What is the oldest authentic example of people complaining about modern times and the young?

What is the oldest authentic example of people complaining about modern times and the young?

There are quotes, attributed to a king of Mesopotamia, and to Socrates and Hesiod, about how lazy the youth are, and how things were better when they were kids. Unfortunately, the veracity of the quotes are dubious at best, and one was satire.

So what are the first example of quotes which express beliefs such as these, but in seriousness instead of jest, and which are correctly attributed?


600 - 300 BC

The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise.…

Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannised over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters.

  • “Schools of Hellas: an Essay on the Practice and Theory of Ancient Greek Education from 600 to 300 BC”, Kenneth John Freeman
    1907 (paraphrasing of Hellenic attitudes towards the youth in 600 - 300 BC)*

“[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances.

They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.”

  • Rhetoric Part 12 On Youthful Character, Aristotle
    4th Century BC

100 BC

“The beardless youth… does not foresee what is useful, squandering his money.”

  • The Art of Poetry: an Epistle to the Pisos, Horace
    1st Century BC

Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'.
We, their sons, are more worthless than they;
so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.

  • Book III of Odes, Horace
    circa 20 BC

1300 AD

In all things I yearn for the past. Modern fashions seem to keep on growing more and more debased. I find that even among the splendid pieces of furniture built by our master cabinetmakers, those in the old forms are the most pleasing.

And as for writing letters, surviving scraps from the past reveal how superb the phrasing used to be. The ordinary spoken language has also steadily coarsened. People used to say "raise the carriage shafts" or "trim the lamp wick," but people today say "raise it" or "trim it." When they should say, "Let the men of the palace staff stand forth!" they say, "Torches! Let's have some light!" Instead of calling the place where the lectures on the Sutra of the Golden Light are delivered before the emperor "the Hall of the Imperial Lecture," they shorten it to "the Lecture Hall," a deplorable corruption, an old gentleman complained.

  • Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness), Yoshida Kenkō
    1330 - 1332 AD

Later than these, there are many examples of this thought being echoed from the 17th century onwards.


Note:

* Frequently misattributed to Socrates, probably due to its similarity to several passages in Plato's Republic:

when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general.

And though only the best of them will be appointed by their predecessors, still they will be unworthy to hold their fathers' places, and when they come into power as guardians, they will soon be found to fall in taking care of us, the Muses, first by under-valuing music; which neglect will soon extend to gymnastic; and hence the young men of your State will be less cultivated.

  • Republic, Plato
    380 BC

Sources:

• http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20171003-proof-that-people-have-always-complained-about-young-adults
• http://mentalfloss.com/article/52209/15-historical-complaints-about-young-people-ruining-everything
• https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/05/01/misbehaving-children-in-ancient-times/


You have great predecessors in your question

  • You are not the first to notice the habit of Humans to complain about better times from the past being gone. Horace, in Ars Poetica, already called one of these nostalgic people "laudator temporis acti se puero".

  • A useful source might be the book from French scholar Lucien Jerphagnon, C'était mieux avant, that collects and comments exactly the kind of quotes you are looking for. Alas, I cannot find extracts from the book online. If you can read French, it might be worth purchasing it.


Specific quote about children not listening to their parents

~2225 BCE, Akkad

This answer by @00prometheus from Skeptics.SE traces an article describing an inscription attributed to King Naram Sin of Chaldea, 3800 years B.C (much older than anything mentioned until now - but this is a dubious dating, read @Avery's remarks later on), that goes:

We have fallen upon evil times
and the world has waxed very old and wicked.
Politics are very corrupt.
Children are no longer respectful to their parents.

I'll let more knowledgeable contributors than myself discuss its authenticity. @Avery challenges this attribution and offers a possible explanation in his own answer. Most probably, the quote comes from king Naram Sin of Akkad, in the 23rd century BCE.


Similar complains

~2000 BCE, Egypt

  • Ahmenabat I was a pharaoh from the twelvth dynasty, during the 20th century BCE. He left instructions to his son Senusret, in which he notably describes his own assassination (quite a litterary feat, btw). The description contains rhetoric questions that seem to compare a deceptive present with a better past taken as reference:

Had women ever raised troops?
Had rebels ever been nurtured within the home?
Had water ever been opened up, while the canals were being dug,
And with locals at their tasks?
No disaster had come up behind me since my birth.
Never had the like happened - my moment was that of doer of valiant deeds.

The authorship of these Instructions of Amenemhat is obviously unclear, but some copies have reached us from the reign of Amenhotep I, so the text itself is at least 25 centuries old.

We can also debate if the (probably) contemporary Prophecy_of_Neferti, that describes Egypt divided in chaos after the collapse of the First Kingdom, and waiting to get unified again by, guess whom, Ahmenabat I, counts as a nostalgic, before-was-better, complain.

~2500 BCE, Egypt

  • Even older, the Maxims of Ptahhotep, from the 25th century BCE, contain praise for obedient youngs, even if they don't seem to complain that youngs would be less obedient now than before:

"How wonderful is a son who obeys his father!"
"How happy he is of whom it is said: 'A son is kind-natured when he knows how to listen.'"


Ancient

I have not studied the originals of these sources, but I was able to find this discussion attributing the following text to Plato's Republic (380 BC):

The quote may have come from Plato's Republic Book 4, where Socrates is quoted saying the following regarding things that he thinks have been neglected: "I mean such things as these: ? when the young are to be silent before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me? ? Yes."

In addition, this discussion mentioned the play Clouds by Aristophanes (423 BC), where a speech has the following text:

A boy must hold his tongue among his elders.

Greed was abhorred, it was taboo to snatch
Radish tops, aniseed, or parsley before your elders,
Or to nibble kickshaws and giggle and twine one's feet.

So, you shall learn to hate the Agora,
And shun the baths and feel ashamed of smut;

And to get up and give your seat to your elders,
And not to behave towards your parents rudely

The play is a comedy, but not in the modern sense of the word. I am not sure if it is meant as satire or not.

This article quotes Horace (Book III of Odes, 20 BC):

Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'. We, their sons, are more worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.

Modern (verifiable)

The above article also has links to downloadable primary sources. The oldest of them is from The Wise-man's Forecasts Against the Evil Time from 1624:

Youth were never more sawcie, yea never more savagely saucie… the ancient are scorned, the honourable are contemned, the magistrate is not dreaded.

So if the ancient sources don't sit right by you, you can at least sleep soundly knowing that old people have considered us young'ins "savagely saucy" for 400 years.


There is this from Ecclesiastes:

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.

So although he is admonishing not to make this statement, we do see that such sentiments existed, from which he steers us away.


If we count statements made about previous generations, these go back to some of the oldest literature. There's a speech like this in The Iliad, set in the mouth of an ancient character of the epic, about how much greater an earlier generation was and young men should be more respectful to their elders. You could read this as Homer saying that old men have always felt that way, or that the generations have been in decline since time immemorial.

I am older than either of you; therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend of men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels. Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd of his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent way.

And neither Achilles nor Agamemnon does, leading to disaster.

There are several condemnations of entire generations in the Hebrew Bible, although they are difficult to date. The history running from Deuteronomy to II Kings (which most scholars date between the reign of Josiah in the late seventh century BCE and the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century BCE) sees ancient Jewish history as a cycle of successive generations becoming debauched and their children repenting, as in the second chapter of Judges:

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord [… ] In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord's commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

Several of the Hebrew prophets inveigh against their contemporaries. One word for those diatribes is still “Jeremiads,” after the prophet from the seventh century BCE. For example, Jeremiah 16:

It is because your ancestors forsook me, [… ] and did not keep my law. But you have behaved more wickedly than your ancestors. See how all of you are following the stubbornness of your evil hearts instead of obeying me. So I will throw you out of this land into a land neither you nor your ancestors have known, and there you will serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.

Jeremiah, though, does not think it is only the young who are less pious and moral than their parents, but all living Israelites.

Job does this on a more personal level, in chapters 29 and 30, but is more difficult to date.

Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, when the Almighty was still with me [… ]

But now they mock me, men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs. [… ]

And now those young men mock me in song; I have become a byword among them. They detest me and keep their distance; they do not hesitate to spit in my face.


Modern Day Prophets

There are many people who claim to be modern day prophets. Some might spell them &ldquoprofits&rdquo because they are motivated by money and make sensational claims, like promising financial blessing for anyone that sends in their &ldquoseeds of faith.&rdquo We hear of modern day prophets prophesying about things to come that are outside the Word of God. It is easy to tell that many of these modern day prophets are wolves in sheep&rsquos clothing, but what about those who don&rsquot appear to be exploiting for financial gain? Are there modern day prophets of God? What does Scripture say about prophets and what is the true test to validate if the modern day prophets are who they claim to be?

Prophets were foundational to the church. The Bible tells us the church was &ldquobuilt on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone&rdquo (Ephesians 2:20). The prophet proclaimed a message from the Lord to the early believers and their message varied from person to person. Sometimes, a prophet&rsquos message was revelatory, bringing new revelation and truth from God. Other times, the prophet&rsquos message was predictive. The truth is God can give someone a message to deliver to someone else and also reveal the truth to someone in a supernatural way. God can also enable that person to deliver that message others. However, these people do not have the biblical gift of prophecy. Here&rsquos why.

While all Christians have the ability to prophesy in the sense of speaking forth the truth, there was a group of church leaders in the apostolic church who functioned uniquely as prophets. They were apparently next to the apostles in the order of authority within the church. According to Scripture, the function of the prophets was to edify, console and exhort (Acts 15:32: 1 Corinthians 14:3). There are no prophets today in the same sense as there were under the old covenant and in the apostolic church. Before the canon of Scripture was complete, God used prophets to maintain order and teach correct doctrine. After the canon was completed, however, prophecy began to be more of a problem than a help. Eventually, the office of prophet died out.

