Category Archives: Books

Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction by Judith Grisel

From my Notion template

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. This book is an extremely readable book from both the personal and scientific side of addiction. The author, once a street addict, and currently a neuropsychologist, explains how drugs affect the brain and body quite well and fills in the gaps that other books miss. The root point is that the body is biologically tuned for homeostatis/normalcy and this, via a weird series of biological processes will lead to addiction – there is never enough drug to keep one high forever.


This book is by far the best book on the mechanics of addiction, why it happens, how it happens, and why it is so hard to make it “unhappen”

How I Discovered It

A Tyler Cowen blog post

Who Should Read It?

Everyone really – it clarifies all thinking on both drugs and a lot of behavior.

How the Book Changed Me How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

  • I now think much more of counterreactions
  • I now see things as more of a Process A vs Process B axis (in terms of physical matters)

My Top 4 Quotes

  • Data such as these suggest that some of us are especially likely to find alcohol reinforcing because we can use it to medicate an innate opioid deficiency. Perhaps the “hole in my soul” I felt finally filled in my friend’s basement was nothing more than a flood of endorphins at last quenching destitute receptors. The heritable differences in endorphin signaling between those at low risk (left) and high risk (right) for alcohol abuse.
  • In other words, addicts may be those who are especially charmed by the quality of carrots and immune to the beating of sticks, as any municipal court could attest.
  • Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another. —Juvenal (Roman poet, A.D. 60–130)
  • Until about ten seconds before the first time I used a needle, I thought I’d never inject drugs. Like most people, I associated needles with hard-core use. That is, until I was offered a shot.

Summary + Notes

As with every addict, my days of actually getting “high” were long past. My using was compulsive and aimed more at escaping reality than at getting off. I’d banged my head against the wall long enough to realize that nothing new was going to happen—except perhaps through the ultimate escape, death, which frankly didn’t seem like that big a deal.

This accomplishment would seem almost unremarkable to most addicts, who know firsthand that there is nothing we would not do, no sacrifice too great, to be able to use.

Addiction today is epidemic and catastrophic. If we are not victims ourselves, we all know someone struggling with a merciless compulsion to remodel experience by altering brain function. The personal and social consequences of this widespread and relentless urge are almost too large to grasp. In the United States, about 16 percent of the population twelve and older meet criteria for a substance use disorder, and about a quarter of all deaths are attributed to excessive drug use.

In purely financial terms, it costs more than five times as much as AIDS and twice as much as cancer. In the United States, this means that close to 10 percent of all health-care expenditures go toward prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of people suffering from addictive diseases, and the statistics are similarly frightening in most other Western cultures. Despite all this money and effort, successful recovery is no more likely than it was fifty years ago.

Although reliable estimates are hard to come by, most experts agree that no more than 10 percent of substance abusers can manage to stay clean for any appreciable time. As far as illnesses go, this rate is almost singularly low: one has about twice as good a chance of surviving brain cancer.

My aim in writing this book is to share these principles and thus shed light on the biological dead end that perpetuates substance use and abuse: namely, that there will never be enough drug, because the brain’s capacity to learn and adapt is basically infinite. What was once a normal state punctuated by periods of high, inexorably transforms to a state of desperation that is only temporarily subdued by drug.

“Alcohol makes you feel like you’re supposed to feel when you’re not drinking alcohol.” Among other things, I wondered why, if the drug can

The chief of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, George Koob, has said that there are two ways of becoming an alcoholic: either being born one or drinking a lot. Dr. Koob is not trying to be flip, and the high likelihood that one or the other of these applies to each of us helps explain why the disease is so prevalent. I agree that many who end up like me have a predisposition even before their first sip but also appreciate that enough exposure to any mind-altering drug will induce tolerance and dependence—hallmarks of addiction—in anyone with a nervous system. Unfortunately, though, no scientific model can yet explain my quick and brutal slide to homelessness, hopelessness, and utter desolation. Choosing

Until about ten seconds before the first time I used a needle, I thought I’d never inject drugs. Like most people, I associated needles with hard-core use. That is, until I was offered a shot.

All of us face countless choices, and there is no bright line separating good and bad, order and entropy, life and death. Perhaps as a result of following rules or conventions, some live under the delusion that they are innocent, safe, or deserving of their status as well-fed citizens. But if there is a devil, it lives inside each of us. One of my greatest assets is knowing that my primary enemy is not outside me, and for this I am grateful to all my experiences. We all have the capacity for wrong; otherwise we could not, in fact, be free.

