Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 23:59 on 09-11-2013, Arthur B
Or perhaps to put it another way, unsuccessful attempts to resist the Nazis were not as uniformly nonviolent as they are presented as being.

It's also worth noting that small concessions and local victories don't necessarily change the large-scale picture. Yes, some German mothers were able to get the Gestapo to release their sons arrested for subversive activities through non-violent protest. Yes, large amount of Jews escaped in a range of non-violent actions like the evacuation from Denmark. That doesn't change the fact that the Jews who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising weren't exactly going to have a happy ending had they refrained from violent resistance (granted, the uprising precipitated the total liquidation of the ghetto, but that was kind of on the agenda anyway), or that there's a big difference between "obstructing someone's planned violence" and stopping them from pursuing a violent course of action in the first place. If someone is determined to kick you in the teeth no amount of persuasion is actually going to stop them making the attempt.
permalink
at 23:52 on 09-11-2013, Dan H
The New York Times tells us why Mormons can't write serious fiction.

Because there wasn't any possible way this would come across as facile or offensive. And I say this as someone who despises Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson's work.


It's tricky, because it's *almost* an interesting piece, and if it was phrased as a question of why Mormons might be more inclined to write genre fiction (which, as somebody who likes genre fiction, I don't see as being a bad thing) it would have been quite interesting. But "why is there no Mormon Shakespeare" is a much more loaded question, and the whole article does essentially wind up coming across as dismissive of both Mormonism *and* genre fiction (these people have a *silly* religion so they write *silly* books).
permalink
at 23:39 on 09-11-2013, Dan H
@Arthur: Fair enough. I've seen plenty of arguments that no, civil disobedience/nonviolent resistance doesn't actually require your opponents to empathize with you, and no, the Nazis weren't nearly as immune to nonviolent resistance as commonly portrayed.


Or perhaps to put it another way, unsuccessful attempts to resist the Nazis were not as uniformly nonviolent as they are presented as being.

I remember a while ago somebody (Alisdair?) mentioned a book called Selling the Holocaust and I was sufficiently interested to read large chunks of it on Google books. One of the things that jumped out at me was the way that armed resistance against he Nazis by Jews is consistently downplayed in European and American accounts of the war, because we're more interested in a narrative in which we swooped in and saved everybody with our spitfires and flying fortresses, while it's apparently strongly played up in Israeli accounts.

I think in general there's a tendency for most conflicts of this sort to get labelled as either violent or non-violent depending on who we are supposed to think the good guys are, and what we are supposed to think is good about them. So for example we ignore acts of violence committed in opposition to British rule in India, or Apartheid in South Africa, because we want a narrative about dignity in suffering. We strongly emphasise acts of violence committed in opposition to British rule in Northern Ireland because we either want to present (as many Americans do) a narrative of heroic struggle or (as many Brits do) a narrative of vicious terrorism. We sometimes even treat violent and non-violent forms of protest as equivalent, if the protesters are people we really don't like - a Muslim cleric who preaches against the West is seen by many people as no different to a terrorist who bombs a police station.
permalink
at 23:19 on 09-11-2013, Michal
The New York Times tells us why Mormons can't write serious fiction.

Because there wasn't any possible way this would come across as facile or offensive. And I say this as someone who despises Orson Scott Card and Brandon Sanderson's work.
permalink
at 18:30 on 09-11-2013, Robinson L
Arthur: even if nobody actually turns to banditry, how do you guarantee that at least a subset of the population won't turn around and organise themselves into a state because they genuinely believe it would yield better results?

Good question. Another issue I have with Parecon, actually, is that it's pretty homogenous, and I can't see a free/non-coercive society working without massive heterogeneity which might (or might not) include communities where people genuinely want to live by decidedly non-anarchic principles. I tend to assume that if humanity has the creativity to get itself that far, it'll have the creativity to accommodate people who want to live within a state structure while preventing them from exercising coercive force over anyone who doesn't want to (without the need for Dick's anarchist police, though that still sounds like an interesting story).

Good points about Madagascar, both.
permalink
at 18:20 on 09-11-2013, Arthur B
It's also worth noting that there's a distinction between "the recognised government of this particular state doesn't actually exert much authority in this region" and "nobody exerts any authority in this region". Coercive power as a concept doesn't go away just because the tax man doesn't visit.
permalink
at 18:13 on 09-11-2013, Shimmin
Anthropologist David Graeber has also written about present-day Madagascar, where in many parts of the country the state maintains only a token presence.

