I'm Getting Too Old For This

Canada reshuffles its acronyms.
2SLGBTQI+ terminology and acronyms are continuously evolving. In 2016, the Government of Canada began using the term ‘LGBTQ2.’ The term was applied to the name of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat, the LGBTQ2 Community Capacity Fund, and LGBTQ2 Projects Fund, among other initiatives. LGBTI is often used in an international context. 2SLGBTQQIA+ is the acronym adopted by the 2SLGBTQQIA+ Committee, which contributed to the 2021 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and the 2SLGBTQQIA+ People National Action Plan.

During the engagement process, 2SLGBTQI+ communities in Canada called for the acronym used by the Government of Canada to be updated. The Government of Canada will adopt and encourage the use of 2SLGBTQI+ as a more inclusive term. This includes changing the name of the LGBTQ2 Secretariat to the 2SLGBTQI+ Secretariat, which is the title used throughout this Action Plan.

The military also loves acronyms, and frequently reshuffles and/or reuses them. The intelligence community, likewise (and probably because its largest component is the Defense Intelligence Agency). There can be confusion when members of different branches or levels of organization meet and find that a simple acronym means different things to different people. There has been a longstanding joint process to try to resolve this as much as possible, but especially at working levels easy acronyms just get reused: CAB, for example, has 38 possible meanings in the military context according to this acronym finder. Several of them are very commonly employed, like "Combat Aviation Brigade," "Civil Affairs Battalion" (the finder lists 'brigade' there too, which is a further confusion possible here) and "Combat Action Badge." And those are all from the Army!

No one is probably ever going to reuse 2SLGBTQI+, at least. But good luck remembering it, especially if it's going to change every few years. Inclusivity as a goal has to be balanced with the needs of concise communication. Very quickly this kind of thing makes communication impossible. Ultimately the most inclusive thing would be to include absolutely everyone, so instead of an acronym we should just mention everyone we want to talk about by name -- and, since names can also be repeated, add their street address. By the time you finished doing that, you'd have forgotten what you wanted to say about them.

Two on Education

The Orthosphere has a post on the topic, which begins with a sentiment I think will be popular here:
In common usage, being “educated” means having gone to a Western-style secular school, and being “highly educated” means having gone to college. Thus, for example, it is said that America battled the Taliban so that “Afghan girls could be educated”, and it is said that, in America, all of the “educated” classes vote for the Democratic Party. This usage should be contested. It is false and insulting to so cavalierly assert that Afghan housewives and American plumbers are less knowledgeable in some absolute sense than those with four years of indoctrination in the Regime’s race and gender ideology, as if only Regime ideology counts as knowledge, and not what is picked up from parents, religious tradition, or on-the-job training and experience.

From that root, though, the post develops a brief but sophisticated account of other modes of education:

A much more important skill is sympathetic thinking, the ability to understand different and novel points of view. When confronted with an argument, a theory, a foreign worldview, one must deliberately postpone criticism until after understanding. First, one must be clear about what the other party believes and why he believes it, an understanding sufficiently faithful that one could explain it back to him in one’s own words, and he would agree that it is a fair statement of his views. No criticism can be valid until after this step has been achieved. Thinking sympathetically does not mean abandoning one’s own beliefs and taking up another’s, except imaginatively....

Shall we consider other dimensions of thinking? There is analytic thinking, whereby one advances by a chain of logic from premises to conclusions, the sort of reasoning exemplified in Euclid’s Elements, which is not “critical” but is not on that account to be despised. There is synthetic thinking, whereby one relates disparate facts into a coherent worldview, distinguishing to unite, noting tensions where they cannot yet be resolved. This is related to the dialectic thinking of Socrates whereby one tries to uncover the general principles underlying one’s specific beliefs. There is criticism in the old Kantian sense–thinking about thinking, Barfield’s “beta thinking”–which recognizes the inescapable limits and partiality of our own thinking, to which I would add our inadequate standing to issue sweeping moral condemnations of others, an epistemological truth historically connected to Jesus Christ. 

A fully educated man should be able to do all of those things, and to switch between the modes as necessary without losing sight of the fact that the mode has been switched.

AVI also has a post on education, with a follow up on 'real rules' here. There is some sympathetic thinking on display.

So schools fall back on teaching values, which is what they have always done.  Not so much as they hope, and often not quite the values they intended. There is also conflict when the professional educators teach the values they think are important, regardless of surrounding culture. That's why you got taught so much pointless grammar, because it was supposed to be important for schools to turn out kids who sounded middle-class. Ditto Latin, which is a class signifier more than an education.  The energy would have been far better spent on a living language. Conservatives look back fondly on what was taught for values then, but I'm less impressed. We were taught a lot of patriotism, but that turned out to be a lot of "respect for the flag" and some songs....

