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C08P30 – Doubts by Design

C08P30 – Doubts by Design published on 47 Comments on C08P30 – Doubts by Design

Ken Burns’ Documentary “The Civil War” is currently on Netflix. Cory and I have been watching it. It’s the first time I’ve seen it. Most of my education on United States History focused on the American Revolution, so I’m relatively ignorant about this particular part of the past. What I’d been taught was that it was NOT a war about emancipation, but state’s rights. The concept I’ve found the most interesting, as presented by the series, is that while the war may have begun about the division of the Union, what it eventually became was an event that defined what “freedom” truly meant in this nation. For whom did freedom exist? What began, in the north, as a political war eventually became a war for a higher ideal. Granted, the aftermath did not result in equality, but on some level this war embedded the concept of freedom firmly into the cultural mind, and I think it is on this basis that further advancements were made. And continue to be made.

What’s been the most shocking to learn is the horrific incompetence that plagued the north’s generals. In particular, I found George B. McClellan’s constant delay, avoidance, and hesitance to be appalling. The numbers of altercations that were lost due to inaction, or the amount of times that the war might have ended had he simply chosen to act, saving tens of thousands of lives, is astounding. To the point where one has to wonder if the man was actually working for the other side. I kept thinking that people like McClellan are the reason that Shakespeare’s Hamlet still remains timeless. There is a time for prudence and a time for action, but agonizing between the two, letting the world collapse around you, is rarely anything but disastrous. On the other hand, had he not drawn out the war so long, it might not have transitioned into a war for freedom. It might have stayed a war for unification, wherein the President had promised not to join the abolitionists. The Civil War could have ended years earlier, with slavery unchanged, a specter to rise up later in a different form, and the principal of freedom rendered a weak shadow.

I wish history had been presented in a more engaging way when I was growing up — although, to be fair, it was usually one of the more enjoyable subjects — but with the focus on dates, I often missed the stories. The wonders of coincidence, with their intricate, often impenetrable web of cause-and-effect events. The many ways one event can be seen, and how the picture shifts depending on the lens through which it is viewed.

What’s your favorite period in world history? What are the most interesting or surprising things you’ve learned about it?

47 Comments

Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

I recently learned that the Spanish Inquisition was the Spanish govetnment rooting out spies, and had nothing to do with the Catholic Church. The Spanish government employed religion to root out the spys, but the Church did not endorse it once they figured out what was really going on.

That’s interesting, and not a perspective I have heard before. I’d heard it was more about targeting Jews and Muslims, to consolidate worship to one faith. What entities was the government concerned were spying on them, and for what purpose? And may I ask the source of the information? It might be interesting to research further.

I don’t know as much as I would like to know yet (I’m asking my parents for a book on this stuff for my birthday.) The second video on this page entitled “Anti-Catholic Myths” talks about the Spanish Inquisition and some other stuff: http://www.vericast.net/videos/ The best part is that he encourages people to do more research.

It’s awesome that you’re excited about researching a historical event! One of the most important things I took away from my history classes was to always research not only events, but sources, and consider every event from a variety of perspectives. It’s fantastic that Vericast has ignited an interest, and great that they have a unique perspective to add. However, they’re also expressly pro-Catholic in their perspective, which means they have a vested interest in presenting history in a pro-Catholic way. Doesn’t mean that’s bad, or that they’re wrong. They could be 100% correct! Still, to get to a comprehensive view of the events, many, many sources should be considered, and their reasons for presenting the information in a particular way examined just as critically as their account. I’d be really interested in learning what you conclude after your research. Especially if you can find some first-hand accounts from people during the time period itself. I bet that would be fascinating!

Yeah, I’ve been watching Vericast for a while now and I know they use a range of sources. Tim, the guy in the video, says that he got tired of apologizing for the Spanish Inquisition when he was 14, and has been researching ever since. I’m going to do my own research, but as far as I’m concerned, Vericast know what they are talking about.

