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Jo498

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    Johannes

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  1. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    But this is obviously a completely lopsided view. As the Marquis pointed out, feudalism was a reaction to the collapse of the Western Empire. It was more efficient in a decentralized realm with little infrastructure left. In fact, I read that with a few innovations in agriculture (crops rotation, better ploughs), the feudal system of agriculture was or considerably more efficient than the slave labor of the Roman Empire, it certainly became very efficient leading to overpopulation problems in the 13th century. I also find it somewhat strange that you seem morally outraged by feudalism but apparently in awe of the thriving slavekeeping and -trading Maurs and Romans. If you got plumbing and stained glass, a bit of slavery is o.k., I guess. Western Europe was under heavy pressure for several centuries: Maurs in Spain, constantly harrassing southern France and Italy, Norsemen harassing the British Isles and everywhere up the rivers, Slavic riders coming from the Balkans. Sure, Northwestern Europe was totally backwards compared to 6th century Constantinople or 9th century Bagdad. But with their "stagnating feudal system and repressive church hierarchies" they pulled through all this harrassment, either threw back (reconquista) or "civilized" (the Norse and some of the Slavs) the aggressors and by the end of the 11th century they had enough energy to spare to go on crusades and (at least in the first one) pretty much kicked the butts of the "superior civs". They did not have so many shiny things although by the 11th century they also started building cathedrals that were every bit as impressive as byzantine or muslim architecture and Western Europe also developed music as we know it today. The stylistic changes in architecture and arts also show that cultural development was certainly possible and took place. And as we all know by the end of the 15th century Europe was good enough in all the tech that mattered (ships, navigation, gunpowder, steel, optics, maps, printing) to discover and eventually conquer the world. And still manage to keep the Ottoman Empire (well organized, nice and shiny stuff) at bay. And nobody in his right mind could claim that from the early 1300s on late medieval art, architecture and literature (Giotto, Dante etc.) was on par with other cultures or periods.
  2. In a strictly patriarchial society like we still have in some quarters of the middle East, there would not be much "warning". Both Ardee and Jezal would very likely be dead for a loose pre-marital relationship. In a somewhat civilized patriarchial society, Ardee would be sent off into a convent and Jezal would probably have to duel her brother fopr "lost family honor". Somewhat more civilized still, they would be forced into marriage by their families. You can't take late 20th century mores just like that into a pseudohistorical setting and then complain about "toxic masculinity" because a brother intervenes in a relationship of his sister in a way that would be considered exceptionally mild in virtually any time and place before the mid/late 20th century. This is a society in which a life is not worth a penny, people get sent off into concentration camps for very little etc. ans stuff like status matters A LOT. It is West's bloody duty to care about status and shame because without this you are nothing in such a society.
  3. Jo498

    Up in Smoke: Drug Legalization and Dealing

    I don't know about this German beer hall but in Germany the standard/popular German beers are all around 5-6%. Stronger ones exist but they are not very common, I think.
  4. While admittedly my main source are only the "Judge Dee" novels (highly recommendable btw) the main point of torture in imperial China and in early modern Europe was not to get information. Rather, they had a rule for some crimes (or generally) that nobody could be convicted without a confession. So they would not randomly torture people but only those where they had very good reasons to assume guilt. (Of course this does not mean that it was not also abused, but the "police state" of First Law is fantasy, which is of course perfectly fine.) In "Judge Dee" there is also the rule that if a judge (who is judge, prosecutor, detective inspector and chief administrator in one person) orders torture or death penalty and it turns out that it was unjustified he will suffer the same fate as the innocent victim of justice (again, I have not checked this independently but Van Gulick was a sinologist and supposedly reliable wrt historical background). There are several episode when Dee is in a dilemma whether to risk his own career or even life (including his large family's) with the decision to order the torture of a suspect and this is obviously also a reason why he prefers to solve the cases and get confessions without it.
  5. I support Dresden, if you like baroque and Bad Schandau/Elbsandsteingebirge if you like nature. Passau is also nice although my memories are rather dim as it must be almost 30 years that I have been there.
  6. Jo498

    Up in Smoke: Drug Legalization and Dealing

    Yes, and it is a fallacy that weed needs to be legalized because otherwise alcohol is unfairly favored (or that both should be prohibited). That's just not the way such things work and the cultural entrenchment of alcohol is real and one would ignore history and culture at one's peril, As I said, drug prohibition/legalization is one of the few issues where I really am divided. For me the best would be total legalization (to dry out the morass of organized drug related crime) in a combination with some control (wrt minors and also the quality of the stuff) AND strong social condemnation of drug use/abuse. This might seem paradoxical and while this seems quite close to the actual situation in the late 19th century one can certainly doubt that it worked back then. The people advancing prohibition did this not mainly for social control but alcoholism was really wreaking havoc among especially among the "lower classes". Now obviously one answer is to improve the plight of the lower classes that they don't have to drown their sorrows in booze. This has been done to some extent but like the poor will be always with us, so apparently will be drug abuse. And drug addiction is obviously not restricted to the poor either.
  7. Jo498

