Episode-1512- Professor CJ on History and Personal Liberty — 54 Comments

  1. There are more ways to fight wars than by pushing the red button. I have often wondered what would happen if Russia started asking for payment in Rubles for the energy it delivers to Europe and why haven’t they played that card. That may put and to the petro dollar and consequently our economy.

    • Right now people would love to pay in rubles, have you seen what it currently trades for. You want to talk about something meaningless it is what unit of payment Russia takes for gas.

    • The macroeconomics of currency are very counterintuitive and the opposite of what everyone is told by the media and in schools. Pulling that move would result in less import power for the Russian economy short term and a slower recovery long term for Russia. Neither of which Putin would want.

    • The price of commodities are market fixed. It does not matter what the US-Euro/Ruble parity is. I don’t understand what you mean by meaningless? Buying rubles to pay for gas would strengthen it.

      • I’m going to try and clarify my answer above, it’s complicated, so hopefully this will make sense:

        Over the long run, yes
        Over the short term when there’s more panicked sellers of the ruble than a need for their oil, no.

        The result of selling oil & gas in rubles is that Russia would have less dollars, euros, & pounds. Which means short term they’d have to buy their import goods with rubles… GOOD LUCK!
        After the ruble stabilizes, the ruble would have artificially high value in the world market. Which means when they sell export goods, the cost will appear higher to the importers. This would result in a slower economic recovery. “Due to less than expected export sales.” As the media line would be.

        Hope that makes sense for you.

        • Let me see if I can make sense to you:

          If Russia sells oil in Rubles that means hard currencies have to be traded to buy Rubles. How would this diminish Russia’s access to hard currencies? This also means a stronger Ruble which Russia would use to buy production inputs. A strong currency negatively affects (and this assertion is dubious at best) countries that export finished products, i.e. China, US, etc… In the case of Russia being primarily a commodities exporter it does not affect them because the price of the Ruble would be pegged to the price of commodities, a gold standard if you will, but using energy. Russia does not export much else so a strong Ruble would be a net positive for them when buying outside their borders.

        • Well the problem is that would be Russia trying to use a weak ass currency (in the best of times) to control a market that they don’t produce enough product to control. In essence the theory is sound but the math doesn’t work.

        • I agree with what Jack said.

          There were two questions that seemed to be directed at me in there, that I’ll try and answer

          Why would taking rubles for their oil instead of dollars and euros affect their ability to have access to dollars and euros?
          Because they are getting rubles for their oil. Which means they would have to trade the rubles for euros and dollars to be able to get access to euros and dollars. Since there doesn’t seem to be a large demand for rubles, this might be difficult, and it would cost money in order to facilitate the transaction. It would also undermine any boost to the ruble as the increase to the demand would be met with an increase in the supply of rubles.

          Why would a strong currency negatively effect exports over the long term?
          Let’s say you want to buy something domestically, and you notice that it always costs $9.99 at the store you buy it from. Since, I’m assuming, you live in the US, work in the US, and have dollars to spend, the exchange rate of the dollar doesn’t affect you. But when you buy something in a different currency, the exchange rate matters. So let’s say that same good is sold for 1,000 rubles to make the math easy, and the exchange rate is 1 ruble = 1 cent. Well, either way the same item comes out to $10, so you don’t care. You throw down your $10 bill and get the item. Now next week you come back and the item is still 1,000 rubles but the exchange rate is 1 ruble = 2 cents. Now the item is $20, so you have to decide how badly you need the item, can you get it somewhere else for cheaper etc.

          Of course, if Russia controlled the world supply of oil, or had a currency that people use for other reasons etc. they could probably get away with it. But as it stands now, I agree with Jack, the math doesn’t work.

  2. Interesting. and Yes, I’m nearing 80, started with computers in the 80’s when we had to write our own programs in DOS, with dot matrix printers, and when the web started, it took about 30 minutes to download a map or photo. lol C.J, I wonder whether or not you’ve read ‘The Fourth Turning’ and if you agree with the patterning, and that we can look forward to the Centennials to bring cultures back into balance. I’m witnessing a huge number of young people in their late teens and twenties who have their heads on straight and looking at the world very differently than their parents did, especially with regards to primitive skills and permaculture/growing foods, etc. Personally, I’m encouraged. And I’m having opportunities to tell them historical background for today’s problems/events. Thanks for the show today.

