18 June 2018

Being unreasonable is the only way that we can have hope.

Arundhati Roy 

The Franconian sky on a hot June morning. If you see things the way my father expects it from me, you will of course observe the faint line defined by broken hedgerow and immediately connect this to some deeply buried forcefully forgotten knowledge acquired during years of excellent education.  And after a moment's hesitation, you turn to him and say, surely this is where the Limes was, ending your sentence with a firm note of conviction. He nods briefly and with a tiny glimmer of pride in his eyes.

Has it helped me in life to know that in the 2nd century AD the Romans build this wall across Central Europe, across Franconia? As a defence against the "Barbarians"?And that the great Roman empire collapsed when the Barbarians (the Goths, the Germanic tribes, the Huns, you name it) had enough of being treated like shit? And that the Roman economy crashed because the fat rich Romans ran out of slaves? It has.

Do I sigh in exasperation when my father repeats one of his favourite maxims, namely that history always repeats itself and that in human history, every revolution is followed by a tyrant and every tyrant is followed by a revolution? I do.


  1. Thank you once again, Sabine, for your clear voice and for sharing links to articles with insights that I may not have found otherwise.

    "... So the reader also has to deal with complexities that they are being trained not to deal with.”

    (One of the criticisms of the book I am currently reading by Daša Drndić is that she "should" have stuck to one issue in writing Trieste rather than addressing the complexity of the life under Nazi occupation. So far, the book is harrowing in the same way Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler, is harrowing regarding life in the United States in the past, present and future, causing the reader to feel the complexity viscerally and addressing the need for choices that can only be made in the present.)

    "There’s a quote from James Baldwin in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: 'And they would not believe me precisely because they would know that what I said was true'.”

    "It’s such an important place and time in which to be a writer, where you’re not burdened by the idea of soliciting people’s support. Where often it’s so important to stand alone, to be a person who expresses themselves very clearly on certain things."

    (From Daša Drndić's book and from Arundhati Roy's writing, I am understanding that although we cannot change the past, we always have the choice not to repeat it at a personal level. When enough people make that choice, history does not have to repeat itself. We are not trapped. It is true that "being unreasonable is the only way that we can have hope.")

    "So often when I think about things, yes, I do cry, but I shift between laughter and tears and anger. That’s what I meant about never stopping to be a child: you have to always be in touch with those feelings."

    -- Arundhati Roy

  2. Isn't it odd how humans just cannot seem to break the bonds of history repeating itself over and over again? How is it that we never seem to learn?

  3. Historical cycles are an uncomfortable truth. Human nature doesn't give us much hope. It is human potential that keeps us going, growing, and hoping for the best.

  4. To this unbearable cycle we add over-population and climate change, and wow do we have an amazing future to behold.

  5. I wonder if the inevitability of boom and bust is due to our human flaws, or if it's just a natural pattern? Nothing can boom for ever, and once down, it's bound to get up again.

  6. Oh how irritating parents can be. (And wouldn’t life be different if only politicians read some history!)

  7. It's time again for revolution.

  8. I needed another point of view; got it from Terry Jones, former Python:

    "The Barbarian hordes have been the victims of vicious Roman spin. In fact they wrote poetry, lived in nice houses and were kind to their old mums... My favourite Barbarians are probably the Celts because they were so caring. They looked after the elderly and the mentally ill, and they treated women very well."

    You Dad's quote needs a minor modification: "History repeats itself but usually with better weapons."

    1. Last week I visited one (of many) museum at one (of very many) Roman remain/archeological dig in Bavaria (https://www.limeseum.de/index.php/en/) and according to their findings in that part of Europe, the evidence is that it was the Romans who brought writing and reading (vellum etc.) to the local population, despite the fact that the Celts had migrated through this area - albeit much earlier.

    2. These were the opinions of an ex-Python.

    3. Anonymous21 June, 2018

      LOL, Roderick! The pythons have brougt us many good things and voices of reason. Thank you,
      Elsewhere from Amsterdam

    4. Thanks Anon. I hate soccer with a pure gem-like flame but I make an exception for the match between philosophers devised and filmed by you-know-who. "Aristotle debates (internally) the act of depriving Wittgenstein of the ball, which - epistemologically - has arrived at W's feet."

  9. empires rise and fall, some sooner than others. nice correlation to the roman empire since we are systematically expelling our 'slaves' and refusing entry to new ones. who do they think is going to do the work Americans refuse to do?

  10. There's nothing new under the sun and all is vanity and all of that, too.