Tag Archives: history

It’s all a conspiracy!

7 Jan

One of my coworkers is really big into conspiracy theories and recently shared a video with another coworker who was much taken with it, and in turn shared it with me. The video “Our history is not what we think!” is packed so densely full of bullshit, pseudo-science, and woo that it instantly gave me a migraine. The entire thing is a long crazy conspiracy theory about how the “official” story of human history is a lie and that the “truth” lies in ancient mystical tablets, 6th dimensional beings, vortexes of energy, and aliens.

The creators of the video use the machine-gun technique of spraying out so many bullshit claims so quickly that it is impossible to adequately address each individual claim.

In another time I would have written down a list of each individual claim made over the course of the hour long video and addressed each one. This process would take days and is ultimately pointless. You see, when it comes to people who believe this kind of stuff and make these elaborate conspiracy videos, it’s not about the facts. They might claim that that is all they care about, but really there are strong emotional and mental factors at work.

People who often feel out of control in their own lives develop grandiose explanations as a way of coping with this lack of control. Making connections, even though those connections might never really be there, and drawing conclusions allows some measure of control that they desperately crave. Arguing over what the “facts” are and what evidence exists in an attempt to change the believer’s mind is a colossal waste of time. It’s never been about the truth, as much as it seems, it’s about the conspiracy theorist’s lack of self control. Michael Shermer grave a great TED Talk here titled “The pattern behind self-deception.” In the talk he discusses our pattern seeking nature as human beings and how we’re prone to conspiracy theories.

That’s not to say that all conspiracy theories are false. Sometimes conspiracies do exist. Example: The plot to assassinate president Lincoln was a conspiracy. The trick is discerning the real conspiracies from the false ones. To that end, Shermer has a great “bullshit conspiracy theory detection list” here.

As much of a pointless time suck as debunking each individual claim in that video might be, I can see how such a long rebuttal  might be useful for showing those on the fence how much bullshit is in that video. Since I don’t have the time/energy/ or care to spend that much time creating  such a rebuttal, I just decided to show my coworker two videos.

Both of the videos were by the youtube user Qualia Soup. He makes excellent, well thought out videos on a range of topics, but the two I gave my coworker were on open-mindedness and critical thinking. I figured this was the best possible response because, armed with these tools, they could then easily see the video for the mountain of bullshit it was. Furthermore, they would be able to see the red flags the next time someone starts talking about “spiritual energy”, secret undiscovered knowledge, mystical tablets, spiritual pureness, and all other manner of woo.

My passion never left, it just changed forms.

3 Aug

Back around the time I was graduating college I started to lose my passion for history, archaeology, and everything I loved. Why? Well I think there were a variety of factors, but I haven’t got that all sorted out yet. What followed was this period of listlessness, of being adrift with no idea what to do. For the 2+ years following my graduation I had no idea what I wanted to do, no idea where my passion had gone.

But then I had an epiphany the other day: My passion never left, it just changed forms.

This occurred to me when I realized how my passion used to manifest itself. Back when I was in love with history, archaeology, etc, those were the things I constantly thought about. When I wasn’t actively talking to someone, or focused on completing a task my mind would inevitably wander back to those subjects. That’s how I knew I was passionate about them, I would always be thinking about those subjects.

Well after my personal collapse in 2010 I stopped thinking about those things by default. Instead my thoughts shifted to religion and politics. I had always been interested in these things, but they had previously taken a back seat to history and archaeology. I created this blog a long time ago as a way to nurture those thoughts that manifested themselves from time to time, and to give them a home, yet history was still my main focus.

Why did I feel my passion had disappeared? It took me two years to figure it out: Rage.

My passion for history and archaeology was built on love. I genuinely enjoyed talking about those things. I got excited to discuss them with others and they made me happy.

As things in my personal life started to fall apart, the happiness was replaced with this rage. I stopped thinking about things that made me happy and started thinking about things that infuriated me. It was not something I could consciously control, it was a byproduct of what was going on in my life.

Religion and politics were two issues I had always cared about, but now they had become toxic. I was consumed by them. I was constantly furious as my idle thoughts always returned to these poisonous subjects.

I felt lost and adrift because, unlike history and archaeology, religion and politics did not have a productive goal.

Back when I was in love with history I had the goal of becoming an archaeologist. It was something I was working towards, something to achieve. I had direction. When that mindset was replaced with rage, I lost that direction. There is nothing productive for me in religion or politics. I’m not about to become a religious figure since I think the whole thing’s bullshit, and I’m not about to go into politics because I have no faith in our system or the possibility of changing it through legal means.

