Courtesy of American Sun, at Igor’s Newsletter, a quick but well cited look at the FAUXVID19 virus, full of convenient sequence insertions which just happen to make it highly infectious. (He, like me, is certain someone was making major changes to the sequence before its release.)
Well, Wuhan is at is again. They claimed in a February 2022 published paper that they could not get samples of Monkeypox virus, so they had to synthesize their own to develop a Monkeypox test. And now, an outbreak. Dr. Campbell does not buy their claims ($50US in Lagos on the Lagos would probably buy you all the Monkeypox virus you can handle), but note what he is NOT saying:
Movie recommendation: Gallipoli, 1981. It’s less about the attempted taking of the peninsula near Istanbul (in the Great War), and more about the experiences of Australian soldiers on their way there from home. Mel Gibson has a telling line in the movie. He is looking at photographs of naked women for sale in the bazaar in Cairo, and he says (something like) “the women do not respect themselves, a sign of a primitive culture”.
Probably the best interview of Yarvin I have seen, as the interviewer actually disagreed with him, often:
This thing was a slog. The story of US-Iran relations in the 2oth century is important. It shows what happens to nations who go from favoured status to pariah in the Global American Empire.
James A. Bill writes well, and seems to know his subject matter in great depth (perhaps, better than the government officials that participated in the events). The Eagle and the Lion is a history of Iranian US relations from the end of WWII to the late 1980s. It goes into excruciating detail about the US foreign policy establishment in the 1970s and 1980s, ending its analysis around the time of the Iran-Contra affair. It is so detailed that I suspect it is only good now for academic study. I would not recommend the book, unless you are writing a thesis on the subject. The book is divided into two parts, with a more general history of US-Iranian relations in the first part, with a smaller second part detailing the failures of US diplomacy in the events leading up to the Iranian Revolution and a detailed look at all the figures in Washington involved in those events. I will try to give a short summary here.
The book starts out with a brief summary of the history of Iran’s foreign relations from the late 19th century. At that time, Iran was subject to foreign intervention by two great empires: Britain and Russia. Both were finishing up the Great Game, Britain having succeeding in keeping her Crown jewel India safe, while Russia made huge territorial gains in central Asia. Oil had been discovered, not only in southern Iran but up at Baku (today, in Azerbaijan). Britain’s William D’Arcy had succeeded in obtaining a concession to explore the southern oil deposits in 1901, and Britain would control Iranian oil production until 1937. The Russians were always diplomatically in the background, looking for opportunities to exert influence in the region.
However, the Iranians were resentful of foreign intervention in their internal affairs and occupation of their lands. On several occasions both empires had dealt with them in bad faith. In 1941, both Britain and the Soviets invaded Iran, after Iran’s ruler, Reza Shah, began dealing with the Germans. Their justification was he refused to expel German businessmen, and Iran refused to depose their monarch, the Shah, as the UK demanded. At the end of the war, both Britain and Soviets withdrew (the Soviets taking a year and concessions on oil with them), and the damage to relations was done. Enter the Americans.
The Iranian impression of Americans was that they were sympathetic to Iran’s position, and willing to deal with them as equals. As Britain’s Empire waned, the US started to exert more influence in the region. This culminated in the 1953 overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh to cement the rule of the monarchy under the Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. The coup was an organized effort by the CIA and British intelligence agencies, although parts of the US regime were against it.
After 1953, the US and Iran enjoyed good relations, until the Iranian Revolution in 1978. Or, as the book points out, the elites of Iran enjoyed good relations with US officials in Washington. What actually happened was that the CIA, the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, and other government factions, along with many (what we today would call) NGOs each had separate relations with the Shah and his government. US officials did not really understand Iran as a whole, many could not speak even one of the local languages. Rather, they received most of their local knowledge from ruling elites who were not all that much different from them, in terms of education and class. In short, they had a gigantic blind spot about the nation, which was practically the whole nation.