In the New Testament, the gift of the office of prophet was a temporary one granted by God for the purpose of building His Church. Contrary to the apostles, who had broad ministries, these men had localized ministries within local churches. We see these examples in Acts 11: 21-28 and Acts 13:1. To understand why they don&rsquot exist today, you need to understand the primary purposes of the prophets in the New Testament. They were gifted men given to the Church and appointed by God for the purpose of helping to lay the foundation of the Church. They, like the apostles, received God&rsquos revelation and truth and proclaimed it to their churches. It is important to remember that the early Church did not have a completed Bible, so God granted this revelation for the purpose of teaching His message to the Church. The New Testament prophets also spoke forth and taught the apostles&rsquo doctrine. Everything taught by these prophets had to be consistent with the teaching of the apostles.

Today, however, a prophetic word can be spoken in the church in the sense that God&rsquos Word can be proclaimed based on Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit. But there will be no new revelations that will replace or contradict God&rsquos written Word. Another thing you need to be conscious of is the tests that must be passed by any supposedly prophetic statement. According to 1 Corinthians 14, there are two tests that must be passed. Verse 29 states that after two or three speak a prophetic message, the others are to &ldquojudge&rdquo or &ldquoweigh carefully on what is said.&rdquo Simply put, the prophetic message must not disagree with the knowledge of God&rsquos Word and of the truth held by the other members of the assembly. Next, verses 37 and 38 demonstrate that just as the apostle Paul submitted his words to the examination of the Corinthians on the basis of their knowledge of the Word of God, any prophecy that is given must be judged by the standard of the truth already known to the church of Christ. In other words, no completely new truth would be revealed, but rather the prophet would illustrate and explain truths already accepted and recognized by God&rsquos people.

Finally, if you look at the two functions of the prophets, you can see that the office of prophet is one that is no longer necessary and has ceased within the Church because the foundation was laid long ago and God&rsquos revealed Word was completed with the close of the New Testament canon. The Church&rsquos foundation does not need to be laid again and there is no need for further revelation beyond what God has provided for us in His complete Word.

Whenever a person claims to be speaking for God, which is the essence of prophecy, you should always compare what is said to what Scripture says. If God were to speak through a person today, it would be in agreement with what He has already said in the Bible. God doesn&rsquot contradict His Word. John 4:1 tells us, &ldquoDear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.&rdquo 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 declares, &ldquoDo not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good.&rdquo No matter what the situation is, whether it is word from the Lord or a supposed prophecy, our response should be the same. Compare what is said to what the Word of God says. If what is being said contradicts the Bible, throw it out. If what is being said is in agreement with the Bible, pray for wisdom and discernment as to how to apply the message. Don&rsquot be deceived.


Sex Essential Reads

How to Talk to Black Girls about Sex

Why Has Partner Sex Declined and Celibacy Risen in the Past 20 Years?

The two studies had different parameters, but it appears not much has changed.

Meanwhile, for college students, spring break remains a prime time for hook-ups. Canadian researchers (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 1998) surveyed college students to identify those who hoped to have sex during the break. Afterward, a second survey showed that a majority said, "Mission accomplished": 61% of the men and 34% of the women said they’d had intercourse within one day of meeting their spring break hook-up partner. This may sound hasty, but, then, spring break is brief vacationing students are horny and outgoing, and alcohol is abundant.

The Alcohol Connection

Katy Perry’s 2010 hit Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) captures the spirit—and potential perils—of hooking-up:

There’s a stranger in my bed.
There’s a pounding in my head.
I smell like a minibar.
DJ’s passed out in the yard.
Is this a hickey or a bruise?

Alcohol has always played a major role in casual sex and it continues to be key to hook-ups today. A University of Illinois survey found that 49% of college men and 38% of women reported having sex as a direct result of drinking.

Canadian researchers (Fisher, 2012) asked college students about alcohol and hook-ups.

At My Last Hook-Up, I Was…

  • Sober: 27%
  • Mildly intoxicated: 27%
  • Very intoxicated: 35%
  • Passing-out drunk: 9%

Alcohol and lust are a dangerous combination. As I’ve discussed previously [7.1.14], alcohol is a major factor in collegiate and military sexual assaults. Compared with sober lovers, those who are drunk are substantially less likely to use contraception. (Not to mention that as intoxication increases, erotic pleasure usually decreases.)

Incidentally, alcohol lubricates not just young adult hook-ups but also a great deal of sex among lovers of all ages.

Do Hook-Ups Exploit Women?

Older adults uncomfortable with hook-ups assert that they reflect young men’s fantasies of porn-style, free-for-all sex, while denying young women’s preference for committed relationships. They charge that hook-ups hurt and exploit women.

Any romantic/sexual coupling can generate feelings of hurt and regret, but a study at Syracuse University suggests that, far from feeling victimized, women who hook up are typically assertive actors. The researchers (Fielder & Carey, 2010) asked 118 women undergraduates why they’d hooked up:

  • I wanted to have sex: 80%
  • It was an impulsive decision: 58%
  • I felt attracted to the guy: 56%
  • I was drunk: 51%
  • The guy really wanted it: 33%
  • I wanted to feel desirable: 29%

(Respondents could cite more than one reason.)

While more young men than women revel in casual sex, men are not the only young adults interested in what my generation called one-night stands. Some women feel used during hook-ups—some men do, too. But according to this study, plenty of young women participate not because they feel exploited, but because they want to.

After Hook-Ups: Contentment? Or Regret?

Those who fear that hook-ups threaten young adults’ well-being often assume that soon after, many—particularly women—feel regret. Several studies have documented post-hook-up regret:

  • When researchers at the University of Northern Iowa (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008) asked 152 female undergraduates to what extent they regretted casual sex, 23% said they had no regrets while 74% did.
  • In a survey of hook-ups among 200 Canadian college students, 78% of the women expressed regret (Fisher et al., 2012).

However, both of these studies asked only about regret, ignoring other possible reactions. I’ve been happily coupled for 45 years, but I have some regrets about my relationship. Who doesn’t? So studies that assess only regret provide little insight into hook-ups’ actual emotional impact.

Other studies have investigated not just regret but a full range of possible emotional reactions. And they show that most young people feel fine about their hook-ups:

  • At the College of New Jersey, researchers surveyed 187 students’ reactions to hook-ups (Paul & Hayes, 2002), and found that while 17% experienced "predominantly regret," 65% claimed "predominantly enjoyment."
  • Researchers at SUNY Binghamton (Garcia & Reiber, 2008) asked 311 students who'd experienced hook-ups if they felt happy with their most recent encounter—57% of women said they did, along with 82% of men.

These studies also show that hook-up regret is most likely in one specific circumstance—intercourse when very drunk. As previously mentioned, about a third of hook-ups involve intercourse, and the participants are very drunk in around half of those. This suggests that, post-hook-up, around 16% of young adults should primarily feel regret, while 84% probably feel differently.

Young adulthood is a time of sexual experimentation, and unfortunately, many experiments fail. As I came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had a few flings I later regretted. That’s life. That’s also how young people learn to negotiate relationships. But I experienced no lasting scars and the same appears to be true for today’s hook-ups.

Do Hook-Ups Threaten or Preclude Committed Relationships?

Critics of casual sex consider hook-ups proof that young adults disdain committed relationships. On the contrary. When University of Louisville researchers (Owen & Fincham, 2011) asked 500 hook-up-experienced undergraduates how they felt about commitment, 65% of the women and 45% of the men said they hoped their hook-ups would lead to long-term relationships. In addition, 51% of the women and 42% of the men said that during hook-ups, they’d discussed the possibility of proceeding to greater commitment.

From Pregnant Puritans to Dating to Hook-Ups

Every generation comes of age in a burst of sexual exuberance that includes casual sex their elders find unsettling. Today’s hook-up culture is simply the latest iteration of this centuries-old truth:

  • In colonial New England, the brides were already pregnant at an estimated one-third of weddings. The Puritans frowned on pre-marital sex but tolerated it—if the newly pregnant couple married.
  • From the Civil War to the early 20th century, proper courtship took place in young woman’s homes. Male suitors visited and the couple spent chaste time together under the watchful eye of the young woman’s older relatives. But many courting couples also figured out ways to meet privately—for example in the barn—which led to the expression “a roll in the hay.”
  • After World War I, flapper fashions bared women’s arms and legs for the first time, scandalizing matrons. Courtship also increasingly involved automobiles, which removed young couples from the women’s homes altogether. This was the dawn of dating. The Roaring Twenties also saw the founding of Planned Parenthood, as diaphragms and condoms separated intercourse from procreation as never before—and enabled casual sex.
  • By World War II, dating was well established. Many dating couples “necked” (or more) at the movies. Young men reveled in “wine, women, and song.” And many young women saw it as their patriotic duty to send their boys off to war with an erotic night to remember.
  • After the war, Alfred Kinsey surveyed 11,000 adults, most of them age 18 to 35, meaning that they were born from 1918 to 1930, and found that two-thirds of the men and half of the women admitted to having pre-marital sex. At the time, pre-marital sex was heavily stigmatized, so the actual proportions were undoubtedly greater.
  • The Baby Boom generation came of age just as the Pill finalized the separation of sex from pregnancy risk. As "wine, women, and song” became “sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll,” older critics decried hippie promiscuity.

