721 Words

happy words

1 be
2 the
3 you
4 and
5 it
6 to
7 a
8 have
9 of
10 do
11 not
12 that
13 they
14 we
15 in
16 he
17 know
18 get
19 go
20 so
21 this
22 but
23 on
24 pause
25 I
26 unclear
27 for
28 think
29 like
30 there
31 will
32 say
33 she
34 what
35 just
36 well
37 one
38 with
39 if
40 at
41 all
42 about
43 or
44 as
45 would
46 then
47 because
48 right
49 can
50 no
51 up
52 mean
53 out
54 see
55 thing
56 yes
57 when
58 really
59 want
60 come
61 now
62 some
63 good
64 from
65 time
66 people
67 very
68 yeah
69 make
70 look
71 two
72 take
73 here
74 which
75 could
76 work
77 more
78 who
79 other
80 laugh
81 where
82 use
83 something
84 how
85 back
86 year
87 by
88 any
89 lot
90 way
91 put
92 down
93 give
94 sort
95 three
96 much
97 actually
98 need
99 talk
100 kind
101 tell
102 only
103 should
104 over
105 little
106 day
107 into
108 bit
109 try
110 why
111 okay
112 off
113 first
114 than
115 too
116 five
117 let
118 call
119 four
120 last
121 start
122 quite
123 still
124 find
125 probably
126 even
127 might
128 through
129 point
130 anything
131 laughter
132 week
133 before
134 again
135 problem
136 never
137 same
138 big
139 feel
140 ask
141 question
142 also
143 different
144 sure
145 long
146 always
147 school
148 happen
149 course
150 keep
151 another
152 nice
153 read
154 hundred
155 leave
156 many
157 after
158 thank
159 meet
160 stuff
161 end
162 number
163 hear
164 next
165 six
166 pay
167 money
168 place
169 remember
170 maybe
171 old
172 test
173 home
174 change
175 though
176 house
177 new
178 live
179 part
180 kid
181 interest
182 around
183 write
184 most
185 move
186 every
187 today
188 twenty
189 else
190 anyway
191 child
192 buy
193 fact
194 play
195 great
196 job
197 seem
198 man
199 night
200 away
201 pound
202 issue
203 own
204 area
205 half
206 bad
207 round
208 eight
209 help
210 ten
211 whole
212 everything
213 minute
214 may
215 whether
216 student
217 guess
218 whatever
219 car
220 sit
221 bring
222 book
223 name
224 run
225 show
226 word
227 suppose
228 morning
229 must
230 understand
231 month
232 both
233 idea
234 seven
235 pretty
236 somebody
237 able
238 item
239 hour
240 side
241 enough
242 ever
243 important
244 late
245 turn
246 between
247 thousand
248 few
249 term
250 life
251 nine
252 believe
253 far
254 sorry
255 set
256 thirty
257 nothing
258 case
259 real
260 second
261 mind
262 woman
263 guy
264 each
265 hard
266 couple
267 love
268 speak
269 group
270 together
271 high
272 friend
273 build
274 family
275 watch
276 country
277 plan
278 fifty
279 send
280 obviously
281 reason
282 yet
283 walk
284 either
285 wait
286 already
287 person
288 open
289 once
290 report
291 deal
292 stop
293 hand
294 alright
295 example
296 cause
297 information
298 please
299 exactly
300 ago
301 room
302 answer
303 spend
304 stay
305 rather
306 certainly
307 breath
308 while
309 everybody
310 clear
311 eat
312 perhaps
313 early
314 care
315 pick
316 type
317 matter
318 such
319 until
320 hope
321 level
322 small
323 line
324 close
325 phone
326 least
327 under
328 someone
329 system
330 cost
331 state
332 sometimes
333 paper
334 top
335 since
336 concern
337 true
338 order
339 government
340 sound
341 tomorrow
342 service
343 wrong
344 lose
345 easy
346 water
347 program
348 parent
349 break
350 agree
351 business
352 within
353 door
354 sense
355 drive
356 stand
357 basically
358 process
359 hold
360 cut
361 moment
362 girl
363 past
364 without
365 learn
366 young
367 anybody
368 teacher
369 become
370 member
371 train
372 class
373 forty
374 company
375 begin
376 fine
377 support
378 world
379 head
380 nineteen
381 dad
382 view
383 decide