So where does that leave me now?

I don’t know. I obviously need to replace the rage with love. I want so desperately to do that. I want to be happy again. I want to be somebody who’s excited about something, something positive. I just don’t know how to make that happen. I still have to figure that bit out, but this has been an amazing leap forward for me!

Forlorn hope

15 Mar

This is perhaps one of the most important posts I’ll ever write on this blog, or at least it is to me personally. As such, this guarantees that almost nobody will read it, and fewer will comment. That always seems to be the case with posts I find particularly important.

Over the past several months, years even, I’ve struggled with faith in humanity. I know that sounds horribly cliché, but this is extremely important to me so if it bothers you then kindly fuck off.

So what do I mean by “Faith in Humanity”? I guess I mean the hope that we won’t ultimately destroy ourselves, that we won’t kill our planet, that we will continue to better ourselves.

This storm of vague ideas has been swirling around in my head for a while. Mostly it has been comprised of just feelings, gut instincts about the world that don’t easily translate into words. I started taking down notes, dictating messages to myself, whenever one of my nondescript feelings manifested itself in some tragedy or another. I figured that if I was going to say that I no longer had faith in humanity I would need evidence to back that up. I recently realized that it doesn’t matter.

Overtime I slowly came to realize that just as the universe is governed by the natural laws of physics, so too is humanity. When a plane takes off from a runway it must fight to overcome inertia. The engine and wings must fight to overcome those forces that would have the plane stay as it were, idle and motionless on the ground. Humanity is much the same way. The natural order of things is to be shit. The natural order of things is for everything to remain the same. It is only through great struggle that we overcome this inertia. I’m not sure I have the energy anymore to fight it.

Human inertia. It’s why it is always easier for conservatives to get elected rather than liberals. It’s why we had to fight so hard to overcome things like slavery and theocracy, our natural barbarism and superstitions. A natural resistance to change; why women had to fight for so long against the conservatives of their day to gain recognition that they too were human beings deserving of equal rights and opportunities. The same can be said for blacks fighting against the conservatives of the 1950′s and 60′s for the same thing. We see it currently as people of non-heteronormative genders fight modern conservatives to be recognized as people deserving equal rights and dignities afforded heterosexual individuals. Human inertia. It’s partly why religion is more successful at propagating itself than science. Religion preaches certainty and inertia. It does not change. The only time something “changes” in religion is once in a while a small sect will split off and declare themselves the sole masters of truth and certainty.

Just as all objects have the natural tendency, through gravity, to fall to the earth, we too have a natural tendency towards suffering, ignorance, and squalor.

The second realization I had was that, at least to most of humanity, reality does not matter.

Once I realized this I lost my interest in debating the merits of ideas. It is no use discussing a concept with someone if they do not recognize that there exists an independent reality, an independent fact, indifferent to how strongly they hold a position.

If you want to see first hand how reality no longer matters, take a look at American politics. It is absolutely pointless to try and have debates on the issues. The issues don’t matter. Conservatives have their narrative and that is it. “Democrats always raise taxes and are fiscally irresponsible.” Well actually, there are times when democrats do cut taxes, but this never gets noticed. It gets so bad that people can make statements that are demonstrably not true like “the healthcare reform will create death panels” and other people will believe it. Fox News and the conservatives constantly do this! They actually incorporate it into their tactics. They know they can make up the most insane shit and their base will swallow it, even if it’s blatantly untrue. They do this so the liberals are always having to defend themselves from bullshit claims that are false in the first place. (Not that any conservative will change their mind when a liberal shows that a claim is wrong because hey, he’s a fucking lib and you can’t trust him!)

Now can you imagine for one second a liberal trying to spew as many paranoid bullshit statements a minute like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin? They could never get away with it! That’s human inertia in action! During the 2008 presidential election, Sarah Palin paraded her pregnant unwed daughter out onto the stage. All the conservatives went “Aw, isn’t that sweet. They’re going through some rough times but God will help them!” Can you imagine if Obama had a pregnant unwed daughter? Can you image what conservatives would say? Most likely something along the lines of “Great, another fucking nigger crack whore who’ll take my money in welfare!” It’s only a crime when a liberal does it and to hell with your “facts.”

Everyone already has their minds made up, there is no “market place” of ideas in politics. All that decides elections is who has more babies, and who can get more of their people out to vote on election day. My team vs your team, us vs them.

