|Hypatia of Alexandria|
So I gets this message from Facebook, y’see – my Pharyngulite friend Cameron Cole inviting me to an event called Hypatia Day. Brilliant! A day for remembering one of the most remarkable women in history. We need more of those. And it’s worth punking off the Dojo till tomorrow for this.
This post is for those who just went, “Hypatia who?” And for those who just went, “Hypatia – woo-hoo!”
I first got to know Hypatia whilst reading a book called Greek Society. I’d been quite used to history being full of men, men, and more men. Oh, and did I mention the men? Sometimes it really did seem like history was his-story, with just the occasional smattering of, “Oh, and there was this cool female poet once – and did we mention these totally awesome men?” The only ancient women I really knew were ladies like Cleopatra, and the history I’d learned concentrated more on their looks and their effect on men than on their brains.
Then came Greek Society, and this section of four pages talking about a philosopher, Hypatia of Alexandria. Four pages, you say. Big fucking deal. But in a 223 page book spanning Greek history from Mycenaean civilization to the rise of Rome, four pages dedicated to one woman kinda is.
I’d never heard of her, but by the end of four pages, I was in love with her. And Mr. Frost didn’t even talk about her that much – he spent a lot of his words setting her in context. But he described her as having an “extravagant intelligence.” There she was – mathematician, philosopher, astronomer – blazing like a supernova from those pages. A woman pursuing the intellect and rationality in a very male world that at the time was beginning its slide into the Dark Ages.
Students came from all over the Hellenistic world to follow her. Her father, Theon, a mathematician and last director of the magnificent Museion in Alexandria, admitted she overshadowed him. Together, they wrote commentaries on such works as Ptolomey’s Almagest and Euclid’s Elements, works that went on to set the European intellectual world back on fire when they were rediscovered a thousand years later. Enjoy rational thinking? Tip a glass to Hypatia:
How important was the survival of Euclid’s Elements to the course of human history? The Elements was the most influential textbook in history (Boyer, 1991, p.119). As reformulated by Theon and Hypatia, the Elements became more than just a textbook on geometry. It became the definitive guide on how to think clearly and reason logically. The scientists Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton were all influenced by the Elements. Newton’s interest in mathematics was awakened when he bought and read a copy of this book (Boyer, 1991, p. 391). He used the style of the Elements, with formal propositions and rigorous proofs, in his Principia, the book which forms the foundation of modern physics. All of modern mathematics employs the logical, deductive method that was introduced by the Elements. In short, modern science and technology rests on the firm foundation laid down by Euclid’s Elements.
Yeah. She’s all that.
All of her rationality and independence and intellect, not to mention her religious affiliation (i.e., not Christian), led a mob of Christians to murder. Apparently, she was in the way of their brave new world. So they stripped her naked, dragged her through the streets, and slashed her to death with pottery shards. And the darkness got that much darker. Politics and religion killed one of the most brilliant women in history. Then they killed the city of Alexandria, its great library, and the intellectual genius of the ancient world. Okay, so barbarians also had a little something to do with all that chaos and destruction, but still: vast majority of it was down to politics and religion. Science almost didn’t survive, at least in the West.
But embers still burned, and got fanned to flame during the Renaissance. Hypatia was so influential that Raphael wanted to put her front and center in his magnificent School of Athens. Christianity shat on her again, refusing to allow a smart pagan woman murdered by Christians to have a part in a fresco created for the Pope’s personal library. Raphael sneaked her in there anyway. And there she is. Do you see her? She’s that elegant woman in white down towards the left who seems to stand apart from the tumult, for all she’s smack in the middle of it:
School of Athens
Someday, I really need to read up on her life. I know so little about her. But I know she was extraordinary, an incredible woman who took her place beside the leading intellectual lights of her day, and lead many others in her turn. We owe it to her to tell her story.
I’m glad someone thought to give her this day.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Click the link for his “The Other America” Speech.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Don’t go silent.
On this day, we remember the power of dreams. We remember the power of a great many good people all coming together for a just cause. And we remember that the right words, symbolic actions, and a refusal to back down from demands for justice can remake the world.
Thank you, Dr. King.
My cat may be homicidal, but she’s also a discerning reader. Here she is, drawing your attention to a particularly interesting passage in Guns, Germs and Steel:
I’m not sure which passage it was, alas. Too busy photographing the cat. It looks to be the Epilogue, but I can tell you that the entire book is an excellent read. You’ll never see the world in quite the same way again. And it answers that pesky question: why were Europeans the ones who pretty much took over the world?
Bad news for those who wish to believe in the inherent superiority of a subset of humanity, I’m afraid.
For those who haven’t read it, but like me spent years intending to, let this be your meaningful nudge: it’s a really fucking excellent book. And my cat says you should read it. When a homicidal feline places a meaningful paw on a book and recommends you peruse it, it’s probably safest just to do what she says.
This is absolutely glorious, a beautiful tour through Thomas Jefferson’s house and his life. Consider yourselves invited.
(Tip o’ the shot glass to mcjoan, who’s served up a plethora of interesting items.)