The US had many different reasons for dealing with Iran during the Shah’s reign. Iran was just south of the Soviet Union, and made a good listening post for intelligence gathering. Iran was a large producer of oil and an OPEC member, and it is said the US tried to control oil in Iran in 1950s through controlling the business as a whole, in the 60s by controlling production, and in the 70s by controlling price. Also on the menu were arms sales. The Shah appeared, to the external world to be in control, often leaving the country for long stretches, visiting the United States several times. However, he also purchased billions in arms from the US, because he felt his position was not so secure, and wanted weapons to deal with his enemies. While billions in Iran’s oil money were spent on the latest in US weaponry, people in outlying parts of Iran often starved.
The lessons to take away from this chapter in history are not really about Iran. You get all the names of government officials and dissidents, but not really much detail about the nation itself. Rather, we learn that there was no unified voice speaking as one for the United States. Government factions were doing business on their own terms with Iran. And the Shah knew it. The Shah and other Iranian officials regularly sent gifts to the White House, diplomats, Senators and Representatives (on important Congressional committees), which ranged from pistachios and dried fruit to expensive watches. These were not bribes, according to the author, but rather ways to reinforce existing relationships. It appears then that the Shah and his regime understood America not as a unified nation, but a collection of interests, and did their best to keep in good relations with all of them. It appears this oligarchy acting each for their own interests has not changed since that time either. Also, a change in US presidents meant that a lot of support and concern could quickly turn to indifference, which for unstable regimes, was a big problem. One has only to ponder how difficult it can be to keep good relations with the US when every four years you get a new head of state. And this apparently happened with Iran.
The Iranian Revolution shocked the US regime, who simply did not see it coming. They had little knowledge or engagement with local Islamic religious officials, and knew of Ruhollah Khomeini (Ayatollah after the revolution), but did not attempt to engage with him diplomatically before the Shah’s fall. The Shah was hated by many Iranians, and the revolutionaries took rapid steps to end monarchical rule in Iran in favour of a theocracy. Yet, the US allowed the Shah to enter the United States for medical treatment (he was dying of cancer), which lead to outrage in Iran and the Iranian hostage crisis, where US diplomatic staff were held hostage for over a year. A failed military operation to rescue them is said to have caused President Carter to lose his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan.
In the end, Iran was just another country that US interests could try to exploit by profiting from its oil industry, selling it weapons, and using its proximity to the Soviets for maneuvers in the Cold War. As long as the elites in Iran were happy, then the rest of the country mattered little. It appears then the Ukraine conflict is just the same old foreign policy from 50 years ago. How this rolls out just more transparent in the internet era.
I spy with my skeptical eye some concerns with modern Physics. One situation comes to mind:
Deacon: Why is a neutron not just an electron and a proton?
Physics: “Because when neutrons decay, there is some left over energy which must be accounted for, which is an anti-electron neutrino.”
Deacon: Okay, so an energy conservation problem. So how does the neutrino come into existence then?
Physics: “You see, when a neutron decays, a W– boson is emitted, which decays into the electron and anti-electron neutrino.”
Deacon: What? Okay, I looked at this boson and it weighs over 80 times the mass of the neutron. How does a particle emit something 80 times its own mass? (Ignoring the quark issue.) Don’t you have a conservation of energy/mass problem here too? Like, big time?
Physics: “Nope. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle means you get to borrow that energy for a very short period of time, you know 10-24 seconds.”
Deacon: Right. So, conservation laws apply when the anti-neutrino is accounted for, but NOT for the W– boson, which makes the anti-neutrino?
Physics: “Yup. It’s because the neutrino has a much much longer lifespan.”
Deacon: Okay. How do you know these W– bosons exist? Can we see them?
Physics: “Not exactly, we can see the particles left over when they decay.”
Deacon: And which ones are those?
Physics: “Why, the electron and the anti-electron neutrino, of course!”
I do not understand the physics behind the weak interaction well, and I’ve probably demonstrated as much above. I am a hobbyist at this kind of stuff, and barely understand its base mathematics. But I am concerned about the story above because intuitively it seems to me to be a just so story about another just so story. People who understand physics much better than I do seem to have no problem with this scenario. However, I have another relevant problem to this discussion.