    Up in Smoke: Drug Legalization and Dealing

    If anything this seems to show that alcoholism is not clearly correlated with any particular prohibitive policies. France and the mediterranean countries seem quite liberal and let young teenager drink alcohol, Germany/Austria/Low Countries etc. are somewhat more strict, not sure about the Nordic countries but there alcohol is incredibly expensive (unlike most of southern/middle Europe) which should act as some kind of restriction. I think France/Mediterranean countries have less problems with alcoholism than the others. And the huge alcoholism problems of eastern Europe are obviously not mainly related to the easy availability of cheap booze but have cultural reasons and seem to be related to the social/economic problems many of them are struggling with.
  8. Jo498

    Up in Smoke: Drug Legalization and Dealing

    Note that the attitude towards "illegal drugs" does not seem to be clearly correlated with the European liberal stance towards alcohol (and until recently smoking). There is not such a "war on drugs" in Europe, but most countries are still quite strict, even with weed and certainly with most "harder" drugs. While I think that the US is crazy with their prohibitional attitude, I am of a somewhat divided mind in this whole issue. Often I think full liberalization of all and any drugs (for people over 18) would be at least worth trying. But despite the more relaxed attitude towards alcohol, Germany and especially central/eastern Europe do have considerable problems with alcohol addiction. And as a non-smoker I am mostly in favor of the far stricter rules of today that still seem lax to some Americans but were almost inconceivable in my youth in the 80s and even in the 1990s when every restaurant was a smoky den.
  9. Jo498