384 finish
385 expect
386 particular
387 percent
388 shop
389 situation
390 involve
391 check
392 along
393 full
394 form
395 sell
396 story
397 certain
398 local
399 ring
400 figure
401 twelve
402 wonder
403 boy
404 usually
405 public
406 less
407 worry
408 yesterday
409 funny
410 road
411 discussion
412 front
413 record
414 across
415 absolutely
416 short
417 policy
418 difficult
419 teach
420 mine
421 piece
422 provide
423 comment
424 cover
425 mother
426 almost
427 list
428 difference
429 ninety
430 against
431 forget
432 page
433 light
434 happy
435 yourself
436 myself
437 dollar
438 cough
439 tape
440 allow
441 wear
442 forward
443 follow
444 experience
445 clock
446 listen
447 decision
448 mention
449 somewhere
450 eighty
451 bloody
452 age
453 outside
454 letter
455 during
456 language
457 card
458 large
459 stick
460 base
461 picture
462 table
463 enjoy
464 party
465 continue
466 pass
467 add
468 sixty
469 often
470 fall
471 grow
472 general
473 drink
474 carry
475 response
476 price
477 include
478 bed
479 position
480 soon
481 suggest
482 office
483 possible
484 fifteen
485 sign
486 face
487 draw
488 low
489 although
490 dog
491 present
492 amount
493 market
494 sing
495 save
496 game
497 lovely
498 choice
499 ready
500 food
501 die
502 health
503 color
504 community
505 miss
506 mathematics
507 address
508 town
509 win
510 foot
511 raise
512 discuss
513 committee
514 pull
515 box
516 dear
517 consider
518 rest
519 increase
520 nobody
521 computer
522 budget
523 fun
524 depend
525 particularly
526 study
527 tonight
528 everyone
529 afternoon
530 notice
531 baby
532 chance
533 standard
534 especially
535 middle
536 press
537 till
538 million
539 seventy
540 city
541 realize
542 score
543 weekend
544 black
545 lead
546 result
547 fit
548 staff
549 control
550 definitely
551 conversation
552 further
553 straight
554 free
555 shall
556 develop
557 college
558 opportunity
559 near
560 ought
561 per
562 bear
563 offer
564 date
565 grade
566 toward
567 war
568 throw
569 major
570 charge
571 rate
572 individual
573 music
574 doctor
575 husband
576 force
577 load
578 effect
579 wish
580 team
581 eleven
582 worth
583 brief
584 law
585 unless
586 future
587 behind
588 white
589 site
590 special
591 main
592 trouble
593 project
594 father
595 quality
596 themselves
597 sleep
598 share
599 available
600 hit
601 fair
602 news
603 strong
604 bottom
605 note
606 step
607 subject
608 clean
609 wife
610 machine
611 cool
612 drop
613 land
614 period
615 bother
616 development
617 detail
618 power
619 marry
620 tax
621 benefit
622 imagine
623 cold
624 vote
625 hang
626 education
627 anyone
628 national
629 fire
630 council
631 instead
632 bill
633 catch
634 tend
635 account
636 statement
637 board
638 summer
639 text
640 brother
641 fairly
642 holiday
643 dinner
644 fund
645 sister
646 noise
647 push
648 accept
649 police
650 kill
651 travel
652 explain
653 movie
654 hair
655 specific
656 tea
657 hate
658 center
659 degree
660 choose
661 research
662 body
663 rule
664 produce
665 size
666 ahead
667 fill
668 extra
669 value
670 bag
671 stage
672 eye
673 window
674 park
675 hot
676 document
677 relate
678 several
679 itself
680 evening
681 product
682 wonderful
683 relationship
684 floor
685 hospital
686 plus
687 quick
688 lady
689 mile
690 aware
691 contact
692 single
693 copy
694 effort
695 trade
696 review
697 sale
698 totally
699 therefore
700 air
701 church
702 visit
703 awful
704 action
705 completely
706 affect
707 cheap
708 street
709 receive
710 require
711 red
712 focus
713 surprise
714 apply
715 correct
716 various
717 bet
718 purpose
719 normally
720 create
721 bus