I’ve stopped caring about the news all together. Every day it’s the same story: “Liberals are giant pussies cowering to conservatives who have won yet another victory on their endless march to make the world shit for everybody but their billionaire donors. Elsewhere in the world religious fanatics continue to oppress others, cut the clitorises off of young girls, slaughter gays, and generally fight anything that might ease collective suffering in the name of their one true god. Meanwhile peaceful protesters were brutally put down by the military in <insert country here> as large corporations pressure the government to keep a tighter grip on it’s worker population so as not to cause waves in the stock market.”

But I digress into specifics. What about human nature on a larger picture?

Well speaking of larger, the greater the number of people hurt/killed/in need, the less we care. How horrible is that? If we see a fellow human being hacked to death we are horrified and outraged. It be logical then to believe that hearing of 100,000 people being hacked to death would make us feel the horrified and outraged 100,000 times more, but no, we couldn’t give a shit. Genocide? *yawn* What’s on sports?

We also collectively never learn from our mistakes. If you pay attention, you’ll notice there is a cycle of disasters. A perfect example are mine collapses. Every few years a mining disaster will happen, costing millions of dollars and human lives. Families are destroyed, politicians outraged, and the press calls for blood. What happens? An investigation. Somebody gets sued and more protective legislation is passed. Everything calms down for a few years as mines buck up and put forth the extra effort to operate safely. Then, one day, someone decides they can cut just a little corner, then a little more, and a little more, and soon enough the whole thing explodes again and the cycle repeats.

It happens all the time. I am numb when I see another massive disaster that leaves families destroyed and the environment ruined. It’s just what we do. There is no point getting upset because it’s just going to happen again. I guarantee it.

So is humanity going to hell in a hand-basket? Is it because of “kids these days”? Is society going to collapse? Is the end near? Sort of.

The people who normally say those things are social conservatives that don’t understand why the world is changing. I don’t believe in hell, kids have always been this way, society will never “collapse” because as long as there are people there will be “society”, and the only way there will be an “end” is if we make one.

For a while I used to dismiss people who thought we were coming closer to the brink of destruction. I used to rationalize that humanity has always been like this, we will continue to push the envelope forever because there is no end to that envelope. I reassured myself of this with the following saying:

“Uniforms and weapons change, war doesn’t.”

But I was wrong.

You see, there is something very important hidden in that saying that nobody really pays attention to: “weapons change.” Humanity has always been like it is now, and we always will be. That doesn’t change. What DOES change is our technology. I can’t overstate the importance of this. Throughout history the damaged humanity could do to itself and the planet was always limited by our technology. Now we’ve reached a point where we can exterminate all life on the planet 7 times over with a push of a button. Each day we dump millions of tons of toxins and trash into our environment. We are speeding towards the cliff and people are only pressing the gas pedal harder.

What am I supposed to do? Go out and join a protest? Change my light bulbs? I’ve done all that. It doesn’t do shit. It’s a rain drop in a desert. Nothing will change until all of humanity collectively decides to change. That won’t happen until the danger is so imminent, so in your face, not even conservatives will be able to ignore it, though many will try. By that time it will be too little too late. It’s just our nature.

For the longest time I avoided this conclusion because of the despair I thought it would bring. Are there enough good things about humanity to warrant hope that we can change our nature, limit suffering, and not destroy ourselves?

I liken this to my views on religion. One of the most common arguments I hear from believers when I tell them religion is harmful is: “But religion does so much good in the world! Look at all the charities and shelters! Look how much hope it brings to people!” Ignoring the fact that there are plenty of secular charities and shelters with a lot lower instance of their leaders driving around in mercedes, “giving people hope” doesn’t help the millions of people around the world who are forced to undergo some physical or emotional torment/suffering/death because of their (but more often someone else’s) religious convictions. The sum of religion’s good does not out weigh the sum of its evil.

And so it is with humanity.

The problem is in how bitter this is to swallow. Just as with religion, there are some very beautiful aspects of humanity that make one extremely reluctant to declare it hopeless. For me two things stand out among the rest: Art and science. The only time I’ve ever felt the awe that others call a “religious experience” is when I stood in awe of either some form of art or in awe at understanding, through science, some magnificent part of the universe. Human art can be amazing, breath taking, mind blowing. Nothing cheers me up better than listening to great music at the end of a long day.

Science has the ability to move me just as powerfully as art. The first time I saw this video it left me in tears. Tears for just how amazing the universe is, and tears for just how far we’ve come, only for us to inevitably make it all shit.

