are a lot of bitter old fucks who should stop being so envious of the young kids’ youth and try to remember how much it sucked being young with little influence, too little skill & knowledge to be respected for it and a big, fuzzy and scary future, painted a lot worse by media and society. The kids are alright, always have been and always will be. But they won’t be you. Which is fantastic.

Real life role models

While some of my role models in life growing up were fictional characters, there were of course also real life people important to me. Obviously, my parents. My father was and is an amazing man who always supported both us kids, taking us to training and me to my, at times, almost weekly shooting competitions for nearly 15 years, and helping his wife a lot since she always had some serious side effects from the diabetes that eventually took her life at much too young age. He worked hard and still does, despite having retired. He has had a rough life in many ways, but still keeps an amazing attitude to things.

My mother was the one who got me to read and study. No one in our family or among our relatives had studied at university before so it was a big thing when I did. It meant moving away only meeting my parents once a year at most, and as a parent now I can’t really imagine that kind of sacrifice and sense of loss, meeting your child so rarely. She died shortly after that which has been an odd sort of disconnected guilt ever since.

My grandparents on my mother’s side were also a huge influence on me. They were extremely poor, but worked hard in a society that had little care for the very poor, first as child labour, never getting any education, but scraping up enough money to build their own house themselves with granddad even pulling rocks out of the ground by horse. They were to a large degree self-sufficient with a full garden with potatoes, beets, carrots, raddish, cabbage, apples, strawberries and raspberries. They used a horse to plow. There are only a rare few photos of them before they are in their mid 40s as they couldn’t afford it. Not even a wedding photo.

All of them were communists, but not the kind that people tend to think of. They were the “roots up”-kind, growing from the ground up. They were sprung out of a very harsh society up north where people mostly lived and died in the very circumstances they were born in, and were brutally exploited with their bodies worn down from work before the age of 25-30. Physically, my granddad was a broken man by that age, having worked in the wood industry since the age of 5. They believed in building a different society, where everyone had a right to even advanced education and decent healthcare. Where people cared about even strangers without expecting anything in return, because it was the right, humane thing to do. It is a basic idea, shared by the big religions too, living or dead.

Now, I am not a communist or even a socialist myself. Never been part of any political organization. I believe in some of the basic values, but unfortunately I also believe people will fuck up any ideology as there are always people who seek to control others, using religion or politics to do so. It is why I am strongly allergic to idealists who promote or prescribe to ideologies and political parties/theories, especially those who extend it towards morality and making definitions on “good” religion, culture and art. I hate the direction society is taking, with increasing egocentrism and, not racism, but a lot of xenophobia exploited to control society. People are letting themselves be manipulated by greater powers who use the old divide and rule trick to seize power. Times are very dangerous and serious and I really hope there will be a turnaround soon, but I fear it will get a whole lot worse first. Meanwhile I will try to at least push for some positive things together with some friends. Not much else one can do except for working at smaller scale where one stands.

Enough with the morning rant. Been a while since last though.

She washes in the Lake

For some reason I keep returning to this passage. It just stuck with me as some of the most beautiful love poetry, and put together by a Sami man, probably illiterate and with no formal schooling at all, in the 1670s, and describing how his heart perceives his lover as so perfect that the water is cleaner after she has swum in the lake.

“So shall we quickly end our pleasing pain:
Behold my Mistresse there,
With decent motion walking over the Plain.
Kulnafatz, my reindeer,
Look yonder, where
She washes in the Lake.
See while she swims,
The waters from her purer limbs
New clearness take.”

A pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men

God aged Gautr
and prince of Ásgarðr
and lord of Vallhalla.

The mouth is the source of all language,
a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,
a blessing and a joy to every knight.

Estuary is the way of most journeys;
but a scabbard is of swords

***

Óss er algingautr
ok ásgarðs jöfurr,
ok valhallar vísi.
Jupiter oddviti.”

“Os byþ ordfruma ælere spræce,
wisdomes wraþu ond witena frofur
and eorla gehwam eadnys ond tohiht.”

“Óss er flæstra færða
fo,r; en skalpr er sværða.

 

– Icelandic Rune Poem

Historical population of Scandinavian countries

With our 9.9 million people Sweden is still about a million short of the population of Italy in the 1500s. Back in 1570 we were only about 900,000 though. And far fewer in the so called viking period.