  3. Without the internet you could not have had all the right information during WW2. Could you conceive that the world elite engineered it and made Hitler the scapegoat?
    Checkout for something that looks a lot like a history of the world that actually makes sense.

  4. This is actually something that I consider to be a very scary topic. The realization that some very deep seeded beliefs I have are very likely built on lies is something I have realized to a very very deep degree recently. What sparked me was little things I noticed that other people believed that stemmed from small events in the past. (Somebody telling them something, or them completely misinterpreting). These things had profound impacts on their beliefs.

    Jack, that one show you did before on that at the end you just started rattling off common myths people believe, is a great example of historical nonsense. I’m certainly not above from saying that I probably believed at least half.

    Adding to this situation is that all history, EVEN TODAY, is clouded by so much bullshit, or so little on the ground “truths” and usually reported through specific channels (those who could write, or broad cast media today) that nearly all accounts are suspect. The reality is we don’t know, and we won’t ever know.

    My coping mechanism for that is basically acknowledging my inability to ever know those truths, and moving on with a positive mindset on things worth mulling over.

  5. Does it really matter, or is it even necessary, to debunk the mythology of what otherwise is a decent historical foundation? Maybe Washington didn’t fart lightning bolts, he still won the revolution. That alone earned him some mythology kudos.

    I think that the biggest danger to learning history from one source alone is not the inherent mythology, but what CJ mentioned regarding the lens through which history is taught. History as seen through a women’s rights college course may be very different than the same historic period covered in an African American studies class. A classic I keep hearing in prepper mythology is that Japan did not attack the US was because there was a rifle behind every blade of grass. While those words may have been advised to the emperor, and perhaps even true, was that really the reason Japan did not attack the west coast? Or just a nice narrative that fits history nicely. We’ll never know, but it’s nice to think so if you believe in the 2nd amendment.

    • I kinda agree with your first part, but don’t as well. You are basically using a strawman type fallacy by basically saying well it doesn’t matter if this trivial bit of information wasn’t known, but this large fact is the case. In many cases we’re talking about large facts.

      At least as I see it, many of the coverups and ridiculousness regarding the US government since literally its founding, just gives credence to the “never trust ANYBODY in power” and have a healthy caution to people who crave power, for whatever reason even if its something you like. Often these political cover ups were to continually allow the illusion that the government acts on behalf of the public, which still to this day brainwashes many. Why you should seek out facts on even the smallest things, is because its not just the small things that are “un-true”. It’s like thinking Lincoln was some honkey dory good to go snow white politician. You know while he suspended the rights of citizens of free states all over the North.

      We know that masses of people can and do completely eat up what politicians say, and become useful idiots to their own detriment and usually a lot of other people. I recently watched Glenn Greenwald’s ted talk and I think it has a lot of parallels with this discussion, particularly the 1984 one.

      Glenn Greenwalds’ Ted Talk

      • Well, the good history student has to decide what is trivial and what’s not. And that comes with experience and critical thinking. When you consider how much happens on a daily basis and then see the history of the US from the Beginning to the Civil War summarized in a 600 page text book, you have to wonder what got left out. At 18 when a student takes that course, however, he may not realize it or care.

        When I see the ages of the Founding Fathers, for example, I have to conclude that those men accomplished something great at a very young age. That’s what I choose to believe as history and don’t worry about the other stuff. You have to question if history is about the facts only, or are the fact necessary evil to relating history. You’ll go crazy trying to seek the ‘truth’ of things related you by second, third, and fourth hand accounts.

    • @Jose
      I enjoyed your 2nd post I think its a good one. I think by age 18 you’ve already kind of been “brainwashed” by main stream interpretations of history. In fact there wasn’t a lot other than small tid bits that I learned in US history in high school. You’re right though about “what did they miss”. I might say everything. Since the devil is in the details and having to cover hundreds of years of contested history…. Although I’ll point out though that history is taught as fact, rather than what you’ve described it as. Second/third hand recollections, typically it would seem to me today, to be headlines and “major figures” writings, particularly those that are “PG” enough to be in a text book.

