Category Archives: History

Learning from the past

Learning from “Fort Apache”, recovering our past.

Summary: One reason we’ve become weak is our amnesia about American history, to an astonishing extent overlaid by myths and falsehoods. Some of our best classics can help us recover this lost knowledge. Oddly, these are often despised due to our indoctrination to believe they are all myth and propaganda. In today’s post, a retired philosopher reviews Fort Apache — one of the greatest westerns.


Review of “Fort Apache”

Directed by John Ford.
Staring Henry Fonda, John Wayne, and Shirley Temple.
RKO Pictures (1948).

By Kelley L. Ross, posted at Friesian.
Re-posted with his generous permission.


One expects John Ford’s classic western Fort Apache to exhibit the typical mindless racism of other western movies of its era. Indeed, the Turner Classic Movies version begins with an introduction that, among other things, warns the viewer that the image of American Indians presented in the movie is not “politically correct.” The host perhaps had not actually watched the movie, for Fort Apache is definitely not what one expects and, politically correct or not, the American Indians it presents to the viewer are not the sort that are typical in other movies.

The movie centers around Henry Fonda’s character of Lt. Col. Thursday. Thursday is a martinet, a bigot, and a fool–not the kind of character we usually see Henry Fonda playing. His assignment at Fort Apache, he makes clear, is beneath his abilities. He thinks he should be off fighting serious Indians, like the Sioux, and he totally ignores the warnings of Capt. York (John Wayne) that he should not underestimate the Apache warriors they may have to face in battle. Thursday doesn’t learn better until it is far too late.

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This New Year, let’s resolve to face the future with care, not fear

Summary: Sometime during the past few generations we lost our traditional confidence in ourselves. Fear replaced it. It makes us weak and easy to manipulate. Fortunately our fears are exaggerated, and our history gives us reason for confidence. Let’s shed our fears to make a great 2017!



Climate change, peak oil, 4GW, social decay, ecological collapse, economic collapse, pandemics of new and old diseases — the list rolls on. It’s the Crisis Crisis, with the doomsters dominating our news. Every day they make readers ask “How can civilization survive until next week?” But for thousands of generations humanity has confronted such serious problems as we climbed from scavengers to become the dominant species on this planet. It’s been a long climb.

Early Victorian London was one of the world’s greatest cities, one of the first modern cities. Its people lived closer to nature than those of today’s London. Their food was “organic”, since the agrichemicals industry — with its artificial preservatives, colorings, and other adulterants — had not been invented.

“The groaning tables on Victorian Christmas cards groaned beneath platters of food that would be condemned as unfit by modern health officials. …In 1842 a royal commission found that the average professional man lived thirty years; the average laborer, seventeen.”

— From William Manchester’s The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory.

Fantastic progress in technology changed people’s lives to health, affluence, and security most of us in the West enjoy today. It has spread. In Ian Fleming’s 1955 novel Moonraker, MI6’s secret agent 0011 vanished into the “Dirty half-mile” of Singapore; today Singapore citizens consider US cities to be as crime-ridden holes compared to their well-run city-state.

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Good news: the singularity approaches!

Support: Amidst the gloom that envelopes both Left and Right, evidence grows that another discontinuity in history approaches — a singularity. If so, it will evaporate many of today’s problems and create new ones. Only aware eyes and open minds can prepare for what is coming. This is another in this week’s posts about good news.



  1. The singularity in our distant past.
  2. The singularity that just ended.
  3. About singularities.
  4. We see the singularity that lies ahead.
  5. Works about the singularity.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  The singularity in our distant past

The great singularities lie in our past. For a fun illustration of this see some “Early Holocene Sci-fi” by Pat Mathews.

Shaman:  I have foreseen a time when everybody can have all the meat, fat, and sweet stuff they can eat, and they all get fat.

Chief:        You have had a vision of the Happy Hunting Grounds.

Shaman:  It is considered a great and horrible problem! People go out of their way to eat leaves and grass and grains, and work very hard to look lean and brown.

Chief:        You’ve been eating too many of those strange mushrooms, and are seeing everything backward.

There have been several singularities in our past. Consider these awesome accomplishments of our species, each of which radically changed our world: discovery of fire (giving us power over the environment), agriculture (giving us control over our food supply), and writing (allowing accumulation of knowledge over time).

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A Christmas gift to us from George Washington

Summary: For Christmas we interrupt our usual warnings for a reminder about an event from our past that still can inspire us today. America was created by the Founders’ bets against long odds, conditions far whose than those we whine about today. Regular service will resume tomorrow. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas peace

A real Christmas story, for which Americans should be grateful

Here is a Christmas story known to few Americans, which should be read by all:  Washington’s Gift by Thomas Fleming in the Wall Street Journal, 24 December 2007 — “Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.”  A copy appears at the David Gold website.

“There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington — his refusal to take absolute power — that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today’s world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America’s eight-year struggle for independence.

“The story begins with Gen. Washington’s arrival in Annapolis, Md., on December 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace — just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for General Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress — without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.

“Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers — especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him ‘The Great Illustrissimo’ — a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.

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Trump and the 1% lead America back to its past, to its dark roots

Summary: Look to the past to see the future of the Trump revolution. That means seeing through the half-truths of both the doomsters and the panglossians. Here’s a brief look at the bad news and the good news. Draw your own conclusions.