The opposite of addiction, I have learned, is not sobriety but choice.

I’d finally reached the dead end where I felt I was incapable of living either with or without mind-altering substances. This bleak situation describes the condition of many, if not all, addicts and illustrates why relatively few recover. Despite being depleted, they think the cost of abstinence seems much too high: Without drugs, what is there to live for anyway? Eventually,

a willingness to take risks, and perseverance that make a bulldog seem laid-back have all contributed to the successes I’ve had as a neuroscientist.

Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another. —Juvenal (Roman poet, A.D. 60–130)

The idea that I am my brain still guides the efforts of thousands of neuroscientists around the world as we work to connect experience to neural structures, chemical interactions, and genes.

behavior. In fact, it’s beginning to seem that the brain is more like a stage for our life to be acted out upon than like the director behind a curtain calling shots. Nonetheless, it’s reasonable to assume that all of our thoughts, feelings, intentions, and behaviors at least have correlates in electrical and chemical signals in the brain, because there’s not a whit of evidence to suggest otherwise.

And the vast majority of us are trichromats, meaning that we perceive thousands of different colors by the combined activity in just three types of color-sensitive neurons. But some lucky individuals have a mutation that gives them a fourth type of color sensor, and even though they may not be aware of their mutant gift, they are more likely to have careers as artists or designers. The most important lesson here, though, is that our senses constrain our experience by offering us a relatively thin slice of what’s out there—a highly filtered version of our environment.

The fundamental role of the brain is to be a contrast detector. As experiences are distinguished from monotony, they spark neurochemical changes in specific brain circuits, informing us of all we care to know: opportunities for food, drink, or sex; danger or pain; beauty and pleasure, for example. The process of actively maintaining the stable baseline critical for conducting the brain’s business of contrast detection is called homeostasis, and it depends on having a set point, a comparator, and a mechanism for adjustment. It is easy to appreciate this principle in terms of body temperature, which is maintained around ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit. If you become much warmer or colder than this, your body feels it, and there are mechanisms to return you to baseline, such as sweating or shivering. Feelings are also constrained within tight bounds under normal conditions. What we generally experience is our personal neutral okayness; otherwise we’d be incapable of detecting “good” or “bad” events.

All drugs affect multiple brain circuits, and variation in their sites of neural action accounts for their different effects. However, all addictive drugs are addictive precisely because they share the ability to stimulate the mesolimbic dopamine system. Countless studies have demonstrated that the squirt of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens from addictive substances (including chocolate and hot sauce!) is associated with the substances’ pleasurable outcome. Some, like cocaine and amphetamine, are universally effective; others seem to have a bigger influence on mesolimbic dopamine in some individuals than in others (for example, marijuana and alcohol), and some that have been labeled addictive probably aren’t. For instance, most research suggests that the psychedelic LSD does not stimulate the mesolimbic pathway. From this and related evidence, the majority of addiction researchers would argue that LSD is not an addictive drug.

pleasure. But in general, the mesolimbic pathway conveys a transient good time, not a stable sense of hopefulness

possible. Without dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, nothing, not a letter from a friend, an especially beautiful sunset or piece of music, or even chocolate,

recent years, new evidence has shown that dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway works not exactly by signaling pleasure but by signaling the anticipation of pleasure. This anticipatory state is not the same as the pleasure associated with satisfaction, contentment, or release, but rather the anxious, lip-smacking foretaste of something of import that is just around the corner.

or really valuable (oxygen to a deprived organism). In other words, this system alerts us to the anticipation of a meaningful event, not to pleasure per se. Pleasurable stimuli happen to be meaningful, but many other things are also inherently meaningful to an organism that has evolved to survive in ever-changing conditions.

Parkinsonian deficits occur between the desire to move and the movement circuitry, which are both intact.

Besides being slower to enact intentions, low dopamine is also associated with higher-than-average orderliness, conscientiousness, and frugality. In other words, it confers a tendency toward rigidity in areas other than movement.

To sum all this up, dopamine in the mesolimbic circuit leads us to appreciate opening doors, and dopamine in the nigrostriatal circuit enables us to do so. Drugs of abuse (as well as natural reinforcers like food and sex) stimulate both of these pathways, which is how drugs make us feel good and why we seek them.

Another aspect of our control over delivery is timing. Natural stimuli increase activity of the mesolimbic system by recruiting chemicals in a cascade of neural changes that come about gradually, generally after a few minutes. Drugs, on the other hand, are absorbed rapidly and act directly to produce nearly instantaneous changes in neurotransmitter levels, including dopamine. The difference is something like the slow bloom of dawn versus switching on a floodlight.

