The Peculiar Greek Roots Of Modern Conflict

I was watching an interesting bit of history on Amazon. It was The First War for Western Civilization. It covered the rise of ancient Greece, and the wars with the Persian Empire. Then the eventual rise of Democracy and how that has become the dominant system in the West today. (Ignoring the fact that nobody really has direct democracy, we all have Representative Democracies, that are really a different thing from Greek democracy).

The First War for Western Civilization, a time when history became legend. The Greco-Persian War has given us some of the most iconic moments in history such as Leonidas and the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, the Marathon Run and a huge legacy today in politics and many other areas. However, other than the 3 days of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, the remainder of the 49 year war between Persia and Greece has been almost completely overlooked, and has never appeared in a documentary. It covers the full story from the Ionian Revolt (497BC) to the Peace of Callias (449BC) also known as the Peace of Kimon, and includes a detailed introduction, the birth of Democracy and the aftermath and the legacy of the period.

I strongly recommend it. Instead of just parroting the usual lines about things, they actually find precursor events and look for the connections. For example, Persia didn’t just invade Greece out of nowhere. The Greeks had made the first (failed) move.

Now I tend to also make connections. This posting will mostly look at those bits.

One that stood out to me was the statement that when Greece was first formed (or formed as known in that period) it was by an invasion of the Dorians. They show both Dorians and Ionians “moving south” and displacing some earlier people. (There’s a longish discussion of this in the wikis on Dorians and Ionians). What I noticed was the date.

There’s a chart of temperature vs dates in this posting:

In it, we see a nice warm hump at 1100 BC, and a plunge into cold at 250 BC. The “Dorian Invasion” is placed in that cooling era.

After the Greek Dark Ages, much of the population of the Peloponnesus spoke Dorian, while the evidence of Linear B and literary traditions, such as the works of Homer, suggests that the population spoke Achaean – Mycenaean Greek – before. In addition, society in the Peloponnesus had undergone a total change from states ruled by kings presiding over a Palace economy to a caste system ruled by a Dorian master ethnos at Sparta.

According to the scholar H. Michell: “If we assume that the Dorian invasion took place some time in the twelfth century, we certainly know nothing of them for the next hundred years.” Blegen admitted that in the sub-Mycenaean period following 1200: “the whole area seems to have been sparsely populated or almost deserted.”

The problem is that there are no traces of any Dorians anywhere until the start of the Geometric period about 950 BC. This simple pottery decoration appears to be correlated with other changes in material culture, such as the introduction of iron weapons and alterations in burial practices from Mycenaean group burials in tholos tombs to individual burials and cremation. These can certainly be associated with the historical Dorian settlers, such as those of Sparta in the 10th century BC. However, they appear to have been general over all of Greece; moreover, the new weapons would not have been used in 1200.

So between about 1100 BC and 400 BC a load of Dorians shows up in the South. The wiki takes great pains to assert it isn’t know if this was an invasion or not. I’m more willing to trust all the other histories that for a few hundred years said it happened and was then.

This, then, fits the same pattern we see for “The Migration Era Pessimum” and several other similar times. When a cold turn comes, folks up north and in the Asian Steppes head south and west. To me, it just shouts “NATURAL Climate Cycles driving history”. So as a sort of a “Dig Here!” question, we have: To what extent was the rise of Greece the result of a “Bit ‘o Cold!” driving folks south? Then the corollary question: What happens in our current turn down to cold from a warm cycle?…

The Dorians you will probably know better by their iconic group named the Spartans.

(BTW, in modesty, I must point out that one of my alma-maters is a school with Spartan as their identity, so I’m both an Aggie and a Spartan… but I don’t let it color my thinking… much ;-)

The other group moving about at the time was the Ionians.

The Ionians (/aɪˈoʊniənz/; Greek: Ἴωνες, Íōnes, singular Ἴων, Íōn) were one of the four major tribes that the Greeks considered themselves to be divided into during the ancient period; the other three being the Dorians, Aeolians, and Achaeans.[1] The Ionian dialect was one of the three major linguistic divisions of the Hellenic world, together with the Dorian and Aeolian dialects.

