Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for January 12, 2014

Polish child in the ruins of Warsaw.

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The devastation of Warsaw is really hard to comprehend, even before/after shots can’t show anything because of how complete the devastation was: there’s no point of reference anywhere, like the surface of the moon. For example, this ghetto area photo is 1950 and was either directly adjacent to the current city center at the palace of culture, or nearby:

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Here’s a video showing the destruction. This is a digital reconstruction of the destruction that happened. Powerful stuff…

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Münster Rebellion

How an end-of-the-world prophecy caused the creation of a polygamistic, proto-Communist city-state in Münster during the 1530s; or, the story of the Münster Rebellion.

This image of Erhard Schoen shows the first major attack on the city Pentecost 1534,

This image of Erhard Schoen shows the first major attack on the city Pentecost 1534.

In 1534, a group of Anabaptists took control of the city of Münster and created a theocratic Anabaptist state. It is also my favourite ‘end of the world prophecy’ event in history.

Anabaptists, whose main theological similarity is a belief in adult baptism (as a child cannot enter a covenant), generally predate the ‘typical’ start date for the Protestant Reformation: Luther nailing his 95 Theses up to a door in 1520. However, Melchior Hoffman, leader of the Melchiorites that took over Münster, was directly inspired by Luther to take up preaching. He was notable for his decidedly metaphorical interpretation of the Eucharist, and officially became an Anabaptist sometime in the early 1530s (although he later renounced his Anabaptism). He proclaimed in 1526 that 1533 would be the year of the return of Jesus Christ, in his commentary on the Book of Daniel (Das XII Capitel des propheten Danielis aussgelegt). Unsurprisingly, this caused not insignificant social unrest, even in the extremely radical city of Strassbourg, and he was imprisoned.

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Hoffman’s eschatology involved a few components that are key for understanding the Rebellion (all derived from Finger’s A Contemporary Anabaptist Theology, page 528ff:

  1. The battle would be a decidedly Earthly one, with certain rulers acting for the ‘true’ Church and protecting them, and others attempting to destroy them
  2. That Strassbourg, the site of Hoffman’s 1533 arrest, would be the seat of the ‘good’ side of the Battle.
  3. That specific cities (following Hans Hut) would align on different sides, not specific regions
  4. That Hoffman was himself Elijah, the announcer of Jesus’ return
  5. That there would be a 3.5 year period of tribulation or battle between these forces
  6. That two holy rulers (Joseph and Solomon) would work together to create a holy theocracy
  7. Beginning in 1530, he believed that during the 3.5 year period of war, the Christians would no longer be passive victims, but powerful actors in the end days.

   Jan Matthys

With this in mind, a Melchiorite named Jan Matthys decided to take control of Münster, deciding it was clearly part of Hoffman’s theology of the end times. However, he was quickly killed, as having decided that God was on his side, he went forth on a sally with only 30 other men and was immediately killed by besieging forces. He was replaced as ruler by John (Jan) of Leiden. Münster’s main theologian, Bernard Rothmann, decided two very important things:

  1. That Jesus’ reign would not come to pass until David (John of Leiden) created an early Kingdom;
  2. The 3.5 years of grace (not Hoffman’s war) had ended, and it was time to conquer the unfaithful.
Cages of the leaders of the Münster Rebellion at the steeple of St. Lambert's Church

Cages of the leaders of the Münster Rebellion at the steeple of St. Lambert’s Church

John of Leiden, thus empowered, created a polygamist theocracy, complete with book-burning and forced redistributed of communal property. However, Münster fell shortly thereafter, and John of Leiden and his compatriots were executed and their bodies were hung, in cages, from a church steeple.

These cages are still visible, but the bones have been removed.

(Source)


Is Polygamy Really So Awful?

A new study shows that despite what you see on reality TV, plural marriage isn’t very good for society.

(Re-posted from here.)

These are boom times for memoirs about growing up inmarrying into or escaping from polygamous families. Sister wives appear as minor celebrities in the pages of People, piggybacking on their popular reality TV show. And oh yes, we have a presidential candidate whose great-grandfather was an actual bona fide polygamist.