We were also taught not to jaywalk, to register our bikes, not to be too noisy, not to be tardy or (horrors) skip school, to do our homework. To stay within the lines, do what authorities told us. That was citizenship, and thus indirectly, patriotism. Now citizenship is more focused on environmentalism, being extra-careful to being respectful of other groups (rather than of older people and government people), but still staying within the lines.  It's the patriotism that Obama talks about, and I don't think it's an act.  He thinks that is what is supposed to be good about America and he wants to see more of it.  Respect for the flag?  Well, fine, but really, not so important.

In the comments to AVI's post, I offered an Aristotelian point that I think our schools miss entirely. I'll reproduce it here.

Aristotle says (and Plato, separately and with somewhat different emphasis) that the most important thing about education is that it should fit a citizen for the kind of state they will live in. Plato tries to give a universal answer for what kind of education is best, but Aristotle says it depends on the kind of state one lives under: one education is right for free men in a republic, another for democrats, a different one for those who live under an oligarchy or a tyranny.... [O]ur system is allegedly pursuing the production of people fit to be free citizens of a self-governing order, but what it actually pursues is producing people who obey authority and submit to daily, ongoing violations of the rights they are told they have. We are supposed to enjoy a kind of political equality (the 'President' is just primus inter pares), but our paternalistic system of education elevates the state into the role of parent and trains students to accept being treated as subordinate children. I think that's a problem that lies behind many of our other political problems, because the citizenry has been trained wrong from youth to be citizens of a free and equal society.

Cracking the code

For years we've struggled to make ordinary TexMex-dive cheese enchiladas at home. I was sure it couldn't be that complicated, considering that TexMex places all over the state seem able to crank it out cheap. We solved the tortilla and cheese part but ran into problems with the gravy. I kept looking up recipes or using canned stuff that got good reviews, but those sauces, while tasty, were absolutely not TexMex chili gravy; they tended to be what I think of as New Mexico chili sauce, very good in its way, but not TexMex. Finally I found a recipe for what we were aiming at, and it couldn't be simpler: a light roux made with 1/4 cup each of oil and flour, seasoned with chili powder (basically ancho), Mexican oregano, garlic powder, cumin, and salt, then thinned with 2 cups of stock or water. In other words, Southern biscuit gravy with a few extra spices, and Bob's your uncle.

I don't cook that much as a daily matter. My idea of a great meal, if my husband hasn't made something, is GrapeNuts or butter noodles. This week, however, I've caught the cooking bug. Since our tomato harvest is coming in, I whipped up some excellent gazpacho for lunch today. I also blanched, peeled, and seeded several pounds of the tomatoes for use in a dinner party we're having this weekend, with shrimp creole on the menu. Recently I've made Caesar salads complete with homemade dressing and croutons for dinner, then enjoyed them again for lunch the next day with leftover roast chicken. This week I went on a cookbook-buying spree and acquired a North African cookbook along books for Vietnamese banh mi (including how to make the bread at home), Vietnamese pho, and a variety of Thai dishes from a restaurant somewhere called Pok Pok.

We're also in the time of year when, besides the tomato harvest, we're getting covered up in eggplant and peppers. Luckily my husband has perfected a dozen or more excellent eggplant recipes, and this year has begun making terrific fermented pepper sauces as well.

For dessert this weekend we'll be serving a "Lemon butter pie" I ran into online: basically a Graham-cracker-butter crust filled with a lemon curd into which a solid cup of butter has been whisked. It's all assembled and chilling now, so we'll try it tonight and see if it's ready for guests. I used pounded-up Spekulaas cookies, the thinking man's Graham cracker.

We'll make the Shrimp creole with a lot of fantastic fish stock from nine redfish frames our neighbor gave us last week after he fileted them. Even after reduction, that yielded a solid gallon of fish stock in the freezer. Paul Prudhomme's Shrimp creole with fresh stock is just the best stuff imaginable, though normally we get by just fine with a very quick stock made from the shrimp shells. It's hard to get them with the heads these days, but even if all you have is a shell with legs and tail it makes a perfectly lovely quick stock. Still, this redfish stock should be something special.

Not Dehumanization, But Not Prejudice Either

 A NYT author reports that Republicans and Democrats currently express what he describes as "dehumanization" towards each other at extreme rates of 30 points, which he says is twice what has been found expressed towards Muslims and about eight times what is expressed towards Mexican migrants.