Norway is estimated to have had only 80,000 people at the height of the viking period, growing to some 200,000 at the end of it, while Denmark had 500,000 in the beginning and near a million at the end. Sweden seems to have had about 600,000 in the middle of the 1300s. About half the people would have been children. And of course roughly half also female or male.

These early numbers are educated guesswork though as no contemporary census was ever made.

Gods can and will die

There are many things about the old Norse culture and belief systems that fascinate me. One of them is the idea that gods can and will die (which isn’t unique to this system, but very different to the Abrahamic religions which look at eternity and divinity quite differently). Another is the warrior culture that is ultimately part of preserving the universe against chaos, as every warrior is needed and need to hone their skills to help in the cyclic reboot of the world. Half a millennium later Meyer echoes the same sentiment; that trained warriors are needed to safeguard civilization, or else it is doomed to fall.

It is also fascinating to see how the pantheon seems to be built up of different tribal religions of different regions, some worshipping the more chaotic, darker and violent but also life giving sides, like the Axe/Club/Hammer cults, the Thunder God spread out with different names all over Europe ranging from Greece & Rome to Slavs, the Sami & Finland, the Myth of the Wild Hunt common again all over Europe, the Raven god, the Fertility & Hunting gods like Njord, Frej, Freja, Ull and so on, all of them later functionally replaced by saints in some of the Abrahamic religions.

It’s a fantastic mix of ideas created by quite few people and many distinct cultures, over a very long period of time and spread out over a very large area. That exchange is really very fascinating.

Likewise the deeper ideas embedded into the systems are really fascinating and I regret that no teachers of religion at school ever bothered to even approach the subject with any degree of seriousness, instead just turning it into weird fairy tales with no deeper meaning and little value, completely missing out on the complex ideas and the intentional naming of things. Like e.g. these things:

Why I love my neighbourhood

So, let me tell you a bit about why I love my neighbourhood here in Gothenburg, Sweden, despite us just living in a rental apartment, in a neighbourhood that used to have old, beautiful but very worn-down buildings that are now replaced with modern, but aging, ones built in the late 70s/80s. It’s not a half-bad place despite all the horror stories about Sweden falling apart spread around the world.

Immigrants
The blocks where we live have about 50-60% people of foreign background, which is quite a bit more than the average of Sweden in total. This means that growing up with people of different colour and culture is a very normal thing for our kids, going to school and playing without any thought about these things. And no, we have no particular issues with criminality or gangs of unruly teens here. And our kids are quite comfortable in their very Swedish cultural identity, with parents who are pro-immigration, who are suckers for tradition *and* change, and a father who wears a Thor’s hammer and is covered in Norse tattoos.

Same floor storage
Every third flat has same floor storage, meaning elders and people with various disabilities easily can access things they have stored away. Again, this normalizes the mix of people.

Elevators, ramps & electric door openers
Despite the buildings being only three or four floors, and for the same reason as above, all buildings have elevators, ramps and door openers, making it easy to access the building.

Environment stations
Every second building has an environment station where garbage is recycled. Every household sorts food & organic material, newspapers, cardboard, plastics, glass, batteries, lightbulbs & fluorescent tubes etc. Kids know the importance of this and it is part of how they live.

Laundry house
Every yard has a small, separate house with washing machines and rooms to dry wet clothes in, which can be booked and used for free.

Gym & carpenting
The landlord and the tenants have started up a full free 3-room gym and carpenting room with machines, used under trust.

Party & gathering room
All tenants can use a party and gathering room for free, to have meetings or birthday parties etc. I intend to lecture for my club here later.

Guest apartments
All tenants have access to 4 simple guest apartments that can be rented dirt cheap, for when friends or relatives come visiting.

Gardening
The landlord has put extra effort into gardening, hiring skilled gardeners who have set up some amazing flower & plant beds with small semi-wild oases of flowers, plants, bushes and trees. They are set up in zones with info signs so you can learn the names of the various plants.

Playgrounds
Every yard has a decent playground and they are always busy with kids, either on their own, or for the toddlers with a mother or father keeping an eye on them.

Local produce & the market place
Around the corner we have a sourdough bakery, a Dutch cheese shop, Fishermen who have sold local fish here since the 50’s, one of them also sells local meat. Right next to them you can get local fruits & vegetables. And just a bit off we have a nice Iranian gentleman who sells fantastic spices, tea and coffee beans.