In general, the more predictable and frequent the dosing, the more addictive a drug will be.

The very definition of an addictive drug is one that stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, but there are three general axioms in psychopharmacology that also apply to all drugs: All drugs act by changing the rate of what is already going on. All drugs have side effects. The brain adapts to all drugs that affect it by counteracting the drug’s effects.

Exogenous (made outside the body) drugs often work this way because their shape sufficiently mimics endogenous

Repeated administration of any drug that influences brain activity leads the brain to adapt in order to compensate for the changes associated with the drug.

An addict doesn’t drink coffee because she is tired; she is tired because she drinks coffee. Regular drinkers don’t have cocktails in order to relax after a rough day; their day is filled with tension and anxiety because they drink so much. Heroin produces euphoria and blocks pain in a naive user, but addicts can’t kick a heroin habit, because without it they are in excruciating pain. The brain’s response to a drug is always to facilitate the opposite state; therefore, the only way for any regular user to feel normal is to take the drug. Getting high, if it occurs at all, is increasingly short-lived, and so the purpose of using is to stave off withdrawal.

Eventually, exposure to a favorite drug results in virtually no change in mesolimbic dopamine, but withholding it leads to a big drop, which we experience as a feeling of disappointment and craving. Thus the most profound law of drug use is this: there is no free lunch.

Having a set point enables meaningful interpretation of a stream of ceaselessly changing input. Sustained feelings in either direction impede our ability to perceive and thus respond to new information, so the nervous system imposes transience. This means that if something truly wonderful happens—you meet Prince or Princess Charming—the elation will not last. On the other hand, even the most terrible calamity won’t result in perpetual despair. This is also true with more mundane stimuli: we can probably all relate to the letdown after returning home from a great vacation, or to the flood of relief after a near accident on our commute.

While different people may have different set points, for any individual the neutral state is robustly maintained throughout life. Happy-go-lucky kids tend to be contented adults, and pessimists generally remain so whatever their circumstances.

Though for regular drug users affective stability makes it impossible to maintain a high, chronic use of stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine may actually modify the affective set point. Unfortunately for users, this alteration is always in the “wrong” direction, resulting in lower baseline mood.

Persistent change in response to environmental input is called learning, and all organisms with a CNS—from cockroaches to the Dalai Lama—learn. As it turns out, memories, which are traces of learning, serve as Joe’s escape from the terror and tedium of his helpless consciousness in a hospital bed in Johnny Got His Gun. They are also, in

The term “tachyphylaxis” (TACKY-phil-axis), meaning “acute tolerance,” refers to the adaptive, compensatory changes that begin as soon as alcohol reaches the brain. A large and rather arcane literature surrounding tachyphylaxis has a practical implication that, were it widely known, might be a real boon to DUI defense lawyers and their clients. It turns out that there is a reliable and interesting twist in the relationship between blood alcohol level and impairment, due to tachyphylaxis. When

Virtually as soon as a drug begins to act on the brain, the brain begins to adapt—to counteract—that action. Thus, there is good rationale for arguing that despite a high BAC (blood alcohol concentration), because you are in a state of tachyphylaxis, you are really okay to drive. Good luck persuading the judge! In

If we are talking about drug use, we can think of the a process as what the drug does to the brain. Big doses produce large a processes, and protracted stimuli produce long-lasting a processes. But for each a process, there is a b process. The b process is the brain’s response to the a process, or the brain’s response to what the drug does to the brain, counteracting the changes in neural activity produced by the stimulus in an effort to return brain activity to its neutral, homeostatic state. When

While the a process is a direct reflection of the stimulus and so is always the same if the stimulus is the same (a certain number of ounces of alcohol or milligrams of heroin, for instance), this is not so with the compensatory b process. Generated by a powerfully adaptive nervous system, the b process learns with time and exposure. Repeated encounters with the stimulus result in faster, bigger, and longer-lasting b processes that are better able to maintain homeostasis in the face of disruption. Moreover, the b process can be elicited solely by environmental stimuli that promise the a process is coming—which is what happened with Pavlov’s dogs, who learned to salivate even when food was not present.

It also explains why the states of withdrawal and craving from any drug are always exactly opposite to the drug’s effects. If a drug makes you feel relaxed, withdrawal and craving are experienced as anxiety and tension. If a drug helps you wake up, adaptation includes lethargy; if it reduces pain sensations, suffering will be your lot.