A year or two ago a Spaniard published a paper saying that one of the cosmological grounds for the existence of dark matter may actually be explained by a facet of general relativity: gravitoelectromagnetism. (Put short, objects with mass experience a slightly different degree of gravitational attraction if they are spinning one way or another relative to each other, I think.) What bothered me was another physicist I liked immediately responded with a statement basically saying that “he could be right, but here’s why you should continue funding my work on dark matter anyway”.
What? No “he’s clearly wrong, we eliminated that as a possibility years ago“. No “here’s why it does not matter…“? No “holy shit have I wasted my career?!?” moment? Nope, just keep the money flowing. I started to suspect that maybe she was not so interested in the science as the funding. (She is not Sabine.)
You can find other and better sources of science skepticism and varying degrees of it online. Locklin on science has some interesting posts on open problems in science (examples here, here, and here). Alexander Unzicker is an author and physicist who goes even further, arguing that physics has become far too complicated, it’s theories are such a mess they cannot be considered “fundamental”, and that a lot of it is physicists just fooling themselves.
Enter Sabine Hossenfelder, who strongly critiques modern physics regularly. Sabine, like Unzicker, is a working physicist, and so much better positioned to question and challenge this branch of science than me. Sabine wrote Lost In Math. In it, she looks at the state of the science, with her own thoughts and a series of interviews with some leading physicists.
Sabine who is well versed in physics sees some serious faults, not in the physics itself, but in the approach to advancing physics by way of new theories, and subsequent experiments. She is concerned about how physics moves forward, and what criteria should be used to decide what theories are worth testing.
Sabina has pointed to CERN in the past as an example of this. It appears to have discovered the Higgs boson, and therefore the related field which gives many particles their mass. However, CERN was also supposed to start discovering Supersymmetry (SUSY) particles as well. In SUSY, all the known particles have an SUSY partner, and if some types of this theory are correct, then CERN should have been able to produce them in its Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This is where Sabine’s concerns are best demonstrated.
SUSY is not one theory, but a collection of theories which satisfy a few basic premises. So, there are multiple SUSY type theories, and many predict different energy levels for SUSY particles to start appearing. The question then becomes: how do we decide which if these SUSY theories to spend billions on particle colliders to study? It appears that CERN spent billions on upgrades, started smashing protons into one another at ludicrous speeds, and hoped for the best. To Sabine, this is not a good way to decide to spend billions. In the interviews, some physicists felt the lack of SUSY detection at CERN was a disaster, ending SUSY as a possibility. Others thought CERN would not detect SUSY because their theories predicted energies much higher than the capacity of LHC. So, it seems, there was no consensus even when the LHC was upgraded about whether it could detect SUSY. Sabine’s concern then is: what criteria is the best to decide what experiments to run? How do you decide which are the best theories to test?
Perhaps I say to you, “look, it’s December and you’ve got white stuff on your lawn. Some argue it is a crystaline form of water, but I have an experiment in mind worth $10 million, which will prove with high certainty (but not completely) that it is NOT flaky sea salt. Give me money.” A valid experiment perhaps, under the scientific method (maybe), but worth it? Obviously not.
It seems the dominant idea in physics right now about the merits of a theory is a question of ‘beauty’. If a theory is symmetrical (which I understand to mean if you do the same thing to both sides of the equation, it remains valid), if it has constants near ‘1’, or if it does not appear to be fine-tuned (which I think means a value was picked as form of a just-so story to fit existing knowledge), then it is more beautiful. More beauty means more aesthetically pleasing to physicists, and so the more likely they are to consider it true and want to experiment on it. These are perhaps not very good criteria, as the universe itself is NOT symmetrical in all ways. If it was, anti-matter and matter would have been equal and wiped each other out in short order.
So Sabine wrote Lost in Math to bring these issues to the forefront. I had never heard of the ‘beauty’ of theories before reading this book. She also has some ideas on how to deal with these issues. She explains some hard concepts in physics quite well. I do like reading about physics, and I think I get the basics. But, Sabine took a much deeper dive into theoretical concepts than I could follow. This book is not about popularizing science, rather it is a call for some reflection on where physics is going and what should be prioritized. So while it is accessible for all, it is really targeted at practitioners, and those who are unfamiliar with the field may get lost in the book.