Supermarket & State liquor store
Almost every neighbourhood in Sweden has its own supermarket and there are only a handful of chains nationally, meaning their assortment are pretty standardized wherever you go. That is not always a great thing, but it is decent to good in quality and it is just a minute away. And they are focusing more and more on environment-friendly products, which hopefully will be good.

Yes, booze is controlled in Sweden, but on the other hand that also means the State liquor stores are obliged to order what you want, and when they order, they order for a whole country. This means the range of products available is really good and every liquor store is basically the size of a medium-sized supermarket. We have one on the corner.

Health & Dental care
Also around the corner we have communal health & dental care, offered pretty much for free (dental care free for under 24), making it a good neighbourhood for elders or anyone with any health issue. Actual hospitals are 10-20 minutes away by slow tram. They too are of course also free, or rather funded by shared taxes.

Schools
There are a number of good public schools for kids and youths of varying ages available in the near distance. Kids can walk there easily and safely.

Public areas
There are two nice green parks 1-2 minutes away where people have picnic, play around and just enjoy themselves. One of them has one of the best views of Gothenburg you can find.

Communications
Public transport is excellent and we don’t have a car since there is no need for it. We have four different trams passing by and a number of buses. There is usually no more than 2-3 minutes of waiting. Also there are bike lanes and Equal Share roads for cars & bikes, meaning it is pretty easy to get to town. And it is no more than you can walk easily either, even if it takes you half an hour or so.

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners

Considering how it has always been better before, going at least as far back as the Greeks…

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.”

– Socrates/Plato

… it must have been pretty fucking epically awesome back in the Stone Age. And yet brutal crime, poverty and suffering was a very strong part of urban life around the Victorian period & the 18th cent, and acts of violence a high risk for a citizen long before. Just look at the 30,000 strong Apaches Parisienne who plagued Paris at a time when it had just above 2 million people. They apparently even had sister gangs aroung the world, e.g. with the Russian Apaches.

Or look at the Glasgow razor gangs with e.g. the fascist Billy Boys. Or the Peaky Blinders of Birmingham who made a habit of recruiting children to carry their weapons. Or the Mohocks of London who had fun disfiguring innocent people at random using knives and swords. Or the High Rip Gang of Liverpool who the police often didn’t dare intervene with, due to their brutality and habit of always being armed. Or the Deansgate Mob of Liverpool, and so on.

Some of them were even part criminal/part political gangs, like the Billy Boys or the Know-Nothing Gang who under threat of violence forced people to vote in certain ways, or with violence tried to stop the immigration of Catholics. It is believed that Edgar Allan Poe may have been one of the victims of the Know-Nothing Gang and that he died shortly after having been kidnapped, drugged and locked up, in an attempt to force him to support their political agenda.

Even Japan had their own gang in the Kabukimono (Crazy Ones) of the lordless samuray of young men who in women’s clothing and makeup roamed the streets armed, nihilistic and drunk. And not forgetting the murderous Thuggees of India who gave us the word “thug”. Or the Green Gang of Shanghai who gave us the phrase to “shanghai” someone…

And things of course didn’t stop there. Look e.g. at London during and after WW2, with organized crime flourishing with dire circumstances and the black market. Or, reversedly, looking back even farther, the Renaissance had huge problems with violent crime and robberies, with everyone carrying swords and daggers in public in large parts of Europe. The idea that that would stop people from insulting others or behaving badly is just plain wrong. It just got people maimed and killed more, as noted e.g. by Beltramino Cursado in 1490. Stockholm, Sweden had about 80 times as many murders and slayings in the 1500s as today, relatively.
And then we have the Damned Crew in late 16th and 17th London, a rowdy gang of “adventurers” who liked to drink and fight with the town guards and assault passers-by. The Hawkubites were quite similar about a 100 years later and are said to have “beat up women, children, watchmen, and old men in the streets after dark”.

“From Mohock and from Hawkubite,
Good Lord, deliver me!
Who wander through the streets at night,
Committing cruelty.
They slash our sons with bloody knives,
And on our daughters fall;
And if they murder not our wives,
We have good luck withal
Coaches and chairs they overturn,
Nay, carts most easily;
Therefore from Gog and Magog,
Good Lord, deliver me!”