I don't pretend to be any kind of authority on Madagascar, but my brother did live in remote areas there for several years. I can say that Madagascar has its own set of problems that you probably can't divorce from state/nonstate issues, not least that subsistence farming is still widespread (which means low tax revenues for anything) and basic infrastructure is often appalling. When (I hope) these things improve, it will probably also mean a closer relationship to the state with things like taxes and infrastructure maintenance coming into the picture. As I understand it there are also tribal issues which may (or may not) become more prominent as travel and trade increase.
permalink
at 16:03 on 09-11-2013, Arthur B
The goal of any utopian movement, as I understand it, is to find a way that those values/needs are met for every person, not just some people, and then find a way to organize enough people around it to make the change happen.

And the big stumbling block is typically "what happens to the people who do not want to live in your utopian/anarchist society?"

There's the other issue with anarchism - even if nobody actually turns to banditry, how do you guarantee that at least a subset of the population won't turn around and organise themselves into a state because they genuinely believe it would yield better results? Dick's Last of the Masters scenario where you have an organised nominally "anarchist" police force that try to coercively stop people from forming governments ("It's for your own good!") seems suboptimal.
permalink
at 15:30 on 09-11-2013, Robinson L
@Arthur: Fair enough. I've seen plenty of arguments that no, civil disobedience/nonviolent resistance doesn't actually require your opponents to empathize with you, and no, the Nazis weren't nearly as immune to nonviolent resistance as commonly portrayed. I find many of these arguments convincing, but again, not going to try to convince anyone here. (And even if I were so inclined, I think the conversation would quickly grow excruciatingly dull for anyone not mad-keen on the topic to begin with.)

Re: non-voting as protest/voting as protest
See my previous comments about "no good answer to the 'how would not voting actually help anything?' question." I still feel like it ought to (and not because of how the political candidates feel about it), but I don't have a rational answer I can articulate to myself, much less anyone else, which is why I keep voting.

Janne: that I think is wrong with the dichotomy of ordinary people and everyone else, or in for example ordinary people vs. militias and warlords.

Oh, you're completely right, that's a massively over-simplified construction.

In any society, there will always be differing view points and some of them will be diametrically opposed and everything between, when it comes to values.

Yes, this is completely true. On the other hand, there are some values which pretty much everybody can sign onto (wellbeing of self and loved ones, for instance); perhaps "needs" would be a better term. The goal of any utopian movement, as I understand it, is to find a way that those values/needs are met for every person, not just some people, and then find a way to organize enough people around it to make the change happen. How to do that is a question which activists and proto-activists have been working on probably since the invention of coercive governance circa 10,000 years ago, I don't think we'll get a neatly satisfactory answer anytime soon. (In the meantime, we have what Gandhi referred to as "experiments with truth.")

In what way is the democratic system corrupt? I mean, is it the gerry-mandering, the way seats are filled in the legislative branch? Can it be changed? The way voting is organized or registered for?

If it were anything that simple, it could be changed within the system. All those are symptoms, but I would argue the problems go much deeper. It's analogous to asking how, say, patriarchy or racism are perpetuated within a "democratic" system - does that make sense?

an anarchis like society might be workable, but it would be nice to know more. It's a shame that Makhno's Ukraine went the way it did.

And the Paris Commune, the Spanish Revolution, etc.

The most comprehensive picture of a speculative anarchic society I've ever seen is Michael Albert's Parecon. It's pretty good as a thought experiment, but I wouldn't put much store by it as a blueprint for how we should expect an ideal society to function (which is how Albert regards it). It's a bit too rigid and bureaucratic and conformist for me, and so obsessed with insuring that absolutely no one can game the system I think most people would find it stifling. It also doesn't take into account how changes in technology (or any other field, for that matter) lead to changes in how society is organized, it's a rather static vision.

Anthropologist David Graeber has also written about present-day Madagascar, where in many parts of the country the state maintains only a token presence. The picture he paints is not even faintly romantic (and a far cry from what I would consider ideal), but useful for thinking about how people and communities can work absent a state structure. (I don't think that case provides a good answer to Arthur's question of what happens if heavily armed brownshirts roll into town and try to take over, though. The communities Graeber describes are fortunate in that so far, no one appears to have tried such a thing.)
permalink
at 13:28 on 09-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Also, I'm very much of two minds about the "lesser of two evils" notion.