So I guess the important question now is “where does this leave me?” Do I become a nihilist? Do I just shoot myself?


While I’ve come to the conclusion humanity is fucked, individual human beings aren’t. People as a group might be nasty, barbaric, superstitious, and willfully ignorant, but individual people can be amazing. I’m still here, I still have the opportunity to feel and enjoy life before the rest of mankind kills us all off, so I’m going to do just that.

History as consciousness

18 Dec

Please forgive me for this post will be terse.  I’m sure it can be elaborated upon later, but I just wanted to get an idea  out there.

Having a working knowledge of human history and understanding that now is the present and soon it will change creates another layer of consciousness.  Without this awareness of the past, and your existence within the continuum, you are like an animal: aware of the now, but with no grasp of the why or of existence outside your immediate concerns.

How I like to think about the world

14 Dec

Contrary to what the title and general theme of this blog might lead you to think, this isn’t going to be about religion or politics, or even any kind of world view; instead it’s about something a lot lighter.

I have a funny way of looking at the world around me. If I’m not particularly focused on any one thing, often when I see something or someone, I instantly think of six degrees of separation. That might not seem strange when thinking about people, but it is when you apply it to objects. How do I apply that 6 degrees of separation like thinking to objects? Well for example I have a pencil sitting on my desk. Now when I see that pencil I like to think of the rubber in the eraser. Is it real rubber? If so, where is it harvested? By whom? Who are the families of those who harvest it? What are their lives like? If it’s synthetic, who manufactures it? DuPont? Who are the workers? Who are their families? What are their lives like? What about the wood and graphite? Who are the people involved in harvesting and processing those materials? What is the history of the forest from whence the wood came? What about the aluminum joining the wood and eraser? Where did it come from? Was a mountain strip mined for the minerals?

I could go on about this pencil, but I think you get the idea. I do this for a lot of things in the spare moments between actual thoughts. I think about these things automatically, without having to force myself to consider them. It’s like a firework. It explodes and goes in a million directions, but only takes a second or two for each streak to reach its conclusion. I thought that my thinking like this might have had something to do with majoring in history, doing reenactments, and working as an archaeology intern. All three of those things get you thinking about the people connected to objects, and what their lives were like.

It’s not always about people though. Sometimes I just like thinking about how something works. I like to explode things in my mind. (Not like fiery boom! explosions, but like engineer schematics.) Perhaps that comes from always building and designing things as a kid. I’m not great at the math behind it, but I understand the concepts of how things work. For the longest time I thought I was the only one who thought like this; then I say this Röyksopp video that really visualized how I perceive the world. I was blown away watching it, realizing that somewhere, somebody also analyzed the world like this and was able to animate this video about it. Check it out:

I really love thinking about the world exactly like in that video. ^_^

Lastly, there is another strange thing I think about a lot that I might as well put in this post. I have this fascination with small rooms. Don’t ask why, I have no idea. I just really love thinking about how I could fit everything into a small space and make it look nice. I do this most often when in bathrooms. I love to look around and think “Ok, how could I fit everything, bed, cooking area, clothing storage, etc, into this bathroom. If I was going to live within only this space, how would I make it look great while still being functional? For fun sometimes I imagine how zero gravity would affect the design and placement of items.

Well like all strange ideas, if you can think of it, chances are people in Japan are doing it. Yep, I just tonight found a cool news story about a man who built an entire house that is no wider than a parking space. His trick was to go vertical. Still, it’s really fascinating.

Is history still applicable today?

4 Dec

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but am only now writing it down. I love history, I went to school to study it. In the lower level history courses, the levels populated by disinterested freshman who rather be back in bed, a common question was “how is this still relevant?” By the time you get up in to the higher level history courses you stop hearing this question. It’s always taken for granted that history is relevant. People are people and things never change, right? Well this is what I’ve been wondering about because as I’ve watched the first decade of the 21st century unfold, I’m no longer sure this is true. Come to think of it, the 20th century was the real game changer, the 21st century just sealed it.

So what changed in the 20th century? Well, before that time everything was pretty much the same. Armies fought wars with swords, then muskets, then rifles and cannon. Regardless of the weapons and uniforms being used the most basic principles of moving and feeding large groups of people remained the same. Communication was also relatively unchanged. Yes the time between when a message was sent and when it was delivered slowly decreased, especially after the invention of the train, but none the less there was still a substantial lag. The printing press was a huge leap forward, but until the 20th century lots of people still couldn’t read. Printing made books and news papers more available, but they still didn’t reach a universal audience. Before the 20th century, governments had a monopoly on information and the way discourse was framed.