When referring to populations, “Ionian” defines several groups in Classical Greece. In the narrowest sense it referred to the region of Ionia in Asia Minor. In a broader sense it could be used to describe all speakers of the Ionic dialect, which in addition to those in Ionia proper also included the populations of Euboea, the Cyclades, and many cities founded by Ionian colonists. Finally, in the broadest sense it could be used to describe all those who spoke languages of the East Greek group, which included Attic.

The foundation myth which was current in the Classical period suggested that the Ionians were named after Ion, son of Xuthus, who lived in the north Peloponnesian region of Aigialeia. When the Dorians invaded the Peloponnese they expelled the Achaeans from the Argolid and Lacedaemonia. The displaced Achaeans moved into Aegilaus (thereafter known as Achaea), in turn expelling the Ionians from the Aegilaus. The Ionians moved to Attica and mingled with the local population of Attica, and many later emigrated to the coast of Asia Minor founding the historical region of Ionia.

Unlike the austere and militaristic Dorians, the Ionians are renowned for their love of philosophy, art, democracy, and pleasure – Ionian traits that were most famously expressed by the Athenians.

The Ionians were the thinkers and the Dorians were the fighters.

has a good bit about them. Also of note, Athens is Ionian. Thus the divide into Athenian world view vs Spartan world view that defines much of Greek history and traditions.

The oldest known human presence in Athens is the Cave of Schist, which has been dated to between the 11th and 7th millennia BC. Athens has been continuously inhabited for at least 7000 years. By 1400 BC the settlement had become an important centre of the Mycenaean civilization and the Acropolis was the site of a major Mycenaean fortress, whose remains can be recognised from sections of the characteristic Cyclopean walls. Unlike other Mycenaean centers, such as Mycenae and Pylos, it is not known whether Athens suffered destruction in about 1200 BC, an event often attributed to a Dorian invasion, and the Athenians always maintained that they were “pure” Ionians with no Dorian element. However, Athens, like many other Bronze Age settlements, went into economic decline for around 150 years afterwards.

Given that dates can be off by a few hundred years for things 1000+ B.C., both in the historical record and in the climate record, I do have to wonder if the whole Dorian Invasion / Dark Age thing was driven by the fall off a warm peak into the cold.

In any case, the part that’s more of interest at the moment is the cultural differences and what that reflects in the present.


You see, the Spartans had outlawed currency, had joint ownership of goods in a communal way, had a very flat wealth distribution, and generally were a very early form of Socialism / Communism. They also had a very strick overlay of Spartan Nationalism and anyone weak or sickly was generally not allowed to live. They had a racial purity streak in them. Seems many folks strongly admired the Spartans, and so emulated parts of their culture and economic system.

“Sparta must be regarded as the first völkisch state. The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more human than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject.”

― Adolf Hitler

This paper gives a short but readable listing of the similarities of the two:

So Hitler admired the Spartans and adopted both their Socialist economics and their bundle of extreme Nationalism with Eugenics and a militaristic social order.

Then we have the communists. They picked up the communal / socialist economics, but wanted to dump the nationalism.

The Spartans are not a pure example of Socialism / Communism. They were the top 10% of their society with the rest being slaves. (Then again, the Communist Party often just has the top 10% actively in it…) A decent examination of the finer points is here:

According to tradition, Sparta was the handiwork of Lycurgus; but what may any one profitably or usefully say regarding this obscure personality, of whom even Plutarch says that there is nothing concerning him that is not the subject of dispute? This original lawgiver, on whose persuasive powers the socialist laws of Sparta rested, is indeed a shadowy figure — a kind of cross between Moses and King Arthur. If we accept Plutarch’s account, Lycurgus was oppressed by the glaring contrast between riches and poverty, the vast number of poor and landless on the one hand, and, on the other, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals — almost a Marxian vision. And so — although surely external circumstances must have reinforced his arguments — he persuaded the Spartans to agree to a new distribution of lands on a basis of equality, and by other measures he weaned them from the love of silver and gold, and led them to adopt that harsh simplicity of life which the very name of Sparta has come to connote. Plutarch’s description is of interest because, waiving the question of its historical accuracy, it gives a very adequate definition of the ideal communistic state, as ideally imagined by countless later generations. In general, he says,

he trained his fellow-citizens to have neither the wish nor the ability to live for themselves; but like bees they were to make themselves always integral parts of the whole community, clustering together about their leader, almost beside themselves with enthusiasm and noble ambition, and to belong wholly to their country.