      For me the civil war, events leading up to, during and the aftermath in particularly is probably the biggest example of that. I have been faced on numerous occasion dumbasses who couldn’t be more ignorant, meanwhile spouting their clueless disillusion to others.

      Jack side note. I would be very curious if somebody started keeping track (somehow) of government killings over the years. We’ve already talked about the number of people killed by governments in wars like WW2 (staggering). Now lets talk about US, Brazil and Jamaica for extrajudicial killings….

      • Jack, I can’t disagree with anything you say, but I can’t reach the same conclusions. In the end, whose responsibility is it to find the truth? Is it the historian’s or the individual. Every single piece of history will have some form of bias and omissions in it. You start deconstructing your history and it’s prominent figures, telling kids that Washing pulled teeth from slaves and that Jefferson slept with slave girls and what do you end-up with? You say with a better person that’s going to write ‘actual truths’; I say not necessarily and you are taking a huge gamble in creating an apathetic society which normalizes everything against the petty. Yeah kids we went to the moon, but all we brought back were some rocks in bag. In the end, that money would have been put to better use doing medical research…. Perhaps, history should not be taught at all and let those interested in the subject reach their own conclusions at an age when they are quite capable of balancing the good with the bad. But if it’s going to be taught to kids in school, I’d much rather my kids learn that Washington was a good guy and kind’f omit the pulling teeth part.


          Simple no? Now if we do something crazy like abolish compulsory education by the state, well your argument will make perfect sense.

    • It matters a lot when the myth and the man are so far apart and used to shape the obedience of a society.

      Yes facts matter and you shouldn’t believe anything just because it is nice and fits your other beliefs such as your comment about Japan and the west coast.

      That one is particularly bad when it is used to make a point and proven WRONG by the opposition. You get that right?

      Perhaps instead of just seeing Washington for the good we should be honest about his flaws as well? Like immediately using militia to extort taxes from farmers. Or far worse yanking teeth from his slaves for use in his dentures.

      Of course the slaves who had no choice and no antiseptic at the time had them yanked out (can you imagine the pain) but were paid for them so that made it all kosher right?

      Perhaps the reason America is being so easily torn down is these omissions in the first place? When our young people learn the truth, they don’t just questions the lies, they even question and write off the actual truths about what did make America great.

    • Wow the reply buttons are really not up for me today…

      In reply to “don’t teach history”. Hadn’t considered it before. What would end up being the case is really you’d have parents or others teaching the history rather than schools. So you’d end up kind of where we were before which is a much more decentralized system. The problem for some people with that is they want to control what other people learn and know because they don’t trust other people’s parents. Kind of sad actually.

      In relation to the small paragraph you wrote. I know I’m just speaking to the choir here, but you’re just giving the same argument for why we know that state sponsored anything has to be wrong. Especially anything knowledge or moral related. Its a simple point and you’ve nailed it. I have to pay for things that I may be extremely in disagreement with.

      Whenever I hear people bitching about how the government should support things like NPR or whatever else, I tell them “would you be ok with the government funding Fox news?” With planned parent hood, would they be ok funding anti-abortion places as well? It’s just silly. The answer is neither.

      • @Mike while I agree that isn’t my point to Jose.

        Even if all history presented was accurate, the state would still push their agenda with it by formatting. Long as we have state run schools that is going to happen.

        My point to him is as tax payers who have our money stolen we have a right to demand at least accuracy. Specifically when accuracy can be proven and inaccurate information can be pointed out. Like the text book that stated that the second amendment said…

        “The people have a right to own arms in the militia”.

        That was clearly inaccurate as it wasn’t presented as an interpretation but as what the document said. Sadly for the people that tried it, they tried it here in Texas. A lead balloon has more chance of flying to Santa’s workshop than that did of surviving.

        The people defending it might have ended up tarred and feathered if it didn’t end when it did.

        And that folks proves one thing, at the local level yea you can make a difference if you give a shit enough to do it instead of arguing about which president will be better when both are hand picked by the Bilderbergs and other elites.

      • We need to start a deprogramming school to get rid of all the bloatware in kids minds.

        1st – 6th: Reading, Writing, Math to a level of fractions and basic geometry.
        7th – 8th: History, political science, literature, philosophy — Teach these course in an integrated approach rather than in isolation and in a self-guided approach with a mentor.