Americans are fixated these days on polygamy, and it’s fair to say we don’t know how to feel about it. Polygamy evokes both fascination and revulsion—the former when Chloe Sevigny is involved, and the latter when it is practiced by patently evil men like Osama Bin Laden and Warren Jeffs, the fundamentalist Mormon leader who had a thing for underage wives. At the same time, the practice of plural marriage is so outside mainstream American culture, so far in the past for many Westerners, that it has come to be regarded as almost quaint. What’s so wrong with it, if it works for some people? In counterculture circles, the practice of polyamory, or open partnerships, is supposed to be having some sort of moment. All of which explains why, in response to the argument by conservatives like Rick Santorum and Antonin Scalia that gay marriage could be a slippery slope leading to polygamy, some feminists, lefties, and libertarians have wondered aloud whether plural marriage is really so bad.

History suggests that it is. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.

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History is chock full of people willing to sacrifice comfort, money, safety and their lives in an effort to save others. Unfortunately, they are often unsung.

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William Holland Thomas (February 5, 1805 – May 10, 1893) was Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (the only white man ever to be a chief of the Cherokee) and was elected as North Carolina state senator, serving from 1848-1860. As a youth, he worked at the trading post at Qualla Town, where he learned the Cherokee language and befriended some of the people. He was adopted into the tribe by the chief Yonaguska, learned much of the Cherokee ways, and was named by the chief as his successor.

After becoming an attorney, Thomas represented the tribe in negotiations with the federal government related to Indian Removal, preserving the right for Yonaguska and other Cherokee to stay in North Carolina after the 1830s. With his own and Cherokee funds, he bought land in North Carolina to be used by the Cherokee, much of which is now Qualla Boundary, the territory of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee. Thomas served as a colonel in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, when he led Thomas’ Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders.

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Geronimo

The Apache have been called the greatest guerrilla fighters the world has ever seen. Of these, Geronimo is the most famous. He defied the US government for over 25 years, and while he surrendered twice, he was never defeated. To understand the significance of this, it’s helpful to consider that at his final surrender in 1886 his band consisted of only 16 warriors, 14 women, and six children. The army had been pursuing them with 5,000 troops, a fifth of its entire regular army, and had spent over a million dollars a year to fight them. Yet, he and his small band were never defeated, but voluntarily surrendered. And in spite of what was a huge expenditure of money and troops for that time, it could be argued that the 100 renegade Apache scouts used by the army were the most important element in the limited success that they had in running Geronimo down. His surrender brought to an end to the Indian wars and the violence and uncertainty that had accompanied them.

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White Guards in Vasa at the beginning of the Finnish civil war; ca. 1918

These machine guns were water cooled, and that hose was to allow the steam generated in the water jacket to condense into water (as to not reveal the gun's position with a plume of steam rising into the air).

These machine guns were water cooled, and that hose was to allow the steam generated in the water jacket to condense into water (as to not reveal the gun’s position with a plume of steam rising into the air).

During the first years of the 20th century, Russia had been working on the abolition of Finland’s autonomous status. As a result, there was strong discontent in Finnish society. In 1905 Russia lost the Russo-Japanese War. This stunning and unexpected defeat led to the Russian Revolution of 1905. In Finland the unrest was expressed in the Finnish general strike of 1905. During the strike Finnish police forces were effectively disbanded, as they had been closely associated with the occupying Russian authorities. Municipal, mostly unarmed, security guards were spontaneously organised by individuals associated with the constitutional and Social Democratic parties. At first all political groups were able to work together, but towards 1906 the civil guards of large towns had become divided along party lines. The first violent clash between Red and White Guards occurred in July 1906 in Helsinki, but after the return of Finnish autonomy the moderate Social Democrats and the whole constitutional party withdrew from military activities. However, the radicalized Red Guard of Helsinki did not disband, despite an order from the Social Democratic leadership to do so, and took part in the mutiny at Viapori fortress alongside revolutionary, anti-imperial Russian soldiers. In the ensuing fighting Czarist Russian troops destroyed the Red Guard as an organisation.