This list of 721 words covers 90% of modern English. The list starts with the most frequently used words.

Source: http://www.newgeneralservicelist.org/ngsls/



Book review: God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible


Adam Nicolson, ‘God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible’ HarperCollins 2003 ISBN 978-0-06-018516-9.

Brilliant. Shows how the King James version of the bible was translated into English with a political and cultural agenda, not a religious one. Christians are not going to like this book because it exposes the fact that the bible is the word of King James and his committee of 50 translators. The bible is human made for political purposes.

Nicolson shows the bible is a mishmash created by the committee, and full of errors and deliberate mistranslations that served King James’s agenda. The agenda was an attempt by the new catholic king James I to control both catholics and puritan protestants under his rule.

Earlier translations, for example by the Puritans, had taken a dim view of kingship. The Puritans also wanted a private relationship with their belief in god, not a relationship dicated by the State.

For example, Nicholson says there were about 400 uses of the word “tyrant” in the version before the King James version. James wanted to change that. He wanted people to believe in the idea of monarchy. He wanted to make sure the power of religion was consolidated into his own hands and he wanted to make it look like the natural, god-ordained order of the universe. LOL.

The word “tyrant” doesn’t occur in the King James version, instead it is replaced with words like “king” or “mighty”. Perhaps for this reason “tyrant” only occurs 10 times in modern versions of the bible as you can see from this wonderful website where different translations are shown side by side. Here’s the link showing one example where it has been removed from the King James version.

And finally have a look at this mishmash of translations from various earlier versions written in Greek. Remember, if you read a bible you are reading a translation of a translation of a translation from various languages at various times in history.

Why parents of signing children don’t learn sign language: my perspective.

Reblogging because this is THE best article I’ve ever read on this topic.

Mothering three deaf daughters - my journey...

I read an article the other day about why hearing parents of deaf children don’t learn sign language. I’m sure that there is qualitative research out there exploring the “why?”, this may be the case for many families. The statistic that was used in the article suggested this was true for the vast majority of parents.This particular article concluded that the reason is quite simple; that parents just don’t want to communicate with their children. Whilst this opens up some interesting food for thought around quality of communication and loving relationships between parents and children irrespective of their hearing status, I do want to share my thoughts as to why I can imagine that families with deaf children who use sign language as a communication modality, might see the parents not learning sign language fluently enough to communicate adequately with their deaf child.

Statistics globally indicate that over 90% of…

View original post 1,870 more words

To understand humanity …


Two books have helped my understanding of humanity. One is by Howard Bloom, The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into The Forces of History (1995) which I’ve blogged about here. The second is by David Graeber, Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) with its brilliant introduction.

Bloom shows us that first and foremost we must understand our own animal biology in order to understand humanity and war.

Graeber takes the analysis the next step. He shows us how to understand humanity via the tight nexus between the oppression of women, warrior cultures, slavery, money and economies. Did you know, for example, that veiling of women was begun by the Greeks, those paragons of Western Culture. It’s worth quoting him beginning at page 186:

The world of the Homeric epics is one dominated by heroic warriors who are disdainful of trade. In many ways, it is strikingly reminiscent of medieval Ireland. Money existed, but it was not used to buy anything; important men lived their lives in pursuit of honor, which took material form in followers and treasure. Treasures were given as gifts, awarded as prizes, carried off as loot.56 This is no doubt how timí [τιμή] first came to mean both “honor” and “price” — in such a world, no one sensed any sort of contradiction between the two.57

All this was to change dramatically when commercial markets began to develop two hundred years later. Greek coinage seems to have been first used mainly to pay soldiers, as well as to pay fines and fees and payments made to and by the government, but by about 600 BC, just about every Greek city-state was producing its own coins as a mark of civic independence. It did not take long, though, before coins were in common use in everyday transactions. By the fifth century, in Greek cities, the agora, the place of public debate and communal assembly, also doubled as a marketplace.

One of the first effects of the arrival of a commercial economy was a series of debt crises, of the sort long familiar from Mesopotamia and Israel. “The poor,” as Aristotle succinctly put it in his Constitution of the Athenians, “together with their wives and children, were enslaved to the rich.”58 Revolutionary factions emerged, demanding amnesties, and most Greek cities were at least for a while taken over by populist strongmen swept into power partly by the demand for radical debt relief. The solution most cities ultimately found, however, was quite different than it had been in the Near East. Rather than institutionalize periodic amnesties, Greek cities tended to adopt legislation limiting or abolishing debt peonage altogether, and then, to forestall future crises, they would turn to a policy of expansion, shipping off the children of the poor to found military colonies overseas. Before long, the entire coast from Crimea to Marseille was dotted with Greek cities, which served, in turn, as conduits for a lively trade in slaves.59 The sudden abundance of chattel slaves, in turn, completely transformed the nature of Greek society. First and most famously, it allowed even citizens of modest means to take part in the political and cultural life of the city and have a genuine sense of citizenship. But this, in turn, drove the old aristocratic classes to develop more and more elaborate means of setting themselves off from what they considered the tawdriness and moral corruption of the new democratic state.

When the curtain truly goes up on Greece, in the fifth century, we find everybody arguing about money. For the aristocrats, who wrote most of the surviving texts, money was the embodiment of corruption. Aristocrats disdained the market. Ideally, a man of honor should be able to raise everything he needed on his own estates, and never have to handle cash at all.60 In practice, they knew this was impossible. Yet at every point they tried to set themselves apart from the values of the ordinary denizens of the marketplace: to contrast the beautiful gold and silver beakers and tripods they gave one another at funerals and weddings with the vulgar hawking of sausages or charcoal; the dignity of the athletic contests for which they endlessly trained with commoners’ vulgar gambling; the sophisticated and literate courtesans who attended to them at their drinking clubs, and common prostitutes (porme) — slave-girls housed in brothels near the agora, brothels often sponsored by the democratic polis itself as a service to the sexual needs of its male citizenry. In each case, they placed a world of gifts, generosity, and honor above sordid commercial exchange.61

This resulted in a slightly different play of push and pull than we saw in Mesopotamia. On the one hand, we see a culture of aristocratic protest against what they saw as the lowly commercial sensibilities of ordinary citizens. On the other hand, we see an almost schizophrenic reaction on the part of the ordinary citizens themselves, who simultaneously tried to limit or even ban aspects of aristocratic culture and to imitate aristocratic sensibilities. Pederasty is an excellent case in point here. On the one hand, man-boy love was seen as the quintessential aristocratic practice — it was the way, in fact, that young aristocrats would ordinarily become initiated into the privileges of high society. As a result, the democratic polis saw it as politically subversive and made sexual relations between male citizens illegal. At the same time, almost everyone began to practice it.