So what changed with the 20th century? Well, everything. In the first 66 years we went from the first powered flight to walking on the moon. We went from horse drawn carriages to the atomic age. Within the that century we went from mail cars on trains to e-mail. From cash to credit. Mass media, the automobile, intercontinental flights, satellites, computers, the internet, GPS, cell phones, rock and roll, the entire world changed.

Throughout history the fundamentals of things stay the same, except the technology changes. Technology is exponential. It starts off slow and builds on itself. For most of our history technology has advanced so slowly the line would look arithmetic. However, there comes a point where the exponential rate of change starts to become visible. It’s at this point the advances become striking. The 20th century was that breaking point.

In the 20th century technology reached a point where it began to change the fundamentals that had dictated human events for centuries.  The first decade of the 21st century was a one-two punch that finalized the change the 20th century started. What were those two punches?

The first was 9/11. Religious terrorism managed to harness the power of scientific advances to wreak mass death. This shifted the political landscape forever. It introduced us to terms like preemptive strike, indefinite detention, secret prisons, sleeper cells, improvised explosive device, water-boarding, The Patriot act, warrantless wiretaps, among others. The power of government to violently intervine, even against its own citizens, drastically expanded.

The second punch was economic. The world economy crashed and we were introduced to the bailouts. Tax payers had to foot the bill for bank’s risky behaviors, all while millions of people lost their jobs and the banking executives took multi-million dollar bonuses home to the Cayman islands. Then we find out that the banks are foreclosing on people’s homes, even if they have made all their payments (Florida is especially bad, where they have so many foreclosures they’ve set up a “rocket docket.” Often judges will see 200 cases a day and will never bother to look at the documents, trusting the banks are telling the truth when it turns out they’ve been lying. *surprise*) The way banks operate now, you can never be sure your money will be there, or that the government won’t show up to do the banks bidding and throw you out of your own home, regardless if you’ve made payments.

At the same time technology has had a drastic impact on how politics operates. The 24 hour news cycle has really helped to kill journalism and government is increasingly in control again of how issues are framed:

On the other hand, the spread of information has been democratized. The internet, alternative news outlets, twitter, reddit, facebook, these are all extremely powerful tools that have never been used before in history. With the advent of cell phones and smart phones people have the entire wealth of human knowledge (the internet) in the palm of their hand. With cameras in those phones they can record any event in front of them and upload it to the internet within minutes. Just recently The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency created a challenge, hiding 10 red balloons in secret locations across the entire US and offered $40,000 to the first team to find all of them. Using social networking, it took a team from MIT 9 hours to locate all 10 balloons.

These leaps in technology have put levels of power and information in common people’s hands that were previously unthinkable. What scares me are the steps ever increasingly authoritarian governments are taking to limit this power or to at least spy and keep track of it. These governments also benefit from the increased technology. Never before have they been able to keep tabs on their citizens the way they can now. It makes me wonder how resistance groups would be able to operate if the government became too authoritarian. I imagine the old models developed in occupied countries during WWII would not work given what current technology can do.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the world will never be the same because of climate change.

(I don’t think I need to tell you how bad things will get once climates shift, people are unable to grow food like they used to, sea levels rise submerging coastal cities, and storms intensify.) The data points to increased human activity, primarily starting in the 20th century.

In essence, things are changing at a pace and speed never before seen in history. Technology has reached a level where it changes the fundamentals of how we live our lives, how governments relate to their citizens (and vise versa). The economic situation has changed drastically as a result of the risky practices of the late 20th century. And finally, our planet itself is changing immensely as we destroy our ecosystem with ever increasing speed.

Is history still applicable today? I’m honestly not sure. In specific instances it can prove a useful guide, and we still need to be ever vigilant so as not to allow old crimes to be reperpetrated, but overall I think it has lost some relevance ever since the 20th century.

I wish I changed my major

13 Nov

Starting college I was a history nut. I loved doing historical reenactments, I loved reading history, I loved historical movies, everything. I remember consciously telling myself that I was going to major in something I love, regardless if it would make me money. I didn’t want to spend the next four years working at something I didn’t care about to get a job in a field I didn’t care about, so I majored in history. While at college I worked really hard. I skipped parties to study and was constantly working on my research papers. I ended up getting a 3.7 (out of 4) for my major related coursework, and a 3.2 for everything else (languages made me struggle).