All in culturally quite homogenous societies of generally very conservative and mostly Christian values. Maybe, just maybe urban life has a few other issues that are part in causing these problems of crime in modern society…

Just saying this with absolutely no interest in debating or even allowing a pointless debate on my page, and with a strong inclination towards deleting any such thing due to past experiences off bullshit.

The Trolls

It’s a bit funny. Rolf Lidberg was an artist who painted trolls, with the environments all coming from where I grew up, and with many of the objects being things I grew up with, both in my family but more so with my grandparents who I spent a lot of my early years with; like handmade baskets, copper coffee pots, the old ways of making coffee with rough grind straight into the pot which I started drinking already as a kid although not drinking from the saucer like the elders, socks made by my grandmother and Lovikka mittens that sucked for making snowballs, kicksleds used all through the winter and even racing them down icy streets, ice fishing perch and brown and rainbow trout, and arctic char, eating lingon- blue- and golden cloudberries, skiing or walking through the beautiful woods, mires and swimming in the lakes, with the neverending days of northern summer and the deep snow and darkness for half the year. All of it is so familiar. And as I get older I find myself looking more and more like one of those old trolls, going back to the woods again. Miss the north though. 🙂

Population growth

Around 1570, only 900,000 people lived in Sweden, and only 1.8 million in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland in total.

In the late 1600s Gothenburg only had 10,000 people and in the early to mid 1800s only about 20,000, just doubling in about 150-170 years.

In the next 150 years of industrialization it grew 25 times bigger, to 550,000 inhabitants, while the national population grew about 11 times to 9.9 million, and the nordic region in total grew by 15 times to 26.5 million.

Quite scary numbers in a way, but still we have a lot of empty space.

Things I thought my grandparents were crazy with

… when I was a child that I never thought would happen to myself:

1. Thinking that vanilla icecream wasn’t an icecream that hadn’t had a proper flavour added to it yet.

2.Thinking that silence and solitude was nice and not just a void that needed to be filled.

3. Thinking that history can be interesting and not just stuffy and useless knowledge about things long gone.

4. Thinking that butter was a tasty spread in its own right and not just a glue to make actual spreads and toppings stay on the sandwich.

5. Thinking that a cap, wool socks and winter underwear actually was good, could be cool, and was comfy as an outfit in its own right indoors at home.

The Syrian confusion

Not that it clears things up much but important to know.

Currently there are some 1500 groups fighting in Syria, in constantly shifting alliances. While many foreign fighters join the IS, many also join the rebels, who are also made up by great numbers of jihadists, and it is a complete mess as the West has supported some of these groups with arms while also considering the very same groups as terrorists. And the IS are fighting the Rebels who are fighting both the IS and Assad, while the West is in alliance with some who bomb other of our allies.

And while the IS are incredibly brutal, Assad kills 6-7 times as many civilians and uses both torture, kidnapping and illegal weapons against civilians. And millions of civilians are still caught in this meat grinder.

And while removing Assad seems right, the worst fear is that it will lead to even worse things and some hope that a brutal dictator, much like Saddam Hussein, is needed to control things, and is therefore better than the alternative as a known and lesser evil. It is a hellhole.

To me this seems to be the current focal point of what in effect is World War 3, but a war very different to WW2 and WW1, as there is no clear enemy and the many alliances of backers and proxy troops shift by the day. I believe it will get a whole lot worse and it will affect us more and more on our own soil as we all sooner or later will have to make a stand and join in military capacity, all the while we also work on diplomatic and financial solutions. And I say this as someone who was strongly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. I don’t carelessly support war efforts.

I wish it were as easy as WW2, with a clear division between good and bad, enemy and victim, but it is not, it can’t be, and in that I believe we more than ever will have to stand up for our values and beliefs and strive to defend the defenceless, to give them shelter, to stand up for democracy and human rights for everyone, even when it costs us more than we dare think.

Gods. rituals and philosophies

Not a religious person I still find quite a few concepts in various religions very interesting. Hugin and Munin as two separate expressions of the root of Odin’s wisdom for instance, or the Norns as three aspects of time, somewhat similar to the Christian Trinity with the continuity of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit.

I find it difficult to take believing in gods fully seriously, although I respect those who do, but the rituals and philosophies certainly have their value, and dangers too. Regardless of the issues, the old concepts used to describe the world and the human psyche are very interesting and often far more complex and advanced than people give them credit for, even within their own belief systems.