With this must be taken another fact no less significant, common indeed to all Greek civilization, although perhaps specially important in Sparta. When we speak of Sparta, we are not concerned with a homogeneous population. The problem is complicated, as always, by one form of the slave question. The Spartan state could continue to exist only so long as the Helots were kept under. Thus the Spartans had to consider not merely their enemies beyond their frontier: they also lived as a governing class amid enemies, vastly more numerous, always sullen, constantly menacing. This is the ultimate explanation of the socialistic aspect of the Spartan state. Pöhlmann has a pregnant saying, written long before 1914, and therefore free from any suggestion that it springs from the misfortunes of the last two generations, to the effect that “state socialism is the inevitable correlate of the war-like type of society.” Mr. Hawtrey, in our own day, has explained how Collectivism “emerges as the logical outcome of militarism when pushed to the extreme limit.” A state that is at war, or that is perpetually organized for war, dare not tolerate individual liberties which may be in conflict with the general interest; and if the crisis becomes acute, so that the very existence of the state is in danger, there always has been, and there always will be, a tendency to sacrifice the individual; and this means one or other of two things, either despotism or state socialism.

It is fascinating to think that perhaps that same dynamic plays out in modern Communist / Socialist countries, as the “Helots” realize their Communist Spartan “Masters” don’t give a damn about them. “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work”…

So that’s the one side of this dynamic. Sparta. With keeping the most odious bits, reflected in the Fascist / Nazi / National Socialists. With only the communal property and flat wealth distribution among the master class, Communism / Socialism. Both taking their direction from the same forces that founded Sparta. Both with similar outcomes. A repressive State and a top down driven society prone to devolution into tyranny.


On the flip side, we have Athens. They had a kind of democracy, but it tended to instability and “mob rule”. In the TV series, there is a constant flow of folks to power and position, only to be ostracized and run off to other lands when folks were jealous of them and their successes. One leader was even quoted as saying that the mob was very easy to mislead. Watching our political ads and what passes as “news” today, I’d say that hasn’t changed.

Athenian democracy developed around the fifth century BC in the Greek city-state (known as a polis) of Athens, comprising the city of Athens and the surrounding territory of Attica, and is the first known democracy in the world. Other Greek cities set up democracies, most following the Athenian model, but none are as well documented as Athens’.

It was a system of direct democracy, in which participating citizens voted directly on legislation and executive bills. Participation was not open to all residents: to vote one had to be an adult, male citizen i.e. neither a foreign resident nor a slave, and the number of these “varied between 30,000 and 50,000 out of a total population of around 250,000 to 300,000” or “no more than 30 percent of the total adult population.”

The longest-lasting democratic leader was Pericles. After his death, Athenian democracy was twice briefly interrupted by oligarchic revolutions towards the end of the Peloponnesian War. It was modified somewhat after it was restored under Eucleides; the most detailed accounts of the system are of this fourth-century modification rather than the Periclean system. Democracy was suppressed by the Macedonians in 322 BC. The Athenian institutions were later revived, but how close they were to a real democracy is debatable. Solon (594 BC), Cleisthenes (508/7 BC), and Ephialtes (462 BC) contributed to the development of Athenian democracy. Cleisthenes broke up the power of the nobility by organizing citizens into ten groups based on where they lived rather than on their wealth.

Note the instability to Oligarchs and wars…

So the main problems with democracy are minority rights (“Two wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for lunch”) thus we have a slave population not going anywhere, and instability to the rich and powerful (thus the frequent ostracism ejections of folks who fall out of favor and the rise of oligarchs who can manipulate the mob with rumors).

Most current western democracies like to point at ancient Greece as their source of inspiration, so I won’t belabor the point further.

In Conclusion

The various Greek city-states were at war with each other when not fighting someone outside of Greece. Spartans did not trust Athenians and Athenians didn’t trust Spartans. They would work together against a common enemy, but never with real agreement.