While in college I hit upon the idea of being an archaeologist. My professors told me I needed to know at least Latin, French, English, and German fluently to be a medieval archaeologist, so I took language classes, much to the detriment of my grade point average. A favorite history professor got me an internship with a local archaeological dig and I spent two semesters getting up super early to go scan a backlog of slides or dig in the red clay earth. It was primarily 1800′s archaeology, which was not at all what I was interested in, but I liked the people and I needed contacts if I was to enter into archaeology as a field after undergrad.

I spent two of my summers at field schools, one at the local archaeological place outside my college, and the second in Newcastle, UK. I spent the summers getting up early and working long days. All of this because I wanted the experience and the contacts. Back at college I worked extensively on my senior thesis, taking it to history conferences around the region and presenting it. I even won a grant to do research at another university’s archives and was selected as a special scholar at a prestigious military school. As one of a handful of selected scholars at that school, I had to double the length of my thesis. All the other students at my college had much shorter thesis requirements, so there wasn’t as much stress on them. Still, I wanted the contacts and experience so I did it.

Then senior year everything changed.

My now ex helped me see that I wasn’t very happy every morning I came back from the dig, covered in dirt, sweaty and aching. “Maybe archaeology isn’t for you” she suggested. It scared me, but I thought she was right. I’m not sure if I was burned out because I disliked 1800′s archaeology so much and I would have been fine if I was working at a castle, but I decided not to be an archaeologist. Suddenly all those mornings getting up extra early, the hours spent in the field stooped over a patch of ground, the hours scanning slides, the money spent sending me overseas for a summer, all of it was for nothing. Yes they were valuable in the experiences they gave me, and the wonderful people I got to meet, but let’s be realistic: It was all for the goal of becoming an archaeologist. Suddenly I didn’t have that goal anymore.

Meanwhile on the history front, I was getting tired really fast. The extra work for that military school’s scholar program was really burning me out on history. My professors kept pushing me to go to gradschool, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a dark archive looking over dusty old books. I also did not want to teach! Everybody keeps telling me “Oh you could teach!” and I want to hit them. I hate children and I hate the idea of standing up in front of a group of them trying to get them to care about Charlemagne. I became a history major because I loved history, not because I wanted to teach it. Well now I’ve lost the spark and I’m mildly indifferent to it.

At the same time all this was happening, I quit my living history group. I had been doing this hobby since I was twelve and I finally got fed up. My passions were collapsing across the board. Then my girlfriend of three years left me for an older man, my grandmother got pancreatic cancer, I graduated and left my home for four years, along with all my friends, to live with my parents in the conservative/religious deep south where I knew no one. Needless to say, I often contemplated suicide.

I can’t tell you how furious and frustrated I am. I worked hard. I played by the rules. And now it’s all for nothing. I’m stuck in the worst state in the country, in the middle of the worst economic collapse since the great depression, and my degree is worthless. All my hard work is worthless. You see, you can’t do shit with just a BA in history. Maybe if the economy was better and I was in a better state, it might be worth something, but unless you go to gradschool to get a higher degree, or teach, you can’t do shit. I have no applicable skills. I can write research papers and use MS word. Lovely. I don’t have any market specific skills like a computer science major, or a chemistry major might have.

“Oh, but college is not supposed to get you a job afterwards! You go there to learn!” I used to believe this wholeheartedly, but now I call bullshit. You see, college is so ridiculously expensive today, it’s prohibitive. Unless you’re rich, the only way you can get a college education is by taking on so many loans you become an indentured servant for the rest of your life. College has become so expensive it’s now an investment. Nobody but the independently rich go to college with the idea of “just learning.” You spend the money to get an education that will get you a higher paying job. Don’t get me wrong, I love the humanities and I think they are our collective soul. I am in no way saying funding for them should be cut. That would be disastrous. I just wish I majored in something else.

Towards the end of senior year, I really got interested in astronomy and chemistry, thanks to the help of one of the best professors I had. I really wish I majored in something like that. My friend, who was a chemistry major, has been able to find work easily, same with my biology major friend. I’m really fascinated by those subject, yet I hate math. (I know math is pretty important in science) I’m frustrated because at the start of college, I had no way of knowing my interests would dramatically shift right before I graduated. What would have happened had I majored in chemistry? At the time I would never had thought about it. At the start of college I loved history. I was so excited to be out of highschool and able to load up my schedule with all the history classes I could handle.