So today, it’s hook-ups, friends with benefits, and booty calls orchestrated by Tinder (launched in 2012). Why all the new vocabulary? In part because young adults delight in differentiating themselves from previous generations. And compared to previous generations, today’s young adults spend more time single. In 1940, the median age at first marriage for men was 24, and for women, 21. Today, it’s 27 and 25. During those three or four extra years of singlehood, there are a lot a Friday and Saturday nights, and plenty of time to explore casual liaisons—whatever they’re called and however sexual they become.

Bottom line:

  • Hooking up is nothing new.
  • Most young adult sex is reasonably responsible—unless the partners drink too much.
  • It’s a normal part of growing up and it rarely causes psychological damage.
  • Intercourse is the exception, not the rule.
  • Most young women are not victims but active participants.
  • Most young people feel fine about hooking up.
  • Those who hook up are interested in committed relationships.

Older folks may worry about youthful sexual enthusiasm, but it's simply today’s way of reaching sexual adulthood. As The Who once sang, “The kids are all right.”

Anonymous. “What You Should Know About Sex and Alcohol,” University of Illinois McKinley Health Center. http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/sex_alcohol.html

Chia. S.C. & A.C. Gunther. “How Media Contribute to Misperceptions of Social Norms About Sex,” Mass Communication and Society (2006) 9:301.

Downing-Matibag, T.M. & B. Geisinger. “Hooking-Up and Sexual Risk-Taking Among College Students: a Health Belief Model Perspective,” Qualitative Health Research (2009) 19:1196.

Eshbaugh, E.M. & G. Gute. “Hookups and Sexual Regret Among College Women,” The Journal of Social Psychology (2008) 148:77.

Fielder, R.L. & M.P. Carey. “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Hookups Among First-Semester Female College Students,” Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy (2010) 36:346.

Fielder, R.L. & M.P. Carey. “Predictors and Consequences of Sexual Hook-Ups Among College Students: A Short-Term Perspective,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2010) 39:1105.

Finer, L.B. “Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States,” Public Health Reports (2003) 122:73.

Fisher, W.F. et al. “Feelings of Regret Following Uncommitted Sexual Encounters in Canadian University Students,” Culture, Health, and Sexuality (2012) 14:45.

Flack, W.F. et al. “Risk Factors and Consequences of Unwanted Sex Among University Students: Hooking Up, Alcohol, and Stress Response,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence (2007) 22:139.

Garcia J.R. & C. Reiber. “Hook-Up Behavior: A Biopsychosocial Perspective,” The Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology (2008) 2:192.

Herold, E.S. & D.K. Mewhinney. “Gender Differences in Casual Sex in AIDS Prevention: A Survey of Dating Bars,” Journal of Sex Research (1993) 15:502.

Lewis M.A. et al. “Predictors of Hooking Up Sexual Behavior and Emotional Reactions Among U.S. College Students,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2011) 5:1219.

Maticka-Tyndale, E. et al. “Casual Sex on Spring Break: Intentions and Behaviors of Canadian College Students,” Journal of Sex Research (1998) 35:254.

Monto, A.M. & A.G.Carey. “A New Standard of Sexual Behavior? Are Claims Assocaited with the ‘Hookup Culture” Supported by General Social Survey Data?” Journal of Sex Research (2014) 51:605.

Owen, J. & F.D. Fincham. “Young Adults’ Emotional Reactions After Hooking Up Encounters,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2011) 40:321.

Owen, J. et al. “Short-Term Prospective Study of Hooking Up Among College Students,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2011) 40:331.


4 Ancient Athenians Sued At The Slightest Provocation

Everybody makes fun of the USA for being so lawsuit-happy -- "Those guys will sue if the coffee is too hot!" But we didn't start this fire ancient Athenians were

The Athenians were so inundated with lawsuits that they had a special term, sukophantai (the origin of the English word "sycophant"), for the sort of person who litigates if you look at them funny. Like in the US today, they were widely mocked in popular culture, and people would often publicly accuse their opponents in court of being sycophants in order to sway the juries. Technically, Athenians could even sue someone for being a sycophant, though to our knowledge, no one ever did, possibly because the condensed irony would have formed a black hole and devoured them all.

The tide of ludicrous lawsuits was partially due to Athens not having any designated public prosecutors. As a result, any citizen could sue someone on behalf of the city. Luckily, Athenian juries probably didn't mind all this rampant legal douchebaggery too much. After all, they were paid for each case they voted on.

Related: The Rude Statues That Caused Athens' Democratic Downfall


Take your pick: indie café or Beyoncé’s lip-syncing? We’ve become obsessed with authenticity and differences between echt and ersatz — but why bother doing anything for real if no one believes that you did?

Picture the tragic scenes in Crouch End, north London, early this year. The patrons of Harris + Hoole, a local coffee shop, had just learned to their horror that the supermarket chain Tesco owns a 49 per cent stake in the company. Shaken caffeine-guzzlers told the Guardian that they felt “duped” and “upset” because they’d thought it was an “independent” coffee shop. A rival coffee hawker sneered that Tesco was “trying to make money” out of “artisan values” – although, presumably, so was he. Most charmingly, the manager of the café confided that head office had instructed her to make the store feel as independent as possible. "We try to be independent," she said. "We want to be independent. We want to have that feel."

She is right: we all want to have that feel. But the appropriation by Tesco and Harris + Hoole of the consumer allure of “independence” and “artisan values” is a symptom of our present predicament: there is no way out of simulation. What we get in an “authentic” cultural product is still a simulacrum, but one that insists even more loudly that its laminated, wood-effect veneer is the real thing. Authenticity is now yet another brand value to be baked into the commodity, and customers are happy to take this spectral performance of a presumed virtue as the truth.

But what was so authentic about the authenticity being simulated? Today’s heroically “independent” baristas are profiting from a market that, in the UK, wouldn’t exist without the trail blazed in the 1990s by the now-despised big chains, such as Starbucks. Thanks to them, you can now open an independent coffee shop and charge considerably more than a chain while decrying the rapacity of the giants that prepared the ground for you. Be careful, though, not to do too well and expand too far, because then you will lose all independence, becoming a despicable corporation in turn. The middle-class admiration for authenticity is predicated on the patronising condition that the little man shouldn’t get too big for his boots.

One way out of this hall of mirrors is to insist ever more loudly that one’s own offering is really, truly authentic. Innumerable industrial products now advertise themselves as “real”, following the lead of Coke’s slogan “the Real Thing”. In 2011, even Starbucks began selling salad-based lunchboxes labelled “Real Food”. A box of Rombouts’s disposable one-cup coffee filters describes its flavour as “Original Blend . . . Medium 3 AUTHENTIC”. Even Marks & Spencer’s men’s underwear is branded “authentic”, posing the nice question of what an inauthentic pair of boxer shorts or trunks would look like. Yet authenticity can be signalled in more subtle ways. Second-hand clothes have been redescribed as “vintage”, as though they were fine wines, which flatteringly projects an air of discriminating scholarship on to the prospective buyer. Some new clothes call themselves pre-worn, faded, or distressed, soaking the product in an ersatz history and off-the-peg personality. More recently, such pre-ageing has become available even for far more expensive products, such as electric guitars. Fender’s “Road Worn” range of Stratocasters and Telecasters features “authentic” dents and scratches and areas where the paint or varnish has been painstakingly sandpapered off the white plastic trimmings have been yellowed, as though through years of exposure to nicotine in smoky clubs.

What we value in culture can reveal much about our attitudes to hierarchy and power. Photograph: Getty Images

Modern mass-media gluttony, or foodism, has its own cluster of presumed “authentic” virtues. The idea of “real” food is sometimes parsed, adorably, as food with no chemicals, though all food is made of chemicals. It is widely assumed that food sold as organic is purer and closer to an assumedly benign Nature, although no food is made from inorganic matter and organic farming standards sanction the use of neurotoxic fertilisers. What the unwashed, non-foodist masses eat, on the other hand, is routinely derided as “junk” or “processed” food, the poor souls doomed for ever to inauthentic scoffing. Yet the invention of processed foods such as Hovis bread in the 19th century was itself an authenticity drive, a way of addressing the widespread adulteration of so many foods.

Meanwhile, foodists vie to identify the authentic versions of exotic dishes. In the American TV cook Julia Child’s memoir of her life in France, she derides a proud Frenchwoman who insists that no true Marseillaise would add tomatoes to her bouillabaisse. Child, you see, has looked the recipe up in a French cookbook, and there it includes tomatoes. She therefore concludes, with hysterical snobbery, that the Frenchwoman is an ignoramus, instead of accepting that such traditional recipes come in many variations and that the idea that there is one version is a crude mistake. Here, Child exhibits, too, the craving for authenticity of the internationally roaming glutton or gastrotourist, specimens of which genre to this day compose purple paeans for the glossy magazines about the latest far-flung country in which the locals miraculously manage to cobble together authentic plates of the national victuals in their charmingly primitive kitchens.

Authenticity in art is a question that goes back at least to Plato’s complaint that theatre and poetry could not convey truth. One meaning of the authenticity of a painting or text is merely that the creator has been correctly identified. But as far back as the early English novel, literature was already toying with manufactured authenticity as an advertising gimmick: Defoe’s Moll Flanders (1721) claims on its title page to be “Written from her own Memorandums” while Robinson Crusoe (1719) is not credited to its real author at all but was supposedly “Written by Himself” (that is, Crusoe).

Later, an explicit authenticity craze occur - red in the Weimar Republic between 1924 and 1929. In reaction to the perceived excesses of expressionism, a movement called the New Objectivity sprang up. Novels were marketed as “authentic” because they were supposedly based on real-world research the story circulated that the Austrian writer Vicki Baum had worked as a maid in a large Berlin hotel in order to collect material for Menschen im Hotel, later filmed as Grand Hotel.

