Savage Minds announces that the blog will seek a new name, and that they are looking for suggestions.
Window on Eurasia notes that Russia’s fertility uptick will not alter the dynamics of population loss, and reports on a Russian radical’s astonishing suggestion that Russia is now in the same position versus Ukraine as Nazi Germany was versus Poland.
I wonder if Joe Wiesenthal’s Bloomberg View essay is unduly unkind to traditional oral cultures. Honesty has almost always been praised, after all.
[A]ll this focus on fake Facebook news obscures a much bigger story about the way social media — the endless public opining and sharing of information — is reshaping politics. Even if you’ve never given much thought to its meaning, you’ve probably heard someone say “the medium is the message,” the famous dictum of media theorist Marshall McLuhan.
But what does that mean, and what does it mean specifically for the 2016 election? A possible answer can be found in the work of Walter J. Ong, a Jesuit priest and a former student of McLuhan’s at St. Louis University. In his most famous work, “Orality and Literacy,” Ong examined how the invention of reading and writing fundamentally changed human consciousness. He argued that the written word wasn’t just an extension of the spoken word, but something that opened up new ways of thinking — something that created a whole new world.
The easiest way to grasp the difference between the written world and the oral world is that in the latter, there’s no way to look up anything. Before the invention of writing, knowledge existed in the present tense between two or more people; when information was forgotten, it disappeared forever. That state of affairs created a special need for ideas that were easily memorized and repeatable (so, in a way, they could go viral). The immediacy of the oral world did not favor complicated, abstract ideas that need to be thought through. Instead, it elevated individuals who passed along memorable stories, wisdom and good news.
The National Post‘s Tristan Hopper reports on how the oral traditions of the Inuit describe their encounter, in the 19th century, with the “walking dead” of the Franklin expedition.
It was easily one of the most unearthly and chilling visions that had ever struck the land that would soon become Canada.
Eight or nine lurching figures: Their eyes vacant, their skin blue, unable to talk and barely alive.
It was sometime before 1850 at a remote Arctic hunting camp near the southwest edge of King William Island, an Arctic island 1,300 km northwest of what is now Iqaluit, Nunavut. And these “beings” had seemingly materialized out of nowhere.
“They’re not Inuit; they’re not human,” was how a woman, badly shaking with fright, first reported their arrival to the assembled camp.
They were all gathered in an igloo. The men of the camp were away seal hunting, leaving only the women, children and one old man.
As the group tried to process the terrifying reality of what they’d just heard, the crunching footsteps of the strangers got closer.
“Everyone got scared. Very, very scared,” was how the Gjoa Haven shaman Nicholas Qayutinuaq described the encounter to historian Dorothy Eber in 1999. The story was included in Eber’s 2008 book Encounters on the Passage.