This is not properly understood as dehumanization. Dehumanization is a problem: it is the problem that we see in abortion, for example, where a whole group of human beings refuses to recognize the humanity and personhood of another group. We saw the same thing at work in slavery, and in the racism used to justify the reintroduction of slavery to the West in the later Middle Ages.

This is rather a kind of distrust, but it is not a kind of prejudice. Prejudice is a pre-judgment, imposed on people due to traits that may be suggestive but not dispositive. Republicans and Democrats distrust each other for reasons. It's a considered judgment by both sides that the other side cannot be trusted with power over them. 

What that means is the polity is in a dire state, but perhaps not unfairly. He argues that the current spending bill is an indicator that there aren't really serious differences; but that's only true of the party elites who negotiated it. It is definitely true of ordinary Americans, whose differences on substantial and fundamental questions of morality are incompatible. 

Conan and Outlawry

[Attribution in graphic: text by Robert E. Howard, from "The Phoenix on the Sword," art by Frank Frazetta.]

This essay aims to explore the issues of outlawry and civilization, topics broached in AVI's post and in the addenda post

Robert E. Howard [REH], the author of the Conan stories, set up the mythos in a way that makes Conan a kind of original or essential outlaw: Conan is born in Cimmeria, a wilderness apparently without a government, which is never visited in the stories and always described in wild terms. He therefore appears to arise from no civilization or even family with a code of its own, contra Aristotle: rather, Conan thus enters civilization as an outsider, and in the stories about his youth he remains one: a solitary thief in Zamora during the story "Tower of the Elephant," or in Corinthia in "Rogues in the House."

After his youthful career as a thief, though, Conan finds exactly the "the importance of 'having a flag to sail under,' whether national or piratical," as mentioned in the addenda post. [Maybe; or maybe the Viking-style story I'm about to discuss came first. Several attempts have been made to work out the timeline (here is one for reference); REH wrote the stories as they came to him, and not in a chronological order.] 

I will only consider REH's stories, and not those added by other authors. It appears that Conan went north and joined a Viking-style warband ("The Frost Giant's Daughter"), the first of several such bands that he joins. Each of these has its own independent code of conduct. Later, he comes into the service of formal ("legitimate"?) nations as a mercenary; eventually he uses that status to conquer and rule the nation of Aquilonia. There he commands as the king the formal armies as well as the mercenaries of that nation, and deals with the laws and customs of the nation as he had earlier dealt with the different warbands.

Outlaws and Civilizations

Before I try to develop the essay about Conan and what that literature tells us about outlawry and civilization, I'd like to say some general things as addenda to AVI's post. This is addenda; it's meant to be read after his post.

I. Outlawry is a part of civilization

AVI starts with a very good point: the word outlaw has meant different things in different times and places. I think the Danelaw versus the Saxon law example he gives is a good one, but there were also different laws in place in the region we would now call Scotland (which really came to be Scotland around this same period of time). The Danelaw was ruled by Danes, and it pressed well into the north until Scottish geography posed sufficiently defensible barriers as to allow them to stop it. Thus Cnut the Mighty did not conquer Scotland, but instead accepted the submission of the Scottish king Malcolm II but did not actually attempt to impose any sort of rulership or law. Malcolm appears to have ignored Cnut even more effectively than Western North Carolina ignores its governor. Or, as Frans Bengtsson put it in The Long Ships:

Meanwhile in the Isles to Scotland's west and north, a Norse rather than Danish population of Vikings had brought their own laws and customs, as they had to Ireland (from whence they raided even the Danelaw, and captured even York). They made different but similar relations with the Scottish kings, allegedly promising fealty but in fact running things their own way.

And in Iceland, men went forth who were tired of all of these systems but who wanted the freedom of a frontier. They, too, ended up making their own laws once there were too many not to have agreements of some sort between them; and they also handled the idea of outlawry differently. Some of our best material comes from Iceland's stories of its outlaws.

When we are going to talk about pirates, well, we already are: most of those early Vikings were in fact pirates, and not kings in their own land. We will return to how little a distinction there is between piracy and "legitimate government" in a while, but the concept was not new even then: no less than St. Augustine relates a story about a pirate captured by Alexander the Great, who asked the pirate how he dared molest peaceful shipping. The pirate asked him, "How dare you molest the whole world?"

It is a much fairer point than people admit. If we look at our own American notions of legitimacy in government, the pirates look far more legitimate than the kings: they made compacts to which the people who joined those compacts actually gave their consent. Iceland's government looks like the only one that we would find legitimate on anything like the American model; even Scotland's doesn't have the legitimacy of the Declaration of Arbroath until 1320, much later.