        8th – 10th: Science/Business coursework of choice to complement a trade, apprenticeship, business enterprise.

        At 16 years of age, young man/lady, the world is yours.

        • One of the best descriptions of the lack of education we have in this country today came from an interview I heard with John Michael Greer (and I think he wrote about it as well). He recommended picking up a copy of the old Lincoln-Douglas Debates from 1858 and reading them. Then, remember that the vast majority of their audience — farmers, feedlot workers, laborers, etc. — had no more than an 8th grade education. Compare that with the “debates” in our current political system, where a large portion of the audience has a college education.

        • @Jose this is exactly why I want MANDATED state controlled education banished. Note the mandated, they can do it for those that want and should cut school taxes in an apportioned manner as people choose to leave.

          This is why, I hate your curriculum! I despise it, it is not what I want for my grandson. I don’t want my kiddo waiting until 6th grade to learn some basic history and SCIENCE. I could give a shit if he knows geometry at 6th grade unless you mean VERY basic. Shapes, radius v circumference, etc.

          Here is the thing you won’t like my curriculum, period. So why should your money be stolen to meet my goals or my money be stolen to meet your goals?

          Why can’t Jose have a school to send his child to by CHOICE and Jack have one to send his grandson to by CHOICE? Choice being the magic word.

        • @ Jack
          I never suggested mandating anything. That would be more if I was running a private school or home schooling. I agree that only parents with kids in public schools should pay ISD taxes and get a voucher to send them to any public school they desire. But even in a private school or a home school setting, you’re never going to be 100% happy with your kid’s education unless you’re imparting it yourself. And in that case, you only have yourself to blame if things don’t turn out as expected. My kid’s currently in public school doing common core (Yes, TX has common core despite Perry saying no). The problem with common core is not necessarily one of poor academics. The math they are doing in first grade is all application, word problems. By 4th grade they are doing things I never covered. The problem with common core is one of indoctrination and standardization. The purpose of common core is to have well educated engineers, per se, hardwired not to question established norms. It’s is more sinister than people think.

        • No see I would be if I had choices. If I liked what your school taught for history, I would send my son to you for JUST THAT. I would perhaps teach him certain things myself, send him to a study group for math another school for science, etc.

          The problem most people have that want “private education” is they want nothing but a derivative of public education, which is a derivative of a failure.

          What the internet has enabled is a free market system. All of those in educational positions of power are fighting it, charter and private schools are fighting it just as hard. Sadly for them though it won’t work. This is like fighting a natural force now, like trying to fight a tornado or a blizzard. You can’t win, it is game over and they just can’t see it yet.

        • @Modern Survival
          That already exists in many respects. If you really do want the system of: in 5th Grade we kind of teach US history, and in 6th Grade we kind of teach World history etc. there’s plenty of those schools both public and private, and the private schools only take the top test scorers, and then brag about their test scores being high as if they’ve accomplished anything. And the parents are delighted!
          But there are also schools that teach history chronologically starting in 4th grade, and science starting at 3 or 4 that go from observable to abstract. Immersion Mandarin, Spanish etc. Advanced mathematics or computer programming.
          The school that we send my son to believes in establishing self reliance early. So he is expected at 2 years old to get his own glass, ceramic plate, silverware sit down in a chair and eat and then take it to the sink and clean the dishes, put them away and wash his hands. He also gets a square foot box to grow vegetables from seed over the school year, and then when they’re ready (roughly end of the school year) he gets to pick them and bring them home and we’ll make something with them.
          But to be honest, I was sold when I found out that they didn’t do any standardized testing because nothing in their curriculum matches up with the public school system or common core.

        • No nothing like what I describe even CLOSE to exists. Don’t take this wrong but I can tell by your comments here and earlier that you are too much part of the system to even get what I am saying for now anyway.

          I want the state 100% OUT of education and if not at least that I want the freedom to remove any and all children that parents wish to 100% from the states system. I want the state to have no say (other than contract resolution) as to what my child learns, no say at all. NONE, ZERO. That is the only way a free market education system can exist.

          What I am describing can not work with compulsorily education. You can’t even understand what I am describing because you are basing it on the states failed model.

        • I thought I knew what you were saying. I’ll give the episode another listen. I listen to your show while driving, so I could easily miss something.