The famous Greek obsession with male honor that still informs so much of the texture of daily life in rural communities in Greece hearkens back not so much to Homeric honor but to this aristocratic rebellion against the values of the marketplace, which everyone, eventually, began to make their own.62 The effects on women, though, were even more severe than they had been in the Middle East. Already by the age of Socrates, while a man’s honor was increasingly tied to disdain for commerce and assertiveness in public life, a woman’s honor had come to be defined in almost exclusively sexual terms: as a matter of virginity, modesty, and chastity, to the extent that respectable women were expected to be shut up inside the household and any woman who played a part in public life was considered for that reason a prostitute, or tantamount to one.63 The Assyrian habit of veiling was not widely adopted in the Middle East, but it was adopted in Greece. As much as it flies in the face of our stereotypes about the origins of “Western” freedoms, women in democratic Athens, unlike those of Persia or Syria, were expected to wear veils when they ventured out in public.64

Money, then, had passed from a measure of honor to a measure of everything that honor was not. To suggest that a man’s honor could be bought with money became a terrible insult — this despite the fact that, since men were often taken in war or even by bandits or pirates and held for ransom, they often did go through dramas of bondage and redemption not unlike those experienced by so many Middle Eastern women. One particularly striking way of hammering it home — actually, in this case, almost literally — was by branding ransomed prisoners with the mark of their own currency, much as if today some imaginary foreign kidnapper, after having received the ransom money for an American victim, made a point of burning a dollar sign onto the victim’s forehead before returning him.65

One question that isn’t clear from all this is, Why? Why had money, in particular, become such a symbol of degradation? Was it all because of slavery? One might be tempted to conclude that it was: perhaps the newfound presence of thousands of utterly degraded human beings in ancient Greek cities made any suggestion that a free man (let alone a free woman) might in any sense be bought or sold particularly insulting. But this is clearly not the case. Our discussion of the slave money of Ireland showed that the possibility of the utter degradation of a human being was in no sense a threat to heroic honor — in a way, it was its very essence. Homeric Greeks do not appear to have been any different. It seems hardly coincidental that the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles that sets off the action of the Iliad, generally considered to be the first great work of Western literature, is a dispute over honor between two heroic warriors over the disposition of a slave girl.66 Agamemnon and Achilles were also well aware that it would only take an unfortunate turn in battle, or perhaps a shipwreck, for either of them to wind up as a slave. Odysseus barely escapes being enslaved on several occasions in the Odyssey. Even in the third century AD, the Roman emperor Valerian (253-260 AD), defeated at the Battle of Edessa, was captured and spent the last years of his life as the footstool that the Sassanian emperor Shapur I used to mount his horse. Such were the perils of war. All this was essential to the nature of martial honor. A warrior’s honor is his willingness to play a game on which he stakes everything. His grandeur is directly proportional to how far he can fall.

Was it, then, that the advent of commercial money threw traditional social hierarchies into disarray? Greek aristocrats often spoke this way, but the complaints seem rather disingenuous. Surely it was money that allowed such a polished aristocracy to exist in the first place.67 Rather, the thing that really seemed to bother them about money was simply that they wanted it so much. Since money could be used to buy just about anything, everybody wanted it. That is: it was desirable because it was non-discriminating. One could see how the metaphor of the porne might seem particularly appropriate. A woman “common to the people” — as the poet Archilochos put it — is available to everyone. In principle, we shouldn’t be attracted to such an undiscriminating creature. In fact, of course, we are.68 And nothing was both so undiscriminating, and so desirable, as money. True, Greek aristocrats would ordinarily insist that they were not attracted to common porne, and that the courtesans, flute-girls, acrobats, and beautiful boys that frequented their symposia were not really prostitutes at all (though at times they also admitted that they really were), they also struggled with the fact that their own high-minded pursuits, such as chariot-racing, outfitting ships for the navy, and sponsoring tragic dramas, required the exact same coins as the ones used to buy cheap perfume and pies for a fisherman’s wife — the only real difference being that their pursuits tended to require a lot more of them.69

We might say, then, that money introduced a democratization of desire. Insofar as everyone wanted money, everyone, high and low, was pursuing the same promiscuous substance. But even more: increasingly,they did not just want money. They needed it. This was a profound change. In the Homeric world, as in most human economies, we hear almost no discussion of those things considered necessary to human life (food, shelter, clothing) because it is simply assumed that everybody has them. A man with no possessions could, at the very least, become a retainer in some rich man’s household. Even slaves had enough to eat.70 Here too, the prostitute was a potent symbol for what had changed, since while some of the denizens of brothels were slaves, others were simply poor; the fact that their basic needs could no longer beaken for granted were precisely what made them submit to others’ desires. This extreme fear of dependency on others’ whims lies at the basis of the Greek obsession with the self-sufficient household.