The point of this section is that outlawry turns out to be a reflection of the civilization that produces it. You cannot, as an American, be an Icelandic Saga outlaw because there is simply no way to escape the laws. You can't opt out of them, and you can't be thrust outside them. You can live in defiance of them, but even should you fly the country the government will do its best to pursue you, arrest you, or have you arrested and extradited to face the judgments of its courts. 

In Iraq, meanwhile, a system very similar to the system of wergild existed in the wake of the failure of the central state (which was never just, but was tyrannically effective at suppressing feuds). The outlaw laws of Iceland had been a kind of pressure-relief valve for its own system: as we see in the Saga of Burnt Njal, Gunnar kills many people (as do others) and the matter is resolved with blood price payments. But when that becomes evidently ineffective, and Gunnar kills multiple times within one family, outlawry basically makes him no longer capable of resolving the matter through lawsuits or payments. It exposes him to being handled however his enemies wish, and they will not be held responsible under the law for whatever they do. He trusts to his own right arm and it avails him for a while, though eventually -- well, we read that story together at length some thirteen years ago. 

The urge to escape tyrannical government is universal, but it exists in tension with the government and the civilization. Those who make the laws determine the shape of outlawry. 

II. Other forms of separateness sometimes enabled by civilization

This is also true of other forms, and in fact it is the mark of a decent government to support them. (Perhaps it is only the mark of a weak government; but if you believe, as I do, that power exercised over others is a corrupting force, it might be reasoned that weak governments are generally also more decent even if only accidentally so.) Contrast allowed forms of separation with, say, Mussolini's vision: 'Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.' Totalitarian forms cannot abide the idea of this sort of separateness.

One of the clearest early example is the hermit. The hermit (somewhat like Edward Abbey, recently discussed) goes to the desert to find the transcendent divine. We picture the actual desert, but the root is Latin and simply means a wilderness. Monasteries and churches came to offer an additional separation, originally a taking-on of additional laws not applicable to everyone else, but coming to offer a sacred alternative to the positive law. An order of Templars might claim the right to live only under their own laws, for example.

Consider the tradition of church sanctuary for criminals, which was honored in English law from the fourth to the seventeenth century. It offered via the Church an opportunity to choose to outlaw one's self: 
[Sanctuary] seekers then had forty days to decide whether to surrender to secular authorities and stand trial for their alleged crimes, or to confess their guilt, abjure the realm, and go into exile by the shortest route and never return without the king's permission. Those who did return faced execution under the law or excommunication from the Church.

If the suspects chose to confess their guilt and abjure, they did so in a public ceremony, usually at the church gates. They would surrender their possessions to the church, and any landed property to the crown. The coroner, a medieval official, would then choose a port city from which the fugitive should leave England (though the fugitive sometimes had this privilege). The fugitive would set out barefooted and bareheaded, carrying a wooden cross-staff as a symbol of protection under the church. Theoretically they would stay to the main highway, reach the port and take the first ship out of England. In practice, however, the fugitive could get a safe distance away, abandon the cross-staff and take off and start a new life. However, one can safely assume the friends and relatives of the victim knew of this ploy and would do everything in their power to make sure this did not happen; or indeed that the fugitives never reached their intended port of call, becoming victims of vigilante justice under the pretense of a fugitive who wandered too far off the main highway while trying to "escape".
This use of exile is currently forbidden by international law, but consider it in terms of the recent discussions of prison alternatives. Would it really be worse for the United States to allow criminals to deport themselves rather than pay to feed and house and care for and guard them for five or ten years? It might be worse for whichever country they were going to, but assuming that a country was willing to admit fugitives, what's wrong with the practice? 

There are other examples like the heroic orders such as the Fianna or the Jomsvikings, which were similar to the military orders of knighthood but not inherently religious in nature. In the United States, we long had privateers and private militias co-existing with the US Navy, Army, and Marine Corps; and actual pirates, too, such as Lafitte who assisted in the Battle of New Orleans.

III. Lack of distinction between 'legitimate' governments and pirate/outlaw ones

Since the Declaration of Independence we have a recognized standard for legitimacy in government; the older standard depended on the Divine Right of Kings, which was itself an evolution of a corporatist model of society that the Catholic Church developed in company with various royal and noble families. The American project is much more like the pirate project than it is like the royalist one. AVI writes:
The old language of "masterless men," and the importance of having a flag to sail under or a protector over you will be part of [the later post on outlaws, linked above -Grim]. For our purposes here, it is important to note that becoming a pirate placed one in a position of almost certain execution if caught. The exception was Africans and ex-slaves, who would be sold back into slavery. For blacks and New World natives, on board pirate ships were a place of near-equality with whites, and in many instances entire equality. There was democratic election to the various roles on the ship, and this likely had influence on the countries on Atlantic coasts, especially in the New World. It can be overstated - they did force captives to join them, especially if they had a needed skill, and that's hardly freedom-loving. They also made their livings by taking what was not theirs and doing so with extreme violence. 