Now fast forward to today. It’s the same dynamic from the same source differences. Persia (that I’ve not explored so far) was a giant Empire. We have clashes of empire over many of the same things. Power, control, dominance. While recently the Empire has fallen out of favor, it isn’t far removed in our history. We have the oppressive elite ruled Communist State (most recently taken a tumble when China moved to a Lange Type Socialism for economics, but keeping the Communist Elite politically) taking a cue from Sparta, and we had the extreme form of Modern-Sparta in W.W.II. Now the socialism of Sparta is trying to make a go of it in various other parts of the world, often merged with a token “Republic” or “Democracy”. Yet it tends to devolve back into that militaristic despot result (Venezuela, Cuba, and so many more).

There was another theme to the series as well. That The West – typified by Western Democracy as Athens, was in repeated struggles against invasion from the East. Persia, for example. And fights back to stop it. What are we doing now? Struggling against a “Muslim Invasion” of Europe and fighting, even if sometimes by proxy, in the former Persian Empire. The Caliphate Dream Empire vs Western Democracy. Again.

They start the first episode with a listing of prior conflicts, in reverse order, moving back to “the first” as the Greeks vs Persia. I’m going to give their list in forward order instead, showing the progression to today:

Greeks vs Persian wars
Alexander vs Persia
Rome vs Persia
Arabs vs Byzantium (late Romans)
Turks vs Byzantium (Late Romans)
The Crusades
Turkey vs Austria
Siege of Vienna
Siege of Rhodes
Siege of Malta
Turkey vs Russia
World War One
The Gulf Wars

I would only note that there was a World War II in there and it did involve the East too…

Now, in the modern era, we had Ataturk trying to move Turkey into the Western Civilization sphere. The jury is still out on the success of that. Current events shaping up to be a return to the Caliphate Dream. Fence sitting at best. Persia / aka Iran, working to get nukes but temporarily slowed. Even now using the classical technique of “Persian Gold” to influence neighbors and stir up proxy wars (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) Syria sending loads of “5th Column” folks to Europe as “refugees”.

It seems some things never change. The War For Western Civilization drags on, 2500 years later. The conflict between Spartan Socialists and Athenian Democracy drags on, 2500 years later. It’s gone a bit more global, and the particular religious icons both sides carry have changed. The weapons and tactics have advanced. Yet the basic process is unchanged.

One wonders if there is no way to get off this treadmill short of one side erasing the other.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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30 Responses to The Peculiar Greek Roots Of Modern Conflict

  1. philjourdan says:

    One wonders if there is no way to get off this treadmill short of one side erasing the other.

    When one side is erased, the winning side splinters into 2 new sides. So it never ends.

  2. Lionell Griffith says:

    “One wonders if there is no way to get off this treadmill short of one side erasing the other’

    If history is prologue, the “winning” side will split into factions and continue the attempt to erase each other. The will to power destroys itself by attempting to control the uncontrollable other. The treadmill will continue with different names and faces. The only way to win in the power game for the long run is for everyone to decide not to play it.

    Its live and let live. Associate with the willing. Trade value for value neither demanding nor giving the unearned.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    I would only point out in contra-point that THE major conflicts have not been between minor variations on the same theme, but between 3 sets of opposed ideologies. Inside those groups, war has been much less and more infrequent.

    Empire vs Sparta (2 kinds) vs Western Democracy.

    We’ve not seen much of the Western Democracies going at each other.

    We’ve seen a little of Sparta going at each other ( Russia / China border wars).

    Empires DO go at each other, but we haven’t really had an Empire for a long time now. I think the USSR was the last of them. They “went at it” with the Nazi / Fascist attempt at Empire and later with the Chinese Communist attempt at Empire. But all that has pretty much died out now. About the only Empire (nascent) I see laying about now is the Caliphate. It is trying to reform, and The West keeps squashing it.

    So I really do doubt that a ‘erasing’ of the Empires and Sparta-wanna-bees would result in the Western Democracies declaring war on each other. Last time they did much of that it was more Kings & Queens and Empires, Oh My!

    In support of the thesis, though, we have the current events in Catalonia & BREXIT. Not rising to the level of “wars”, but certainly waving the flag of discontent around… as the EU tries to become Holy Roman Empire Lite / Redux…

    The biggest argument I see for “erasure” not working is just the cycle of societies.
    Empire leads to Tyranny leads to collapse leads to democracy leads to empire … or something like that. Keeping everyone stuck on “Good Representative Democracy” has not yet been shown possible… and as we’ve also seen, modern Representative Democracies are still subject to folks “voting for themselves the public purse” and decline into tyranny.

