Saturday, October 14, 2017

Personal Reflection X - The Commonality between the Alt Right and Alt Left

This is based on an answer I gave in Quora.

Having read considerably about each. Here is my take on the commonalities.
  1. A rejection of the Mainstream medium narrative when it suits them.
  2. The driving force of alienation
  3. Focus on Grievance Politics
  4. A general disdain for liberal democracy
  5. Emphasis on Identity Politics
  6. Effective use of the Internet as a means to promote the ideology
  7. Absolute loathing of the other
  8. Preference for Protectionist Economics
  9. Reliance on Alternative News
  10. Strong undercurrents of antisemitism
  11. Presence of a violent element
  12. Utopic view of what ought to be
  13. Presence of a significant number of mentally unhinged individuals within the rank-and-file
  14. A notable hostility towards Scientific Rationalism
  15. Insistence on seeing themselves as victims.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 44 - Julius Caesar and the Transition to Empire

Julius Caesar was a patrician Roman whose family was allied with the faction of Marius. In his younger days he had fallen foul of the Sulla and was forced to flee Rome but he returned following the death of the dictator. Like Pompey he waged war against the Mediterranean pirates and later worked his way up the Roman hierarchy by holding at different times the ranks of quaestor and praetor. 

However his greatest victories were achieved in the Gallic War that resulted in the annexation of Gaul, the great victory at Alesia (52 BCE) and victories over a host of tribes that included the Arverni, Belgae, Suebi, and Veneti amongst others. Casear also made inroads into the Rhine region and included in his campaigns two invasions of Britannia (the first was unsuccessful and the second achieved only nominal gains). The events of the Gallic War were chronicled in Caesar’s book Commentarii de Bello Gallico - a great work of Latin prose

Caesar’s successes threatened the Roman elite. In 50 BCE the Senate directed by Pompey ordered Caesar to lay down his arms and return to Rome. The Great Roman General refused and immortalized his position with the phrase Alea iacta est (the die is cast). Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and led his army into Northern Italy. Pompey and his senate support fled south. Although they outnumbered Caesar in military strength they chose not to fight. Caesar pursued Pompey forces in Spain and then chased them to Illyria defeating them at the Battle of Dyrrachium in 48 BCE before finally vanquishing his rival at Pharsalus in Greece. Pompey fled to Egypt and was assassinated. His head was given to Caesar as a reward.

The great general’s grip on power was at its height. He defeated the force’s of the Egyptian Pharaoh at the Battle of the Nile (47 BCE) and installed Cleopatra as that nation’s ruler (he would have a son with Cleopatra named Caesarion). Opposition to Caesar came from Pompey’s sons but Caesar defeated their forces at the Battle of Munda in 45 BCE.

Caesar proved to be a competent ruler whose prestige was upped by the triumphs granted to him by the Roman Senate. He reformed the army, lessened the power of the elites, introduced the Julian Calendar and ordered the rebuilding of Carthage and Corinthia. He attempted to deal with the problems that were particular to the Italian peninsula (the causes of the Social War).

In March of 44 BCE, a month after being appointed dictator-for-life, he was however assassinated by a cabal of senators that included the Cassius brothers, Brutus and Casca. Rome was immediately plunged into Civil War.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Personal Reflection IX - Ten Jewish Books I have learnt the most from

1. The Way of God - Moshe Chaim Luzzatto - Very Logical
2. The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I - Aryeh Kaplan - Especially the part on the 14 Principles of Faith
3. Those who forget the Past - Edited by Ron Rosenbaum - Excellent Essays on Anti-Semitism
4. Jewish People, Jewish Thought - Robert M. Seltzer - An excellent guide to Jewish intellectual thought
5. World Perfect - Ken Spiro - Outlines the Jewish intellectual contriburtion. A tad simplistic but worth a read.
6. Immortality, Resurrection, and the Age of the Universe - Aryeh Kaplan - More of Kaplan at his best.
7. The Jewish Approach to God - Rabbi Neil Gillman - Concise and easy to understand.
8. God is a Verb - David A. Cooper - Although Cooper is a tad PC his take on the Kabbalah is insightful.
9. The Holocaust Chronicle - Publications International Ltd - As mentioned before a wonderful reference work.
10. A History of Zionism - Walter Laquer - A must for every student of Jewish nationalism

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 43 -The First Triumvirate

Sulla owed much of his success to the loyalty of his troops. He took Marius’ military methods a step further and used the army to dictate state politics. He was committed to using the army as a vanguard to secure his presence domestically and was ruthless in dispensing with opposition viz. the proscripto lists and the Marian Massacres. The former placed a bounty on the heads of those who stood in defiance against him with the latter directed at the pro-Marius elements who at one time were a considerable force in Rome.

The reaction to the Sullan party grew after the death of the so-called Perpetual Dictator. A revolt by Lepidus in 77 BCE started the trend that picked up steam when rebels in Spain (including a large Marian segment) under the leadership of Sertorius declared independence from Rome. The Senate was forced to act and instructed Pompey to take the initiative. He did and by 72 BCE the Spanish opposition was bought to heel.