If physics is not really your thing, and you want some work by Sabine closer to newbie level, she has a great YouTube channel where she posts on various physics topics, weekly.
Terror House releases Ending Bigly, Eh?, a collection of stories, a poem, and writings on the demise of the Coward Justin Trudeau. My review is here. Hank Oslo also reviewed it over at American Sun. Mr. Oslo, like the writers in Ending, have considered and understand this phenomenon called ‘Canada’ better than most Canadians. Their writings are not just trashing Trudeau, but a hard look in the mirror for Canadians wondering about what the fate of ‘Canada’ might be.
Climate change will cause higher CO2, causing more plants, causing them to produce more oxygen, which then cause a reduction in oxygen which will lead to mass extinctions (always caused by falling global temperatures) because of increasing global temperatures. Sigh. So says a new study skewered by William Briggs.
And thanks to APRFTGV for noting this: George W. Bush laments Putin’s unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq…Ukraine…(well, Iraq too). He’s 75, you know.
When Bush criticizes Russia for not having a US style democracy, saying they lack ‘checks and balances ‘, I cannot help but think he means those checks and balances that put him in power, and them let him smokescreen his way into war with Iraq. The ‘checks and balances’ I am seeing all across the west are all allowing if not actively participating in the west’s denigration. Perhaps this is the accumulation of problems within a system that cannot be solved by that system because it is blind to them or because its limitations make it impossible. (A weird corollary to Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorems: a system meant to solve problems inevitably makes problems which the system itself cannot solve.) In the west, we are seeing such systemic problems and a new class of elites willing to exploit them for their own gains, and are doing so only with a short term view. Anyway, someone should send Bush the link to Sigmund Freud’s Substack.
Terror House Magazine has released Ending Bigly, Eh?: The Many Fates of Justin Trudeau, edited by Bill Marchant. It is a collection of fiction, poetry, and analysis, on how the Coward Justin Trudeau’s time as leader of Canada will come to an end. It is written by a motley collection of authors you may recognize from the Twitterverse. Their consensus is that Trudeau is a public persona of propaganda, hiding a juvenile, spoiled, cruel, petty and malicious little boy. On this basis they predict ignominious endings for the man. The collection is entertaining, and provides some insight into the boy, and also Canada and how overall they appear resigned to having this play-actor lead their country. When all you want is for the marionette that is the Coward Justin Trudeau to just shut the hell up…this collection of tales provides how, in a just universe, that could occur. It is a salve for those even mildly irritated by his antics, and I highly recommend it.
It is almost impossible to predict what the end of the Coward Justin Trudeau might look like. This is because we have little idea who the Coward Justin Trudeau actually is. The Current YearTM Prime Minister is a ‘stand on your spot and say your line’ kind of guy. His current access to power is provided by the Liberal Party of Canada, who allows him the prestige of being de facto ruler of Canada, so he can jet set around the world, give billions in taxpayer dollars abroad to show his largesse, all to maintain the image of him as a great man, both in his own mind, and to Canada. The Liberals in exchange get to keep power over the federal government, a caretaker in 1867, now morphed into the most powerful institution in the country.
It is not clear how much power Trudeau actually exercises. If he WAS actually running the country, we’d be a banana republic with no bananas. I suspect it is not much power, and that he is guided by people much smarter than he is. He is largely a puppet, and a lightning rod. He attracts all the adoration of the progressives, and all the hatred of the right wing. He is an excellent distraction, for while people focus on him, they are not seeing what else is happening in the country, nor considering other problems of governance. And I suspect that every time he and his foibles are trotted out for full media coverage, behind the scenes rapine is afoot across the land.
The Coward’s image is carefully maintained. Indeed, if it appears he is not following the script, he is quickly removed from the public eye, such as the Trucker Convoy protests earlier this year in which he had asymptomatic FAUXVID by coincidence, just when it was clearly time for him to actually speak to protesters. Since the Liberal party had no clue how that might go, they simply kept him under wraps.
The Liberals have spent billions of dollars of government money to build and maintain his image, and will likely continue spending when he is no longer Prime Minister to maintain that image, just like they do with his father. There are still glimpses, every once in a while, of the man behind the persona. No one likes what they see.