Devilstower has a fascinating take on America’s political history, and comes to some conclusions that don’t bode well for the Cons’ attempt at a comeback:
What the shift of 1992 represents isn’t just a dissatisfaction with Democrats, but the full integration of the southern base and the Christian right into the Republican Party. 1992 was the first year in which the Christian Coalition distributed voters guides through churches. With their traditional base across the country, the Christian Right, and the Solid South, Republicans had a position that made them nationally competitive with Democrats for the first time in half a century. Not only that, it gave them a party with enthusiasm at a time when most people were disgusted by politics as usual.
And that’s the real problem for the GOP.
Davis and Snowe are absolutely right to think that the move to twist the Republican Party around a social conservative base is costing them votes among moderates. It’s also the likely cause of the continued decline of Republican ID, which is now at levels that actually pass the worst of the Watergate era. The trouble is, it takes both the social conservaties and the fiscal conservatives for the Republicans to form a winning coalition. That’s why the first business of that Congress in 1994 was to pass laws rewarding the Christian Right that had returned them to power after so long in the wilderness.
Casting out the social conservatives now won’t lead to a winning position, because there are not enough fiscal conservatives to keep the GOP from being more than an afterthought. Sticking with the social conservatives, whose demands for action on their issues are both insatiable and whose positions are unpopular with the general public, is another route to failure. In forcing a merger between these two factions, Republicans gained temporary victory, at the cost of endless confusion and long term disaster.
It’s too early to pronounce the Republican party dead, but the prognosis sure doesn’t look good.
There’s this show called Warriors on the History Channel. This Green Beret guy named Terry Schappert runs around getting all misty-eyed with manly men all over the globe. His credulity grates sometimes. But what makes the show worth watching are tidbits like this, from the “Islands of Blood” episode:
Terry: To navigate these vessels, Hawaiian chiefs used the stars, as well as other surprising ways to judge ocean currents.
Hawaiian Boat Guy: “They have a set pattern. And the really experienced guys can feel them sitting on the deck by their testicles rolling around in their scrotum.”
I knew pre-compass navigation sometimes took balls, but I’d thought that was supposed to be metaphorical, not actual, balls.
It’s a weird world, innit?
You’d think that people who yawp on and on about how they love this country soooo much more than the icky people on the left would know more about it. But when it comes to American History, they’re all epic fail.
Allow us to consider American Idiots: a Comedy in Three Acts.Susan Roesgen of CNN reports from the Chicago Tea Party:
Ok, you’re here with your two year old and “you’re already in debt” (referring to sign he’s holding) Why do you say that?
Ditto head freak 2: Because I hear a president say that he believed in what Lincoln stood for. Lincoln’s primary thing was that he believed that people had the right to liberty.
Roesgen: Sir, what does this have to do with taxes? What does this have to do with your taxes?
DF2: Let me finish speaking!
Roesgen: Do you realize that you are eligible for a 400 dollar …
DF2: Let me finish my point. (Crowd getting surly, yelling at Rojan to shut up) Lincoln believed that people had ther right to share in the fruits of their own labor and that government should not take it. And we have clearly gotten to that point.
One slight problem with that hero worship there:
Perhaps now would be a good time to note that Tea Baggers should probably stop looking to Lincoln as a role model. Not only did Lincoln vastly expand the power of the federal government — up to and including suspending habeas — he also was the first president to impose an income tax. Worse, it was a progressive income tax, that charged wealthier taxpayers more.
Act II opens on Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who may govern Texas to some degree, but has an extremely weak grasp of its past:
Listen to Texas Gov. Rick Perry say:
Perry: Texas is a unique place. When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.
We got a great Union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it, but if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what may come out of that.
Just FYI, on Perry’s 1845 statement, Texas came into the union with the ability to divide into five states, not withdraw. After seceding during the Civil War, Texas was allowed to re-enter the union after ratifying the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment banned slavery in the United States and any territory subject to its jurisdiction
And for our third act, Faux News’s premier assclown:
It’s always entertaining when the “patriotic” ones start talking up the notion of splitting up the United States again. Take, for example, Glenn Beck, yesterday.
“I believe it was Davy Crockett, that as he was standing there in the well of the Senate and they were all yelling and screaming at him, he said — he looked them right square in the eye and said, ‘Hey, you know what? You can all go to hell. I’m going to Texas.’ About time somebody says that again.
“You’re telling me that states can’t say ‘Washington, we’re not going to commit suicide with you'”?
Now, the part about Davy Crockett is completely wrong. When he said, “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas,” it was because he’d been rejected by his constituents in Tennessee after one term in the U.S. House, not because he was outraged by federal policies he disagreed with. He went to Texas to fight for secession — not from the U.S., but from Mexico.
Whelp. Add remedial U.S. History to the list of classes the Cons need to take. I think they’ve just earned themselves summer school.
Socializing IRL was rather a bit of a shock. I live one of those semi-hermetic lives in which I’m perfectly happy home alone, but even hermits need to kick up their heels every once in a while.
