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Re: Toads and Politics , Sex ,Drugs and Rock and Roll
>and...since we seem to be getting way off topic..jsq - time to invoke the no
Actually, I wasn't aware that we had a no politics rule.
It's not clear how we could apply it on a list like this,
on which history is one of the main topics. No current politics,
perhaps? Some of the recent postings have approached religious
fervor. Maybe we could invoke the rule against religious proselytizing....
Let me try to tie some politics back to more specifically relevant topics.
I'll do this by becoming even more general. :-)
Some posters seem puzzled as to why the deported losers of Culloden fought for
the British Crown in America during the unpleasantness of late 17th century.
There's a simple reason: most of them were required to take oaths to do so
before they were deported. That also helps explain why the Scots of Darien
in Georgia were free to fight against the crown: they took no such oath.
Some highlanders fought for the crown because their chief said so. In some
cases I'm pretty sure the chief was the same as had recently had them shipped
overseas in the Clearances.
Loyalty is a funny thing. Loyalty to what or whom? Under what circumstances?
I've recently heard the secessionists in the American South of the 1860s
described by a Brit as treasonous. That's a word that is almost never heard
stateside in discussing that war. And at the time the southern view was
stated quite plainly, e.g., by Jefferson Davis in his inaugural speech as
CSA president, as continuing the work of 1776, i.e., the south viewed the
north as having wandered off course. Nowadays, of course, there's a big
flap going on in the states in which one side claims that war was solely
and only about slavery, but let's leave that discussion for some other list.
In any case treasonous in the British sense of violating an oath to serve
the King is not really a concept that is well-known stateside, since we
have no king. (Yes, the concept of treason to the state is still valid,
but it is different here.)
Scottish devolution or perhaps even eventual independence keeps coming up
from time to time on this list. It's hard to say that it isn't relevant,
since much of the history we discuss is from a time when Scotland was
independent. It's certainly a topic that raises blood pressure and
produces strong words, pro and con not only the specific issue but also
pro and con nation-states.
Let's talk about that more general issue for a moment. The world I live and
work in is not one of nation-states. My world is composed of city-states,
of which Austin is second only to one which is not even a city, namely
Silicon Valley. The rest of this world is composed of places like Toronto,
northern Virginia, Seattle, Atlanta, greater Boston, Edinburgh, London,
Amsterdam, Stockholm, Melbourne, and Tel Aviv.
San Antonio, the next big city geographically from my office, is not
part of this world, except in a very peripheral sense. San Antonio
trades more with Mexico than any other country. Austin's main foreign
trading partner is Japan.
Don't get me wrong, I am quite aware of the advantages of the U.S. government
and the different but similar advantages of the Canadian, British, Australian,
and New Zealand governments. I'm also aware of some of the disadvantages,
having had to help sue the U.S. government all the way to the Supreme Court
to stop it trying to censor the Internet. But the point is that in the
world of the Internet the U.S. Constitution is a local ordinance, and
the information economy is not defined by either geography or political
This high tech world of the computer and Internet industry is not like the
neat political maps of color-coded countries that you normally see. It
resembles more the world of the Hansa, with its widely scattered cities
communicating by their own protocols, trading with everyone else, and
driving the economy of its world.
Or consider the domain of our hero, Prince Henry Sinclair. Orkney, while
nominally a part of Norway, was ruled by a Scottish noble who was crowner
of several Scandinavian kingdoms. Let's not forget that Orkney was also
a rich place in those days, with good fishing and in the middle of numerous
trade routes. Henry's principality was in fact if not in name an autonomous
kingdom that did not fit the neat maps of nation-states of his day.
Not that they were very neat in his day. In addition to the Hansa, look
at any map of Germany of that period and you see not a single Germany,
rather numerous small to tiny fragments of political power, loosely roped
together by the Holy Roman Empire.
And who did Henry choose to associate with? Not only the obvious physical
neighbors, but also Venice. Venice wasn't a traditional nation-state, either.
It was much more like ancient Athens than like France.
Henry used the latest technology (e.g., Venetian cannon) and intelligence
(Venetian navigators and far-roaming fishermen).
To say he was like a modern-day Internet startup CEO may be stretching
an analogy, but there are similarities.
Other interesting parallels may be found in the Norman empire of Henry's
ancestors. The Vikings were not successful just because they were
bloodthirsty and ruthless (though many of them were). They also had
superior technology in their warships (if you're ever in Oslo, there's
a really good specimen in a nearby museum) that could navigate the high
seas with ease. And they were long-distance traders, not just raiders.
Our twenty-first century world is not the same as the neat inter-war
early 20th century nation-state world, nor the neat post WW II bilateral
world. It is rapidly becoming something else, something that was never
seen in the 20th century. For parallels, it may be useful to look at
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