    You’d think after 3 or 4 thousand years we would have figured out how to have a fair, just, and stable government.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh, and

    We had that under the Celts in Europe pre-Rome. It worked well for a very long time.

    Unfortunately, it is unstable to external force / external Empire… and got Romanized against their will.

  5. pouncer says:

    The best safeguard of minority rights is the jury system and related “lotteries” of citizenship. The Athenians used machines not unlike Bingo Ball selectors to draft a somewhat representative sample of citizens by family, neighborhood, tradecraft, and school into decision-making bodies authorized and empowered to do, well, all sorts of things. At present we use more complicated mechanisms to decide a few criminal matters. But I can’t help but think a randomly selected bunch of “good citizens” would be just as able to gerrymander electoral districts; decide which properties must be seized by eminent domain for a new road or sewer; censor, when necessary, elementary school textbooks; or decide if and when to bail out a failing business. Certainly a jury of random citizens can hardly do worse than our permanently-politically-connected class of nepot-crats

  6. cdquarles says:

    The problem here is human nature. Man cannot change that on his own, apparently. So there’s nothing new under the sun, so to speak.

  7. Lionell Griffith says:

    “Keeping everyone stuck on “Good Representative Democracy” has not yet been shown possible… and as we’ve also seen, modern Representative Democracies are still subject to folks “voting for themselves the public purse” and decline into tyranny.”

    Isn’t this example of “The will to power destroys itself by attempting to control the uncontrollable other.” It is the use of coercive force to gain the unearned which leads to the ultimate collapse. The fact it was “voted” for by the majority of those who voted does not make it any less than theft.

  8. David A says:

    The US attempt at individual liberty as the antidote to ” two wolfs and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch, and as an equal protection against tyranny of centrist government, limiting the ” necessary evil, has been a noble experiment.

    G. Washington nailed the chance for success when he said only a moral people can succeed with this. Please contemplate the depth of this. The dark side of human nature brings down all systems, selfishness, greed, sloth, lust of power over others; all manifest in any system. IMV only in the U.S. system is adequate defense against these systemic human failings possible. In affect the good side of human nature ( discriminating will, wisdom guided volition, kindness, strength and discipline tempered with compassion, love and humility) may possibly rule the day under the U.S. systemic attempt to cripple the “evil bastard” while maintaining the strength required to run the experiment.

    These are trying times for the U.S. effort. As noted in many comments above, all other efforts have ended in evil bastard victory, or in devastating war to counter him.

  9. beththeserf says:

    Wise and chastening, David A.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    I’m pondering a posting listing the types of government and their major collapse mode. Like tribes being overrun by empires, and democracy electing tyrants in bad times. Basically a list of how The Evil Bastards exploit each system to destruction.

    It’s a bit dismal though so motivation takes prodding…

  11. Lionell Griffith says:

    “all other efforts have ended in evil bastard victory”

    It does not end with evil bastard victory, it ends with collapse of the civilization that allowed itself to be taken over by the evil bastards. Which is followed by a dark ages, chaos, mass suffering, and untimely death until man learns, once again, what it takes to live and thrive and to consistently choose to follow that path.

    The vices and virtues are consequence of man’s nature rather than an immutable part of it. It is man’s nature that he has to choose to be aware, choose what to be aware of, to choose to learn and understand that of which he is aware, then to choose how to act based upon that acquired knowledge. This is the nature of what we call “free will”.

    These things are not automatic but must be actively chosen every step of the way. To live, he must choose the path that is consistent with staying alive. To thrive, he must choose the path that is consistent with thriving. What he actually is and his necessary relationship to reality sets what works and what doesn’t work. In a very real sense, one must choose to live as a precondition to saying alive and to be actively involved every moment of that life.

    There are no shortcuts. There is no predetermined destiny except the responsibility for choosing. The consequences flow from the quality of the choices made. It is a difficult and demanding path that must be followed if your choice is to live. To choose death is easy. Do nothing and you will soon achieve your goal.