Also, thank you for being respectful. I just “debated” three people online that talked down to me, called me naive, and wouldn’t even look at my sources because they were “biased.” As if there is a single source that exists that has no bias whatsoever. *Takes a deep breath* I managed to stay civil. (I think they took me being civil as me not seeing their meanness, and only made them meaner.)

If you are interested in more about the Civil War, there’s a journalist whose blog is worth reading through. He’s Ta-Nehisi Coates, http://www.theatlantic.com/ta-nehisi-coates/, and he writes for the Atlantic. He’s not a Civil War historian at all, but it’s a part of history he’s very interested in, and his blog is full of interesting and useful links, facts, and stories. One thing I like about his blog in particular is that his comment section is sane, rational, and contributes greatly to discussions, often bringing in information of interest that wouldn’t have been considered.

This is a good start for his work on this subject, as it has links to much of his other writings: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/the-civil-war-isnt-tragic/266062/. But his whole blog is worth reading, I find.

I’m absolutely obsessed with anything and everything from the start of civilization (so like right when Egyptians/Mesopotamians/Chinese people were beginning to put together a country) up until the end of the Medieval period. One of the more interesting things that I found out was that there are still entire civilizations back during the early time periods (like 2000-1000 BC) that we have no idea about, mostly because we can’t begin to decipher how their written language. It’s because of things like that, and the destruction of available records. The worst example is when Spanish ‘missionaries’ to meso-america destroyed hundreds of years of culture and history. Thanks to their destructive actions we have no idea about a lot of middle american history… Of course that’s kind of a permanent frustration for me…

One of the things that’s always fascinated me is cultures that accomplished something that, to this day, we can’t figure out how it was done. The mystery of that always draws me in! That a language could be lost, turned into a code we cannot crack, is just amazing. Tragic, but amazing. That means that it may have followed a structure that no known language today uses. I wonder how such a culture might think differently? Would they approach concepts from a different perspective than we do? Language so often seems a reflection of culture. It would be amazing to know more about those that cannot be decoded.

My personal favorite time periods are: The Civil War, the Holocaust and WWII in general, and the American Revolution. They were certainly turbulent times in world history, but I take pride in being a buff in the aforementioned areas. What I love most is reading inspiring stories about people who–despite the overwhelmingly dangerous situation they were in–risked life, limb and liberty (especially during the Holocaust!) to bring people to safety/end serious miscarriages of justice. I also enjoy studying mission trips to native tribes, more specifically mission trips that protected the villages from Merchantilist nations. I guess it gives me hope for humanity.

I’m breaking my rule about commenting twice on one page, but I like the leader’s sigh of resignment when the flames go out, as if they realized just how hopeless the situation seemed. I hope this means they’re having a change of heart, because I’m a sucker for come-to-Jesus-moments (even if they are a bit cliche)
I know I’m probably an idiot for asking, but what gender is the leader? I’ve seen them referred to as both.

The confusion is probably arising because there is a Chief and then a council of elders.

Chief Nikel is the head of the village. He has a council of three other people (we first met them here). The woman to the far right is the person that came to collect Zhiro after they’d been locked up. These are two separate people, but folks have been mixing them up. Clearly, I need to improve my character design skills. 🙂

Surprisingly enough, after reading a different possible civilizations, mostly in the dawn of civilization and outside of Europe, I’ve became interested in Europe’s Early Modern period. In fact, that’s what my other obsession – steam trains and then steampunk – has transformed into.

It actually has to do with what you’ve been writing about American Civil War, about the turns of history: that, possibly, was not the war that long and has not so many lives been sacrificed, the slavery could have persisted.

My idea was – what if the Industrial Revolution hasn’t happen. And that led to a question – what could have happened, or not happened, that there was no Industrial Revolution, that the humanity had “no need” in it. And then I’ve had an idea for a novel, placed in such a world. And then it appeared, that the things I’ve though were abstract and well known have too much relevance to what’s going on in the world around. And that made me eager to learn even more of that epoch, that precedes ours.

So, right now, XVI-XIX century. But currently I’m reading about the art in High Middle Ages.