All this lies behind the unusually assiduous efforts of the male citizens of Greek city-states — like the later Romans — to insulate their wives and daughters from both the dangers and the freedoms of the marketplace. Unlike their equivalents in the Middle East, they do not seem to have offered them as debt pawns. Neither, at least in Athens, was it legal for the daughters of free citizens to be employed as prostitutes.71 As a result, respectable women became invisible, largely removed from the high dramas of economic and political life.72 If anyone was enslaved for debt, it was normally the debtor. Even more dramatically, it was ordinarily male citizens who accused one another of prostitution — with Athenian politicians regularly asserting that their rivals, when they were young boys being plied with gifts from their male suitors, were really trading sex for money, and hence deserved to lose their civic freedoms.73

56. On Homeric honor: Finley 1954:118-19, Adkins 1972:14-16 Seaford 1994:6-7. Cattle are again the main unit of account, and silver. Is also apparently used As Classicists have noted, the only actual acts of buying and selling in the Homeric epics are with foreigners (Von Reden 1995:58-76, Seaford 2004:26-30, Finley 1954:67-70). Needless to say, Homeric society lacked the legalistic precision of the Irish notion of “honor price” but the principles were broadly the same, since time could mean not only “honor” but “penalty” and “compensation.”

57. timí [τιμή] is not used for the “price” of commodities in the Iliad or the Odyssey, but then prices of commodities are barely mentioned. It is, however, used for “compensation,” in the sense of wergeld or honor-price (Seaford 2oo4:i98n46). The first attested use of timí [τιμή] as purchase price is in the slightly later Homeric Hymn to Demeter (132) where, as Seaford notes, it seems significant that in fact it refers to a slave.

58. Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians 2.2. He is referring to the great crisis leading to Solon’s reforms, the famous “shaking off of burdens” of c. 594 BC.

59. Greek chattel slavery was in fact much more extreme than anything that appears to have existed in the ancient Near East at the time (see e.g., Westermann 1955; Finley 1974, 1981; Wiedemann 1981; Dandamaev 1984; Westbrook 1995), not only because most Near Eastern “slaves” were not technically slaves at all but redeemable debt pawns, who therefore at least in theory could not be arbitrarily abused, but because even those who were absolute private property had greater rights.

60. “Self-sufficiency is an end and what is best” (Aristotle Politics 1256-58; see Finley 1974:109-11, Veyne 1979, for classic discussions of what this meant in practice.)

61. The argument here follows Kurke 2002. On the public brothels, see Halperin 1990, Kurke 1996. There actually were Temple prostitutes in Greece too, mostly famously in Corinth, where Strabo (8.6.20) claimed that the Temple of Aphrodite owned a thousand of them, apparently, slaves who had been dedicated to the temple by pious worshippers.

62. As noted in the quote from David Sutton (2004) above. For a sampling of the anthropological literature on honor in contemporary Greek society, see: Campbell 1964, Peristiany 1965, Schneider 1971, Herzfeld 1980, 1985, Just 2001.

63. On the impropriety of women’s work outside the household, see Brock 1994. On segregation of women in general: Keuls 1985, Cohen 1987, Just 1989, Loraux 1993.

64. The evidence is overwhelming, but until recently has been largely ignored. Llewellyn- Jones (2003) notes that the practice began as an aristocratic affectation, but that by the fifth century, all respectable women “were veiled daily and routinely, at least in public or in front of non-related men” (ibid:i4).

65. van Reden 1997:174, referencing Herodotus 7.233, Plutarch’s Pericles, 26.4.

66. A woman who one of them, Achilles, had personally reduced to slavery. Briseis was from the Trojan town of Lyrnessus, and after Achilles killed her husband and three brothers in the Greek attack on the town, she was awarded to him as a prize. (On learning of this, her father later hanged himself.) In the Iliad, Achilles insists he loves her. Briseis’ opinions were not considered worth recording, though later poets, uncomfortable with the idea that the greatest epic of antiquity was a celebration of simple rape, concocted a story whereby Briseis had actually long been in love with Achilles from afar, and somehow manipulated the course of events so as to cause the battle to begin

67. Homeric warriors weren’t really aristocrats at all, or if they were, as Calhoun puts it (1934:308) they were aristocrats “only in the loosest sense of the word.” Mostly they were just a collection of local chieftains and ambitious warriors.