I only know of the US system from an outside perspective, but as powerful as the president is, he(at the moment he) is not all powerful, so a lot of the disillusion with any president is no doubt a result of the system being built in a way that changes slowly so that any change has to go through all the branches of the government to have effect. I suppose the option to the two party system, where the parties begin to resemble each other too much, is the multi-party system, but that can result in political gridlocks and conformism too. Hereabouts, we did see the status quo of three big parties upset in the last parliamentary elections, but it was the xenophobic reactionary nationalist party who got a huge victory.

And while I don't want to really get into the matter too deeply anymore than anyone else, that I think is wrong with the dichotomy of ordinary people and everyone else, or in for example ordinary people vs. militias and warlords. There might be an elite and we might be able to make statistical distinctions between people, but I think it is wrong to assume that there is a mass called ordinary people who all share values and would be motivated behind a common goal automatically. In any society, there will always be differing view points and some of them will be diametrically opposed and everything between, when it comes to values. And as there is no automatic way to know before hand what values are the right ones, it will be a matter of politics to see which value(s) gets the most support. Democracy in its varied ways is not ideal, but how can move from the current system to something else, if the change itself does not have legitimacy through democracy? I guess if the non-voting part of the population gets big enough and as a result the ones in power make laws that are increasingly unfair, this might lead to a situation where the matter has to be forced. But for this change to result in a stable situation, one would have to assume, that the non-voting populace or the population as a whole actually has the same values and goals, which is not an assumption that can be made. Historically, this sort of situation, where there is wide spread disagreement and a lack of institutions to control it, has resulted in bad results.

I hope there are options, but it would be a good idea to have a credible platform and a simple enough option to agitate people to the side of the change, before the issue becomes so serious that it has to be forced. And if someone can rally enough support, they would be able to get through democratically too, before it can be forced.

Although I might be a bit too meta. In what way is the democratic systewm corrupt? I mean, is it the gerry-mandering, the way seats are filled in the legislative branch? Can it be changed? The way voting is organized or registered for? I don't know, an anarchis like society might be workable, but it would be nice to know more. It's a shame that Makhno's Ukraine went the way it did.
permalink
at 13:21 on 09-11-2013, Arthur B
Assuming, of course, that there's no way for ordinary people to defeat militias and warlords without mobilizing their own militias and military officers in response. Which I don't. We've had this argument before, and I think it comes down to incompatible worldviews - which we're neither of us going to convince the other out of over the internet, so I won't try, but I did want to throw this out here.

We've had it out before on this point but I may as well reiterate my stance on the subject: most forms of peaceful protest only really work if the warlords and militias in question a) give a fuck about the opinions of others, and an anarchist utopia whose peace is guaranteed only by threats of violent outside intervention if people start being beastly to each other isn't much of an anarchist utopia, or b) have qualms about exterminating large numbers of people, and if you're already a warlord you probably don't.

At the risk of Godwinning: the Nazis would have laughed in the face of peaceful resistance, not least because they didn't respect anything except force on an ideological level. And to use a later example, Communism wouldn't have fallen in Eastern Europe as quickly and easily as it did had the Soviets not made an executive decision to stop sending the tanks in whenever it looked like a Warsaw Pact government was having a bad day.

RE: not voting as protest/voting as endorsement - that literally only works if the political class see it that way. As it is, they only see voting as endorsement if you vote for their guy - David Cameron's little heart does not glow when a first-time voter votes Labour - and tend to interpret non-voting as apathy, not protest. If you want to use your vote to protest against the present system, vote for a comedy candidate (or, in the US, go for a write-in if available).

Or you know, just vote how you want and then loudly claim you spoiled your ballot. Then you get to influence the present system at the same time as you're protesting it.
permalink
at 03:30 on 09-11-2013, Robinson L
Adrienne: his stuff is sometimes full of fail in various ways (sexism, racism, etc.) his worst stuff is worlds above Heinlein's best on that front, in my opinion -- but it seems worth warning people about.

Thanks for the heads-up, that's about what I would expect from him. Fortunately for me, I tend to have a high personal tolerance for social justice fail in an otherwise well-executed work.

Thanks also for the recommendations. I find it helpful when embarking upon the works of a prolific new (to me) author to have one or two good starting points rather than "look at this vast field and pick one."

Re: Russell Brand

Speaking as resident leftist wingnut, I thought Brand's piece was great (goofy metaphysics notwithstanding), whereas I couldn't finish Webb's because I found it so point-missy.