          What I was trying to say is that there are more choices available than just free public school, and glorified public school that costs.
          Not that what I remember you describing in that episode already exists. If that makes sense.

          Personally, if I could waive a magic wand, I’d change just about everything with the public school system. When I was a kid, I had some great teachers, and some of the worst teachers you could imagine, and they all had tenure and were paid on the same pay scale. Absolutely nothing about that seems right to me, and we haven’t even begun to talk curriculum.

          But the fact remains, even if you’re right and roughly 15 years from now compulsory education ceases to exist, your grandson and my son will already be out of school. So we have to make decisions today for these kids, within the system we have, whether we like it or not. And if you feel that way about the public school system, and we both do, then finding a school that creates its own curriculum, with teachers you like and trust, and filling in the gaps yourself or doing extra curricular activities to fill in the gaps, seems like a start.

  6. Damn Jack, I had just cleaned up some of my podcast subsriptions. Listened to a couple of CJ’s podcasts while taking a walk last night. He gained himself another subscriber.

  7. Prof CJ, if you read this, I’ve definitely started listening to the podcasts. Thanks for providing the resource. Always interested in getting connected with more not so nice parts in history.

  8. A quick note on college expenses – I graduated from UCONN in 2000 with very little debt because I had a full tuition waiver through the Army NG, and I also worked 30 plus hours a week in the dining hall, which allowed me free meals in addition to a wage of about $10 an hour as a student supervisor. The options are still out there today. You simply have to be willing to do what you need to do to keep yourself out of debt. Is it easier to sign on the line and cash that student loan check? Sure is! But I know I learned more about management and teamwork in the Army and working through college than I ever learned in the classroom.

    • Great points. Even for those not inclined to the military, there are still lots of scholarships and whatnot to be found. I made it through 4 years to my bachelors degree from a good school with no debt at all. I got a bunch of different scholarships and worked teaching SAT and ACT courses for Kaplan at night. I actually paid for my textbooks with some small scholarships that were specifically for history majors that were offered by the Daughters of the American Revolution and other groups like that. These little, obscure scholarships often don’t get that many applicants precisely because they’re small and obscure, so there’s less competition, but if you rack up a bunch of them it will at least save you from having to put books on Visa like many of your classmates are undoubtedly doing.

      All of my student loans come from grad school, and like I said in the show, by national averages I’m far better-off in that regard than most people with bachelors degrees, let alone masters degrees. (That said, the debt that I do have still sucks and I’m doing my best to slay it!)

  9. PermieKids, Permaculture Voices, Prof CJ, Wealthsteading, and I’m sure many more that I’m either forgetting or am unaware of.

    You know Jack, if you keep this up, your legacy could be more “The Grandfather of Anti-Media Podcasting” and less “Modern Survivalist” or “Permaculturist”
    Not bad legacies any way you look at it, especially since you’re only 6 years into what I assume to be a 30+ year venture.
    Maybe they’ll need to make a new category on iTunes for Jack Spirko inspired Podcasts 😉

    Just a little food for thought.

    • Yes, TSP was definitely one of the short list of podcasts that inspired me to finally start making something of my own. I think whether it’s making physical goods or making intangible goods such as media, if we have any bright future ahead of us economically, it will be in the form of ever-more decentralized, DIY-type activity.

  10. Thanks to everyone who’s expressed kind words about me and my podcast, and thanks of course to Jack for having me on. I enjoyed it very much.

    BTW, something I meant to mention during the interview (but forgot to in the midst of all the diverse topics we discussed) was to recommend specifically for TSP listeners to check out the 4-part series I did on the Bronze Age Collapse of c.1200-1100 BC a few months back (Episodes 27-30 of the Dangerous History Podcast). This was a case of real-life TEOTWAWKI that was in many ways more severe than the more well-known collapse of the Roman Empire, yet it’s surprisingly little-known by comparison. I think anyone who is at all interested in preparedness-related topics will find this very interesting.

    • Definitely will check that one out, Prof CJ. I’ve read the idea that the collapse of Mycenaean Greek civilization was brought on mainly because they essentially cut down so many trees to burn for bronze production, which in turn helped cause an ecological collapse and the society no longer had the energy inputs (productive land) to maintain its higher level of complexity. So, it descended into the Dorian dark age (a much lower-complexity society), only reviving into Classical Greece after 300-400 years — the kind of time frame it took for the forests to re-establish themselves.