This idea that fiction derives its authenticity from reportage has persisted – up to and including novelists such as Tom Wolfe and the brain-surgeon-shadowing Ian McEwan – but heaven help you if you try to sell factbased fiction as fact. When it turned out that James Frey’s “memoir” A Million Little Pieces was fictionalised, the author was pilloried for having exploited so deftly the way we venerate real emotion and experience. It seems we can no longer tolerate the playful ambiguity of the 18th century. As George W Bush memorably put it, in a different context: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me . . . er . . . you can’t get fooled again.”

If you type the words “authenticity” and “authentic” into Google’s Ngram Viewer, which plots graphs of the use of words in books over a given period, you will find that there has been a strong uptick in usage since the early 1990s. It might be no coincidence that this parallels the rise to ubiquity of digital creative technologies. Perhaps people become more worried about art’s authenticity once they understand that modern technology makes everything liquid and endlessly revisable. Much has been made of how, in Tom Hooper’s film of Les Misérables, the actors are “really” singing on set, though few have asked why these people can’t just talk to one another instead of dragging out what should be a 20-second dramatic interlude into an interminable ensemble singalong.

In an interview, Hooper boasted that his film was swimming against the tide of our “postmodern age”, because it was “made without irony”. This, too, is an appeal to a kind of authenticity, a sincerity of purpose – though it depends on a lamentably etiolated idea of irony as mere glibness.

Kathryn Bigelow’s film Zero Dark Thirty, meanwhile, describes itself on a title card as being “based on first-hand accounts of actual events”, and thus lays claim to the authenticity of reportage. (James Boswell claimed a similar documentary fidelity for his Life of Johnson: “What I have preserved . . . has the value of the most perfect authenticity.”) However, Zero Dark Thirty’s screenwriter, Mark Boal, was quick to defend the film against the (silly) charge that it is pro-torture by quickly disclaiming that same documentary authority. Oh come on, he told the Times exasperatedly, “It’s a movie! It’s a movie! It’s a movie!”

More disturbingly, the unexamined hunger for authentic culture can rapidly turn into a witch-hunt. After Beyoncé sang “The Star- Spangled Banner” at Barack Obama’s inauguration, the story got started that she had been lip-syncing. But in several videos available you can clearly hear two Beyoncés: there is a pre-recorded vocal, plus a Beyoncé who is, perfectly obviously, singing live. One would like here to diagnose a mob-like rage for authenticity which fastened on a sacrificial victim with no regard for the justice of its accusations. Tellingly, that Beyoncé removed an earpiece monitor during her performance was taken by the authenticity police as evidence in its own right of the inauthenticity of her act commentators supposed that taking out the earpiece was too suspiciously ostentatious a demonstration that she had one at all. (Though she probably did it the better to hear her own voice, as singers often do.) This narrative proved impervious to Beyoncé’s subsequent explanation. Because she hadn’t had a proper soundcheck or rehearsal, she said, she decided to leave the pre-recorded vocal in the mix, as a kind of safety net, while she sang live as well. “I decided to sing along with my pre-recorded performance,” is what Beyoncé said – which was immediately taken as a “confession” to the very crime she thereby denied. The story was wrongly headlined on BBC News and elsewhere as “Beyoncé admits to inauguration lip-syncing”.

So, too persuasive a performance of authenticity will be taken as a sign of inauthenticity. The authenticity-obsessed want something to be real, but they’re on a hair trigger to cry foul if it seems too real to be true. The counterproductive upshot is that gifted artists are unfairly accused of relying on technological fixes. (It’s common these days to complain about excessive use of Auto-Tune to correct singers’ pitch, but some singers have naturally terrific intonation.) So the authentophiles can no longer reliably perceive what they claim to value indeed, they risk destroying it. (Why bother doing something for real if no one will believe you did?) The cult of authenticity, in other words, begins from an assumption that most things are fake, and in doing so ensures that they will be.

It also reifies a simplistic notion of what is fake to begin with. A blanket privileging of the concrete and the in-person, an indie disdain for post-production or Photoshopping, implicitly downgrades artworks that from their inception are computer-mediated and could not exist otherwise, even though there is nothing inauthentic about an uplifting Eurotrance track or a Hockney iPad painting. The fetish for authenticity, here as in the realms of food and vintage clothing, shows itself to be inherently anti-modern, always looking back to an imagined, prelapsarian idyll.

Authenticity is a useful pose in the poli - tical arena, too. Claiming to be “realist” in international relations (as Obama’s new foreign policy team has been described) handily implies that your opponents purvey nothing but utopian pipe dreams. The notion of authenticity is all the more prized the more that politics appears to be nothing but spin and posture. On the New York Review of Books blog, Elizabeth Drew paid the highest pos sible modern compliment to Joe Biden when she described him as “one of the most authentic politicians in Washington – he really is who he appears to be: warm and decent and never forgetting his workingclass roots . . . his core is consistent”. But the implication that more politicians should be who they appear to be is a weird and onerous demand that the distinction between public and private identities be collapsed for the public’s benefit – in other words, that politics become more like I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!. To reserve “authentic” as the ultimate praise for a politician is right in tune with the Facebook mogul Mark Zuck - erberg’s pathological opinion that “having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity”.

To define a person’s authenticity as the perfect conjunction of outward seeming and inward being is not a new idea. (Hamlet is nearly as outraged by the inauthenticity of Claudius’s acting – “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!” – as he is by Claudius having murdered his father.) But what matters most now is that such personal authenticity be performed plausibly: on reality TV, paradoxically, contestants routinely accuse their rivals of being “fake” or “insincere”, and attempt to present as “genuine” or “real” a front as possible.

In some quarters, marketing claims to authenticity are almost perfectly devoid of semantic content. Consider the words of Bret Robins, creative director of the exhilaratingly cartoonish megadeath-simulator video game Modern Warfare 3. In an interview, he described how his team designed this World War III face-shooting fantasy, in which your one-man army more or less single-handedly defeats the invading Russians: “You try to do it in a very believable and authentic way, so it feels like this could actually happen.” The only things that could be described as authentic in such video games, however, are the lovingly modelled guns. Nothing else about Modern Warfare 3 is authentic in any way, though it is believable enough when you’re there playing the game, as is navigating any well-crafted made-up world.

This is as it should be. When we’re at play, we don’t want things to be too oppressively real. (As T S Eliot nearly wrote, humankind cannot bear too much authenticity.) But what about when we are at work? The problem of authenticity in labour was one that exercised Jean-Paul Sartre, in his best-known example of its opposite. Sartre developed the existentialist sense of “authenticity” that is opposed to “bad faith”, and illustrated the second idea with a vignette of a waiter in a café. In Sartre’s eyes, the waiter resembles a parodic automaton: he walks up to the customers too quickly he bows too eagerly he is oversolicitous he carries his tray as though performing a highwire circus act.

The waiter’s performance, like Beyoncé’s, is too real to be true. He is lip-syncing his job, playing at being a waiter, impersonating an idea. And this, Sartre concludes, is bad faith, because the waiter ought to know that he cannot ever really be a waiter, any more than he can be anything else. In playacting his job, he is trying to evade his own nothingness, his own absolute freedom. (Like the head office of Harris + Hoole, Sartre wants to order you to be independent.)

It is possible, however, to turn this analysis around, as some critical Sartreans have done, and to defend the poor waiter. Gary Cox, in his excellent The Existentialist’s Guide to Death, the Universe and Nothingness, argues that the waiter, far from being deluded that he really is a waiter, is consciously acting “with ironical intent”. In this sense, he is a paragon of Sartrean authenticity, because “he strives to take full responsibility for the reality of his situation, choosing himself positively in his situation by throwing himself wholeheartedly into his chosen role”.

Might one essay a similar rescue tactic for Sartre’s other example of bad faith? The philosopher describes a young woman on a first date who chooses to ignore the flirtatious undercurrents of her suitor’s conver - sation. Eventually the man takes her hand, but she just lets it lie there, listlessly. The moment has come to rebuff or accept his advances, but she does neither. This, Sartre sternly concludes, is bad faith. The woman knows she is free but she is refusing to exercise her freedom. Yet you might prefer to say that she is authentically exercising her freedom to delay her decision, rather than allowing herself to be forced into action at a moment not of her own choosing by the man’s less-than-subtle version of seduction.

Such revisionist interpretations could have the happy effect of saving Sartre from himself – because the Frenchman’s insistence that the waiter, in particular, is acting in bad faith looks rather unfortunately condescending. (Did Sartre not playact the role of the philosopher-intellectual very well?) Despite the astringent delights of his philosophy, he seems to suffer a deficit of empathy at this moment – one which may remind us that, in our day, too, the quest for “authenticity” often involves a crushing snobbery.

The anti-corporate No Logo wisdom about consumer brands is that they, like many instances of the very word “authentic”, are floating signifiers, vacant cash generators that hoodwink the public. But a brand does have some use, in its role as the modern equivalent of the maker’s mark: if you like something bearing it, you can more safely assume that something else is of similar quality and reliability. It is only when the sign of the brand comes to be understood in its own right as valuable that we sink into decadence, as when a fashion writer for the Independent burbled recently: “Each garment is carefully embossed with the prestigious Ralph Lauren logo.”

