La France: Liberty, Fraternity, Egality or Totalitarianism, Fratricide and Genocide

December 16th, 2009 § 2

French like to make themselves out as the home of liberty, fraternity and egality.

Alas, a short delve into their history indicates more totalitarianism, fratricide and genocide.

Let’s start with the Huguenots. At the wedding of the Huguenot King Henri Navarre (later Henri IV) with the sister of the French king Margaret Valois, the Huguenots were lured into Paris in August 1572. There the queen mother Catherine de Medici set the mob on them after the royal wedding. Several thousands murdered in the streets and drowned in the Seine within days. Twenty thousand protestants murdered in Paris, another fifty thousand in the rest of France within the next two months. Nice way to celebrate a marriage.

Subsequently the Protestantism were outlawed by King Louis XIII in the Edict of Fontaineblue in 1685. Persecution carried on until 1787, by which time there were only 200,000 from an original peak of 2 million Huguenots left in France. In fairness, they weren’t all murdered or forced to convert to Catholicism. Many Huguenots managed to escape into exile.

With hardly a chance to catch their breath, the Parisans organised the French Revolution which resulted in up to 40,000 deaths by guillotine alone. The number of innocents to perish in that number is likely in the range of 90%.

But they weren’t done yet. After the Revolution, the seaboard province of Vendée refused to give up Catholicism and to participate in conscription rose against the Revolution in 1793. (Ironically enough the cities of the Vendée like la Rochelle were Huguenot free cities and strongholds before the Huguenots were all starved and murdered in La Rochelle, a city of 27,000 reduced to 5,000 in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII.)

In the Vendée, the Republican French decided to raze the place. At Nantes, mass drownings took 4000 lives in 1793. Another 200,000 of a population of 800,000 were to die at the hands of the Republicans. General Westermann reported to the National Convention in 1794:

There is no more Vendée, my republican fellow citizens! It died beneath our sabers along with its women and children. I have just buried them in the swamps and woods of Savenay. According to your orders, the children were trampled to death beneath the hoofs of our horses; their women were slaughtered so that they couldn’t bring any more soldiers into the world. The streets are full of corpses; in many places they form entire pyramids. In Savenay we had to make use of massive firing squads because their troops are still surrendering. We take no prisoners. One has to give them the bread of freedom; however, mercy has nothing to do with the spirit of the revolution.

Curiously, the Israelis argue that the measures they are taking against the Palestinians are no different from the French did to one another and the British and Americans and Spanish to the Native Indians.

If the Israelis had gotten back to Jerusalem a hundred years earlier, they would have had a point. But apparently, Israel was created in response to save people from genocide not to advance its cause.

Surely we can do better now. Apartheid in South Africa was dissolved with a minimum of bloodshed.

The Romans were constantly murdering one another’s armies and razing the southern cities of Italy.

Civilisation seems to be another word for mass bloodshed.

It is a blessing to live in decades of relative peace, within secure countries and set borders. We should appreciate it more. It isn’t often this way. Bloody wars, civil and external, appear to make up about half of human history.

Staffordshire Hoard: Not a Mercian Mystery but the Treasure of Treachery

December 15th, 2009 § 2

Amazing what historians can’t figure out. The guys who wrote the Keys to Avalon would like to attribute the construction of Offa’s Wall to Romans despite all evidence to the contrary. Offa was the king of Mercia which has since become Middle England. He built a wall between Wales and his realm.

A more recent discovery from the Mercian period is the magnificent Staffordshire Hoard. Historians can’t figure out why such a rich deposit was buried in the ground and forgotten. In the deposit, there are largely purely martial items. Sword pommels, sword hilt fittings, shield fittings.

The blades and shields themselves are not among the treasure.

staffordshire hoard treasure
staffordshire hoard treasure

It’s pretty clear what happened here. It was a band of soldier assassins, probably sent from a rival duke who wailaid the bodyguard of another thane. Their mission was covert – they could not be seen with items which identified them as the murders. So they immediately removed the fittings, stuck them in some kind of bag of cloth or leather and buried them in the ground. They marked the spot to come back to recuperate the items much later, when their identification as the murderers would cause no grief.

Staffordshire Hoard: Not a Mercian Mystery but the Treasure of Treachery Continues »

Tea, Wine and Tannins: Drink Tea and Rejoice

December 9th, 2009 § 1

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with not often being ill. My endurance levels have been high.

Lately, a dear friend of mine has been trying to persuade me that too much tea is unhealthy, especially overly steeped tea. During nearly a decade in Moscow, I became accustomed to good Indian tea Russian style: that is to say, you create a tea concentrate which you drink all day long. Each cup you dilute to taste.

In short, over my life, I’ve drunk a lot of tea, much of it strong and filled with tannins. I’ve also always liked red wine especially cabernets (full of tannins) and natural apple juice (filled with tannin). I think it was my way of my body protecting itself.

My friend has gone so far as to say that tea drunk does not count as liquid, as it is a diuretic and actually dehydrates. To my relief, the British Nutritional Foundation insists tea is not:

"In terms of fluid intake, we recommend 1.5-2 litres per day and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink."

Indeed, tea might have played a principal role in keeping me healthy and wealthy. Well at least healthy.

One shouldn’t cite Wikipedia too often in regards to health, but here we go this once on the subject of tannins:

Tannins may be employed medicinally in antidiarrheal, hemostatic, and antihemorrhoidal compounds

The anti-inflammatory effect of tannins help control all indications of gastritis, esophagitis, enteritis, and irritating bowel disorders. Diarrhea is also treated with an effective astringent medicine that does not stop the flow of the disturbing substance in the stomach; rather, it controls the irritation in the small intestine.

Tannins not only heal burns and stop bleeding, but they also stop infection while they continue to heal the wound internally. The ability of tannins to form a protective layer over the exposed tissue keeps the wound from being infected even more….

Tannins can also be effective in protecting the kidneys. Tannins have been used for immediate relief of sore throats, diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhaging, fatigue, skin ulcers and as a cicatrizant on gangrenous wounds. Tannins can cause regression of tumors that are already present in tissue, but if used exessively over time, they can cause tumors in healthy tissue.

They have also been reported to have anti-viral effects. When incubated with red grape juice and red wines with a high content of condensed tannins, the poliovirus, herpes simplex virus, and various enteric viruses are inactivated.[36]

Tannins can also be used to pull out poisons from poison oak or from bee stings, causing instant relief. The tannins help draw out all irritants from the skin because tannin is an astringent that tightens pores and pulls out liquids.

Tea gets even more credit, with lowering stress levels, reducing cognitive impairment, inflammatory bowel disease, bactrial and fungal infections, anongenital warts, stroke, depression and even bad breath. I want some of that.

Apparently green and white tea have a lot more of the good effects of tea with fewer of the side effects. So I will try to stick to a cup or two of black per day but as many cups of white and green as I please.

What is true is that as tasty as coffee is, it’s more or less an amphetamine, with very few long term beneficial side effects. I will start to avoid coffee again (I’ve only given in to coffee in the last few years as the coffee is so good here in Vienna, but it will be considered an unnecessary and occasional luxury again, while tea will take the place of beverage of honour.)

So I’m going to enjoy not having a heart attack, reduced stress levels and lots of good cups of tea and great glasses of wine. It’s wonderful when it turns out the things you enjoy are things which keep you well.