Won’t be at the Rodeo Steakhouse again, though. Who the fuck makes a margarita with Jack Daniels? And then they started blaring really awful country and western at us. It’s a good thing we were close to home, and the roomie was gone. Alas for my poor friend, he got to go waltzing down memory lane with me. Yup. I busted out the photo albums.
It was initially because we’re going to Arizona, and I was showing him some of the places we’d be visiting. Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater. The San Francisco Peaks. Places where I roamed happily through all the years of my young life. I’d subject you to those pics, too, but alas, they are not digital, and Dana has no scanner. Dana is not only a hermit, but technologically impoverished.
I left home because I’d fallen out of love. Sometimes, to love a place again, you have to leave it. Spend some years elsewhere. Now, the irritating memories are faded, and the fun ones bubble to the surface. Running flat-out over the slickrock along a mesa in Page, with nothing between me and a 100-foot fall but a ledge four inches wide and a tenuous grip on sandstone. Standing on the side of a mountain surrounded by golden aspens and gazing out over miles of wilderness in the clear Arizona skies. Roaming the rooms of ruins, wondering what it was like to live in such small spaces.
There are things I miss. Strangely, dry dirt looms foremost in my mind. I love the sound of my shoes grating through gritty soil and rock as I roam. Northern Arizona’s a place built from volcanoes. You can feel it when you run the earth through your hands. You see it all around you, in the cinder cones, the andesitic peaks, the ridge lines and the lava flows. There is a particular place at Sunset Crater where you can stand and stare into the heart of the caldera that splits the San Francisco Peaks. There is nothing like gazing into that beauty and realizing it resulted from catastrophic destruction. If there were people living there when the mountain erupted, they must have been mightily impressed.
I miss the demarcation between alpine climes and the desert. One side of the Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monument is all Ponderosa pine. In just a few miles, you pass through juniper and piñon pine trees, and then, abruptly, the high desert looms. This Nasa Earth Observatory satellite image will give you some idea: we’re looking northeast, from the pines to the Painted Desert:
For an absolutely spectacular aerial view of Sunset Crater with the desert on the horizon, go here.
All of this awesome stuff used to be my back yard. I could roam ancient plate boundaries, see the remnants of ancient underwater eruptions and seas, visit dinosaur tracks, wander at will through forests, deserts and plains – all without driving more than an hour or two from home.
Those were the good things. I do remember the bad as well – Northern Arizona has very little in the way of big-city culture, and Phoenix is, well, Phoenix. I definitely prefer Seattle. And it’s nice not to feel dessicated all the time.
But I loves me my original home state. It’ll be teh awesome to go adventuring there again. I especially can’t wait to tramp through Wupatki one more time.
What about you lot? Any nostalgia for the places you’ve left behind, or are you of the “ran away and never looked back” persuasion? And do you believe it’s at all right for a restaurant to offer up a margarita that contains not one drop of tequila?
Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19th, 2009
Tomorrow, America swears in its first African-American president. He is the fruit of your labor, the fulfillment of your dream. Because of your work, your passion, and your determination, he was judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.
Tomorrow, we will watch Barack Obama take the Oath of Office. He will lead this nation as you once led a movement.
Tomorrow, we will celebrate him.
Today, Dr. King, we celebrate your life and work.
From a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955;
To a March on Washington and a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial;
From injustice to justice, from segregation to freedom, Dr. King, you led us to a finer world.
No thanks are ever enough. Regardless: muchas gracias, Dr. King.
“I Have a Dream”
delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.
We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
EmperorHadrian at Daily Kos has a wicked cool diary up exploring how the tyranny of the majority ends up affecting democracy:
We might be prone to be sympathetic to the Roman assemblies, and certainly its members were not nearly as powerful as the senators. The problem, however, is that democracies then as now can be manipulated by demagogues, sometimes even those with dictatorial ambitions (as we saw in the 2004 election). This was what helped Julius Caesar rise and overthrow the republic. The constitutional balance between the democracy and the aristocracy was what prevented a tyrannical leader, with no one’s interest in mind other than his own, from seizing power. The point of any constitutional system is to place checks and balances so that no source of authority (executive, aristocratic, or democratic) can achieve unchecked power. For this, look no further than our constitution. Our constitution is designed so that, say, some 52% majority can’t just invalidate the equal protection clauses in the constitution and thus deny rights, say marriage rights, to some unpopular minority group.
In effect, Tiberius used the same theory of popular sovereignty that Julius Caesar would later use, and that the supporters of Prop 8 in California used. The theory, that laws and constitutional mandates can simply be ignored when popular majorities disagree with them, was (is) repugnant to the genius’ of both the Roman and American constitutional systems, and if carried to their logical ends, would put the state under the absolute control of any temporary popular majority. Replace “popular majority” with “president”, and you get Nixon’s famous decree that “if the president does it, that means it is not illegal”.
Deary, deary me.
He makes a good case that following the popular will without respecting minority rights can weaken and eventually topple a democracy. Go have a read. It’s another good arrow to have in the quiver.