Yet it is precisely in the marketing of highend brands that we can perceive the key aspect of the modern authenticity mania. Such commodities are sometimes called “aspirational”, because that is now how society has silently agreed to redefine aspiration: as the desire to control more wealth and to own more expensive objects. So what is the implicit bargain when we buy an “authentic” Hermès bag? Or a Hublot watch, a clockwork marvel costing tens of thousands of pounds, which prides itself, like all “luxury” analogue watches, precisely on the amusing superfluity of its engineering? We are being sold the assurance that nimble-fingered workers in a French leather-working atelier or a Swiss horlogerie laboratory have sunk hundreds or thousands of man-hours into its making.

The authenticity of such an aspirational brand’s product boils down to the promise that numberless faceless artisans have lab - oured personally on your behalf. A similar fantasy underlies the ferocious insistence that a coffee shop be “artisanal” and “independent”, the indolent demand for a pre-aged Stratocaster, or the hysterical suspicion that a singer might not have been working hard enough to entertain us. The self-appointed guardians of authenticity, it seems, want desperately to believe that they are at the top of the labour pyramid. In cultural markets that are all too disappointingly accessible to the masses, the authenticity fetish disguises and renders socially acceptable a raw hunger for hierarchy and power.


History

Bari Weiss was born March 24th, 1986 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [1] She went to school at Columbia University in New York City, where she claims she had "a front-row seat to leftist anti-Semitism" in Universities. She founded the Columbians for Academic Freedom organization, which she said was to combat professors "intimidating" students who expressed pro-Israel sentiments. She was part of a campaign to get Columbia to investigate professors who expressed pro-Palestine sentiments and allegedly intimidated pro-Israel students. A committee formed by the university found one instance that could be construed as intimidating behavior but "no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic." [2]

She began her writing career at Haaretz and The Forward, where she argued against Barnard College granting tenure to anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj over her book examining Israeli ideology. [3]

She began writing at The Wall Street Journal in 2013. [4] There she wrote pieces lamenting the "PC Police" [5] and leftism at college campuses. [6] She joined the New York Times in 2017, [7] where she wrote several controversial pieces. She argued the 2017 Women's March protesting Donald Trump "embraced decidedly illiberal causes and cultivated a radical tenor that seems determined to alienate all but the most woke." On MSNBC, she wondered if the sexual assault charges against Brett Kavanaugh should disqualify him from a piece on the Supreme Court. [1] She also criticized the #MeToo movement [8] for being too strident when Aziz Ansari was alleged to have committed sexual misconduct.

In May of 2018, she wrote about the "Intellectual Dark Web" in the New York Times, [9] profiling Sam Harris, Eric Weinstein, Bret Weinstein, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, Christina Hoff Sommers and Claire Lehmann.

She was criticized throughout her tenure at the New York Times for her opinion pieces by readers and Times staff. [10] Tensions heightened following the Tom Cotton Op-ed Controversy, in which New York Times staff publically and privately criticized the Op-ed page's decision to publish a piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton arguing for the use of military intervention to quell the George Floyd Protests. The backlash led to the resignation of the Opinion page's editor James Bennet. Weiss [11] tweeted that the resignation was a result of a "civil war inside The New York Times between the (mostly young) wokes the (mostly 40+) liberals."


Resignation From The New York Times

On July 14th, 2020, Weiss resigned from the opinion page of the New York Times. [10] [12] She cited an "illiberal" work environment and "bullying" from her co-workers as reasons for the decision, noting co-workers called for her firing on Slack. She claimed "intellectual curiosity" is "now a liability at The Times." She wrote, "Twitter is not on the masthead of The New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor." Acting editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury stated, "We appreciate the many contributions that Bari made to Times Opinion. I’m personally committed to ensuring that The Times continues to publish voices, experiences and viewpoints from across the political spectrum in the Opinion report." [10]

Her resignation caused her name to trend on Twitter throughout the day. Some Twitter users described the resignation as exemplary of the myths of cancel culture. User @CenkUygur [13] tweeted, "Resignation of @bariweiss is peak right-wing: 1.Start cancel culture by trying to get Arab & Muslim professors fired. 2.Quit while pretending to be canceled so you can claim victimhood. 3.Claim to be free speech martyr while crying about others criticizing you with their speech." High-profile conservative users, including Donald Trump Jr., promoted the resignation as an example of the illiberal left.


History

Modern football originated in Britain in the 19th century. Since before medieval times, “ folk football” games had been played in towns and villages according to local customs and with a minimum of rules. Industrialization and urbanization, which reduced the amount of leisure time and space available to the working class, combined with a history of legal prohibitions against particularly violent and destructive forms of folk football to undermine the game’s status from the early 19th century onward. However, football was taken up as a winter game between residence houses at public (independent) schools such as Winchester, Charterhouse, and Eton. Each school had its own rules some allowed limited handling of the ball and others did not. The variance in rules made it difficult for public schoolboys entering university to continue playing except with former schoolmates. As early as 1843 an attempt to standardize and codify the rules of play was made at the University of Cambridge, whose students joined most public schools in 1848 in adopting these “ Cambridge rules,” which were further spread by Cambridge graduates who formed football clubs. In 1863 a series of meetings involving clubs from metropolitan London and surrounding counties produced the printed rules of football, which prohibited the carrying of the ball. Thus, the “handling” game of rugby remained outside the newly formed Football Association (FA). Indeed, by 1870 all handling of the ball except by the goalkeeper was prohibited by the FA.

The new rules were not universally accepted in Britain, however many clubs retained their own rules, especially in and around Sheffield. Although this northern English city was the home of the first provincial club to join the FA, in 1867 it also gave birth to the Sheffield Football Association, the forerunner of later county associations. Sheffield and London clubs played two matches against each other in 1866, and a year later a match pitting a club from Middlesex against one from Kent and Surrey was played under the revised rules. In 1871 15 FA clubs accepted an invitation to enter a cup competition and to contribute to the purchase of a trophy. By 1877 the associations of Great Britain had agreed upon a uniform code, 43 clubs were in competition, and the London clubs’ initial dominance had diminished.


So What Exactly Makes a Home Midcentury Modern?

There is some variety among Midcentury Modern homes, but generally they are one-story homes with an open-concept layout, lots of windows primarily on the sides and back of the house, with a unique embrace of the outdoors. Since the majority of these homes were built in California (famed developer Joseph Eichler built more than 11,000 Mid-Century Modern homes in the state alone), encouraging indoor-outdoor living made sense.

Large expanses of glass were "used to break down the interior spaces from the exterior spaces," John explains. The overhanging eaves of low-pitched roofs appear to be a continuation of interior ceilings, further blending the inside with the outside. (Are you picking up on a theme yet?) Architects also incorporated more natural materials in interior spaces, like exposed beams, wood-paneled walls, concrete and other stone features. They also literally brought the outdoors in by incorporating interior courtyards and atriums with glass walls.

While the innovative style of these homes innately made a statement, these weren&rsquot grand structures meant to show off the owner&rsquos wealth. As John puts it: &ldquothe use of wood and other simple, natural materials, combined with the understated street facades and humane scale of the homes works to set them up as places for people to inhabit and enjoy nature instead of as iconic &lsquothings&rsquo to be looked at from the street.&rdquo


History Myths

1. More people are alive today than have died throughout history

It has been suggested that about six billion people have died since the time the Egyptian pyramids were built. That would be about a billion fewer than the number of people on earth today. But, even if we used the most conservative dating methods for the age of the earth (young earth theories attribute an age somewhere between 6,000-10,000 years to the earth), the pyramids were still a relatively “late” event. There would have to have been many millions of people, perhaps billions of people, who died before then. Our current global population just can't keep up. Moreover, one has to exclude infanticide, which has a relatively long history and yet is often overlooked or explained away in formal reporting. That phenomenon is sure to throw off this comparison. It is true, however, that life expectancy is generally improved in many parts of the world, though not by that much.

2. Flat earth

Occasionally, a poorly informed history teacher might suggest that Christopher Columbus was trying to prove to a skeptical world that the earth wasn't flat but round. Unfortunately, this teacher has fallen for one of the most baseless myths about ancient people in history. Hardly anyone in history seriously thought that the earth was flat. It's a modern myth that the ancients somehow believed in a flat earth. Even the ancients could see that the twilight glow during sunrise and sunset formed an arc over the horizon. They could also see that the top of an incoming ship at sea, viewed from the shoreline, appeared before the rest of the boat. These and other clues suggest a curving landscape consistent with a spherical earth. If you're not persuaded by the evidence, check out the Flat Earth Society. You'll fit right in. Meanwhile, be sure to avoid buying a ticket for an around-the-world cruise. It's just a scam organized by round-earth profiteers.

3. The Death of Catherine the Great

One of the more colorful history myths revolves around the death of Catherine the Great. Of course, everyone dies eventually, but rarely is that death attributed to bestiality. The Russian Queen, Catherine the Great, actually died in bed of illness--a rather boring and conventional means of passing. But the rumor mill somehow lit ablaze over accusations that she died crushed under a horse with which she was attempting to mate. Rumors are hard to retrace, but one suspected source of this myth is French aristocracy, who were known rivals and who had been faulted for previous sexual slanders. Besides the equine accusation, another false rumor claimed she died after cracking her toilet with her massive girth.

4. Jesus was born on December 25th

The winter solstice was celebrated by the Romans from December 17 to 25. This yearly festival included gift-giving, family time, and revelry. When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the early 4th century, the traditional Roman holiday date was appropriated by the Christian church as a parallel holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Easter was already a holiday, so a holiday was needed to celebrate the date when Jesus born. Later, the feast of St. Nicholas was assimilated into the festivities, since St. Nicholas famously distributed gifts on December 25. But there are no records suggesting that Jesus was actually born on that day or its equivalent in the Jewish calendar. There's no unanimity on the official date, but many scholars believe the historical Jesus was born between 6 and 3 BC, probably some time between spring and fall.