68. See Kurke 1997:112-13, 1999:197-98 for Greek elaborations on the theme. So too Seaford: “Whereas the Homeric gift is invested with the personality of its heroic donor, the only kind of person that money resembles is the prostitute. For Shakespeare it is ‘the common whore of all mankind'” (2002:156, emphasis in the original. For what it’s worth, Seaford is slightly off here: Shakespeare described the earth as the “common whore of all mankind,” whose womb produces gold, which is money [Timon of Athens 4.3.42-45].)

69. Seaford 2002 in his review of Kurke notes that Greek sources regularly go back and forth on this.

70. In the Odyssey (11.488-91), famously, Achilles, when trying to invoke the lowest and most miserable person he can possibly imagine, invokes not a slave but a thete, a mere laborer unattached to any household.

71. Free porne were always the daughters of foreigners or resident aliens. So, incidentally, were the aristocrats’ courtesans.

72. The reader will observe that even in the anecdotes that follow, women simply don’t appear. We have no idea who Polemarchus’ wife was.

73. Recall here that pederasty was technically against the law. Or, to be more exact, for a man to submit to the passive role in sodomy was illegal; one could be stripped of one’s citizenship for having done so. While most adult men were involved in love affairs with boys, and most boys with men, all did so under the pretense that no intercourse was actually taking place; as a result, almost anyone could be accused of former impropriety. The most famous case here is Aeschines’ Against Timarchus (see van Reden 2003:120-23, also Dillon 2003:117-28.) Exactly the same dilemmas resurface in Rome, where Cicero, for instance, accused his rival Marc Antony of having once made his living as a male prostitute (Philippics 2.44-45), and Octavian, the later Augustus, was widely reputed to have “prostituted” himself, as a youth, to Julius Caesar, among other powerful patrons (Suetonius Augustus 68).


The toxic side of Identity Politics

different kids identity politics

Identity politics means different things to different people. For marginalised people it can be a positive expression and a way to counter power imbalances in society. Deaf Pride, Gay Pride, feminism are some examples. For other people, often of a fearful conservative nature, Identity Politics can feel threatening because it aims to change the society they feel comfortable in.

No matter what your view, it’s important to know that there can be a toxic side to Identity Politics. I want to focus on that side in this blog but also want to make it clear that I strongly support the positive side of Identity Politics.

The toxic side can exist even when people acknowledge the importance of intersectionality (ie the relationships between different identities within an identity group and within an individual).

The toxic side of Identity Politics sets up simplistic barriers in order to gain power in society or in a discussion. It has little interest in working together with people who are not the defined group (thus missing the point of intersectionality). The toxic side of Identity Politics says our group (white/black, male/female, old/young, gay/straight parent/childless, Deafie/hearie etc) are the only ones who have rights to talk about issues affecting our group. If you aren’t in our group you haven’t lived and experienced what we have and you have no understanding.

Clearly this is an absurd extreme; but we have all seen it. For example in the infamous debate in NZ about smacking children, some people said you have no right to comment if you don’t have children. Under this absurd and toxic form of Identity Politics, people are dismissed based on their outgroup identity. The quality of their ideas and the contributions they can make are not even dealt with. They are shouted down with insults aimed at their identities (white male cis het, for example) This is dangerous. As Salman Rushdie says, this becomes a safe space FROM thought, rather than a safe space FOR thought.

The toxic power-hungry silly side of Identity Politics frames itself as taking offence at anything it choses. People with a different view are treated not merely as wrong but as immoral. They are shouted down with Identity Politics slogans. The idea of intelligent respectful discussion in order to reach consensus is thrown out the window.

The toxic form of Identity Politics plays Identity cards (racist, ageist, sexist, mansplainer) to bully, intimidate and shut down other voices, even supporting voices. It refuses to treat people with dignity and respect. As Christopher Hitchens put it “People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it.”

As John Pilger says:

A generation ago, a post-modern cult now known as “identity politics” stopped many intelligent, liberal-minded people examining the causes and individuals they supported – such as the fakery of Obama and Clinton; such as bogus progressive movements like Syriza in Greece, which betrayed the people of that country and allied with their enemies.

Or as @RummitheCommie tweeted 22 Jan 2018:
the worst school of feminist thought is the one which essentially tries to replace male dictators with female ones, male CEOs with female ones, male oppressors with female oppressors. To steal from one of Feminism’s greatest:
Simone de Beauvoir: “The point is not for women simply to take power out of men’s hands, since that wouldn’t change anything about the world. It’s a question precisely of destroying that notion of power.”

OK, so I’ve said my piece. Now let me say again: good identity politics is good and we need a lot more of it. Particularly, for example with the #MeToo movement facing a backlash from ignorant men (and a few women), we need to state that Rape Culture is any culture where a woman is afraid of being raped. This blog spells it out well.