My clever undergraduates are quick to point out a flip side to Solomon and Corbit’s model: if you want to achieve a sustained positive state, you could submit yourself to negatively charged experiences. This way the opponent process would be positive. Solomon and Corbit argued that such a pattern may be at work in an activity like skydiving. Jumping out of an airplane at several thousand feet produces intense feelings of arousal and panic, even feelings associated with impending death. They would probably last for much of the air time and certainly for all of the “free fall.” As the stimulus ends and your feet are miraculously back on solid ground, not only is the panic gone, but according to hobbyists it is like being awash in feelings of extreme calm and well-being. The relief following an intensely stressful experience, if you live through the event, may make it all worthwhile. Maybe this helps explain why people push themselves to exercise or go to graduate school.

The hallmarks of addiction—tolerance, withdrawal, and craving—are captured in the consequences of the b process. Tolerance occurs because more drug is needed to produce an a process capable of overcoming a stronger and stronger b process. Withdrawal happens because the b process outlasts the drug’s effects. And craving is virtually guaranteed because any environmental signal that has been associated with the drug can itself elicit a b process that can only be assuaged by indulging in the drug. This might happen at cocktail hour, during stressful times, or even upon awakening if that’s when you typically start using; in particular contexts such as bars or family gatherings; or in the presence of specific cues such as spoons, dealers, and paychecks, which is one of the reasons intense feelings of craving continue to frustrate recovery. To this day, and seemingly out of the blue, a certain warmth and humidity in the air or a specific type of music can make my mouth pucker with the anticipation of tequila.

Cutting-edge treatments take almost the opposite tact from the pastoral setting strategy (unless of course your using primarily took place on the farm). Following detox and some stability in mood and physiology (usually after several weeks of clean time), the addict is purposely exposed to cues that used to coincide with using, but this time within a supportive, therapeutic context. Wads of cash, drawing fluid into a syringe, or experiencing a disappointing day at first is likely to produce profound physiological and psychological effects such as changes in heart rate, body temperature, and mood. But with repeated exposure (and no drug delivery), such responses indicative of the b process begin to dissipate and eventually disappear. So, it is possible to extinguish a craving over time, as the brain adapts again, but this time to the non-predictive value of the cues.

Addiction differs in many ways from diseases typical of the broad category, a fact that took me several years to appreciate. Though I believed—and still do—that it is a brain disorder, it’s not like having a tumor or Alzheimer’s disease. Both of these can be definitively diagnosed by identifying particular cellular changes. Diabetes or high cholesterol is even easier to assess—by a simple blood test—and obesity is determined by a body mass index. On the other hand, there are no clear-cut tests to determine whether one is, or is not, an addict, and in addition to making diagnosis murky, this lack of clarity hinders efforts to cure the disease. If we remove the tumor or other errant structures, restore an appropriate insulin response, or lose enough weight, related diseases might indeed be cured. In the case of addiction—really a disorder of thought, emotion, and behavior resulting from widespread adaptation in multiple brain circuits—a cure is unlikely aside from removing most of the matter above my shoulders.

There are many contributors to this tendency toward excess, but ultimately my behavior is extreme because the stimuli (that is, drugs) have had such a potent impact on me relative to natural stimuli. The nervous system of an addict is acting normally and predictably in response to such consequential input, and addiction is a natural consequence. It’s also not likely to be prevented

The lackadaisical habits of so-called normal people who leave drinks half finished, snort a few lines on a Friday night, or occasionally smoke a cigarette with friends are strikingly different from those of addicts. Though adaptation still occurs in “chippers,” it is virtually imperceptible because of the irregular and low-dose patterns of use.

  • The term “plasticity” is used by neuroscientists to refer to the ability of the brain to modify its structure and function. Though changes are always possible (that is, we remain somewhat plastic until the day we die), they are especially likely during periods of rapid development, until the age of about twenty-five years.

From the first time I got high until long after I’d smoked my last bowl, I loved marijuana like a best friend. This is not hyperbole. Some people it makes sleepy, others paranoid (due, no doubt, to an unfortunate confluence of neurobiology and genetics), but for me it was nearly perfect. One

If alcohol is a pharmacological sledgehammer and cocaine a laser (and they are), marijuana is a bucket of red paint. This is so for at least two reasons. First is its well-known ability to accentuate attributes of environmental stimuli: music is amazing, food delicious, jokes hilarious, colors rich, and so on. Second, its effects are neither precise nor specific, but modulatory and widespread. It’s a five-gallon bucket with a four-inch brush, painting up the gain on all kinds of neural processing.