Most folks who talk about Trudeau acknowledge that upon his victory in 2015 he was entirely unqualified to be Prime Minister. Being a ski instructor and drama teacher, and failing at both, did not make him Prime Ministerial material. However, many I talk to think he is doing a good job now, largely because he is accepted as nothing more than a talking head and seems to be good at it. Most agree that he is in charge of very little, and if he were that would be disastrous. His continued rhetoric around social justice issues has resulted in these issues becoming worse, not better. Never has the country, to my mind, been more divided along racial, social, class and regional lines. (At least not since the reign of his father, Pierre.)
Most of what Trudeau actually implements on his own initiative has very little impact. (For instance, the Trucker protests ran for weeks enduring only left-wing slights from Trudeau. They were actually broken up after private companies obtained injunctions in Ontario, and President Biden called the boy and told him to use his government’s emergency powers to shut the protests down.) Legislation which he claims to have driven is mostly a show, and large amounts of the money his government spends goes to grants, NGOs, and government departments, largely to be spent on reports and ‘conversations’. Not to mention his own blatant gifts to African nations, as barely disguised bribes for votes on a UN Security Counsel seat for Canada, which he nonetheless failed to obtain. And yet, it appears Canada and its political parties are content to resign themselves to his rule until it finally peters out. Perhaps it is the acknowledgement that while the country is in decline, its clearly not Trudeau himself who is responsible.
Onto the anthology. What makes Ending Bigly, Eh? a profound work is the implicit acknowledgements of these realities. The end met by Trudeau in the stories is often not a death, but rather, the end of his carefully crafted image, either public, or in his own mind. The stories about the future of Canada itself have little focus on Trudeau, but rather point to the resentments and forces currently undiscussed in Canada which could potentially boil over and destabilize the country in the future. These writings, while irreverent and full of the edgy, twisted fiction that Terror House is known for, provides a window into the Canadian psyche.
In that light, understanding that the Trudeau we see today is nothing more than a public image, I am calling the story Ending With Fidelity as the most likely scenario for Trudeau’s end. The actor finally finds his true home.
As noted by stained hanes in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Diaspora, Canada is largely not united, with vast cultural differences a mari usque ad mare. Resentments towards other provinces, and especially to central Canada and Ottawa in particular abound up here. I would not treat a Pit Bull the same as a Chihuahua. That is a grave error to make anytime, and so it is with Canadians from different provinces as well. Sketches’ compliment is The Canada Model Drowns In Honking, an actual look at the federal regime in Ottawa, how it developed, and what the Trucker Convoy protests revealed about it.
The fictional accounts of Trudeau’s end are fun, sometimes outrageous, and often creeping into…creepy (Seven Needles, The Awakening, The Press Conference, and MK-ULTR-EH). The ones about the fate of Canada as a nation are not (Ending Calmly, Bad Luck Streak…, ‘Deny, Exploit, Corrupt, or Destroy‘, Tegart’s Trek, ‘Oh No, Canada!’) . They are scary possibilities, more because authorities in Canada ACT AS IF scenarios such as these are a very real possibility. And sometimes, when the people in charge think things are going to hell, or show a preference for creating hell, that is enough to actually make it so. And, I am fond for the quick adaptation of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, to Trudeau’s fortunes (The Crimes of the Ancient Minister). Tellingly, Death and Night-mare Life in Death cannot even be bothered to show up much less play dice for this fool’s soul.
All told then, what we have is an expose of two things lying under the surface in Canada. On one hand, the authors are trying to expose what Justin Trudeau actually is, based on occasional glimpses from behind his facade, by describing what end he will meet, and usually, the end he deserves. The other is the resentments, grievances and governance issues that are destabilizing Canada, now buried by media and government alike in Canada under accusations of the bigotry flavour-of-the-week. Trying to keep a lid on what lurks under the surface, briefly exposed in the pages of End Bigly, Eh? is going to end up costing Canada a lot. The book manages to provide a few road maps of the potential fracturing of the nation, the implosion of Trudeau, and it’s also a lot of quirky weird fun too.
