Ancestor Worship

by Henry Farrell on September 24, 2004

Graham Harvey, “Endo-cannibalism in the making of a recent British ancestor,” _Mortality_ 9:3 (August 2004) pp: 255 – 267


Following his death in 1975, the ashes of Wally Hope, founder of Stonehenge People’s Free Festival, were scattered in the centre of Stonehenge. When a child tasted the ashes the rest of the group followed this lead. In the following decades, as the festival increasingly became the site of contest about British heritage and culture, the story of Wally’s ashes was told at significant times. His name continues to be invoked at gatherings today. This paper discusses these events as ‘the making of an ancestor’, and explores wider contexts in which they might be understood. These include Druidic involvement in the revival of cremation, Amazonian bone-ash endo-cannibalism, and popular means of speaking of and to dead relatives. In addition to considering the role of ‘ancestors’ in contemporary Britain, the paper contributes to considerations of ‘ancestry’ as a different way of being dead, of a particular moment in the evolution of an alternative religious neo-tribal movement, of the meanings of ‘cannibalism’, and of the ways in which human remains might be treated by the bereaved and by various other interested parties.

Hat tip: “David Glenn”:

Quote of the Day

by Henry Farrell on September 24, 2004

From “The Poor Man”:

bq. Relying on Free Republic losers to “fact-check” the media is like relying on the proverbial roomful of typing monkeys, except with somewhat more feral howling and feces-flinging.

Lead on, David Brooks

by Kieran Healy on September 24, 2004

On CNN’s _Newsnight_ last night, “David Brooks”: took his favorite rhetorical trope — that there are “two kinds of people in the world”: — to its _realpolitik_ conclusions:

bq. You’ve got to have a political strategy and you’ve got to have a military strategy. … You’ve got to use our Iraqis, the Iraqis who want a democratic Iraq to give them something concrete, win them over. But then you’ve got to have a military strategy too and those are the people who, like Zarqawi, who just want to spread death and destruction. So, what you do is you win over the people you can, town by town and then you kill the people you can.

Brooks was ready to fly to Iraq and lead the army from house to house in Iraq using his magic glowing finger to distinguish the Iraqis we must kill from those we must win over, he did not go on to say.


by John Holbo on September 24, 2004

That’s Latin for ‘do your own research, pal!

[click to continue…]

Hobsbawm deported

by Chris Bertram on September 24, 2004

In shock news veteran Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm has been deported from the United States. After the historian’s name appeared on a no-fly list, his UA flight was diverted 600 miles to Maine, the elderly scholar was removed and, after questioning by FBI agents he was placed on the first available flight to the UK. Homeland Security officials said “we’ve been watching this guy for a while, we had new intelligence….”

Hobsbawm has long been a controversial figure, in “a notorious interview with Michael Ignatieff he appeared to justify the Soviet Gulag”: :

bq. Ignatieff: “In 1934, millions of people are dying in the Soviet experiment. If you had known that, would it have made a difference to you at that time? To your commitment? To being a Communist?”

bq. Hobsbawm: “This is the sort of academic question to which an answer is simply not possible. . . . If I were to give you a retrospective answer which is not the answer of a historian, I would have said, ‘probably not.’”

bq. Ignatieff: “Why?”

bq. Hobsbawm: “Because in a period in which, as you might imagine, mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing. Now the point is, looking back as an historian, I would say that the sacrifices made by the Russian people were probably only marginally worthwhile. The sacrifices were enormous; they were excessive by almost any standard and excessively great. But I’m looking back at it now, and I’m saying that because it turns out that the Soviet Union was not the beginning of the world revolution. Had it been, I’m not sure.”

bq. Ignatieff: “What that comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of fifteen, twenty million people might have been justified?”

bq. Hobsbawm: “Yes.”

Seeking to justify Hobsbawm’s deportation on the grounds that he was a threat to the security of the United States, “guys-with-websites”: all across the internet cited Hobsbawm’s remarks by way of justification. Prominent US liberal bloggers, such as “Juan Cole”: , “Mark Kleiman”: and “Kevin Drum”: also mentioned the repulsive remarks and said that in their view, the fact that Hobsbawm had made the remarks had left them indifferent in the face of Homeland Security’s actions. As one of them said: “If you excuse the execution of dissidents, you and John Ashcroft deserve one another.” “Screw him,” was another’s comment on the affair.

Song of the Schmibertarians

by Kieran Healy on September 24, 2004

I agree “with Matt”: Jacob Levy’s defense of the possibility of Libertarian Hawkishness is coherent and even forceful in the context of the Afghanistan war, but “Belle backed down too soon”: It’s just not plausible to construe libertarianism as really being about massive, state-sponsored,[1] centrally-planned,[2] militarily-administered[3] efforts to invade and reconstruct another country — let alone to imply that libertarians are by temperament the kind of people who are confident that enterprises like this usually succeed as planned. So, I think “Schmibertarians”: could adopt as their anthem a slightly modified version of Randy Newman’s song “The World Isn’t Fair”: It’s about “Karl Marx”:, which doesn’t seem promising for Schmibertarians with aggressive foreign policies.[4] But consider:

Oh Karl the world isn’t fair
It isn’t and never will be.
They tried out your plan
It brought misery instead,
If you’d seen how they worked it
You’d be glad you were dead.
Just like I’m glad I’m living in the land of the free,
Where the rich just get richer
And the poor you don’t ever have to see —
It would depress us, Karl.
Because we care
That the world still isn’t fair.

Just replace ‘Karl’ with “‘Bob'”: and “they” with “we” and you’re set. Sure, Iraq was run by a wholly evil despot before. But so what? After all, who if not libertarians can we depend on to remind us that the world isn’t fair, your plan brought misery instead, and that you’re just wasting your time — and probably making things worse — by initiating some Grand State Scheme to control unemployment, the market for rental accommodation, civilian air traffic or infant polio. This argument scales up to things like the forcible invasion, occupation and political reconstruction of faraway countries. Given that the country posed no credible threat to the U.S., Libertarians ought to have opposed the war and especially the subsequent occupation in Iraq. And indeed “many of them”: did.

fn1. That is, botched.

fn2. That is, botched.

fn3. That is, botched.

fn4. Note that we’re talking about the Schmibertarians of Samizdata here, not Jacob Levy of the University of Chicago.

VOIP = square peg, round hole ?

by John Q on September 24, 2004

The failure of yet another VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) company reminds me of a question to which I’ve never got a satisfactory answer. Is there any technological reason for thinking that VOIP is a good idea? To clarify, IP is a packet-switching technology, which is great for data, but everything I’ve read suggests that circuit-switching is better for voice (that’s what it was designed for, after all).

Whenever I’ve seen an explanation of the supposed advantages of VOIP, it has seemed to involve regulatory arbitrage. That is the technology is supposed to use cheap substitutes for regulated voice lines, while typically relying on those same lines for access either via old-style modem or ADSL.

But all of this is just an impression. Can anyone set me straight?