5. George Washington chopped down a cherry tree

One of the most famous American legends is that George Washington, as a 6-year-old boy, chopped down his father's cherry tree. When asked about it, so the story goes, he said with the utmost virtue, "I cannot tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet." This event never happened, but was invented by early Washington biographer, Mason Locke Weems, to illustrate the remarkable virtues of that remarkable man. Washington was a legend in his time, and books and stories by Weems sold like hotcakes. Weems, who was also an itinerant minister, drew attention to Washington's private virtues with this uncorroborated story.

6. Hitler created the Autobahn

Germany is famous for beer, engineering, Hitler, and the Autobahn. Hitler had no connection with beer or the Autobahn. He was also not an engineer. He was a teetotaler who didn't create Germany's “Federal Motorway.” Hitler could not have overseen the Autobahn since it was already in existence in 1931, two years before her became chancellor. Hitler's rise to power and the development of the Autobahn did happen at almost the same time, but they occurred in the wrong order for Hitler to take any credit.

7. Just 300 soldiers held off the Persians at Thermopylae for three days

This epic battle scene rose to modern fame through the Frank Miller-produced action flick 300 .” In that fanciful flick, six-packed Adonises wield spears, swords and shields fending off Persian ghost ninjas from their beloved city of Sparta. Granting the obvious artistic license taken with the story, even the conservative retellings are sometimes mistaken. Indeed, there were only 300 Spartan soldiers guarding the pass at Thermopylae, but they had support from neighboring allies numbering over 5,000 soldiers. It is true however, that the Persian army was tens of thousands strong, perhaps even 100,000 in number. So a three day stand with less than 6,000 soldiers is still impressive.

8. Mussolini made the trains run on time

The trains were never widely or uniformly on time in Mussolini's era. This myth probably arose from the mountains of fascist propaganda promoting Mussolini's exploits beyond reality. Trains were a major part of commerce and travel so prompt, efficient train systems would have been a major selling point for any statesmen who could truthfully claim it. But in this case, it just wasn't true.

9. Julius Caesar was born by caesarian section

Caesar was born by natural birth in the customary way. The Caeserian section surgical birthing procedure draws its name from the Lex Caesarea (law of Caesar) which stated that a child is to be cut from the womb if the mother died during childbirth. Apparently, the ancient world had precedent for C-section births, though it's unknown if the procedure had a statistically significant survival rate for the mother.

10. Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas

The New World was new to Columbus, but it may have already been discovered by the ancient Norse missionary, Leif Erickson (i.e., “Eric's son,” his father was Eric the Red). Historians generally agree that Leif Erickson first landed on Canadian shores almost 500 years before Columbus arrived in the Bahamas. Erickson was converted to Christianity by King Olaf I in what is now Norway. He set sail as an explorer and merchant, but also to evangelize unsaved nations. Attempting to reach Greenland, he sailed off course and landed in Helluland, Markland, which he called Vinland (perhaps Nova Scotia). He spent a season or two in North America before returning to Greenland, where he later ascended to the throne. Others may have preceded Columbus and even Erickson.


Your comments make me realize my last post was a big mistake

Over the past twenty years of writing this blog, many posts have been controversial. A controversial post begins with some people attacking my position and some people defending my position, then people debate each others’ opinions. My last post was not controversial. It was just bad. I knew it was really bad when the most mainstream readers and the most radical readers were both telling me the post was not making sense. No one was agreeing with my position.

Many times you ask me how I cope with haters—people who tell me I’m an idiot or wish I were dead. Actually, those are really easy comments to deal with because those comments don’t make me reconsider that I might be completely wrong in my thinking. Well-reasoned comments from thoughtful writers make me think deeply about myself. Those are the difficult comments to cope with. And I’ve read about 250 of those comments this week.

I kept trying to figure out why I would write a post about a topic I didn’t know enough about. I didn’t say anything new. Why did I do that? I think I wished that I knew more than I did. I guess I tricked myself so well that I thought I could trick you.

I hate writing that, so I will have to change topics.

I work a plot at the community garden. It’s two blocks from my apartment but it’s like a century away from my blog: almost everyone there grew up farming in the South and has been growing vegetables in this community garden for the last 40 years. I take care of a garden plot when someone is sick or busy. And I listen during breaks when people sit in the shade talking. They’ve known each other for so long.

At night everyone takes vegetables home. I stop and buy sugar. We haven’t had sugar in the house for three months. I bought a box of sugar and used it all up this week. I put it on everything. Because it’s hard to be wrong. It’s hard to be wrong and have people work so hard in such genuine ways to explain to me why I’m wrong. What helps is telling you what I learned from all of your comments. Here’s what I learned:

  • A vote for Biden is a vote for an administration not for just a person.
  • Black people don’t need me to protect them by complaining about Biden.
  • I don’t understand enough about socialism to forfeit my vote in the name of socialism.
  • I can hate Biden and still vote for him.
  • I can understand that our democracy is near a breaking point and still participate in it to try to save it.

Being a good writer is being honest, constantly, about what we know. And then checking again. To make sure. What I know is that I’m trying really hard to be part of this community garden and I’m gentrifying it and I don’t want you to see that. And I love the people in it so much and instead of just being with them and loving them I have this urge to write an academic paper or something because they are history. I want to tell you about each of the people I love but I worry writing about them on this blog will turn them to stone.

I want to do good. I thought I was doing good by telling you that voting for Biden is scummy. But one of the most popular topics at the garden is how important it is to vote. The community at the garden is vibrant. They are activists. They talk about getting relatives in other states to vote. I am ashamed that I told people not to vote. The truth is that my blog community and my garden community are aligned and they are not two blocks away or a century away. My blog community and my garden community are both in my heart, and I have to keep them there by writing honestly and being open and not being a poser and a jerk. That is hard for me. Thank you for helping me by taking the time to tell me when I’m wrong.

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I’m grateful to you for listening and owning up to your mistakes. But I’m angry that the last post, which you yourself call a “big mistake,” is still up. It does its damage by existing and being read. That’s what makes it a big mistake. Taking it down would be the first step in making up for it. That’s the first action (of ideally many) you should take after apologizing for it, and to show the apology is genuine.

John, I respectfully disagree. I’m sure there are many frustrated citizens who have the same thoughts that Penelope wrote about. The “well-reasoned comments from thoughtful writers” that were posted in response may help to convince those citizens, too, that *not* voting is not a good choice. Penelope may choose to post a note at the end of the last post mentioning her change of heart and linking to this post, but she should not remove the post and the replies.

That’s a good idea, Eric. I’ll add a note at the end of the post now.

Maybe at the beginning of the post instead, with a link to this post? People may not see it at the end.

BTW I love this sentence ” I want to tell you about each of the people I love but I worry writing about them on this blog will turn them to stone.” I work in documentary film and we think a lot about the challenges presented when real people are your raw material. It’s hard. As always, I appreciate your thinking things through.

Yes, at the beginning. And thank you Penelope. I bet it feels like eating shit but sometimes you have to.

Bravo for your honesty and reflection. Being able to listen to feedback and grow from it is all too rare in our society, especially this year. But if we all keep working to move toward a better future, however haltingly, we have a good chance of getting there.

I’d also suggest that if you add a message to the previous post, add it at the beginning, so that people with shorter attention spans are sure to see it!

Everybody does not read everything, so a small note at the end might not do the job.

I wrote ‘wrong and foolish’ and thought you might contest that! I’m in New Zealand, but have family in the USA, so I worry about what’s happening there, and read as much as I can. I saw Hilary’s faults, didn’t like her much, still hoped she’d win. I can see Biden’s faults, and why Kamala might not be for everyone, but still deeply hope they win. The alternative is so terrible.

Being open minded, admitting mistakes, identifying flaws, improving yourself – all fantastic things. Giving into harrassment and abuse and cancellation – not good. It can be confusing to try to make sure you are doing the first one and not the second. I have always admired your courage to express your views even when I disagree with you as I did with your last post. If you have changed your mind I admire that also. Just make sure to take care of yourself. As a fellow citizen of one of the free-er parts of the world you have the right to say what you want – don’t let anyone take that away from you – not on your blog, and not in your election.

You got a point there, Kate.
I also think your apology is very eloquent, Penelope.
I think you are allowed mistakes, just like we all are. You experiment a lot, and sometimes you overreach. It’s unavoidable.
It’s just that in this case the stakes are so high. Trump is not only ruining the US, but the entire world. He must be stopped, etc etc. So you were maybe a tiny bit naive in posting it -) I am sure an editor would have said no.

I often think of Brené brown’s quote: I’m here to get it right, not be right. Appreciate the about face. Now help us Democrats figure out how to turn out the vote.

I struggle with this idea. Does getting people to vote mean to vote either way or to vote for Biden or to Vote for Trump?

Nice work.
One of the better ‘mea culpa’s I’ve read/heard in a long time.
The only thing that may have improved it would have been adding an express apology.

I actually really resonated with your last post. Even if, at the end of the day, Biden it has to be, truly the lesser of two evils, there was no harm in you voicing your opinion, or outlining the utter corruption of the DNC. I wish millions of people WOULD write on Bernie and we could have ourselves a true revolution. I hope you don’t delete the original post, it makes some very valid points. I’m sorry you’ve been bullied into such an apology.