I really regret it now.

I want so desperately to move out of this state, to a more liberal, less religious part of the country, and then eventually to Canada. I’ve lived in the conservative religious south my entire life and it’s smothering me. I’m tired of constantly being the hated minority. I want to live somewhere that isn’t so repressive. Not to mention I hate the heat. Yet with no skills I find myself applying to make sandwiches, shelve books, or work as an office assistant. None of these are jobs I really want to do, and with a worthless degree I’m essentially starting four years later than everyone else. I feel I’m going to be stuck in South Carolina for years to come, trying to get a job that will give me the skills needed to move. I probably won’t escape and finally be able to start my life until I’m 30. It just makes me want to die…

Time is pretty cool

27 Aug

I’ve had this thought about time for a while, being a history geek and all, but never put it down on paper. I think it’s interesting how we divide time up into hours, days, months, and years. There is this notion that a “day” is a set block of time between sunrise and sunset and that it somehow ends when you close your eyes to go to sleep. Sleeping seals that day off in the past, closing it forever. We do the same thing for every new year. At midnight on December 31st, the year is over, click, done. We start a new year and everything is reset.

The funny thing is that only we humans do this. The separation of time into neat little categories is completely artificial and exists only as part of our collective conscious, the same way the internet is the collective “conscious” of millions of computers. Here’s a quote I read years ago that really brought this home to me:

“Time has no divisions to mark its passage.. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.”
–Thomas Mann

In reality there is no clear delineation of time. Yes, days and nights come and go, but animals, plants, and rivers don’t know it’s a new year. It doesn’t matter to them, it’s all a continuum. What really blew my mind as a history major was the realization that there was nothing separating the past from the present. Yes, time has passed, but historical eras are not like distant countries; self contained within set boarders. Time doesn’t stop and reset between Rome and the dark ages, or the dark ages and the middle ages, or the middle ages and the renaissance, and all the way up to now. Those delineations are artificial markers created by us. Time doesn’t stop and reset when one day ends and another begins.

People come and go, clothes, buildings, languages, and art change, but there are no set boundaries. When you look up at the sun or the moon, they’re the same as when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, when the Egyptians built the pyramids, when the Romans were conquering Gaul, when crusaders were invading Jerusalem, when DaVinci was painting, when resistance fighters fought the Germans in France, and on and on through the never stopping continuum. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense. It’s hard to try and convey this idea that consists mainly of gut feelings.

About to graduate…do I deserve it?

28 Apr

In 17 days I will be graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in History. I’m starting to have second thoughts about everything. What have I learned in four years? Well, not much. I know a bit more about history than I did when I graduated high school, but that’s not saying much since I was obsessed with the subject back then. I already knew a lot compared to other students going in. I guess I’ve learned how to write papers. That’s pretty much it. I’ve learned how to research and write. Is that worth $35,000 a year for 4 years? I’m not sure.

I’ve had an interesting experience. I’ve meet some great people, expanded my views on a lot of things, and got to experiment with new interests. But that’s not what I’m worried about. The social and life experiences were great, I’m just worried about what I know academically. I don’t feel like I deserve a Bachelor’s degree. Yeah, I’ve worked hard over these past 4 years, not going to parties, pulling all nighters on papers, traveling for history conferences, etc, but I don’t feel like I know enough to be given a B.A. I’m worried that everyone else knows more than me in their fields and that I’m still the same as when I graduated high school. I feel like I’m just pretending, and that some day it’s all going to catch up to me and I’ll be exposed for my lack of knowledge. :-(

Military Through the Ages, recap

22 Mar

So I’m finally home where I was able to soak in the shower and wash off all the dirt, sweat, and wood smoke smell that accumulated from this past weekend at MTA.

I had an ok time. The best part was getting to hang out with some readers and watch WW2 Germans charge a British Zulu encampment.

As for the rest of the weekend, I had some issues. They are not very coherent, so I will try and put them in bullet points.

  • Egos are really making living history in my group not fun:

I’m not sure how this is in other groups, but it seems that in my group and the other late medieval groups near us that everything is just a giant dick waving contest. The hierarchy in the group seems to be determined by “stuff”. Who has bought the most stuff? Who’s stuff is the best and most expensive? I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy despite being in the group for several years because I don’t have very much “stuff”.

  • My gear is never good enough:

If I make something, it’s rarely ok to use in camp, and everyone else wants to display their things over mine. I often run into the problem of making something under the direction of one of the other members in the group, or buying something, and then soon after I get the item, they decide that it’s not right for the period. This is so frustrating! The only things I can use in the camp tend to be things that other people make for me.