Debt is immoral

debt dollars enless circle immoral

Introduction from David Graeber’s book ‘Debt: The First 5000 Years‘ published in 2011. You can download the book for free here.

I worked on World Bank and IMF issues for the Australian Government 1989-1992. I did what I could to promote the undeniable logic of debt forgiveness. David overstates the achievements of the Occupy Movement in forcing the IMF’s hand; that process had began much earlier. But his book and his Introduction are still worth reading. Here’s his Introduction:

TWO YEARS AGO, by a series of strange coincidences, I found myself attending a garden party at Westminster Abbey. I was a bit uncomfortable. It’s not that other guests weren’t pleasant and amicable, and Father Graeme, who had organized the party, was nothing if not a gracious and charming host. But I felt more than a little out of place. At one point, Father Graeme intervened, saying that there was someone by a nearby fountain whom I would certainly want to meet. She turned out to be a trim, well-appointed young woman who, he explained, was an attorney — “but more of the activist kind. She works for a foundation that provides legal support for anti-poverty groups in London. You’ll probably have a lot to talk about.”

We chatted. She told me about her job. I told her I had been involved for many years with the global justice movement — “antiglobalization movement,” as it was usually called in the media. She was curious: she’d of course read a lot about Seattle, Genoa, the tear gas and street battles, but . . . well, had we really accomplished anything by all of that?

“Actually,” I said, “I think it’s kind of amazing how much we did manage to accomplish in those first couple of years.”

“For example?”

“Well, for example, we managed to almost completely destroy the IMF.”

As it happened, she didn’t actually know what the IMF was, so I offered that the International Monetary Fund basically acted as the world’s debt enforcers — “You might say, the high-finance equivalent of the guys who come to break your legs.” I launched into historical background, explaining how, during the ’70s oil crisis, OPEC countries ended up pouring so much of their newfound riches into Western banks that the banks couldn’t figure out where to invest the money; how Citibank and Chase therefore began sending agents around the world trying to convince Third World dictators and politicians to take out loans (at the time, this was called “go-go banking”); how they started out at extremely low rates of interest that almost immediately skyrocketed to 20 percent or so due to tight U.S. money policies in the early ’80s; how, during the ’80s and ’90s, this led to the Third World debt crisis; how the IMF then stepped in to insist that, in order to obtain refinancing, poor countries would be obliged to abandon price supports on basic foodstuffs, or even policies of keeping strategic food reserves, and abandon free health care and free education; how all of this had led to the collapse of all the most basic supports for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. I spoke of poverty, of the looting of public resources, the collapse of societies, endemic violence, malnutrition, hopelessness, and broken lives.

“But what was your position?” the lawyer asked.

“About the IMF? We wanted to abolish it.”

“No, I mean, about the Third World debt.”

“Oh, we wanted to abolish that too. The immediate demand was to stop the IMF from imposing structural adjustment policies, which were doing all the direct damage, but we managed to accomplish that surprisingly quickly. The more long-term aim was debt amnesty. Something along the lines of the biblical Jubilee. As far as we were concerned,” I told her, “thirty years of money flowing from the poorest countries to the richest was quite enough.”

“But,” she objected, as if this were self-evident, “they’d borrowed the money! Surely one has to pay one’s debts.”

It was at this point that I realized this was going to be a very different sort of conversation than I had originally anticipated.

Where to start? I could have begun by explaining how these loans had originally been taken out by unelected dictators who placed most of it directly in their Swiss bank accounts, and ask her to contemplate the justice of insisting that the lenders be repaid, not by the dictator, or even by his cronies, but by literally taking food from the mouths of hungry children. Or to think about how many of these poor countries had actually already paid back what they’d borrowed three or four times now, but that through the miracle of compound interest, it still hadn’t made a significant dent in the principal. I could also observe that there was a difference between refinancing loans, and demanding that in order to obtain refinancing, countries have to follow some orthodox free-market economic policy designed in Washington or Zurich that their citizens had never agreed to and never would, and that it was a bit dishonest to insist that countries adopt democratic constitutions and then also insist that, whoever gets elected, they have no control over their country’s policies anyway. Or that the economic policies imposed by the IMF didn’t even work. But there was a more basic problem: the very assumption that debts have to be repaid.

Actually, the remarkable thing about the statement “one has to pay one’s debts” is that even according to standard economic theory, it isn’t true. A lender is supposed to accept a certain degree of risk. If all loans, no matter how idiotic, were still retrievable — if there were no bankruptcy laws, for instance — the results would be disastrous. What reason would lenders have not to make a stupid loan?