It seems that anandamide and similar compounds evolved along with the CB1 receptor to modulate normal activity, highlighting important neurotransmission. The normal activity of the brain, as we’ve discussed, mediates all of our experiences, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The cannabinoid system helps to sort our experiences,

good. The millions of neurons involved in this discovery—including those involved in processing input from your senses, stimulating movement, coding memories or thoughts connecting this good thing to your plans or communicating it to others—are likely all releasing cannabinoids to turn up the volume on this information, helping to distinguish it from the other parts of your day in which interactions with the environment weren’t all that special.

This should make it easy to understand why the stimuli we encounter when stoned are so intensely rich. Sights, sounds, tastes, and thoughts that might otherwise be average take on incredible attributes. Early in my love affair with pot, I remember finding Rice-A-Roni so astoundingly delicious I couldn’t imagine how it stayed on the shelves of the grocery stores. Today I’d have to be backpacking for at least a week before I’d even find it palatable, but with my synapses primed for import, food is exceptional, music transcendent, concepts mind-blowing. What a wonderful treat

After I got sober, it took me a little over a year to go a single day without wishing for a drink, but it was more than nine years before my craving to get high abated. For the longest time, I couldn’t go to indoor concerts, especially if I was in proximity to pot. Good sinsemilla would induce a sort of mini panic attack. I’d

Predictably, chronic exposure leads to substantial consequences. The brain adapts by downregulating the cannabinoid system.2 “Downregulation” is a general term describing processes that work to ensure homeostasis, which in this case translates to a dramatic reduction in the number and sensitivity of CB1 receptors. Without copious amounts of pot on board, everything is dull and uninspiring.

There’s been a long-standing debate, akin to one about the relationship between cancer and smoking in many ways, about whether regular marijuana smoking leads to an amotivational syndrome (“amotivational” means lacking motivation). For instance, does regular use lead to spending long hours on the couch watching cartoons, or does it just so happen that people who like to sit around watching television (or poring through shells at the beach) also enjoy marijuana? Because correlation doesn’t mean causation, cigarette companies argued for decades that a predisposition for cancer and the tendency to inhale cigarette smoke just coincidentally occur in the same people. In both cases, common sense and mounting evidence point to the same thing. Downregulation of CB1 receptors might make the user more suitable for jobs that don’t require creativity or innovation, exactly the effects that initial exposure seemed to stimulate.

“Great,” I said. “How’s it with your kids when you’re not high?” “Increasingly irritating and tedious,” he admitted.

So, if you smoke weed, remember that infrequent and intermittent use is the best way to prevent downregulation and its unfortunate effects: tolerance, dependence, and a loss of interest in the unenhanced world.

Unlike stimulants, or even alcohol, the subjective effects of these drugs seem almost perfectly subtle as they bestow utter contentment.

Among women, who are most likely to take these medications (partly because they are more likely to suffer from chronic pain), the first decade of the twenty-first century saw a 400 percent increase in lethal overdoses.

The drive to change our subjective experience is universal, and there are many like me who will try anything that might get us high. Therefore, the solution is not to be found on the supply side, but rather depends on a change in demand, and that’s likely to be an inside job.

The patients recognized in their friend’s death a sign of high-quality dope. You’ve probably seen similar phenomena in your community; regional bursts in overdoses tend to occur not because most addicts don’t know what’s to be found but because they do. They are victims of the laws of pharmacology who fail to recognize that even drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are thousands of times as potent as heroin, can’t deliver the desired effects to a learned brain (though, unfortunately, they remain potent enough at depressing respiration, which is how they can be lethal). Dream

Stimulants increase activity, hallucinogens alter perception, and sedative-hypnotics slow brain activity and promote sleep.

From a neuroscience perspective, the appeal of opiate drugs is easy to understand. The large class of narcotics, from heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone to their less potent analogs like tramadol and codeine, all work by mimicking endorphins (endogenous morphine-like substances), the body’s natural painkillers. It turns out that our brains manufacture an incredibly rich and varied pharmacopoeia of these natural opioids, the sheer number and wide distribution of which suggest that they play a critical role in our survival.

Suppose you are overcome with pain and fear and spend what remains of your life writhing on the floor of your apartment until you bleed to death or are dispatched some other way. This is unlikely to help you survive or—more to the point—reproduce in the future. Instead, within about ninety seconds of the alarming encounter, cells in your brain will stimulate gene activity to direct the synthesis of endorphins, which are quickly released to produce effects throughout the central nervous system: blocking pain transmission, inhibiting the panic response, and hopefully facilitating an escape. It is easy to see how modulating pain and suffering would provide evolutionary advantage to an organism.