My copy was a reviewer’s copy provided for free by Terror House. It is available through Terror House, and also through Amazon.
It is, in part, a history of intrigues, conflict, and diplomacy, primarily between the Russian and the British Empires, along with many others, in Asia, and in particular, central Asia.
It is also so full of fantastic and astounding tales that I do not believe can be true.
I knew very little about the history of Asia, especially the modern ‘Stan’ countries, and so I grabbed this book on a lark. I used to think that Kipling’s poems and stories about this region were fantastic, more fables, meant to teach us lessons about failing at colonizing that which cannot be colonized. Turns out Kipling was restrained in his storytelling.
The book begins with the premise that Britain (by East India Company control), had the rich resources of India, and considered it a crown jewel in their Empire. Russia and France coveted India at the same time, for their own gain and to weaken Britain. Thus central Asia became a focus, in particular for the Czars and Czarinas, as ways for the Russian Empire to project force and expand territory and make their way to India. First up in the book is Napoleon, who ventures into Egypt and Asia are explained by his alleged desire to go all the way to India. I’ve not heard this reason for his efforts in Egypt before, so I’m not sure how much credence to give it.
The antagonist in this book to Britain is Russia. Most of the book deals with their Asian intrigues during the 19th century. Russia had good reasons to want to subdue central Asia, given the 13th century invasion by Mongols, which they had not forgotten. Also, this was territory on their frontiers which they wanted to stabilize, and they were also working against other regional powers, such as the Persians and Ottomans, who had control over parts of the Caspian and Black Seas, which were important for transportation at the time. And of course, there were aspirations to invade India, and obtain its riches for their own empire.
Russia and Britain never actually fought in central Asia during this period, their only military encounter in the Crimean War, which the book only briefly covers. Rather, they largely used strategic missions of exploration and diplomacy, allying and falling out with local Emirs, Khans, and other warlords in attempts to control the territory in the region, with Afghanistan being the focus. However, sometimes military incursions also took place, often justified as attempts to liberate Russians who had been taken as slaves, and by the British for defence of India. Although, sometimes for revenge against local rulers who had dealt harshly with foreigners.
The stars of the book are the men who led expeditions and armies across these hostile territories. They were often government or military men, travelling in disguise (for fear of being executed as spies, or worse), having learned several languages (and picking up a few along the way). They suffer greatly as they must pass through parched deserts and some of the world’s highest mountain passes. Access to food, forage and water was often severely limited. The distances between oasis and villages could be hundreds of miles. The weather was hostile, and travel is limited due to the harshness of the winter, where snow could build up to a man’s neck in a short time. Local tribes made a living on raiding at that time, and it was unknown what kind of reception they would get from the local Khan or Emir when they arrived. They might be killed, imprisoned, enslaved, ransomed, or greeted warmly as an emissary of the great Queen Victoria or Czar Alexander. Armies and garrisons stationed at various locations were often living in fear that at any moment, the local ruler would turn against them, and slaughter would follow. The tales of these men, their abilities, and what they suffered, seem absolutely fantastic, and most certainly embellished. However, they are very compelling, and given the geopolitics of the region today, must on some level be true.
Hopkirk’s verdict is that the Russians won the Great Game. While Britain did manage to retain India, the Russians managed to expand their empire in central Asia all the way to Afghanistan, where the Wakhan Corridor was set-up to keep the Russians and British separated (it now separates Tajikistan from Pakistan). Modern Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan were all carved from Russian territory taken in this period.
The Great Game was written in 1990, when the Soviet Union was about to collapse and break apart, and many of the ‘Stan’ nations mentioned above were formed and now govern central Asia. They retain strong ties to Russia to this day. If you’ve ever wondered how and why the Russians came to control this territory, and Britain’s moves to counter them north of India, this is your book. If you just want to read gripping, fantastic, and harrowing adventure stories, and tales of political intrigue, you will not be disappointed.
Going way back to the Last Psychiatrist’s last post, where he provides a good theory on how all the outrage preserves a system which benefits the powerful. Want to know who runs the system: look at who is not touched by it.