  • I am never physically comfortable:

This has been true of just about every event I’ve gone to, but it was really bad this event. My clothes are horrible. The shirt I have is too big and the pants are too small. It all just ends up being this hot sweaty mess. My feet also end up extremely sore at the end of every event.

  • I never have a space of my own:

In my old group I had my own tent. It was a nice little area where I could set my stuff down and hang out. In the group I’m currently in I have no space of my own. I always have to put my stuff in other people’s tents, and I hate that. (I don’t think they like it either)

  • I always have to borrow:

This ties into space, and my gear never being good enough. I always end up having to borrow items from one person or another. I hate having to borrow from them. I feel it puts me in a position of inferiority, which then ties into the whole “this is all about egos” thing.

  • I am not your servant!:

This is perhaps the biggest bone I have to pick. I might just be paranoid, and this could all just be in my head, but I feel like other people in camp think I’m their to serve them. Yes, I know it’s important to help out in camp, and I do, but I feel people expect me to constantly be doing all the chores while they stand around and talk. For example, I was asked a couple of times to run and fill up the water pitchers. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it was the way I was asked. “Hey, could you run and fill these up?” would be fine, but instead I got the “Since you’re just sitting around, could you go fill the water pitchers?” The tone doesn’t come over in text, but what I’m trying to get across is that in the second way the request was phrased was the hidden assertion that I need to be always doing work. Since I was not doing work at that time, they found some work for me to do in the form of filling the pitchers.

  • No one ever offers to help me setup/take down

For the longest time I’ve always put other people first. I show up as soon as I possibly can, and spend the rest of the daylight helping to put up other people’s tents, and then fill those tents with other people’s stuff. Does anyone offer to help me carry all my stuff in from the car? No. I end up making multiple trips, sometimes in the dark, to get my gear. The same thing happens when the event is over! I try to be one of the last to leave, helping everyone else take down their tents and pack their stuff. Does anyone offer to help carry my stuff back to the car? No. I end up having to do that by myself after I’m already exhausted from helping others. It’s all about them! (The ego and servant stuff ties back in)

  • Paying for food:

I got away with not paying for food this weekend, but in the past I have shelled out $20-30 to help pay for food stuffs. When the meals are cooked the food is just put out on tables for people to pick at. A little here, a little there. I end up feeling guilty about eating and so I buy extra food for myself on top of paying $20-30. If the cost of food was split evenly and everyone got an even split things would be fine, but it ends up that some pay a lot and others pay nothing. Some get a lot to eat, and others eat very little. I often end up in the “paying a lot, eating a little” category. Sure it helps cover the costs for the people who buy the food, but then I feel mooched off of.

  • I don’t feel like I belong

I grew up with my old group. I just joined this group a few years back. All the people in this group have been together for a while. They’re their own little click. They’re nice to me an all, but I just don’t get the feeling that I’m one of them. Most of them are friends outside of the group as well. (Or at least were, there is a lot of political infighting and passive aggressive bullshit going on between all of them now that luckily I’m not a part of) When I sit around the fire with them I’m usually very quiet, I don’t know what to say and I feel a bit like a stranger.

  • Is it worth it?

Well I was sitting there this weekend in the middle of the event and decided to analyze my situation and how I was feeling:

  1. I’m hot, sweaty, and very uncomfortable in shitty clothes that do not fit
  2. I feel like they want me to constantly be serving them while others sit around and do nothing
  3. I have no space of my own and I have to borrow almost everything because my stuff is never good enough
  4. I often end up paying for stuff for others

Basically it’s become a job that I go pay to spend my time at. While I’m there I feel alone, unappreciated, and uncomfortable. Because of this I’ve decided that I’m going to take a break from doing living history.

I think a lot of the problems I have stems from not having enough “stuff”. It’s not that I want to compete in their dick waving contests (I couldn’t care less about that) but it’s that I just do not have the time or money at this point in my life to keep up with the hobby. If I had more of both I could afford clothes that actually fit me and felt great. I could buy my own tent where I could put things. I could get really nice and expensive gear that they couldn’t bitch about. All this would elevate my status in the group and I don’t think they’d be asking me to run around doing bitch work for them while they sit on their beds in their big fancy tents. I don’t want to quit because there are aspects that can still be fun, but I need to step back until I’m on sounder economic footing.


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