“Well, I know that sounds like common sense,” I said, “but the funny thing is, economically, that’s not how loans are actually supposed to work. Financial institutions are supposed to be ways of directing resources toward profitable investments. If a bank were guaranteed to get its money back, plus interest, no matter what it did, the whole system wouldn’t work. Say I were to walk into the nearest branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland and say ‘You know, I just got a really great tip on the horses. Think you could lend me a couple million quid?’ Obviously they’d just laugh at me. But that’s just because they know if my horse didn’t come in, there’d be no way for them to get the money back. But, imagine there was some law that said they were guaranteed to get their money back no matter what happens, even if that meant, I don’t know, selling my daughter into slavery or harvesting my organs or something. Well, in that case, why not? Why bother waiting for someone to walk in who has a viable plan to set up a laundromat or some such? Basically, that’s the situation the IMF created on a global level — which is how you could have all those banks willing to fork over billions of dollars to a bunch of obvious crooks in the first place.”

I didn’t get quite that far, because at about that point a drunken financier appeared, having noticed that we were talking about money, and began telling funny stories about moral hazard — which somehow, before too long, had morphed into a long and not particularly engrossing account of one of his sexual conquests. I drifted off.

Iranian Hangings

The Great War for Civilisation The Conquest of the Middle East


Even before the war had ended, Iran’s prison population was re-interrogated and divided into those who still recognised the resistance to the Islamic Republic and those who had repented—the tavvab—and between those who prayed and those who refused to pray. At some point, Khomeini ordered that political prisoners should be liquidated en masse. Although this order was kept secret, we know that Ayatollah Montazeri protested vehemently against the massacres, an act that ensured his dismissal as the future Imam. “. . . As to your order to execute the hypocrites in prison,” Montazeri wrote in a private letter to Khomeini, “the nation is prepared to accept the execution if those arrested [are] in relation to recent events [i.e. the Iraqi-backed Mujahedin invasion] . . . But the execution of those already in prison . . . would be interpreted as vindictiveness and revenge.”

In some prisons, inmates were lined up on opposite sides of a corridor, one line to be returned to their cells after “repenting,” the other taken straight to a mass gallows. On 30 July, Revolutionary Guards at Evin began their executions with Mujahid women prisoners. The hangings went on for several days. Male communist prisoners were hanged at the mosque in Evin. “When [they] are taken to the Hosseinieh to be hanged,” an ex-prisoner testified, “some [are] crying, some swearing and all shivering but hiding their shivering. Some smile hopelessly . . . a number of the guards vie with each other to do the hanging so as to score more piety. A few are upset by seeing so many corpses. Some prisoners fight and are savagely beaten. The execution is swift.” The bodies of the hanging men were paraded in front of female prisoners to break their spirit. In Tehran alone, an Iran-based human rights group published the names of 1,345 victims of the “national disaster.”

Exile magazines opposed to the regime would, years later, publish terrifying eyewitness accounts of the prison hangings. Up to 8,000 inmates may have been put to death in the summer of 1988, perhaps 10,000. Secret executions were followed by burials in secret graves. A former female prisoner was to recall how:

One tavvab woman was taken from the block below us to witness the execution of her husband. She had seen the rope on her husband’s neck and another woman who had her chador tied round her neck. She herself was due to be executed but had escaped that fate by being tavvab and surrendering . . . Afterwards she became psychologically unbalanced . . .

Another ex-prisoner wrote of a militant leftist prisoner called Fariba who was taken to a dungeon beneath Dastgerd prison to see her husband. This was Fariba’s description:

What I saw terrified me . . . There in front of me was Massoud, my husband, bent and sickly with eyes that flickered from deep black crypts. I screamed Massoud my darling, and leaped towards him. They held me back . . . A Pasdar warned: “Be silent! You can only look. You can only witness how accounts are settled here—or your place is next to him.” . . . Massoud, hands tied behind his back, noose round his neck, standing on a stool, looked at me with his whole being. A tired look but full of love, full of consciousness, trying to smile. In a weak and exhausted voice he said: “It was so good to see you Fariba!” . . . The voice of the interrogator rose from behind me . . . he said: “If you would be prepared to push the stool away and hang this apostate I will set you free this very second. I promise on my honour!” . . . I looked straight into the interrogator’s eyes and screamed: “Do you have any honour? Fascist! Executioner!” . . . The Pasdars grabbed me. The interrogator pulled out his Colt and shot Massoud. Another Pasdar kicked the stool from under him. Between my distress and my unbelieving eyes Massoud was hanged . . .

There is overwhelming evidence from ex-prisoners that female prisoners who were virgins were raped by their interrogators before execution. Of 1,533 Iranian female prisoners who were hanged or shot in the two decades that followed the 1979 revolution and whose names have been catalogued by a German women’s group—a fraction of the actual number of executed women—163 were twenty-one years old or under, 35 of them pregnant. The youngest was Nafiseh Ashraf Jahani, who was ten years old. Afsaneh Farabi was twelve, three girls were thirteen years old. Akram Islami was seventy. One woman, Aresteh Gholivand, was fifty-six when she was hanged and left six children behind her.

What can one say to the families of these thousands?