An oath

Although my first tattoo was done for rather base reasons; wanting a visible change, to become adult and to toughen up, but without any clear idea of how to symbolize it, I consider tattoos to be like an oath, like marriage vows to yourself, swearing to stay true to things you believe in and care about. The tattoos are permanent for-life reminders of that. For me that is what tattoos are about. It is not intended for others to see, but for me to be constantly reminded by. It is like chapter titles from the book of my life, just like scars.

Stájnak, the transgender reindeer

I find it utterly fascinating to read about the Stájnak, the transgender reindeer that the Sami considered a blessing as a “lucky animal” that would help protect the flock. These transgender cows fought the young bulls and even tried to mate with the cows, but the bulls did not try the same with the Stájnak. They were rare, but bigger and stronger than the other cows, with brighter colours and larger antlers. It was a holy animal, that even the wolf let alone.

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime

It is funny how things connect and come back in loops. I’ve dedicated a good part of the last decade of my life to the study of historical European martial arts, including researching the 19th cent HEMA pioneers who sought to recreate these martial arts in the 2nd half of the 19th cent and early 20th cent.

Recently I decided to put more serious focus and time into another older interest of mine; outdoors life and nature, something I have neglected ever since I moved to the city I now live in. Being the old fart I am, I of course also have old ideas on certain things, prefering simple, low tech gear that is reliable, and I try to both refresh old knowledge as well as learn a few new tricks for what is today commonly called bushcrafting. Doing so, I am looking at the 19th cent writers on the topic, men who wrote about “woodcraft”, and it is striking how “bushcrafting” too has its 19th cent “pioneers”, trying to revive or recreate knowledge that was largely lost by their time.

Ernest Thompson Seton writes

Woodcraft is the first of all sciences. It was Woodcraft that made man out of brutish material, and woodcraft in its highest form may save him from decay.

and then

For over 25 years I have been giving the talks and demonstrations that are gathered together in this book…

All are merely parts of a scheme I have always considered my life’s work, namely, the development or revival of woodcraft as a school for Manhood.

These men felt similar concerns to how we do today, concerns about an increasing disconnect with nature, about society’s impact on it and all the problems that come with big cities and modern life. As George Washington Sears puts it:

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are whithered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd—
But he shuns the shadow of the oak and pine

Similar concerns had already been raised by Rousseau, Thoreau and in Sweden Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, all seeking a more natural life, much like hipsters, survivalists, preppers and bushcrafters and many others do today.

Both Seton and Sears spoke highly of the “Indian” and their way of life, having experienced it closely and having learnt themselves from the natives, therefore also seeking “justice” and respect for them. Seton states:

He [“the Indian”] asks only the same rights as are allowed without question to all other men in America – the protection of the courts, the right to select his own religion, dress, amusements, and the equal right to the pursuit of happiness…

There are a few good lessons to be learnt from these men, not least in these days where more and more restrictions are placed on people and as we carelessly and thoughtlessly let it all happen, at the same time as we let go of centuries of hard-earned knowledge, knowing less and less about how to handle ourselves outside of the safety of a well-functioning society.

A small step away

Irony is in full effect when people who hate journalists who lie and twist the truth start a FB group about it and then lie themselves and get upset by their own lies, rather than the actual truth. We are just a small step from early nazi Germany with people building their own alternate realities born out of their frustration and mob mentality, enlarged and sped up through Internet and no understanding or concern for fact checking. Really scary shit and there will be more Breiviks and “Lasermannen” soon.

On propaganda and banging on war drums

Speaking of propaganda and banging on war drums… Something which is currently making the rounds on the Internet, not least at anti-muslim and nazi sites is reports on the ISIS beheading children. Now, while I don’t have any doubts that the ISIS is a bunch of evil mf’s, it should be noted that all of the reports on this stem from one Christian American Iraq-born business man, living in San Diego, who’s an expert on viral marketing and who has some form of collaboration with the Obama administration as well as the Iraqi government.

Now this may turn out to have some truth in it, but pictures that have been posted thus far have not been confirmed to be tied to such events and are in several cases distinctly suspicious. And there seems to be no other reports other than a single interview with this business man.

Now, I do not oppose military action against the ISIS, but I feel quite suspicious as to the validity of these stories and it is really depressing to see how some put it all in the lap of all muslims, not least with the other bullshit that has been circulating lately.