    The evil bastards do not choose the path necessary for living. They choose to default on the necessary choices and work to substitute the initiation of coercive force to meet their momentary whims. It appears to work as long as there are willing victims to be sacrificed to his whims. When there are no more willing victims and nothing left to take: the evil bastard fails and the collapse follows. It may take a succession of evil bastard but the collapse is inevitable. The “system” he chose to corrupt does not matter as long as the “system” went along to get along. The end will be the grand collapse. All based upon the failure to make the choice to live and to expend the effort necessary to make that choice happen.

    He who is free, never submits. He who submits, was never free. Stay free!

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    It is about time that Trump refused to certify that Iran “agreement” The State Department has been leaning on him to certify their boondoggle and those in favor of it point to his previous certifications as proof that it is working! Last time he said that it would be the last automatic certification he would do.
    Sometime soon the swamp rats will realize just how stiff necked this president can be. The dark state liberals are beginning to fear what Trump will do to them next rather then plan their next attack on him. A great change from Obama that worked with them to Trump that is opposed.
    To Trump this will be his last and Greatest Reconstruction project…pg

  13. David A says:

    Lionell, I agree that the statement is a over-simplificationl, even with the inclusion of wars that often come to tyrannical states. Social systems that move towards statism most often end in economic collapse.

    Regarding human choice, yes I agree there as well. I somewhat addressed this in the positive virtues; …”discriminating will, wisdom guided volition…”

    A major message of my post is that some systems more effectively allow individual choice and virtue to manifest, whereas all forms of statism, via the isolation and enhancement of state power over others, the ” necessary evil” engender the ” evil bastard” in his evil game.

  14. Lionell Griffith says:

    “some systems more effectively allow individual choice and virtue to manifest”

    That too is not from some magical external force or by accident. The right system is established by actively choosing and maintaining it. Those who are free, are free because they choose take responsibility for their own lives.. For the same reason, they choose not to initiate coercive force on another and follow the live and let live principle. Association with the willing and trading value for value flows from that principle as well. Neither demanding nor giving the unearned is a primary defense of the choice to live. To live is their primary choice all the rest flows from that first choice.

    To refuse to choose is to “let George do it”. George is usually some petty tyrant or thug more than willing to take advantage of the situation and take what he wants by force rather than by building and trading. This is followed by a succession of still more brutal tyrants and thugs until the society collapses because its wealth and human capital have been consumed. Nothing is left except suffering, poverty, and death.

  15. John Robertson says:

    Great post.
    Thus we cycle on or is it ride the wheel of fate?
    From fat and happy to lazy and stupid onto collapse and cannibalism, through to hard, hungry & productive and back to fat and happy.
    That we now ,in the Western Civilization, live as Gods compared to the material conditions our Grandparents lived in, is masked by our spiritual discontent.
    I guess human nature has not changed.
    When we chose to refuse responsibility for our lives, we fall into waste.
    We could have conquered the moon, near earth orbits and near planets..instead we chose to provide life support for our fools and bandits.
    Who are now fully dependent and very demanding of their “entitlements”.
    Nothing ensures a good supply of the useless and clueless than protecting them from the consequences of their own actions.
    Actions are true,words are noise.
    Hence; Fools names and fools faces are always found in public places.
    On the bright side the mass migration to the cities has created more private spaces.

  16. According to Robert Michel all governments trend towards oligarchy. So how do oligarchs control us sheeple?

    Chiefio said “..and the rise of oligarchs who can manipulate the mob with rumors.”

    In the modern world, oligarchs own the “Main Stream Media” and that allows them to manipulate the mob (aka you and me). The rumors are now known at “Fake News”.

  17. p.g.sharrow says:

    gallopingcamel; very true BUT! this time we have the World Wide Web. Anyone anywhere in the world can communicate, publish and opine. The Elites can no longer control information and freely mold opinion. Now we have a hand in opinion molding.
    This is the prophesied new age. “When a net covers the world”…pg

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    We see the same concepts in several different theorys of the cycles of development of scocieties.

    Glubb Pasha “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival” and his Seven stages of Empire, considers the consequences growth and increased affluence followed by of too long being prosperous the softening of standards and the erosion of the energy and risk taking that caused empires to form.

    Likewise in economics Kondratiev ( Kondratieff or Kondratyev) also postulates a cycle of development, stagnation in affluence and then collapse.