If you wish for people to write in Bernie then you are wishing for a second 4 years for Trump. Nothing against your reasons for wanting Bernie, just reality. One person – even as the president – doesn’t make a revolution. They can set the agenda and heavily influence the national narrative but change requires congressional action (despite Trump’s belief that he can will like a king with his executive orders). Democracy isn’t guaranteed – it takes effort and involvement. When people abdicate their civic responsibility to vote we move closer to a country when a small cabal of people re-write the laws in their favor and we wake up and wonder what happened.
I have voted republican more often than not but I voted independent last time because I didn’t like either of the headliners. Now, 4 years later, I feel I wasted my vote and plan to vote for Biden – not because he’s perfect, he’s far from that – but he will hopefully settle the chaos aka the Trump Presidency. And he’s likely to be a one term president which sets the stage for new leadership from both parties and maybe an intelligent discussion of ideas *and* how to pay for them without bankrupting our future. Also, I think Biden is more skilled at foreign policy which Trump so terribly lacks and the president *can* make a difference there. (Note: Trump was right to take on China but he can’t get the job done – and he’s scared of Putin – the *much* more dangerous world actor, IMO – Putin probably has videos of him).

So, sorry for the long rant but when I hear of people advocating a write-in or not voting at all I fear for our future. 100 years ago the Germans thought they had a charismatic leader who would take them to being a strong country again and look where that got them. And if you think that could never happen to us, don’t kid yourself.

Caitlin, I was stopped by a single word in your comment and I want to respond to that word. I think it’s relevant to the whole discussion, but maybe not. That word is “truly” as in Biden is “truly the lesser of two evils.” Maybe it’s just a throw away word in there and you didn’t give it much thought, but there is nothing “true” about your comment. Your comment about Biden is an opinion. You’re welcome to your opinion and you’re welcome to voicing your opinion, as you advocated to PT, but where we get it wrong again and again is claiming our opinions to be truths. We might have more open discussion and less need to apologize if we treat our opinions as opinions when we disagree with others.

I thought your post on Biden was spot on. As a black woman, your post was affirming to read.

I am a black woman, I agree with you.

I am a black man, and I also agreed with Penelope’s prior post, with its links to sources on the points she made. I resonated with that post and it makes me sad that she would be driven to apologize for her position.

I’m a black woman who mentally high-fived PT’s prior post and shared it with everyone I know giving us hope that people are finally wising up to our crooked, irreparable government, where truly the only thing next is a French-style “off with their heads” revolution. Those chiding us to vote for Biden just don’t want to face reality and just want to continue with their pretend democracy tea party. They see real patriots on the streets getting tear-gassed and fighting back at the system and are terrified of what would be required of them so they’re screaming for safety expecting Biden/Harris to save them. Good luck with your return to the status quo. Meanwhile, those of us who are truly sick and tired of both parties are ready to fight for the new world that we know is possible. So yes, I will be writing in Bernie for all I previously stated and because no one should tell anyone who to vote for and then deride Trump for being a fascist. We are a country teeming with cowards and hypocrites, may we all get what we deserve and Trump is the least of it.

I found this to be really beautifully written, thank you.

I would have preferred almost any candidate over Biden, but Biden or Trump is the choice we have. That’s reality, because even with every Democratic voter choosing Biden, Trump could still win. So how does voting for Bernie make Trump not win? And how is “fighting for a new world” going to be more successful with Trump as president for four more years? Our country and our world have multiple catastrophes headed our way, with no possibility of avoiding them, and limited time left for mitigating them. Trump will be actively working to make all of them worse. Rereading your letter, it sounds like that’s what you want — if Bernie can’t win, we should all be punished because we deserve it. I guess you’re still young enough that the end of the world sounds like fun. Or at least, noble and heroic. There are an awful lot of refugees, in any number of countries, who might have a different opinion about that.

thanks for the reply, made me smile and agree, somebody knows what’s happening and if somebody does other folks do as well and united we can change going back and start to move forward.

White in Canada here. We are waiting for the revolution to start. You’ll have plenty of allies when it does.

I agree! I’m sad she was bullied into changing her mind and retracting her heart felt prior post.

Casandra,
Have you heard of Kimberly Klacik? She is an amazing black woman in Baltimore speaking the truth about the long history of blue leadership in that city and what it’s done to the black community. Our common enemy is the political cronyism at the top manipulating and playing us all like a fiddle.

I am glad that readers brought many of the points that so desperately needed to be said. That post had been so jarring, illogical, and narrow in perspective that I had struggled to respond in a positive way. Democracy is messy but nonetheless you got there. Many things can be true concurrently, and our search for the ideal is a long and fruitless one. Being open to reason and painful reflection is a skill and an emdearing (and rare trait): it is why reading your thoughts after so many years can be a wild but rewarding venture. Thanks for taking us along on your [wild] journey!

Biden is senile. Biden was no good when he was not senile. Biden is a crook. Biden is a sexual deviant. Read more on his life. His son Hunter lives near me. He has Chinese bodyguards. He’s a crook like his Dad. Get educated.

There is a herculean effort to try to herd progressives back into the Democratic party with shaming and bullying. If only they had put half the effort into electing a candidate with integrity.

Isn’t labeling people a form of bullying?

Thank you. I hope people understand you’re not apologizing for your position so much as how poorly thought out it was. For such a big issue, one can’t shoot from the hip. You are so much better when you think about what you’re thinking. The worst never do, and sometimes even the best fall short. It’s so tempting to just punch it out and get it done. I’m sure that was a part of it.
And thank you so much for not doing the “I apologize if anyone has felt offended by blah blah blah…” It was nice and clean. Politicians could take a page from that book.

This is the most powerful post you’ve written. To be able to handle being wrong so gracefully is a gift.

I didn’t read your Biden post. I am a Trump 2020 person so if you said anything bad about Biden that is fine with me. Don’t let Biden supporters change your gut feeling about him. Anyway people aren’t voting for Biden. He will only be President for a few months and then he will be deemed not mentally fit. That horrible woman will be the President and the country will be destroyed.

I am Trump 2020 as well. You should read the comments on her Biden post, it’s eye opening. I’m just preparing for the horrific response on election night when Trump in fact wins.

II find it interesting how many Trump supporters want to cast Biden as a mentally unfit or as a crook – I suspect they think it will make the candidates look more even in that regard

I didn’t read your Biden post. I am a Trump 2020 person… Of course you’re a “Trump person.” Your first 3 words says it all: “I didn’t read…”

She didn’t have to read it because her mind is already made up and she doesn’t need to read anything else about Biden because she is not voting for him. People are allowed to vote for whomever they want.

Thank you for reconsidering, and for your support of people trying to make what incremental improvements they can.

After a half a century of Democrats promising to fix the country, I think we can all agree that they have no interest in fixing anything. They want poor people to remain poor to play on your emotions. They will fix nothing. Trump has accomplished more for blacks than any president in the last 50 years. That’s just a fact. Stop voting for Democrats.

I see in these posts / a very clever woman trying to figure out who is reading her body of work. This is marketing ploy with a thought experiment. We are all Iiving in a time of cascading spectacle, performative politics, and theatre of the absurd. Her post is an intentional feed into the frenzy.

As one of the most successful blogs ever, I’m pretty clear Penelope knows who her target audience is, and her readership certainly appreciates her distinctive lack of marketing. She’s an honest writer and a bold thinker. It’s a rarity in modern times to find a public figure willing to think outside the box and also learn in a public way, gain insight and expand perspective, to acknowledge subtleties. What Penelope demonstrated was courage and grace, something we can all learn from.

Your defense of her is charming.

Tatianna, this comment makes my heart melt. It’s the encouraging hug I’m always looking for and the trophy I never expected to receive. Thank you thank you thank you.

I agree. Penelope has always been about herself.

Because a bunch of Biden supporters disagree and comment on your blog, you’re wrong in your own thoughts and feelings? Very interesting.

Thanks. I considered unsubscribing at the shock of your earlier conclusions. Glad I didn’t bother. I mean you’ve said shocking things before. Reading this has made me think more about the mistakes I’ve made in my own life, and how I have moved forward. These are difficult times. (Please do add a forwarding note on the beginning post, because I’ve read many of your posts out of chronological order, over the years.) Boston’s advantage has been strong neighborhoods, I think. The Mayor encourages this, pretty well. We’re all thinking about local government more, and the record level of testing going on these past two weeks, here is under-reported. A lot is under-reported on the local level. Anyway, I see it as the Republican agenda has been to remove FDR’s great deal improvements (social security, gov’t jobs, state grants) from the 1930’s. Otherwise it’s just a billionaire buying the election. The founding colonialists that encouraged industry to foster independence from England could not have imagined the 1920s Tammany Hall corruption, or what has happened in 2016 with Russian assistance. I voted for Bernie in the primary and will gladly vote for Biden/Harris in the general. I also am very happy I live in a Blue State, (even with our token “red” governor) we have generous health care support and an intense focus on education and more support for diversity than in Pennsylvania or Kentucky or Florida, for instance. States I spent a decade in, each. Anyway, love the comments section here, too.

Shock? If you can’t listen to other opnions then that’s not good.

Shocked that someone was shocked? If you can’t listen to other opnions then that’s not good.

Well said! When supporting my clients to show up with authenticity, I will use this latest post of yours as an example of how to apologize with grace.

Annnnd…you just got silenced by the mob. How dare you not agree with their groupthink?

The last post had factual errors but it did characterize the DNC very accurately. I second the folks who said it had much truth to it. My first-time voter son was so excited to vote for Bernie. Now he’s not going to bother.

Is your first-time voter son really so eager to see another four years of Trump’s court picks, attacks on women and minorities, voter suppression, avoidance of global warming issues, etc.?