The collapse of discipline in the Czarist Russian armed forces in 1917 created a power vacuum. Here, anarchist Russian sailors are photographed in Helsinki during the summer of 1917.

The February Revolution in Russia in 1917 caused the collapse of Russian political and military power in Finland. Again, the Russian-associated Finnish police were effectively disbanded, while the largely undisciplined Russian troops engaged in violence, mostly towards their own officers. During the summer of 1917 paramilitary groups were formed for protection and to preserve order. Although the founding of these “fire brigades” was often done in a non-partisan manner, they often split into two opposing factions during the autumn of 1917. The initially unarmed Red and White Guards strove to obtain weapons. The Red Guards usually were able to get arms from revolutionary Russian military units, while the White Guards got theirs from Swedish and German supporters abroad. At the same time, political tensions between socialists and non-socialists escalated. Inside the Social Democratic party, the official leadership was derailed while the executive committee of the Red Guards and the labour unions gained more power.

The Senate, led by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, proposed a Declaration of Independence, which the Parliament adopted on December 6, 1917. Declaring independence was one thing, but exercising control over the territory was another. Svinhufvud’s “White Senate” had nothing but the White Guards to rely on as yet. There were 42,500 Russian soldiers in Finland. Although the Imperial Russian Army was slowly disintegrating and had already started to withdraw its units from Finland, the demoralized, poorly trained and undisciplined Russian military forces in the country posed a substantial challenge to Finnish authority.

In parliament the question on forming a new security force was hotly debated. On January 13, 1918, the non-socialist majority gave authorization to the Senate (Finnish cabinet) to organize a police force of the White Guard. Soon the Senate asked General Mannerheim to form a new Finnish army on the basis on the White Guard militia. In southern Karelia the White and Red Guards clashed in small-scale engagements as both sides attempted to secure the railway to St. Petersburg. During the night of January 27–28, 1918, the White Guards started to disarm and arrest the Russian garrisons in Ostrobothnia. During the night the executive committee of the Red Guards declared the Finnish Socialist Workers’ Republic in Helsinki. The Civil War of Finland had begun.

Neither the Red nor the White Guard were trained for combat. Structures had to be built in extreme haste by both parties. The White Army had a better foundation for this, as it received the Finnish Jaeger troops, some 2,000 men trained by Germany since 1915. These soldiers were able to act as instructors and officers, forming the officer and NCO corps of the new conscript army. In addition, the White side had 1,200 volunteers from Sweden, many of whom were officers), and a significant number of Finnish officers who had previously served in the imperial Russian Army but returned home after the revolution.

Although in the beginning of the war the White Guard formed the bulk of the White army, the conscript units very soon matched the White Guard units in number. These troops, which were much better disciplined and trained than the volunteer Guards, proved to be crucial for the outcome of the war. The Red side never accomplished conscription, which was one of the reasons for its demise.

After four months of bitter fighting, the Red Guards were defeated and the White Guards were recognized as one of the key agents in the victory, downplaying for political reasons the role of the German intervention units and the German-trained 2,000 Jaegers. The Civil War was portrayed as a liberation from Russian control after a 20-year-long Russification programme, with the Whites stressing the links of the Reds to the Russian Bolshevik regime. However the White victory was achieved with assistance from the Germans. German influence after the war was so strong that the independence of Finland was greatly in question until the end of World War I.

There were reparations in the aftermath of the Civil War. As the Reds had murdered some 1,100 people in their zone of control (the so-called Red terror), the Whites retaliated ruthlessly, executing some 7,370 people after the recapture of the Red areas (the so-called White terror).Approximately 4,000 Whites and 4,500 Reds were killed in action. The famine of 1918 claimed another 20,000 lives. Of those who perished, some 13,000 died in the prison camps. Because of their ruthlessness and eagerness to retaliate, the White Guards earned the title Lahtarikaarti (Butcher Guard) among the Reds.

(From Wikipedia)