There are dozens of different opioids manufactured by the brain (including actual morphine). Experiments have shown that these chemicals serve a range of critical functions including modulating activities like sex, attachment, and learning.

These have been collectively called anti-opiates, and they produce exactly the opposite effects as narcotics. Why did evolution or that benevolent Creator decide we need compounds that enhance suffering and restlessness?

Once you are no longer in immediate danger, it would actually be helpful to perceive your pain rather than to remain analgesic. Otherwise you might still die—just more slowly—from loss of blood or, eventually, infection. So the brain doesn’t wait for the endorphins to naturally degrade. Instead, the edges of perception are sharpened by a flood of anti-opiates. In fact, pain has two primary purposes: the first is to teach us to avoid dangerous stimuli or situations, and the second is to encourage recuperation after failing the first lesson. Another potential rationale for the existence of anti-opiates was outlined in earlier chapters: the brain’s role as contrast detector relies upon a stable baseline. Anti-opiates restore the brain to its baseline most efficiently. One

But if a drug makes your mouth water, the cues associated with the drug would give you cotton mouth instead. This apparent contradiction is understood by appreciating whether or not a stimulus acts directly on the CNS and recruits homeostatic processes. A drug does. Dinner does not.

But the anti-opiate system is the cruelest. Because an addict’s nervous system is regularly flooded with compounds that produce euphoria, the anti-opiate system ramps up to create pain so that the net effect is something like normal sensation. This opposing anti-opiate system can be turned on by safety, or by the expectation of safety after danger passes, but it’s likely that there is no more effective way to activate anti-opiate processes than through regular exposure to opiates, which must

Adaptations that underlie opiate addiction, including the production of anti-opiates, begin during the very first administration (this is true of all drugs) and rapidly gain strength with use. The strength of these opponent processes may be so robust because the sensation of pain is so critical for survival.

Addicts can administer upwards of 150 times the dose that would be lethal to naive users and, even so, just feel “right” but not really high. In

Methadone acts as a substitute opiate—one that is orally absorbed and has an especially long half-life. Drinking a daily “cocktail” at the clinic prevents withdrawal (as well as antisocial activities that help keep withdrawal at bay, like stealing and shooting up in public places), and because the drug is so cheap, it’s been seen as of great benefit—though likely less to the addicts than to members of their communities.

A better strategy from a neurological perspective might be to employ the opposite tack. Instead of bathing the cells in opiates for long periods, knock them over the head with a big dose of anti-opiates! Giving anti-opiates should induce the brain to maintain homeostasis by upregulating, or at least normalizing, its opioid system. This has in fact been tried and in some ways works like a charm. Here’s how it goes: you check into a hospital, receive general anesthesia (the reason for this will be clear momentarily), and take a whopping dose of Narcan. This drug occupies all of the same sites opiates do but doesn’t activate them. If Narcan is administered to unsedated addicts who haven’t been using, they will come unglued—instantaneously experiencing the throes of withdrawal. However, if they are anesthetized while their brain is bathed with high doses of the drug, then the cells adapt back to their naive state in fairly short order.

Suboxone is a combination of a Narcan-like drug and an opiate drug called buprenorphine. Buprenorphine doesn’t have much street appeal for the same reason it’s a good choice here: although it occupies the same places in the brain as opiate drugs, it doesn’t do as good a job and therefore it is much less rewarding than its abused counterparts. However, the effects are potent enough to reduce symptoms of withdrawal, including craving, and to allow addicts to sleep. It’s less stigmatizing than methadone, but even more important, under a doctor’s supervision, it won’t make the addiction stronger. For someone motivated to get clean, this could provide a sound start. If the dose is tapered over time, it’s likely to afford the best shot at a life free from opiate addiction.

This custom certainly hasn’t diminished in the past couple of centuries, and it presents a tremendous challenge to recovery.

The manic insistence on ignoring the obvious is reminiscent of cigarette commercials I grew up watching. The juxtaposition of youthful athleticism with a nicotine habit seemed as odd to me as a child as the insistence today that alcohol somehow makes everything sexier and livelier. I still remember one commercial in particular that showed a group of gorgeously tanned young adults whitewater rafting down a rugged canyon as they promoted a popular menthol brand. Really? Smoking while rafting?

