Oct 17, 2006

The wheel of history

It is interesting to note that much of the trouble we have today with copyright was foreseen and discussed by people hundreds of years ago. I throughoutly enjoyed reading the 19th century speeches by Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, which you can find here. Also, take note of this essey by Eric Flint, which directed me there in the first place.


Oct 14, 2006

Yalta, translated

My translation of 'Jałta' by Jacek Kaczmarski.

Like new tsars' residence,
Servants know their duties,
Far were the Tatars resettled,
From where the world is judged.

Widows now see, the walls listen
How coughs with his cigar the Lion,
How squeks the wheelchair pushed
with broken Democrat inside.

But nobody sees and nobody hears,
Highlander's doings in Crimean night,
When with faithful comrades' gesture
He speaks with his legandary power.

Don't blame Stalin,
He was not pulling the strings,
It was not his fault,
That Rooslvelt in Jałta had no strenght.
When the triumvirate together formed
the history of the world,
- It's obvious who played the Ceasar's role
and such is the truth behind Jałta.

In the weak light of cigar's butt
Floated the face of Albion's lion:
Let's not talk about the Baltic,
Why would Europe need so many states?

Poles? - after all there is just the matter
that they have to live somewhere...
Poland, it was always trouble...
The Cripple cares and shakes.

But sooths them master of the house,
Stroking his yellowish moustache:
My country will lend them a helping hand,
Later they can do what they want.

Don't blame Churchill,
He was not pulling the strings,
After all, the triumvirate was only there
So Stalin would get what he desired.
Who values peace,
Will always back out of the fight -
Win will the one who fears not the wars
And such is the truth behind Jałta.

The palace's walls strain to hear
When to the Cripple speaks the Lion -
- I believe in Stalin's thruthful words
He seems to care for Soviet's blood.

And so the Cripple nods to that,
Unbroken guardian of democracy
Stalin, he's the man of the century
The men of state, the leader!

As alliance of great ones, it's not a cabal
It's the world's future - freedom, order -
With them, the weak will survuve,
And receive his share... of losses.

Don't blame Roosvelt,
Think what he had to endure!
Pipe, cigar's smoke and bottle,
Churchill, who cared not for alliances.
After all, three empires talked
about the borders, unclear ones:
- and in the details, Beria lied,
And such is the truth behind Jałta.

So delegations flew away,
Quiet became the tsar's Crimean castle.
And when the West was loud with guns,
Humans like cattle were hearded East.

The free world later celebrated freedom,
The fronts suddenly became empty -
Flowers fell on the president's grave,
And there were transports, so many transports.

The red dawn follows the night
The voters voted, and Churchill left!
And there the transports of live people,
And there the camps of long death.

So don't blame the Big Three,
History's judgement was behind it
Designed in every detail -
Each of them protected, what they had.
They could have erred, in the moment -
He was not a Pole, not a Balt...
Only the victims are always right!
And such is the truth behind Jałta.

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Oct 13, 2006

Exploding encyclopedia

As much as I am a fan of Wiki, some things make me wonder...

And if this is in, have you ever thought about what is out?

And then, of course, we have BJAODN. Enter at your peril. And don't say I didn't warn you...

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Oct 12, 2006

The Dogma of Otherness

One of the most intriguing concepts I have run into recently is the 'The Dogma of Otherness' described by David Brin. In the time and place where political correctness and cultural relativism are much more popular than arguments about benefits of the Western culture, Brin ironically and with a tongue-in-cheek manages to show how the very critiques of the Western culture in fact manage to provide compelling arguments about its unique advantages. The logic he employs is very simple - perhaps even right there along the lines 'it's so simple only a genius can see it' :> His argument, in essence, boils down to the simple statement that the (modern) Western culture is the only one which not only allows but encourages critique of itself, thus it invites change (for better), is in the best position to assimilate good parts of other cultures, and (even if it is not 'polite' to say so) is the the most tolerant and positive of them all.

To illustrate his argument, let me quote from his essay:

"Anthropologists tell us that every culture has its core of central, commonly shared assumptions--some call them zeitgeists, others call them dogmas. These are beliefs that each individual in the tribe or community will maintain vigorously, almost like a reflex.

"It's a universal of every society. For instance, in the equatorial regions of the globe there's a dogma that could be called machismo, in which revenge is a paramount virtue that runs deeper even than religion. From Asian family centrism to Russian pessimism, there are worldviews that affect nations' behavior more basically than superficial things like communism, or capitalism, or Islam. It all has to do with the way children are raised.

"We, too, have our zeitgeist. But I am coming to see that contemporary America is very, very strange in one respect. It just may be the first society in which it is a major reflexive dogma that there must be no dogmas!"

"But think, for a moment, how unique this is . . . how unusual this cultural mind-set has to be! Throughout history nearly every human society has worked hard to ingrain its children with the assumption that theirs was the only way to do things. Oh, we still get a lot of that here. It probably comes automatically with flags and nations and all that tribal stuff. But where and when else has the societal dogma also included such a powerful counter-indoctrination to defend otherness?"

"The Dogma of Otherness insists that all voices deserve a hearing, that all points of view have something of value to offer."

Is there really a war of memes? Perhaps. But if there is, the dogma of otherness gets my full support - especially over other memes that Brin describes as its opponents (feudalism, machismo, paranoia, and "the East").

Links of interest:
*begining of 'The Dogma of Otherness' essay (unfortunatly the full text is not online, but you can get it from a library near you or buy online)
*The New Meme - another of Brin's essay's which discusses this issue (this one has full text available)
*Survival of the Fittest Ideas: The New Style of War -- a Struggle Among Memes (excerpt from Brin's speech)

Googling for "The Dogma of Otherness" produces also some other people's comments about this issue, but I think reading original Brin first is a better idea.

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