Donald Trump's Revolution

The Trump “revolution” is a moment in the wave of history carrying the US to the right. Most Americans do not understand because of their amnesia about our history. Much of what we love about America was true only for a moment. Most of American history is dark. Slavery of Africans. Treaty-breaking, enslavement, and genocide of American Indians. Colonial wars. The long destruction of the craftsman and farming classes. The centralization of power and wealth in the 1%.

Our history is too dark; we do not want to see it. So we manufactured myths to replace facts. We cheer the triumph of “John Wayne in Chisum, the opposite of actual sad events in the Lincoln County War (the cavalry arrived to help the bad guys, as it so often did).

The post-WWII era was an anomaly in our history, a new beginning created by the fires of the Great Depression and WWII. The campaign rhetoric about American exceptionalism, our role as a force for good in the world, our love of social mobility and equality — all was true (in the incomplete fashion of the real world) for a few decades after WWII. Now we have the inevitable counter-revolution, a reversion to the mean of America driven by the immeasurable power and wealth of the 1%. Beginning in the 1970’s they laid plans, which they have lavishly funded and skillfully executed.

I have written warnings about this since 2003. Commenters overwhelmingly said I was exaggerating our danger. Now my predictions appear on the front pages as generations of progress are erased. The 1% has built its political power for four decades; now they have begun to use it. Mother Nature does not care about right and wrong; the 1% deserve to win by her cold logic. Slow and stupid are sins she always punishes.

The old America is resurgent: rule by the exploitative plutocracy backed by domestic force, with an unprincipled and extractive foreign policy. They have just begun to reshape America.

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Martin van Creveld shares a lifetime of insights

Summary: Martin van Creveld is one of our generation’s leading military historians, whose insights illuminate the some of the major trends of our time. His new book sums up a lifetime of observation and thought, especially about the use of history to understand the present and future.

Clio & Me

Available at Amazon as a Kindle ebook.


Martin van Creveld discusses his new book:
Clio & Me: An Intellectual Autobiography.
Now a Kindle ebook; hard copy soon.
Posted from his website with permission.

Relatives, friends, students, colleagues, and journalists have often asked me what I see in the study of history, particularly military history, and how I ever got into that esoteric field. I always answered as best I could, but never thought I would try to put my answer down in writing. In my family people only write their memoirs when they are very old and ready to go, which I am not (yet).

Years ago, my stepson and best friend, Jonathan Lewy, was bitten by the scholarship bug. As an undergraduate student of history at Hebrew University, he read Marc Bloch’s The Historian’s Craft, which, as he was not slow to point out, was written when Bloch was exactly as old as I was in 2003. Jonathan has often asked me why I did not try to produce a similar work, and I have often evaded the question even in my own mind.

Jonathan, who in the meantime earned his PhD and did a post-doc at Harvard, is nothing if not persistent. But I did not want to produce yet another volume on the philosophy of history and the technique of teaching it. Instead, I decided I would try to answer the above questions, and others like them, by writing an intellectual autobiography.

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See free speech crushed at Tufts today. Remember 1964, when we were wild & untamed…

Summary: Every month brings new stories of America’s liberties eroding away, and our passive acceptance.  This Halloween brings an especially pitiful example. To understand how far we have fallen, compare the behavior of college students today to that during a famous incident fifty years ago. Sad, but we can change. We will be what we choose to be.

“Guilt only dreads Liberty of Speech, which drags it out of its lurking Holes, and exposes its Deformity and Horror to Day-light.”
— “Of Freedom of Speech, That the Same is inseparable from Publick Liberty“, one of Cato’s Letters by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, 4 February 1720.

Indian maiden costume

A criminal dressed for Halloween.

“We were Americans once…”

The first Boomers turn 70 this year; the last turn 52. What have the Boomers become? What have they done to America? What kind of children have they raised? First look at today’s news, then at what the Boomers were in the first stirrings of their strength.

A letter from leaders of Tufts Multicultural Greek Council, Panhellenic Council, Inter-Fraternity Council, and Inter-Greek Council warns fraternities about the penalties of wearing politically incorrect Halloween costumes. It was publicized in a post by Jake Goldberg of Students Advocating for Students. The letter quotes the Dean of Student Affairs, Mary Pat McMahon, threatening students (bold emphasis in original).

“The range of response for students whose actions make others in our community feel threatened or unsafe, or who direct conduct towards others that is offensive or discriminatory, includes OEO {Office of Equal Opportunity} and/or TUPD investigation and then disciplinary sanctions from our office that could run a wide gamut depending on what is brought to our attention and the impact of these actions on others. Any complaints will result in full investigation by University officials and could result in serious disciplinary sanctions through Judicial Affairs.”

Jake Goldberg of SAS points out the absurdity and illegality of this oppressive action.

“Given that the standard of guilt for a violation of this policy relies on an entirely subjective evaluation — was the complainant offended? — there is no way for students responding to accusations of such a violation to prove their innocence.

“This problem is even further exacerbated due to the fact that the policy itself outwardly states that whether or not a student intentionally means to offend others is meaningless. A student who wears an outfit that offends somebody, yet had zero intention to do so, is just as much in violation of this policy as a student who purposefully seeks to insult others with their costume; both students stand no chance of avoiding disciplinary sanctions.

“Wearing a costume that others do not like is not a crime in a free country, especially not on a college campus ‘where freedom of expression is cherished,’ as Tufts University President Monaco has previously stated.”

This and similar outrages at other schools probably will be met with apathetic compliance. But we were not always peons. Look to our past for inspiration, when we were a vibrant and untamed people.. For example, to the Berkeley Free Speech Movement…

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