However Rome’s problems continued with the War of the Gladiators (known as the Third Servile War).  Led by the Thracian fighter Spartacus this gladiator army beat back four Roman legions and wreaked havoc in Central Italy before being defeated by the Roman General Crassus and later by Pompey himself (who vanquished the remnants of Spartacus’ army). Pompey would also distinguish himself in the Third Mithridatic War

Pompey and Crassus would return to Rome as victors and emerge as Consuls. However Roman politics was extremely fragmented. Pompey’s would accumulate more accolades in his campaign against the Mediterranean pirates but perhaps his greatest moment as a general occurred with his capture of Jerusalem in 63 BC an event that signified the end of Jewish independence.

The great orator Cicero uncovered a conspiracy led by the senator Catiline to overthrow the Roman Republic and replace it with an aristocratic Senate. Catiline was forced to flee and for a brief point in time Rome’s march to a new oligarchy was halted.

However an informal First Triumvirate consisting of Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus would emerge as the power bloc in Rome. Crassus would lose his life campaigning against the Parthian enemy in Persia (53BCE) allowing both Caesar and Pompey to consolidate their base of strength.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Personal Reflection VIII - In Praise of me time

I am what Carl Jung would call the Introvert even though my line of work favours considerable interaction with people. So far I have managed this challenge.

One of the discoveries of growing older is the realization that time itself is extremely valuable. When one was younger, time seemed as plentiful as the atmosphere. It was there it was available and it seemed to last forever.  Then the milestone of forty kicked in and something triggered inside me. There are only twenty-four hours in a day and one needs to use them wisely. Now in my case I know exactly the cause of this trigger. Essentially it was the onset of fatherhood that had ambushed me at thirty-seven and was redefining my persona with each passing moment. However it was only at forty that this realization became intellectually apparent. Maybe I had blocked it out for a while but now in a brief respite I could contemplate what it truly was. It wasn’t time that was the problem but a deficiency of ‘me-time’ the opportunity to retreat and ‘be alone’ to charge one’s battery and escape even for a while the realities of adulthood.  Its not that this ‘me-time’ is better than any other time for most of my greatest moments are spent with my family but for somebody who is naturally introverted such ‘me-time’ is critical to my functioning. Supply it at the right amount and I function optimally on all fronts. Take it away and I cease to be the best version of Gavin that I can be. So in a sense I place great value on ‘me-time’. It is currency in my life whose value seems to appreciate with age. I am sure others feel the same way. It’s a healthy selfishness but one that when all said and done is extremely necessary.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 42 - Decline of the Republic

Land Reform was a key issue in Rome that was brought to a head by the rise and fall of the Plebian Gracchus brothers. Although the brothers achieved partial success in redistributing land to the peasants their reforms would eventually be rolled back following the assassination of each brother.

The Northern Germanic Tribes would continue to harass and threaten the integrity of Rome. Two of these tribes: Cimbri and the Teutones were the most menacing and between 113-101 BCE battled Rome. A corrupt Roman oligarchy failed initially to deal with the threat with the Romans suffering a disastrous defeat at Arausio. However the rise of Gaius Marius (a man who would hold the office of consul a record seven times) signalled a change in strategy. The Roman Army was reorganized, with Marius (a hero of the Jugurthan Wars in North Africa) building up a standing force comprised largely of landless fighting fit volunteers. The concept of the Standard was introduced (the Aquila or eagle) and the cohort consisting of approximately 480 men would serve as the principal unit

Marius’ much-needed military turning point came in 102 BC. He defeated the Teutones (and their allies the Ambrones) at Aquae Sextiae but had to wait a full year before vanquishing the Cambri at Vercellae.

However the rise of Marius would be challenged by Lucius Cornelius Sulla, an ambitious general who had distinguished himself during the Social War of 90-88 BCE. This was largely a conflict in the Italian Peninsula that saw Rome emerge victorious over its Marsic and Samnite local rivals.  Sulla was a shrewd military figure who has the notable accolade of being the only person in history to successfully enter and occupy both Rome and Athens. He would emerge as a powerful dictator in Rome in 81 BC after the death of Marius and would implement draconian measures to clamp down on enemies of the state. In a sense he was an early precursor of the modern autocrat. While there is much controversy about his methods and his Machiavellian approach there is no doubt about his brilliance as a general as evident in Sulla’s victories in both Civil Wars and the Mithridatic War. He died in 78 BC following a short retirement. It is often argued that Sulla’s marches on Rome (two altogether) set the stage for Julius Caesar’s march on Rome several decades later.

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 41 - Roman consolidation of Power

Roman attention was turned toward Macedonia. The two powers had already fought a war between 214-205 BCE but it was in the Second War fought between 200-196 BCE that Roman victory was most pronounced (The Romans would defeat the Macedonians in a third war fought between 172-168 BCE as well).

Roman hegemony was challenged by the Galatians (in Magnesia), the Lusitanians (ancestors of the Portuguese), Pergamon, Rhodes, the Boii and various Iberian groups but with limited success only.

In 146 BCE the Romans sacked Corinthia, dissolved the Achaean League, and officially stamped their footprint as successors to the Greeks in carrying the mantle of Western Civilization.

Celtiberian resistance collapsed at Numantia circa.133 BCE in an event categorized by a mass suicide. In the years that followed Roman expansion would move into the Gallic lands (France).