    These similar concepts apply to governments too and the institutions that are the basis for those governments.

    I think the concept of repeating cycles is sound but is not nearly as rigid as the proponents of those schools believe. The larger society is composed of the harmonics of thousands of similar cycles in all sorts of social institutions and economic enterprises. Periodically all (or enough) of the cycles line up and the country and society as a whole expresses the dominant frequency component of those innumerable tones of the systems components.

  19. I have not been around for a while. Had a glitch in Windows 10 had to restore. Lost all the programs in “C” drive but still had data in the “E” drive. Lost the bookmarks in Firefox.
    I have to read your whole post. i have read some Greek history and the book on the Peloponnesian war so will be interested in your take.
    At the start you say that there is no direct democracy. While not perfect Switzerland is the only country that has direct democracy. Many years ago I was at an acquaintance’s house in Canton Bern when he excused himself for about 30 minutes because he wanted to finish reading all the Act of parliaments (around 50) that he would vote on the next day in the market place. In that Canton the parliament was only a place to outline legislation (including budgets) but the people voted on all laws. Switzerland has about 3 sets of 4 referendum questions every year.. Some of the Cantons have more. With electronic voting and the internet it should be easier to have direct democracy than voting by show of hands in the market place.
    I note that for Switzerland voting is about 70% “No” Most “Green” inspired citizen Initiated referendums (CIR) are lost. The people there are not as stupid as those in California.

  20. jim2 says:

    I would be OK with citizens here in the US voting on everything, in principle at least. With the caveat that the voter must, in order to qualify, pass a detailed test on the proposals so (s)he thereby can prove having read them.

  21. p.g.sharrow says:

    From my experience working in the Democratic Party, if there is a way to scam the vote count they will do it. That is why we are in our particular mess here in California. The population here is no where near as Liberal as results would indicate. After Reagan the RINOs mad deals with the democrats for safe districts and fat connections to money men…pg

  22. E.M.Smith says:


    I’d call the Swiss system a hybrid. Sone limited direct democracy, but also many things done by the republic.

    Switzerland is a democratic federal republic. The federal legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Federal Assembly, the National Council and the Council of States.
    The Federal Council holds the executive power and is composed of seven power-sharing Federal Councillors elected by the Federal Assembly. The judicial branch is headed by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, whose judges are elected by the Federal Assembly.

    Switzerland has a tradition of direct democracy. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory (mandatory referendum); for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested (optional referendum). In addition, the people may present a constitutional popular initiative to introduce amendments to the federal constitution. The people also assume a role similar to the constitutional court, which does not exist, and thus act as the guardian of the rule of law.

    Cantonal and municipal politics vary in the different cantons, which may have different systems.

    BTW, still using Windows? Oh God! I’ve failed…


    At least get a cheap USB disk and dual boot Linux from it…

  23. Lionell Griffith says:

    “BTW, still using Windows? Oh God! I’ve failed…”

    You are more than welcome to use any OS you want. However, if it is your goal to sell a software product with any degree of valuable intellectual property in it for a realistic price, you don’t want any part of the so called “open source free” software touching it. You are still welcome to sell it but the first customer who demands your source code, you must transfer it to him. After that, he can do anything he wants with it including giving it to your competition.

    The second factor in selling software is the OS used by your target customers. For my software, that is overwhelmingly Windows.

    The third factor in selling software, especially those requiring highly specialized hardware, is the availability of hardware driver software from the hardware vendor. In my case, it is Windows again.

    The only thing wrong with Windows is Microsoft. In part, it is its tenancy to obsolete an otherwise useful OS by insisting that you upgrade to a much worse version and suffer endless updates until it almost works. Then require you to update to another really bad idea. All too often, even if it isn’t broken, Microsoft will fix it and break it.

    Further, they try to lock you into proprietary lets pretend standards and provide massive but useless documentation to program to it (MFC, COM, DCOM, .NET, C# Then when you finally get something working with it, it is obsoleted and a shiny new thing is forced upon you. I simply don’t play that game.

    As always, one should use what best fits your purpose and end goals.

  24. jim2 says:

    And even worse, Windoze now tries to pimp out Cortana. Don’t want that trash in my house. (I’m familiar with it from work, where I have no choice. But killed Cortana early on.)