In The Odyssey, Penelope says to her suitors that he who bends Ulysses’ bow and fires an arrow through twelve axes can take the place of her absent husband as King of Ithaca. All fail, except for Ulysses, then in disguise.
James Froude named his book after this legend, as he pondered who would be able to string the bow of the West Indies and the Greater Antilles: the islands from Trinidad in the south, to Cuba in the north. A post colonial world order was beginning to emerge in the late 19th century, and Froude pondered where these islands would fit into it. Bow of Ulysses (1888) is a journal of his visit to the islands, of his observations of the region, its peoples, circumstances, and the challenges it and Britain faced as the Empire waned.
James Froude aspired to join the clergy early in life, but later became an English writer of note and a historian. He is known for his controversial history of writer Thomas Carlyle. He seems to have been a man to speak his mind, which he certainly demonstrated in Bow of Ulysses.
Most of the book is pleasant, discussing his travels, people he meets, sites he sees, observations on the flora fauna, and also on the economies and political and social structures of the islands he visits. It is quite interesting and I recommend it on that basis alone. But, he does pause at times to discuss the future of the islands and the British Empire, which is where the real thinking occurs, and also, controversy. Froude was a very observant and inquisitive man, engaging many of his fellow travelers and colonials in conversation about their current economic and political situations.
Froude comes around to a theory of development of these islands. He notes that the British fought various other colonial powers (France, Spain, and the Netherlands) for possession of some of these islands, and that most remain tied to the European’s that still or did control them. Everywhere he went, he felt that if the colonial power had maintained a presence on the island, it was doing well and flourishing, but where the colonies were neglected (or in the case of Haiti, had become independent through outright slaughter), the islands were sinking into desuetude.
To Froude, the reason for this decay was that the local populations were largely of West African descent, progeny of slaves that Great Britain had brought to the islands to work on plantations. Later, Great Britain abolished slavery and they were freed. He comments that their descendants seemed content with subsistence living on small plots of land, and not interested in highly organized society, government, or large scale agriculture. Froude was not advocating for slavery, but was concerned that emancipation had extended to natural hierarchies:
Nature has made us unequal, and Acts of Parliament cannot make us equal. Some must lead and some must follow, and the question is only of degree and kind. For myself, I would rather be the slave of a Shakespeare or a Burghley than the slave of a majority in the House of Commons or the slave of my own folly. Slavery is gone, with all that belonged to it; but it will be an ill day for mankind if no one is to be compelled any more to obey those who are wiser than himself, and each of us is to do only what is right in our own eyes.
Froude then laments the fate of these little island nations. Haiti appears to be a lost cause to him, observing the settlements as an odd contradiction of filthy and unsanitary, while trying to maintain the elegance of French culture. Havana (his only stop in Cuba) is still under the influence of Spain, and he considers it heavily Europeanized, and better off for it. He worried though about how Britain treated its holdings in the West Indies.
In his home country, Froude observed that the rule of the day was individualism, and every man must stand on his own. Britain’s attitude to her colonies was that they should stand on their own strength as well. This works fine for English colonies run by English people. He felt that if the islands could be ruled like India was at the time they could be much improved. After all, the English had settled New Zealand and Australia (practically the antipodes of Europe) and had established thriving European-type nations their as well. However, for the West African transplants he held no low opinion, but he argued they could not maintain European institutions because they were not European. It was not in their nature, he thought, to value and preserve a European way of life.
Finally, Froude laments that neglect of her colonial interests would reduce the British Empire’s standing throughout the world, leading to its denigration. He acknowledges that the course Britain has chosen with her colonies is a kind of benign neglect. Correcting this mistake would require much hard work, but could be done for the benefit of all. He ends on a this note though:
So end the reflections which I formed there from what I saw and what I heard. I have written as an outside observer unconnected with practical politics, with no motive except a loyal pride in the greatness of my own country, and a conviction, which I will not believe to be a dream, that the destinies have still in store for her a yet grander future. The units of us come and go; the British Empire, the globe itself and all that it inherits, will pass away as a vision.
The Bow of Ulysses I have was free from Amazon, for Kindle. There are free copies at archive.org and Gutenberg as well.
The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your ealdormen and thegns, while the fire blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.