Open Thread, 3/22/2015

Well, “busy” week.

First, thanks to all the people who have reached out to me. It’s appreciated. There are many of you.

Second, I have to note that some of my most liberal friends seem the most angry in personal correspondence. I believe it is probably a function of the fact that conservatives simply expect these sorts of things to happen. So they weren’t surprised. Since my friends know what type of person I am of course they took offense at the aspersions made by some.

Third, I’ve written ~4 million words over 13 years (excluding comments). I never thought I would be as prominent as I am now, so even if I were the type to dissimulate, it never seemed relevant. Trying to get the best handle on truth is important to me. That means I’ve stepped on some toes, violated taboos and such. I don’t believe in an afterlife, and neither do I seek the accolades of the masses. If I offend because I think I’m asking questions that need to be asked, then I’m going to offend. Naturally in all the ~4 million words and many years of writing I can’t and won’t stand by the substance or style of everything I’ve written, but the totality is something that I’m mildly proud of (if you read things that you wrote/thought 10, 15 years ago I suspect many of you would wince as well). We all grow old and die. We’ll ask ourselves what the point of it all was in the solitude of the precipice of mortality. The point? Not to seem smart. To become smart. The latter is hard and humbling.

Fourth, I would not trade the joys of my life for those of my detractors. I understand that they believe that they destroy evil in the service of good. But sometimes beliefs are false, and have horrible consequences. Often what goes around comes around.

Finally, I have a whole life that does not involve this blog or my “public intellectual” persona. Some readers forget this and make all sorts of assumptions about my life which are not warranted (since I’ve started to become a bit more open over the past few years this is less common than it used to be). But the reality is that what happened this week hasn’t really impacted that dimension of “real life” at all. I went lifting and bought some khakis today at a shopping mall (I don’t go to malls very often, and it’s interesting what a diverse array of America you can see there mushed together!). I graded exams. I replied to emails. It was a good day.

Update: I have to say something that has been on my mind. The PoBI paper came out. In it the implication seems to be that a significant, but minority, contribution in southeast England (the “Saxon Shore”) was from Germans. The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. To me this is interesting because from what I have read in regards to archaeology the Germans culturally ablated the Romano-British. In particular, the standard model is that institutional Christianity died, replaced by German paganism until the subsequent re-conversion of the early 7th century. What does this mean then? Assuming that the two facts are true (I am moderately confident in the genetic findings, though need to dig deeper), then I think it points to the importance of the elite social stratum in determining the complex features of human culture. There is a thesis that for all practical purposes the European peasantry were quasi-pagans until the modern era, because Christianity was fully elaborated only among the elites, who for all practical purposes ran the Church, and for whom the Church was relevant in their lives (e.g., their marriages were solemnized, the peasants often had common law marriages). There is even circumstantial evidence that some British warriors assimilated to the German culture (the legendary founder of the House of Wessex, had a typically non-German name). The succession of the “higher” Christian culture by the “lower” pagan German one may seem strange to us today, but cyclical dynamics were far more common, so perhaps it is not surprising.

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