If so, he is missing the issues and must have just been voting for Bernie as a trendy thing. Bernie has endorsed Biden for a reason, and if your son really supports Bernie and the dream of more progressive times, he should continue to listen to him. Aim for a Democratic White House, Senate and House of Representatives, and then push forward to the next election to build from there. Or re-elect Trump and watch him try to manipulate the voting rules so that he can establish a dynasty.

I appreciate your ability to accept that you made a mistake and correct a wrong. It takes a big person and a thoughtful one to put it into words in the way that you did. I admire that.

I often think of Brené brown’s quote: I’m here to get it right, not be right. Appreciate the about face. Now help us Democrats figure out how to turn out the vote.

Thank god you are retracting. What a head scratcher. I’m still trying Ron figure out how you didn’t understand that attacking Biden is a vote for Trump? It’s not rocket science. I’ve seen you say some dumb things before, but w it appeared though you had suffered a neurological incident. I’m so confused.your above entry still doesn’t explain how you missed that simple equation.

You were just shamed like everyone else who disagrees with liberals and you caved. With the exception of the BLM point these are all talking points and shamefully embarrassing rationalizations to vote for someone. And socialism – really?
——>
A vote for Biden is a vote for an administration not for just a person.

Black people don’t need me to protect them by complaining about Biden.

I don’t understand enough about socialism to forfeit my vote in the name of socialism.

I can hate Biden and still vote for him.

I can understand that our democracy is near a breaking point and still participate in it to try to save it.

I was disappointed last election when you wrote a post saying you ‘secretly’ wanted to vote for Trump “My Forbidden Fantasy: Voting For Trump”. You write nothing about politics, even when it seems impossible to be thinking about anything but politics, and then you write some clickbait post about how you’re going to vote for Clinton, but you secretly want to vote for Trump. Your brand of unconventional wisdom doesn’t seem to fit well with political comment. I wanted to respond to your last post, but I was so pissed off I just kind of walked away. You’ve made a big difference in my life, I first discovered you when I was searching for consolation/advice about being with a longterm boyfriend who was umming and ahhing about commitment and babies, as I raced towards 40. We eventually did have two boys, and your homeschool posts helped me build up the bravery and confidence to homeschool our oldest, who we didn’t think would do well in school. Now we love having both of them home with us, and out at our day long nature play groups, reading great books together, having interesting conversations, playing Minecraft, hours on the trampoline, building forts etc. Thank you!

This might be your best post ever and why many of us did not unsubscribe after the last one. For those of you living in hard core blue or red states, it might feel better to vote Libertarian or Green. But, if you live in a contested state, you need to vote Biden. Most importantly, follow and support the Democrats running for the Senate. You want change? Get the Senate to flip! Best revolution in decades if that happens.

An excellent point. I was missing the acknowledgement that it’s extremely important to vote for senators, congressional representatives, state senators, mayors, judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, school board, and so on.

I am happy to hear that you have realized that the reasoning that it’s not worth voting for Biden over Trump because Biden is insufficiently leftist is unsound.

If your political goal is to expand European-style social policy, this would not be furthered by tacitly voting for Trump. Certain leftists have argued perennially that appeasing the populace through the niceties of liberalism only postpones a necessary political revolution, but that’s been a foolish argument in the past and it remains so. In this instance, with a man in the White House who has absolutely no love for democracy, and instead idolizes dictators and fascist strongmen, we can already see that popular demonstrations are met with unleashed, unconstitutional, and unpunished violence, and then recycled to whip up hatred among his base.

The only way Trump would be removed from office other than through the ballot box would be a coup from the military, which in this day and age has become one of the most liberal institutions in America, in the sense of respecting diversity, science, and democracy. Trump is overwhelmingly unpopular among our troops and military leaders, a first for a Republican president. If Trump is reelected, he will likely go after the military next, with an ideological purging of ranks, to prevent that possibility.

It’s understandable if a kid like Yefet has silly ideas – like that we can learn about modern politics by reading the Communist Manifesto, or that if we just made the “workers collectively own the means of production.” This is what childhood is for such mistaken fervor is a sign of a healthy mind, and he will grow out of it. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but he isn’t even old enough to vote yet, so the danger is limited. What isn’t understandable is when an adult who should know better lets herself be led by juvenile idealism.

In regards to Biden, I share the view of many that he’s a somewhat disappointing result from a very strong field. We do, however, have to look at why he was the nominee, and the answer is simple: Black women are the heart of the Democratic Party, and he is the one they chose. I am not a Black woman, and I cannot pretend to see things from their perspective it’s my responsibility to accept that perhaps they know things I don’t, and that their perspective is important. They knew he would pay them back, and he did. Biden has made it clear repeatedly that he sees himself as a transitional figure, and his choice of Vice President is a good indication of how he plans to pass the torch.

In terms of the strengths and weaknesses of your writing, perhaps it’s worth considering that your writing seems weaker when you think you know the answer, and stronger when you recognize that you don’t. This post is far more interesting than the last one, and has much more lingering impact. It is really hard to find oneself in the role of gentrifier. I fixed up my last house considerably, got many thanks from people in the neighborhood, and then when I moved it was bought by trustafarians who couldn’t tell a wisteria from an ailanthus. A guy who owned it before me still works at a hardware store I see him sometimes. I made a bundle selling the house. He didn’t. And the money I made went right into more equity.

I don’t like it that, increasingly, it takes money to make money – even as the amount of money I make off my own money only grows. I don’t like it that, in this country, the poor are ever poorer and the rich are ever richer (even as I am ever richer). This is not an ideal situation. COVID has only made things worse, as the poor lose their jobs and the rich keep them. The upscale housing market is going crazy now, as (other) people realize that working and studying at home means a bigger house is a good idea. Meanwhile, there’s a foreclosure crisis looming, and evictions coming for those who can’t work at home.

I don’t know what the solutions to these problems are. I feel sure, however, that returning American government to the hands of responsible, competent adults instead of hateful, venal grifters is a precondition to developing solutions. The CDC must be unmuzzled, NASA must be unchained, agencies must be put in the hands of competent specialists, rather than lobbyist and campaign donors. We must return the executive branch to people who actually listen to, and believe in, science. Then the hard work of drafting effective policy can begin.

Thank you! Exceptionally well written (not that you need anyone’s approval). We need adults not actors


The scientific revolution

In 1543, as he lay on his deathbed, Copernicus finished reading the proofs of his great work he died just as it was published. His De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri VI (“Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs”) was the opening shot in a revolution whose consequences were greater than those of any other intellectual event in the history of humankind. The scientific revolution radically altered the conditions of thought and of material existence in which the human race lives, and its effects are not yet exhausted.

All this was caused by Copernicus daring to place the Sun, not the Earth, at the centre of the cosmos. Copernicus actually cited Hermes Trismegistos to justify this idea, and his language was thoroughly Platonic. But he meant his work as a serious work in astronomy, not philosophy, so he set out to justify it observationally and mathematically. The results were impressive. At one stroke, Copernicus reduced a complexity verging on chaos to elegant simplicity. The apparent back-and-forth movements of the planets, which required prodigious ingenuity to accommodate within the Ptolemaic system, could be accounted for just in terms of the Earth’s own orbital motion added to or subtracted from the motions of the planets. Variation in planetary brightness was also explained by this combination of motions. The fact that Mercury and Venus were never found opposite the Sun in the sky Copernicus explained by placing their orbits closer to the Sun than that of the Earth. Indeed, Copernicus was able to place the planets in order of their distances from the Sun by considering their speeds and thus to construct a system of the planets, something that had eluded Ptolemy. This system had a simplicity, coherence, and aesthetic charm that made it irresistible to those who felt that God was the supreme artist. His was not a rigorous argument, but aesthetic considerations are not to be ignored in the history of science.

Copernicus did not solve all of the difficulties of the Ptolemaic system. He had to keep some of the cumbrous apparatus of epicycles and other geometrical adjustments, as well as a few Aristotelian crystalline spheres. The result was neater, but not so striking that it commanded immediate universal assent. Moreover, there were some implications that caused considerable concern: Why should the crystalline orb containing the Earth circle the Sun? And how was it possible for the Earth itself to revolve on its axis once in 24 hours without hurling all objects, including humans, off its surface? No known physics could answer these questions, and the provision of such answers was to be the central concern of the scientific revolution.

More was at stake than physics and astronomy, for one of the implications of the Copernican system struck at the very foundations of contemporary society. If the Earth revolved around the Sun, then the apparent positions of the fixed stars should shift as the Earth moves in its orbit. Copernicus and his contemporaries could detect no such shift (called stellar parallax), and there were only two interpretations possible to explain this failure. Either the Earth was at the centre, in which case no parallax was to be expected, or the stars were so far away that the parallax was too small to be detected. Copernicus chose the latter and thereby had to accept an enormous cosmos consisting mostly of empty space. God, it had been assumed, did nothing in vain, so for what purposes might he have created a universe in which Earth and humankind were lost in immense space? To accept Copernicus was to give up the Dantean cosmos. The Aristotelian hierarchy of social place, political position, and theological gradation would vanish, to be replaced by the flatness and plainness of Euclidean space. It was a grim prospect and not one that recommended itself to most 16th-century intellectuals, and so Copernicus’s grand idea remained on the periphery of astronomical thought. All astronomers were aware of it, some measured their own views against it, but only a small handful eagerly accepted it.

In the century and a half following Copernicus, two easily discernible scientific movements developed. The first was critical, the second, innovative and synthetic. They worked together to bring the old cosmos into disrepute and, ultimately, to replace it with a new one. Although they existed side by side, their effects can more easily be seen if they are treated separately.