  11. There are times I rather envy the Millenials getting to grow up with the web and having that information at one’s fingertips. I didn’t get to start playing with the web until my late teens and early 20’s in college, and I look back and wince at all those hours spent during junior high and high school struggling to grok the advanced math homework with my only guides being a textbook that often didn’t explain things well and (as often as not) teachers who weren’t that great or just stretched too thin to be much help. It would have been wonderful to have online resources that explained the material a different way, or for that matter had those resources to learn on my own (at least in part) so I could homeschool even with both parents working (like many I was a latchkey kid anyway). Or be able to check the bulls**t I was fed by kids and grownups alike. Thankfully my mom and dad were effective more often than not as my own “vaccine against bulls**t” growing up. Still I have to think that struggle was character-building in some way, and it is kind of nice having a reference point on what life was like before the web and internet as we know it.

    So I do have to agree that by virtue of the information availability Millenials as a generation might be less susceptible (though certainly not immune) to bulls**t compared to the generations before them. I’m admittedly biased, but I think my exposure to the web starting in my emerging adulthood helped me get a broader perspective and suss out a fair amount of BS.

    • I definitely appreciate having the internet and all of technology’s awesomeness. When I was in school, in history class I would basixally sit on my phone and read about what the teacher was failing at teaching (qnd play bejeweled). I can neithee confirm nor deny the bullshit resistance growing up with the internet. I guess for the most part we’re fairly bullshit immune, and more importantly definitely highly open minded to new ideas, like the idea that it’s all bullshit. What I see most of is kids being tp busy making shit happen with their lives to get caught up in the bullshit soup, media hype, and false dichotomy, and a fairly pragmatic world view that leans towards libertarianism, but also fairly liberal becauae nobody has told them there’s a better way to do this than government intervetion yet.

    • Somewhat agree, Nickbert — but not completely. When I was a kid, my parents had a set of World Book Encyclopedias on the bookshelves downstairs. One of the things I would do when bored was go down there and just look through them. I also used them as a research tool for projects in school.

      One of the benefits I noted of researching things in this way was that even when I went in with a specific focus, I ended up delving into and learning about things that I wasn’t going there to start with. I think it was IMPOSSIBLE to not do that when I was dealing with encyclopedias. Contrast that with the way that internet research is done — most kids just go on Google and type in their topic (or do the same on an online encyclopedia), come up with the hits that apply, and go straight to them. While it may be more “efficient,” I’m not sure that it’s more effective in the long run, because it closes off the side roads. Much as how interstates may make your drive faster, but those old highways often had better vistas and took your through some interesting places along the way to your destination.

      I think that the immediacy of the internet also presents problems, because it encourages instant gratification. Not in any way saying it’s all bad, because I use it myself every day. Rather, it’s the old case of, “Everything better is purchased at the price of something worse.”

      • @Chris H. I completely disagree. I feel the internet has more of this “benefit” if that is what you wish to call it. Read something see something else, sometimes it is linked you click it and off on a rabbit chase you go.

        If it isn’t linked you highlight it and if you use firefox (the grown up browser) you select search google for that word, phrase and you are off on the chase as well.

        I guess you mean that you sort of paged though encyclopedias. I do get that. If so might I suggest the random article link at wikipedia.

        • Jack, I already go down plenty of rabbit holes on the internet. Hell, if it wasn’t for the web I probably wouldn’t have discovered permaculture — and that’s something that literally has changed my life’s focus in more ways than I could count.

          But one thing I’ve noticed both with myself AND when I worked with kids, is that there is a distraction factor with the internet that was never there with physical books or encyclopedias. There are times that I’ll start to read an online article and get halfway through before being distracted by something else and open up another tab. When I sit down to read an article in a physical magazine, however, there’s much more focus. When I taught I noticed an inability to focus with many of my students, especially when there was electronic media involved.

          But all I’m going off here are my own personal observations, so if your view doesn’t jive with mine I can definitely live with that. As you said above, you “feel” the internet has more of this benefit — it’s not something that either of us can realistically quantify, or even qualify with necessary depth of inquiry.