That sounds like a very interesting basis for a story! The world would be a very different place without the Industrial Revolution. One of the things in current events that I find both intriguing and disturbing is watching a lot of third-world countries industrialize. Every time I talk something over with Cory and shake my head asking, “How could people do this?” he responds, “Our culture went through the same kinds of growing pains when we industrialized. It’s just long ago enough that we can pretend it never happened.”

Like many students of Japanese history and language, I’ve got a bit of a flirtation with the Meiji Restoration period. It’s interesting to see how foreign actions lit a match under the existing tinder, and had it bite them in the ass a century later (the Pacific theater of WW2 can pretty easily be traced back to the Black Ships and everything they set in motion).
I find the Occupation period of Japanese history fascinating, as well. But you can get me to read about just about any period of history of anywhere. Except maybe American history. Having to study it in American schools as a displaced Canadian was incredibly frustrating.
P.S. Ken Burns makes slick documentaries, but they are alas, not always as broad or accurate as they seem at first glance. His “Jazz” favors male musicians to the point that you are led to believe there were only 3 women in jazz. Or that there are no non-American jazz musicians in the history of ever. I started watching one on a topic I was particularly versed in recently, and had to stop before I threw something at my t.v..

Unfortunately, as with all presentations of historical events, things are going to be left out. Particularly with documentaries, which pull out a narrative thread to build things on. Material that doesn’t fit the narrative is removed, giving an incomplete picture. Still, they can be a great, accessible, place to start learning. If a person wants to be knowledgeable, tho, that requires loooooots of research. Mmm…primary sources…

Again, gorgeous panel. I may have to start stealing your paneling ideas. XD

The funny thing about war is that sometimes the weather also plays a big part in the success of battles. My military historian father always talks about battles that were won because the weather just happened to be on the winner’s side. And sometimes these battles turned the tide or won the war.

Personally, I have a fondness for Heian Japan and the Age of Sail (not surprising, considering my comic XD).

THe problem I’ve found with public school history, or in general, is the lack of context. Sure they will give a nod to it when talking about people like Benedict Arnold, but at no time are you taught how to draw conclusions. It’s a series of dates and events and how the whole web of things may or may not work together is never addressed. Why Prohabition, what were the other political events going on at the time that made it happen the way it did? Or at all. A group of people lobby is not any where near the depth or breadth of it. What was going on in the rest of the world at the time that might have had influence, what influence did it have on the world if any? And not the damn rote answers for the freaking standardized testing please! Get me into the nitty gritty, the dirty politics and character/literal assasinations. If people realized history is more like watching a Kardashian show and less boring drabble the world would be a better place.

I’ve never really understood the fixation with making history a dry, date-driven subject. Outside of an easy test question. Of all the subjects in school, History should be one of the most lively, engaging subjects. It’s grounded in the real world, with real problems, this should be easy to relate to! I mean, it’s got STORY right in the title, right? And the characters often are just as quirky and eccentric as the craziest bit of fiction. Yet it always seems to be Timeline this, Battle that, Title those.

Ooh, I love the Civil War. Especially because people so often frame it incorrectly. (“State’s rights” is code for “we want to pretend it wasn’t all about slavery/that the south actually had a good cause to fight for.”) Does the documentary mention all the neat little fragmentation that happened? Dividing America by the Mason-Dixon line missed a lot. IIRC, a little town in Louisiana declared its independence from the Union *and* the Confederacy, and a few states on the border did weird stuff too.

I’m really interested in the history of African empires, although I haven’t found any good sources. It makes me sad when people mention them only to say, “They sold other Africans into slavery.” I mean, Egypt. Nubia. Bros. There’s good stuff there.

ok…seriously guy…If you ask the god of light and fire if you are making the right decision…and every single light-source near you goes out…that prolly means you done screwed up son!

Or that the fuel ran out. Small sticks don’t burn very long. …Now, if his head had burst into flames, that might have been more convincing. 😉

I just recently found this comic via an ad on deviantArt. I’ve spent the last couple days reading it, sometimes two or three chapters a day. This is a beautiful comic, with an deep and interesting story and awesome characters. You’ve really spent time world-building and it shows through in your work, as does you love for this project. It always pleases me to find a good webcomic, and this is one of the better ones…it’s now in my top five favourite webcomics. My favourite character is Pakku, but I love Tama, Kali, Zhiro, and Mizha just as much. The cultures and rich and I want to know more about them…but more importantly, I want to learn more about the story. Keep up the awesome work!