Obscuring the issues

It is really, really scary to see how media is constantly manipulated and some truly scary, but still rare events are magnified and repeatedly used for more or less racist generalization. There are tons of examples, even including photoshopped images that get circulated, even in daily press and on TV news broadcasting, with text inserted into placards at protests etc. Never before has it been done at this scale, although propaganda has always been important.

The worst of it all is that the real issues are obscured and lose validity and credibility when reported, as it is hidden underneath tons of bullshit and THAT I think is really, really dangerous. It is a great way of keeping people in control though, through fear mongering.

Measured counteraction

With all due respect to my friends who have friends and relatives in the region…

Current death toll in the latest conflict between Israel and Palestine: 340 “terrorists & civilians” vs 1 soldier

In total of the years 1987-2011 the numbers are 7978 vs 1503 with a huge escalation in the last 10 years.

2011 118 vs 11
2010 81 vs 8
2009 1034 vs 9 (This year a third of the palestinian casualties were children or youths)
2008 887 vs 35
2007 385 vs 13
2006 665 vs 23
2005 190 vs 51
2004 832 vs 108

Now who were the victims again?

This just isn’t right, not ethically, humanely, politically or tactically. There can’t be a winner here and it may well trigger much more serious events in the region, leading up to a new world war. At this point it is just slaughter, however much some try to mask it as defensive actions and push the blame onto the “enemy”.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery

Old pirates, yes, they rob I,
Sold I to the merchant ships,
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit.

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the Almighty.
We forward in this generation
Triumphantly.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but our self can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever have,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs,
Redemption songs.

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but our self can free our mind.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall dey kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look?
Some say it’s just a part of it,
We’ve got to fulfill de book.

Won’t you help to sing,
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had,
Redemption songs.
All I ever had,
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom

Examine yourself

A very strong documentary on the topic of racism, sexism etc and why you can’t understand the other sides’ views until you experience it yourself. Well worth looking through.

 

 

Everybody’s born with some different thing at the core of their existence

“Here’s what I think, Mr. Wind-Up Bird,” said May Kasahara. “Everybody’s born with some different thing at the core of their existence. And that thing, whatever it is, becomes like a heat source that runs each person from the inside. I have one too, of course. Like everybody else. But sometimes it gets out of hand. It swells or shrinks inside me, and it shakes me up. What I’d really like to do is find a way to communicate that feeling to another person. But I can’t seem to do it. They just don’t get it. Of course, the problem could be that I’m not explaining it very well, but I think it’s because they’re not listening very well. They pretend to be listening, but they’re not, really. So I get worked up sometimes, and I do some crazy things.”

– Haruki Murakami

The Bloody White Baron

Sometimes I think we would see many more revolutions had we not had TV, Internet and video games to dull our minds and our anxieties with. The people in power, especially those basing their politics on religion seem to have not changed their ideas very much the last century or so… Distrust in the academics and science, not understanding the motives for civil unrest and so on…

Imperial rule was the natural order of things, and to threaten it threatened the world itself; revolution was the harbinger of ‘famine, destruction, the death of culture, of glory, of honour and of spirit, the death of states and the death of peoples’. The monarchical system was very dear to Ungern; it was the centrepiece of the hierarchies that governed his world. The Russian monarchy, however, was the most sacred of all, blessed, like Russia, by God himself.

The revolution, seemingly spontaneous, was really controlled by the Jews and intellectuals; it was ‘the horrible harvest of the seed sowed by revolutionaries’. He dismissed any suggestion that the revolts might have arisen out of genuine social grievance, believing that ‘in their hearts, the people remained loyal to Tsar, Faith and Fatherland’, but had been led astray by the intelligentsia.

– From The Bloody White Baron about Roman von Ungern-Sternberg by James Palmer

Follow Water on a Rock

A bit of a pretentious knobhead with thoughts too big for his head and a need to get them out to leave room for other things.

About Water on a Rock

Water on a Rock is a place where I collect and define my thoughts on philosophy, politics and life. As with everything in life, it is a process of exploration that will, at times, be inconsistent and contradictory, but hopefully made more solid and strong with time.

While the hope is to some degree help counter some negative and even dangerous ideas spreading in society, it is also very much about I myself finding my own path, outside of the constraints of set philosophies and religions. And yes, it is pretentious. And I think more people should be.