  12. As a lifelong history buff and someone who studied this subject at the undergrad and grad levels, I really, really liked this podcast.

    As someone who originated from a much further “left” perspective than most others in these forums, I debunked a lot of the mythology of Americanism a long time ago. However, the detailed study of history helped me to then debunk many of the myths of my initial perspective as well. I think this is the value of taking a deep study of history — you are forced to repeatedly examine your own biases and hold them up to scrutiny if you have any desire to really understand the motivations and actions of actors in the story of the past.

    I especially appreciated Prof. CJ’s thoughts on this period being very similar to right before the outbreak of WWI. Dan Carlin has five episodes out on his Hardcore History podcast about WWI (Countdown to Armageddon). The first one deals a good bit with the setting of the stage. One of the factors that he cites repeatedly is the lack of quality in the European rulers at that time. Especially Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Czar Nicholas II of Russia. Basically, he puts forth the idea that if Germany had still had Otto von Bismarck (or someone anywhere close to his ability) still guiding German foreign policy, the likelihood of going to war would have been much, much lower — but because they instead had the insecure, blustering “Little Willie” at the helm, they made mistake after mistake moving forward. Same for Russia under the last Czar. Look at the national “leadership” we’ve had for the past 20 years or so from both parties, and just think on that for a few minutes….

    I’ve also read other takes that examine the way that the structure of monarchies, alliances and multi-ethnic European Empires (Austria-Hungary) in Europe had become so fossilized and rigid that all it took was a tap from a small hammer (assassination of Franz Ferdinand) to send cracks spreading throughout it. Add into that the conviction that nobody thought a war could actually happen, and you had a setup for disaster. Once those forces were unleashed, nothing could rein them in.

    As for looking at the US and Russia — I think that Dmitry Orlov gives an excellent take on the stark differences between Russian and American historical experience, outlook, and culture. When I taught HS history for a brief period, I remember doing a comparison with my students at the differences in historical experience leading into the Cold War. Particularly, the way in which Russia was repeatedly invaded from the west (Swedes in 1707, Napoleon in 1812, Germany in 1914 and 1941). Then, move forward to the past 20 years when Sec. of State James Baker promised Russia after the breakup of the USSR that the US would not expand NATO eastward — and then proceeded to do just that over the next 25 years. Is it any wonder that Russia would see the US fomenting a “revolution” in the Ukraine as anything but a direct threat to them? While I don’t think that this presents the serious possibility of a nuclear exchange, what it does do is set up more proxy wars between the US and Russia, much like during the Cold War, with Ukraine being Act I.

    But just like in everything else, you learn more from your failures than your successes. Since Russia went through the process of imperial collapse first, they learned lessons that will probably serve them well — while officials in the US remain blinded by the hubris of victory. Add in the fact that the Russian people are much more resilient and accustomed to hardship than we are. This is very similar to the manner in which Germany learned the lessons of gasoline warfare following their defeat in WWI, while Britain and France didn’t during their victory — and if it weren’t for resource shortages combined with ultra-centralized decision-making in the hands of a lunatic (e.g. Rommel lost at el-Alamein because he ran out of gas, not because Monty out-maneuvered him), Germany would have likely won the war in Europe.

    I’ve got many, many more thoughts on this episode — but I’ll leave it there for now because this post is already too long. Thanks for putting this out there.

    • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is excellent and well produced. He seems to lean heavily on Will and Ariel Durant as historical sources and that’s fine. So do I. That’s where I got the source for “Italian Slave Girls for Sale” but the Durants have their limitations.

      History in many ways is like translating a foreign language. If you provide too much detail, the listener gets lost in all the clutter. If you don’t provide enough detail, you are misleading the listener too. Dan Carlin tries to “deep dive” into a subject while helping the listener maintain focus on the overall objective. There is no “Goldilocks” way to do it “just right”. You must do your best to translate something that is blindingly obvious to the people of the past into something that is blindingly obvious to modern people. That is not easy and it tends to distort our overall perception history as it clarifies one aspect of it.

      Alex Shrugged

  13. Professor CJ… I signed up for your podcast. Great stuff!

    I’ve listened to episode 2 where you talk about your intentions and loved it. I’m with you.