Clearly the dying flames in his shrine are a sign that he should ‘snuff out the flames’ of his prisoners. Yup. That’s how divination is done. Ask any soothsayer and they’ll deny it. And that’s how you know it’s true. See? It works for everything! 😀

I heard about the incompetence of the generals of the north when I listened to History According to Bob, but I have since forgotten all the details. Names and battles just tend to blend together, and it’s hard to get a strategic overview without visuals. I definitely prefer it when he tells stories about people rather than battles. He’s done with the American Civil War though, so for those stories you’d have to buy one (or more) of his CDs. The podcasts from the last month or two are available for free though. So start listening/downloading today! 😉

As for the “states’ rights” thing, I just watched a Crash Course US History video on YouTube, where John Greene repeated the question his younger self got from his teacher: “A state’s rights to what, Sir?” (Slavery! Apparently…)

In 7th grade, which is where we covered the civil war, we divided the class into the House of Reps and debated the actual issues under discussion prior to the civil war. While several of them did relate to slavery, directly or indirectly, I do remember being surprised at the number of issues that didn’t (I don’t remember what the issues were, just that I was surprised). So I don’t think that the States Rights question should be thrown out entirely. Just balanced with the issue of slavery, since it was a continued problem since the compromises made for the American Revolution. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of the two most popular narratives being taught.

Conscidering every one is talking to the God himself right now, I find this doubt in the Doubt Giver kind of frustrating. Not that any one else knows! But still! I’ve always had a soft spot for trickster gods because they so often seem to have a bigger plan in mind.

I think what a lot of people miss about tricksters is they are rarely good or evil in easy, binary terms. They exist to challenge, to make a person think or approach a problem in a way they’re not used to. If a person can adapt, they usually can survive a trickster. If not, then it’s rarely the trickster that does them in, but their own limitations. BUT, since people don’t like to blame themselves for their own short-comings, trickster spirits are often considered evil. Whereas “amoral” is far more accurate than “immoral.”

Genghis Khan is known for all kinds of stuff, but what I find absolutely awesome is the fact that he managed to force different factions to work together. Before that, the Chinese emporer had a lot of issues, because he had thousands of troops, hundreds of clans, that came to his beck and call, but refused to work together, with each other, because of this rivalry or that grudge, so were essentially useless. Genghis Khan was the first man to force many clans to work together, to orchestrate not only the largest army up until that point, but an army twice, thrice, four times as big as his enemy’s.

Gee, asking me to pick my favorite historical period is like asking me to pick my favorite pizza or my favorite ice cream. There’s some I don’t like as much but putting one of the ones I do like on top is far, far too difficult – and there’s too many areas that I haven’t ‘tasted’ yet to really say.

My historical interests were shaped a lot by my dad, so what I know the most about and what I’m most interested in are his favorites – WWII, Civil War, and Medieval, not necessarily in that order (though he loves the Revolution and it never really interested me much). I’ve developed a fascination with the history of feudal Japan, and the various periods of English history are starting to catch my fancy. Prehistory, too, has always fascinated me – dinosaurs, the rise of mankind, the ice ages – and the civil rights movement is also right up my alley. Lots of ancient cultures interest me as well, and the history of myth and the myths of history also intrigue me, thins like Atlantis and El Dorado, the Greco-Roman gods (Ancient Roman history is a semi-specialty, since I took three years of Latin – the Latin only partially stuck but the history stayed with me)

Aaah Myths!! Myths-as-history is something that fascinates me. I have a book on Greek myth that dives into the historical context of each story. Suddenly, Apollo killing the Python becomes one tribe overcoming another. Gods become forces of nature, or armies on the move. All events, codified and passed down through oral histories until the original occurrences are lost, and have taken on a life of their own.

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