  25. Larry Ledwick says:

    What is Cortana – Clippy v 2.0?

  26. cdquarles says:

    Cortana is Microsoft’s version of Siri.

  27. Lionell Griffith says:

    You are speaking of Windows 10. For me, Windows 10 is Vista 2.0. A really bad idea made worse. Its internals have some good points but the user interface has to have a hurricane tail wind to come up to “it sucks”. At least for development and productive users of software. It kind of works for games, browsing, tweeting, and email, but for any serious productive technical work it falls flat on its face.

    I use Windows 7 Pro and Windows 7 Embedded Standard. Embedded Windows 7 Standard will be supported until 2025. I will be 88 years old then and my patents will have expired, so I won’t care much what Microsoft does. My software technology will have been sold by then or I will have given up on it.

    As for Cortana, I tested it for three minutes on the second Windows 10 Beta build. It crashed and I never used it again. Things got worse for Windows 10 from that point. This even includes their insulting attempt to bring back the “start button”.

    We, the real life software product developers who helped make Microsoft rich, didn’t ask for a start button, we asked for the possibility of having an alternate user interface as it was in Windows 7. No! Mother Microsoft knows best and gave us that pathetic pile of garbage called “modern” with no alternative provided.

    It would have been pathetically easy to give us an acceptable alternate user interface but no, it was their way or the highway. I even expended the effort to make the necessary changes in Windows 10 to produce a user interface I could live with. It required several third party programs along with a major program I wrote to change the way the internals worked. There was no way I could expect my customers to make that kind of effort nor did I want to support it if they did, so I took the highway.

    For the same reason that Windows XP is still around, Windows 7 is going to be around for a long time. They work, you don’t have to teach a new user interface, you don’t have to upgrade the hardware, AND you don’t have to rewrite mission critical software. In the enterprise environment, doing that is a monumentally expensive and time consigning task.

  28. Chiefio read the whole piece -interesting take. You alluded to warm and cold climate. Could I suggest to you (and of course others here) the book by Prof Geoffrey Blainey “The Great Seesaw -a new view of the Western World 1750-2000” He talks about tilts of human attitudes between optimism and pessimism some of this related to climate. Climate was also an influence in the ups and down of the Roman Empire.

  29. beththeserf says:

    Cementafriend, ) i was a student of Geoffrey Blaineys in the 1980’s
    when he was writing ‘The Great See-Say, Swings of Optimism and
    Pessimism.’ In my 2nd Edition of Under_ground Journal on ‘Food and
    Famine,’ I refer to the book. Herewith ;

    After 4000 years of living on the littoral, since the invention of the steam
    engine and applying new technologies to farming, the West experienced
    greater prosperity fer populations, even serfs on the lowest rungs of society.

    Around the time of early industrialization, however, there came into play an
    intellectual see-saw of attitudes, swings of optimism and pessimism regarding
    western industrialization that continues today:

    ‘At one end was The Enlightenment with its faith in reason and the stages of
    progress, and at the other end was a suspicion of European civilization and the
    belief that it was travelling the wrong way.’ (P16)

    One of the pessimists, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1712-1778, rebelled against
    many modern lines of thought. He believed that people who lived close to nature
    were happier, healthier, freer and more virtuous than those who lived in cities i
    n civilized Europe. In these conflicting intellectual movements, Rousseau was
    the high priest of nature and Adam smith the high priest of commercial progress.

    Doyen of those believing famine was just around the corner was the Reverend
    Mr Pessimist, Thomas Malthus.The Potato Famine in Ireland seemed to support
    Malthus but then, grain flowing from the US mid 19th century and frozen meat
    from the US and Australia made doom-saying less influential.


    We got more 20th century fears of famine in the West with ‘Ehrlich’s ‘Population
    Bomb’ and Club of Rome’s ‘LImits of Growth’ that got stats wrong. What followed?
    I read on the net, 1972-2010, population increased 1.7x, agricultural output of main
    crops increased 2.4 x. Greenies hate efficient technology, love back to the Dark Ages
    technology. Serf’s love Ol’ King Coal. Yer could say we remain guardedly optimist.

  30. philjourdan says:

    Cortana is the Windows version of Siri. But like all Skynet, not to be trusted.

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