Arthur: Lots of revolutionary sorts talk a bit talk about getting some sort of non-coercive non-authoritarian governance by consent, I just haven't seen any version of that which couldn't be quickly trashrolled by a gang of brownshirts with sticks.

Ah-ha, a challenge!

anarchism is fun precisely up to the point where the first militias and warlords appear, at which point it immediately becomes terrible.

Assuming, of course, that there's no way for ordinary people to defeat militias and warlords without mobilizing their own militias and military officers in response. Which I don't. We've had this argument before, and I think it comes down to incompatible worldviews - which we're neither of us going to convince the other out of over the internet, so I won't try, but I did want to throw this out here.

Re: elections

It's been a while since I read it, but I don't recall Brand bashing "political participation" but rather voting, which is a subset thereof. And speaking as someone who has voted in every major and minor election of the past five years (including by absentee ballot in last year's presidential election), his argument is one I have a great deal of sympathy for.

In the US (and from what I've picked up, the UK), the two major political parties are in near-perfect agreement on most of the issues I care about (at least from the perspective of someone so far removed from either of their positions), and solidly in support of a politico-social-economic situation with which I have become thoroughly disenchanted both in terms of its ability to provide the base minimum across-the-board living standards (and ecological and foreign policies) a sensible society can and ought to, or to correct itself within its own system of rules and laws.

Voting for any candidate is an implicit endorsement of the system which I regard as fundamentally broken (though, granted, not nearly as broken as it could be). Therefore, I personally consider voting in US elections to be one of the most nihilistic things I've ever done.

So I'm quite taken by the idea of non-voting as protest (which is a far cry from apathy). Unfortunately, I've never been able to come up with a coherent answer to the "and what would that accomplish?" question to placate the rational side of my brain, which is why I keep voting.

Also, I'm very much of two minds about the "lesser of two evils" notion. Take US Presidents (the field I'm most familiar with): would Gore really have been significantly better than Bush? My dad thinks so, but after seeing Obama, I'm not so sure. Would McCain or Romney really have been worse than Obama, on balance? (Would they have the political clout to, for instance, overturn Roe v. Wade, one of the relatively few major political differences I do see between the two parties at this point?)

Working off of Andy's point, I've seen it suggested among some radical commentators here in the States that the austerity measures Obama has supported and may support over the next three years could only come from a Democratic President because a Republican would produce much more resistance (I don't know if this is actually true, but it sounds plausible). I've already heard at least one person invoke "Only Nixon could go to China."

So apart from hating myself a little for voting for the lesser evil, I'm personally growing increasingly less sure of which evil is actually lesser.
permalink
at 16:23 on 08-11-2013, Arthur B
The idea that politics is something that happens every five years when you get the chance to vote for the party that isn't the Tories is just as simplistic in its own way

It is, so it's a good thing Webb doesn't actually say that. He specifically points out that there's plenty to be done between elections, but he's also making the point that the clout you can exert between elections is hampered if you and the people who are supporting your cause are making a point of not voting.

Also, the pragmatist in me points out that "less nasty" is, in fact, less nasty, and even if the cynics are right and elections do really just come down to a choice between the slightly more nasty party and the slightly less nasty one, isn't it still sensible to vote for the slightly less nasty one simply for the sake of opposing the folk who are gunning for the more nasty party to win?

I mean, it's not thrilling to be in a position where you're voting for the person you hate the least rather than someone you like, but the fact that there is someone you can regard as hating the least suggests that there is in fact actual discernible differences between the parties to a sufficient extent to allow you to decide which you prefer, and since "no government, thanks" isn't actually an option (and would rapidly degenerate into some horrible Randroid nightmare if it was) then refusing to vote doesn't feel especially adult.