True, at times life can be awful, disappointing, terrifying, or mind-numbingly tedious. But just the same, there is the frequent possibility of being overcome with joy, gratitude, or delight. In short, it is likely impossible to tamp down terror without also leveling pleasure. As Socrates noted, and many appreciate, sorrow and joy depend on each other; I prefer the roller coaster to the train.

People also take drugs in order to reduce unpleasant feelings. This tendency is called negative reinforcement, and the motivation it provides is critical. Alcohol and other downers are negatively reinforcing in part because they reduce anxiety; opiates are so compelling because they reduce suffering; stimulants because they reduce boredom. Moreover, because alcohol reduces anxiety, this drug will be more reinforcing to those who are naturally anxious than to those who are not, increasing the risk of regular drinking in such individuals. There is good evidence that those of us who are naturally inclined toward any of these predisposing states are more likely to abuse the “complementary” substance.

However, because the brain adapts to the neural changes wrought by any drug, the effects of chronic exposure are going to undermine any attempts at self-medication. Alas, if someone finds alcohol especially rewarding because of an inherited tendency toward anxiety and she imbibes frequently, she’ll become

Other people have deficiencies in the primary enzyme that is responsible for metabolizing nicotine, and for these smokers the concentration of the drug in the blood gets higher and stays high longer. Because too much of this drug is also unpleasant, these people are less likely to smoke, and when they do, they are more likely to successfully quit. Chalk one up for positive punishment.

In other words, addicts may be those who are especially charmed by the quality of carrots and immune to the beating of sticks, as any municipal court could attest.

Because the process of fermentation is so simple, it has been discovered and exploited by virtually every human culture.

Paradoxically, the simplicity of the ethanol molecule is what makes it so difficult to understand. Molecules of cocaine, THC, heroin, and ecstasy are much larger and more structurally complex, and therefore their sites of action in the brain are very specific. Alcohol is so small and wily its actions are hard to pin down. It’s easy to imagine that there are many more places to park a skateboard than an airplane. Because the effect of a drug is dependent on this “parking” or “binding,” and alcohol does this at multiple sites, its effects are also much less specific.

Cocaine blocks a protein that recycles dopamine, and because dopamine hangs around longer than usual, we feel euphoric and energized. For alcohol, the target(s) are not as clear, which is to say that the mechanisms of drunkenness are still being worked out.

Alcohol also reduces activity at glutamate receptors. Glutamate happens to be the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, so this plus GABA inhibition really tamps down the electrical activity of neurons. Glutamate is also critical for forming new memories, and if I had blacked out that day (that is, forgotten chunks of experience), it likely would have been from alcohol’s ability to impede glutamate’s activity. Because glutamate and GABA are so prevalent, alcohol slows neural activity throughout the brain, not just in a few pathways, explaining the drug’s global effects on cognition, emotion, memory, and movement.

We have long known that alcohol use rapidly leads to the synthesis and release of beta-endorphin, a string of thirty-one amino acids that is thought to contribute to the drug’s euphoric and relaxing effects by increasing mesolimbic dopamine levels and inhibiting the “fight or flight” response. This system is the target of one of the pharmaceutical strategies to combat alcohol abuse, naltrexone, a longer-acting and orally available cousin of naloxone, which is marketed as Narcan. Both naltrexone and naloxone firmly park on opioid receptors but don’t activate them. (Thus they are called opioid antagonists.) Naltrexone, marketed as ReVia and Vivitrol, occupies these sites for relatively long periods so that when a person drinks alcohol, any endorphin activity is rendered moot. Narcan/naloxone doesn’t hang around as long but effectively reverses an opiate overdose by fitting even better than opiates do into the “parking” spot and therefore kicking them out.

Data such as these suggest that some of us are especially likely to find alcohol reinforcing because we can use it to medicate an innate opioid deficiency. Perhaps the “hole in my soul” I felt finally filled in my friend’s basement was nothing more than a flood of endorphins at last quenching destitute receptors. The heritable differences in endorphin signaling between those at low risk (left) and high risk (right) for alcohol abuse.

As the concentration in the blood and brain increases, judgment is impaired and motor skills decline while risky behavior increases, along with memory and concentration problems, emotional volatility, loss of coordination, including slurred speech, and confusion. Finally, nausea rises and vomiting begins as the area postrema, otherwise known as the brain’s vomit center, reflexively works to expel the poison. Eventually, the drinker could fall into a coma. If intoxication occurs very rapidly—for instance, by guzzling high-potency beverages on an empty stomach—it’s possible for the anesthetic effects to occur before the vomit reflex is engaged. In this case, as the brain is shut down, it’s possible to die from overdose.