    Up in Smoke: Drug Legalization and Dealing

    Not only the French. Almost all of continental Europe is very different to the US wrt alcohol. Even in Germany where everything is verboten that is not explicity allowed we have a restricted drinking age of 16 and a "hard liquor" age of 18. And while I am not sure if there is more enforcement now, this was usually handled very loosely at least up to the 1980s, so the de facto beer drinking age was closer to 14. It is similar with tobacco. I never smoked more than a few puffs because I find it rather disgusting but until recently one could legally smoke from 16 and many started earlier. This has been changed to 18 and some enforcement is applied (e.g. one needs an ID for vending machines, in former times every ten year old could get cigarettes from a vending machine). When I was in high school in the mid/late 1980s, students above 16 were allowed to smoke in a designated "smoker's corner" at school! Well, it was a different millenium and it feels like that. This obviously contrasts with moderately tough policies (although not quite comparable to US war on drugs) towards illegal drugs, even weed, although for the latter I think consumption is not actively prohibited and small scale dealing often tolerated but I am not sure and I guess it can depend on local customs as the laws give the authorities some leeway. But anything like morphines or cocaine can get you in serious legal trouble, even it there is some leniency towards mere users and there is some therapeutic help (incl. replacement drugs) for addicts.
  10. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Why do you keep bringing New world plantations that were a product of the beginning post-feudal age and have nothing to do with the problems or stability of the almost 1000 years of feudality in Europe before that? Because the Old South is the only thing in history you know more about than whig caricatures? I don't deny that idealizing the middle ages is any better. But the claim that such medieval romances are a worthwhile target in 2019 is ridiculous. It was a worthwhile target for Cervantes and maybe still for Mark Twain but is a total strawman today. Quite apart from the fact that nobody wants moral sermons shining through fantasy or fiction stories.
  11. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Chèr Marquis, vous avez raison! I am socialist enough to deplore that in my country (Germany) the land and riches of the "nobles" were not more thoroughly redistributed in the early 20th century when they lost their other privileges. But when feudalism was a working system (and I am determinist enough to believe that it was at least for some time the "best" working system in the conditions otherwise it would not have been stable for a millenium), this was rather different. First of all, an attractive feature of feudalism is that strictly speaking NOBODY owns any land (which was the most important resource most of this time). And the aristocrats did not simply sit on unearned privileges but there were obligations connected with them. Above all, unlike most "grimdark" lets us make believe, before the late 19th century or so, war was not "throw more grunts in the meatgrinder" but rather "aristos bashing each others heads in and the peasants tending their horses". And obviously there were also strong meritocratic elements in feudalism because people could become nobility (either by war prowess or later by buying their titles). I'd be really interested in the dozens of fantasy/hist fiction books naively glorifying nobility. As already said by others, most of the late 20th century stuff is far close to the whig history caricatures with underprivileged commoners rising through the ranks because of their brilliance and hard honest toil against foppish idiots abusing their privileges.
  12. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Yes. Bertie and Jeeves have a very long tradition. Already in the 1780s the great Beaumarchais/Da Ponte/Mozart Figaros Wedding subverted the traditional subversion by making some of the servants as foolish as the masters although the most competent character in the opera is still Susanna, the female servant, and the count (the male nobleman) is probably the most unsympathetic. (The "prequel with Figaro still being a barber is more traditional because he has to save his young and foolish master.) As I said, I would be perfectly fine if writers came up with truly novel social models. But simply re-hashing tired clichées and mocking any hierarchies except the one resulting from the law of the jungle seems neither deep or enlightened nor make for plausible scenarios.
  13. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    I said with no syllable that aristocrats were in fact mostly good and noble. I only said that "evil incompetent decadent lecherous scheming aristocrats" are a pretty tired trope, not "edgy" at all. (The incredible whig historical stupidity of Flint is only accidentally related to feudalism, I think.) I am also not aware of 20th century fantasy (or historical fiction) mostly uncritically fawning over noble nobles (sure there are plenty of dime novels, I guess). One of the most famous historical novels, Scott's Ivanhoe already shows a rather diverse picture of (certainly still idealized) medieval nobility. I deplore that many writers lack the imagination to get rid of european medieval/early modern as main inspiration and that they use tired clichees instead of interesting characters and constellations. If almost everyone is a caricature or at least everyone in a position of privilege and power it gets boring quickly. (It is also not very plausible, i.e. what we see of the Empire's political and military elite in the first First Law is so utterly comically incompetent (except for the Inquisition) that it seems a miracle that this Empire still seems to work and until fairly recently was even expanding its reach.)
  14. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    So the slavery of the first modern democracy of the world is now the fault of European aristocrats? Slavery is almost a human universal. What distinguishes white Europeans is not that they also traded in or kept slaves (because almost everyone did it since the beginning of human culture) but that they were among the very few cultures that got rid of slavery and even went to some lengths to abolish it elsewhere (although the motives were not only the purest). I agree that there is nothing per se valuable about realism. Therefore let's skip the dubious claim that "grimdark" was more realist. But there is also nothing more trite than caricatures of "evil or stupid aristocrats". What is refreshing about something as old as Don Quijote? I would welcome more fantasy in fantastical non-feudal societies or ones inspired by centralist bureaucratic empires like Imperial China or native tribes or whatever instead of everyone following whig history caricatures of the middle ages and early modernity. And don't get me started on Flint. I got the first as a free ebook and could not finish it because of the nauseating righteousness. We (the" West") have as our most powerful leader a buffoonish plutocrat who got richer by bankruptcy fraud, defrauding country bumpkins with his "university" and similar schemes. The rest of our "elites" is not much better (otherwise such scum would not have risen to the top). We are "bringing our values and democracy" to the middle east and elsewhere which works brilliantly (depending on when you start counting, it is the 18th or 28th year of these wars, not quite 30 but we are getting there). We are really and truly so much better than the dirty, corrupt, bigoted and plain evil parties in the 30 years war. We certainly have better teeth and deodorant! So by all means, let's show our "enlightenment" and pat ourselves on the back by "deconstructing" (tired and half-informed clichees of) 17th century Europe because they had bad teeth and would not have had a chance against heart of gold small town Americans with machine guns (oops, I forgot that the book was written before them small town heart of gold people voted for that abovementioned plutocrat to become the most powerful politician in the world).* The people of the 17th century and the middle ages saw themselves as "dwarves on the shoulders of giants". *Everything* we have today (science, enlightenment, tech, freedom etc.) is founded on this our history. Many of us, like Flint, apparently think that we are giants who just sprang fully formed from the head of the goddess of enlightenment, totally unrelated to what happened before and that we are so much better than them. One would hope that we were better (I seriously doubt it, see above). But not with such an attitude that is the very opposite of enlightenment because it is based on self-righteousness and utterly cheap condescension (because the people of 1630 cannot defend themselves anymore) towards the people and their plights that made our modern society, values, science and tech possible in the first place. Sorry for the rant and no personal offence intended. *) I am not a military man nor a historian but I am pretty sure that Flint also seriously underestimates the intellingence and prowess of 17th century military leaders. The brilliant deconstruction of the tired Connecticut Yankee trope is Poul Anderson's "The high crusade".
  15. Jo498

    On realism, grimdark and childishness

    Maybe people were starving in the streets. EVERYTHING was so comically exaggerated that I forgot such details; it's also been several years that I read it.
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