Additionally, voting doesn't actually constrain you from agitating against the present system in the slightest aside from losing you some rebel cred, and you can get that back instantly by lying and claiming you spoiled your ballot. Why does it have to be an either/or thing? Why, as Webb points out, can't you be both a voter and an activist? I'd rather not brush my teeth and live in a utopia where specially engineered mouth bacteria keep my mouth deliciously clean and smelling fresh, but that's not presently an option and until the opportunity arises it's best for me to just keep cleaning my teeth, but equally the fact that I brush my teeth doesn't mean I can't also support research for FriendlyMouth bacteria if the opportunity arises.
permalink
at 15:59 on 08-11-2013, Andy G
Whatever the deficiencies of Brand's position, I don't see why that automatically translates into Webb's faring any better. The idea that politics is something that happens every five years when you get the chance to vote for the party that isn't the Tories is just as simplistic in its own way, since it lets Labour off the hook for anything as long as they're very slightly less nasty than the Tories. It means, if anything, that they are held *less* to account for their failings than the "nasty" party - rather in the way that in America, Obama has received nothing like the level of scrutiny and criticism that Bush received while pursuing many of the same policies or worse.
permalink
at 17:55 on 07-11-2013, Arthur B
And what exactly would the alternative form of governemet after the revolution be? A more direct democracy, anarchism?

This is what I usually see such people proposing but a) more direct democracy means there's actually less checks on the majority voting to be awful to minorities if they get it into their head to do that - Switzerland has been a good example of this lately - and b) anarchism is fun precisely up to the point where the first militias and warlords appear, at which point it immediately becomes terrible.
permalink
at 17:40 on 07-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Lots of revolutionary sorts talk a bit talk about getting some sort of non-coercive non-authoritarian governance by consent, I just haven't seen any version of that which couldn't be quickly trashrolled by a gang of brownshirts with sticks.

And what exactly would the alternative form of governemet after the revolution be? A more direct democracy, anarchism? Most real revolutions that actually topple regimes result in power vacuums, which have to be filled with something. So to avoid the jacobins and the bolsheviks, you would need a plan of some sort? And how would the new system be legitimate anyways, they would need a democracy of some sort? I mean, not voting and general apathy is not really an answer or an option really, it's just... well, apathy.
permalink
at 16:55 on 07-11-2013, Arthur B
Violent revolution?

Yes and no. He's responded to Webb in an amazingly point-missy manner wittering about how he isn't personally pro-death camp, failing to grasp the point that it doesn't matter if you're not personally in favour of gulags, what matters is whether your revolution opens the door to someone who is rolling in on the back of your efforts and purging you.

Lots of revolutionary sorts talk a bit talk about getting some sort of non-coercive non-authoritarian governance by consent, I just haven't seen any version of that which couldn't be quickly trashrolled by a gang of brownshirts with sticks.
permalink
at 16:39 on 07-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Nice response from Webb. It's funny, but even knowing tht Webb's persona opposite Mitchell in their work is intentionally to be the idiot and it doesn't really reflect his real persona, it had still sank in deep enough as an assumption that I was kinda surprised reading that he is quite intelligent as well. It's sort of a shame that Mitchell has evolved into a sort of a public intellectual, while Webb not so much. Or has he?

What exactly is Brand's great practical alternative to parliamentary politics? Violent revolution? What does he think political apathy achieves exactly? Certainly it will not distribute power more efficiently in a society.
permalink
at 14:43 on 07-11-2013, Arthur B
PS: Robert Webb's response is brilliant.
permalink
at 14:34 on 07-11-2013, Arthur B
So I've finally got around to reading Russell Brand's piece on why political participation is for fuckwits and holy shit, does it go off the deep end partway through.

The model of pre-Christian man has fulfilled its simian objectives. We have survived, we have created agriculture and cities. Now this version of man must be sacrificed that we can evolve beyond the reaches of the ape.

When your confused vision of new agey leftism that doesn't actually engage with any particular movement or body on the left starts sounding like a transhumanist supervillain speech partway through it's time to go back and do another revision, I think.

(FWIW, he proceeds to espouse a very neopagan, very evidence-averse vision of history and suggests, in a rather platonic move, that we should invent new myths and then believe in them very hard in order to achieve progress, before then going off on a tangent about how ideas can't be allowed to take precedence to reality.)
permalink
at 05:40 on 07-11-2013, Adrienne
Robinson L: Just keep in mind that Sturgeon, being a near-contemporary of people like Heinlein and Asimov (Sturgeon was born in 1918, per Wikipedia), does not have what one might call a modern sensibility. By which I mean that his stuff is sometimes full of fail in various ways (sexism, racism, etc.) Not that it's not worth reading -- his worst stuff is worlds above Heinlein's best on that front, in my opinion -- but it seems worth warning people about.

I'd say skip his novels except possibly More than Human -- none of them are great. Short stories were the form he was really a master of. Some standouts for me are "The Silken-Swift", "And Now The News", and "The Man Who Lost the Sea". The last of those, in particular, is one of those stories whose central image will embed itself in your brain forever.
permalink
at 05:25 on 06-11-2013, Jules V.O.
Huh. Is that a sort of narcissistic thing, because they perhaps resemble each other(credible couch theory)?