On the other hand, the legitimate governments of Europe impressed sailors and regularly took each other's stuff on the sea via violence. So not a lot of difference. Piracy was a more extreme version of what everyone else was doing, perhaps. 
I noted in the comments that the distinction wasn't even as great as that, because the 'legitimate' kings were happy to employ pirates as "privateers" in their wars. Sir Henry Morgan, the Welsh adventurer who surpassed all other buccaneers in his accomplishments, was rewarded with knighthood for his successful plunder -- using quite hideous tortures to force Spaniards to reveal hidden wealth -- of several Spanish cities in the Americas, including when done during a period of a peace treaty. (Whether or not he used priests and nuns as human shields in his conquest of Porto Bello was the subject of a libel suit that Morgan won; you can read about that in the linked article.) 

American privateers carried the Revolutionary War's naval victories for the nascent republic, the Navy being a bare consideration at that time. More than two thousand American privateers ravaged British shipping, showing the King that free men governing themselves by consent were just as capable of fighting against him as they had been of fighting for him. They were better behaved, though: Congress required bonds of up to thousands of pounds as assurance that they would not harm innocents, neither persons nor the shipping of neutral nations. 

IV. Importance of joining a pact (frith)

AVI mentions in passing the importance of 'having a flag to sail under,' whether national or piratical. There is a whole section of links on this concept on the sidebar, under 'frith and freedom.' A lot of these point to the importance of pulling together to make each other free, and thereby being able to stave off the terrors of the world -- to include tyrants, as well as other harms. In passing I would like to note that if you follow the link regarding church sanctuary, above, you will see that word employed: they note that some of the churches required a sanctuary seeker to reach and sit down upon a "frith stool" in order to obtain the peace and sanctuary offered. 

Now in the post I wanted to write, which this is a preface to as much as an addenda to AVI's, I will be able to look at how Conan -- AVI mentions him by name -- used such bonds and friendships, laws and codes, to move through a series of relationships. In the end he became king by his own hand, having previously become captain of a series of pirates, bands of kozak ('Cossack') raiders, mercenaries, and so forth; and whether there was really all that much difference between the latter and the former is as much a live issue for us as it was for Alexander the Great. 

Polling and Politics

Today I saw an AP story that claimed that "most Americans" favor using race in college admissions. That was surprising to me, because for years now the polling has shown the opposite: strong majorities have suggested that college admissions should not consider race at all. For example, here's a Reuters/Ipsos poll from February with 62% rejecting any use of race or ethnicity; here's a Washington Post poll from October 2022 showing approximately the same numbers (63% of all US adults, but sixty+ percent among all categories of US adults except black Americans who were the only ones who majority-favor race-factoring in admissions); here's a Pew poll from early 2019 showing very strong majorities in opposition to race-based admissions. The Post poll even asked a similar question to the AP poll: should the Supreme Court ban such usage of race in admissions?

It turns out that the AP poll was structured to give people opportunities to suggest that race could be considered 'but not in a major' or 'not in an important' way. 68% even in the AP poll oppose race being a 'major' factor. In other words, the polling really hasn't changed; the poll was just structured to give people an opportunity to hedge, which people generally love to do. (Practically, though, any approved usage will just be the excuse for colleges to continue doing whatever they want; and that might be fine for private schools, but public colleges ought not to discriminate based on race.)

Now that the Supreme Court is likely to issue a ruling on the subject, I suppose it is time for the push-polling even from once-reliable outlets like the Associated Press. There is a strong push to delegitimize the Supreme Court, which must always be shown to be unpopular and therefore anti-democratic (as, indeed, the Founders intended the Supreme Court to be: they were intended to be the aristocratic rule-by-the-chosen-few branch, just as the executive is the rule-by-one branch that Aristotle called Monarchy if it works well and Tyranny if it does not, and as the Congress is supposed to be the rule-by-many branch).

Disappointing, but not surprising. 

Memorial Day

You may not know, but NATO’s Kosovo force (KFOR) has deployed in opposition to a Serbian incursion this morning. We may see yet another war in the Balkans, led by Italian commanders but mostly featuring US troops. 

Honor to the dead, our dead. How little gain we spend their lives to win.