    I’m glad you did this interview on history. It needed to be done and I can’t do such things myself anymore. I was injured a few years ago and handicapped in ways that are not obvious at first but my handicap would become embarrassingly obvious in an interview after about 5 minutes. That is why I avoid such freewheeling things these days.

    I’m glad for your podcast and I’m looking forward to more. Right now I’m half way through episode 49 “Historical Lies by Omission”. Excellent work.


    Alex Shrugged

  14. Jack mentions in this episode that I should have a masters degree. My wife says I should have been a professor and I’m often mistaken for one, at least in writing. In person I’m mostly mistaken for a rabbi. I am not a rabbi and I am not a professor. I think of myself as a chaplain and a teacher.

    I am also an autodidact… so now I can get married in Massachusetts! 🙂

    I became interested in history after reading a SciFi book by Michael Crichton entitled “Timeline” where time traveling historians are dumped into the middle of the 100 Years’ War. At the end of the story the author provides a bibliography that includes the book, “Inventing the Middle Ages” by Norman F. Cantor (of blessed memory). Dr. Cantor convinced me that historians have an agenda and that agenda seriously distorts our perception of the past… specifically for POLITICAL purposes. (He is one of them, BTW, the old leftist so-and-so. 🙂 I say that affectionately but it makes it no less true.)

    That set me on a path to reading about history. I read a lot. When I heard Jack doing “The year that was the episode” I started sending in contributions and he began reading them. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from this work since I’m mostly housebound and I don’t get much interaction with others except for my wife, a friend who drops by once a week and my weekly trips to the jail to do my chaplain work. If that sounds pathetic, it may prove to be so in the long run, but for now, it serves me well.

    Thank you for letting me be of service.

    Alex Shrugged

  15. Wonder if various countries have their own unique version of bullshit soup.
    Visited India, didn’t realize how young their government was, gaining their independence a few years before I was born. Many alive still remember living under British rule. I don’t remember learning much about India at all in any history class.
    I don’t know if it was because we were American and we heard what they thought we wanted to hear or not, but we heard much admiration for Americans, how they’d like to be more like us. Surprise that we didn’t act like the Americans from various Hollywood movies.
    “But your politicians are so liberal and honest” had us all cracking up and I heard it more than once. You must be so proud of your president who is visiting our country. I explained how money controlled too many politicians. They understood because they have the same problems but had hoped it wasn’t the case here.
    “Americans are so self-controlled” OK, what do you mean by that. Your roads aren’t covered in litter, you follow traffic laws, drive in neat little straight lines, etc. So we are more sheep-like. Follow laws without questioning. Of course when they don’t have the means to enforce their own traffic laws, and you can bribe a traffic cop for $1.50, you can see why there is little respect. Neither do I respect the cop in our small town who gave a ticket to a guy because he stopped a little in front of the white line before turning right instead of behind it (where you can’t see as clearly).
    One difference I noticed is how we want military bases nearby, for the jobs they bring to local economy. They resented having a large military presence in their city and it wasted many resources they needed for their own residents.
    Few guns of any kind, you’d have to prove your life was in grave danger in a dangerous vocation and account for every single bullet you own. Most had never held a real gun or rifle in their hands, let alone shot one. Yet there seemed to be a nostalgia for the American wild west, movies, books. Little arcades were you hit things with pellet guns.
    So many things I saw copied from British rule, tea, mannerisms, English boarding schools yet many weren’t fans of the British. Heard many stories of how ruthless they were.
    Hopefully their version of soup isn’t we need more liberal “honest” politicians whom we can follow like sheep and everything will be in its proper order.

  16. ‘To love one’s country, unless that love is quite blind and lazy, must involve a distinction between a country’s actual condition and its inherent ideal; and this distinction in turn involves a demand for changes and for effort.’

    The failure comes in believing that to conceive of an ideal, is to possess it, or that to proclaim it, is the same as to practice it.

    We are a young IDEALISTIC nation. We overflow with ideals. But in the present age, they are the ‘virtues’ of the young.. loudly and proudly proclaimed, particularly to those older and wiser, but seldom demonstrated.

    On education..
    there are two separate questions to ask yourself..
    What is an ‘education’?
    What is a ‘public education’?

    They are not the same thing. IMO ‘public education’ is a wild success. 😉

    ‘Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?’
    – Cicero