It probably is because they resemble each other. Studies have shown that people find features similar to their own to be attractive. There are various hypotheses as to why, but narcissism isn't among them; some have to do with selecting for similar genes, others with 'imprinting' on parent's features at a young age, etc.
permalink
at 11:51 on 05-11-2013, Janne Kirjasniemi
Adrienne:
It's such an "abnormal" position to take that he has to heavily stack the deck, as it were.

I suppose that's true. It is a precarious balance to keep, but perhaps for me personally, the sentiment: "incest is not only alright and good, it is also the cure for cancer", which, when I think about it now is not actually offensive as such, but comes off with a sort of comical outrageousness. So perhaps there is a slight balance problem there? I think the brother-sister thing was present in the story as well. But he did leave the mother and son angle unexplored for some reason. Oh well, the story works quite well in its way, if not for the cancer thing.

Yes, thank you.#dontexplainthejoke /affected affront

Aww, fiddlesticks. What use is trivia, if you can't dish it around feeling smart at every turn.

However, I have heard somewhere that siblings raised separately will often experience sexual attraction towards one another if they first meet as adults.

Huh. Is that a sort of narcissistic thing, because they perhaps resemble each other(credible couch theory)? And conversely, totally unrelated people growing up together as children might develop the Westermarck effect(you learn something new every day!). In any case, this might be a case of where a law prohibiting such things(brother-sister, I mean) is not necessarily justified. Apparently such relationships have existed outside situations of political expediency.
permalink
at 03:00 on 05-11-2013, Robinson L
Janne: Is it not rare for people who have grown together from an early childhood to have sexual attraction towards one another?

I dunno, maybe. However, I have heard somewhere that siblings raised separately will often experience sexual attraction towards one another if they first meet as adults.

Apparently, he was citing Bhagavad Gita there

Yes, thank you.#dontexplainthejoke /affected affront

(I may be confusing Oppenheimer with somebody else, but I also seem to remember that the context in which he said it was along the lines of "My God, what have I done?" or at least that he turned against nuclear weapons later on. But again, that's part of the joke.)

Adrienne: it is a story that is supposed to be squicky and call the entire foundation of one's belief in an idea into question, and I like those.

Same here (not that I can think of too many that I've read lately.

It sounds like Sturgeon's stuff is far from perfect (go figure), but that alone is enough of a recommendation to get me to try it. Well, that and this:

Sturgeon's writing has a profound compassion for human beings -- even weird and creepy and downright broken ones

I need more of that in my life. Most of my favorite authors/authors whose writing I admire will often reach a point where they essentially go "you know what, to hell with you" with one or more of their own characters, and it always makes me cringe a little.

Re: Sleepy Hollow
Alice: "you only came to me because I'm the only Indian you know, why would I be a shaman, piss off"

Oh, I interpreted Abbie's previous scene to mean she does know (of) other American Indians, and this guy is the only one of them who might qualify as a shaman. But that's probably wishful thinking on my part, and even if it isn't, the fact that American Indians only make it into the show to do the magic stuff and so the writers can off-handedly acknowledge the whole, um, genocide thing is kinda sketchy.

I apologise if I sound like I've been yelling at you, I'm afraid my frustration with the show (magnified by otherwise liking/enjoying it!) got away with me a bit...

Oh, not at all, I just wanted to engage a bit with your point. I also have frustrations with the show in that the writers seem to share Ichabod's hero-worship of Washington (who, from what I've learned, was kind of a bastard and not actually a very good general, even if he was a good at being a leader), and generally cleave to the accepted patriotic narrative of the War of Independence, even when that narrative is at odds with the historical record.

I actually find it pretty amusing when the "Yanks = good; Brits: bad" sensibility collides with the Christian-inspired cosmology, as in the episode where it turns out the Boston Tea Party was a distraction for Ichabod to locate and neutralize a demonic weapon that the English were holding. Let's step back and take a look at who the actors were in this conflict: on the one hand, you had the proper, God-fearing British; on the other, you had the American revolutionaries, many of whose leaders were Deists and free-thinkers. Now, when propositioned for an alliance by a demon literally right out of the book of Revelation, which side is more likely to say "Interesting, go on" and which to immediately break out the crosses and holy water?
permalink