Binge drinking is risky for anyone, but particularly for those whose brains are still developing. The impact of high alcohol concentrations during this “plastic” period leads to lasting alterations in brain structure and function and is more likely to result in an alcohol use disorder. The converse is also true: one of the most effective ways to curtail the risk of addiction is to avoid intoxication during periods of rapid brain development. People who begin drinking in their early teens, as I did, are at least four times more likely to eventually meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. In fact, the lifetime risk for substance abuse and dependence decreases about 5 percent with each additional year between ages thirteen and twenty-one.8 Yet young people are especially prone to binge drinking in part because they are neurobiologically primed to seek and appreciate novel and high-risk experiences. Though their parents may not appreciate it, for adolescents these tendencies are well timed to promote the development of adult goals and identity formation.

Lower blood volume and slower metabolism may also partly explain the steeper dive in women alcoholics who more quickly progress to organ damage, disordered use, and death from drinking.

As a rule, sedation is not as much enjoyed as stimulation, which is why, despite its popularity, alcohol is not as addictive as are some other drugs. Over 85 percent of the world’s adults drink, but only about one-tenth of these develop a problem. Also, even though the ethanol in all alcoholic beverages is the same molecule, different beverages contain different congeners or impurities from the distillation process, often connected to the source—tequila has more congeners than vodka—that can affect the experience of intoxication and withdrawal

While the consequences have generally gotten stricter, the per capita consumption both here and worldwide has been rising fairly steeply since my heyday. Excessive use of alcohol now results in about 3.3 million deaths around the world each year.9 In Russia and its former satellite states, one in five male deaths is caused by drinking. And in the United States during the period between 2006 and 2010, excessive alcohol use was responsible for close to 90,000 deaths a year, including one in ten deaths among adults aged twenty to sixty-four, translating to 2.5 million years of potential life lost. More than half of these deaths and three-quarters of the years of potential life lost were due to binge drinking.

In fact, alcohol killed about twice as many people in 2016 as prescription opioids and heroin overdoses combined, and even this number would be almost three times higher if it included drunk-driving-related deaths.

place. For example, by the 1970s, Valium was the single most prescribed brand of medicine in the United States, used by about one in five women.

In 2013, close to 6 percent of U.S. adults filled more than thirteen million prescriptions for sedative-hypnotics.

The first true sleep medicine was chloral hydrate, perhaps familiar to some as the knockout drops mixed with alcohol to make a Mickey Finn. A

“hypnotic” refers to their sleep-inducing properties. Because

Unfortunately, the problem with all the drugs that have been developed to treat these serious issues thus far is that with regular use they elicit an opponent process, therefore creating the state they were designed to remedy. The insomniac become sleepless. The anxious become wrecks.

What I liked most about the downer class was the feeling of distance from my feelings.

Or we might speculate that the decline in the use of tranquilizers, caused mostly by negative press and pressure on doctors to reduce the number of prescriptions written, was related to the rise of alcohol use. It would be no wonder, because these drugs essentially represent alcohol in pill form.

Americans changed the name to barbital in a sleight of hand during World War I to permit manufacture of German products in the United States without having to pay royalties.

More recently, Michael Jackson succumbed to a massive dose of Propofol, which his private doctor administered to help him sleep. The very short-acting anesthetic doesn’t share the barbiturate structure, but acts in a similar fashion. It’s a very good anesthetic because it has a really fast onset and short half-life, but like all these drugs, as well as the rest of Mr. Jackson’s pharmacological strategies, doses need to escalate as tolerance develops, making the therapeutic window grow narrower and the risk of accidental overdose grow greater over time.

Speaking of which, both inventors of barbiturates, the chemists Fischer and von Mering, died of overdose after years of dependence.

Not surprisingly, those claims were overstated. Millions of people are now hooked on benzos, but on the bright side it’s not possible to overdose from them alone, so the market is likely to stay strong.

example, whether or not you are able to drink others under the table, or are known as a “lightweight,” has been attributed to the particular makeup of subunits. Structural differences may also confer individual variation in pain sensitivity, anxiety, premenstrual or postpartum depression, diagnosis on the autism

The major difference between benzos and barbiturates is that overdose is virtually impossible with benzodiazepines alone and fairly likely with barbiturates.

Excessive anxiety is estimated to be the sixth leading cause of disability across the globe.5 Anxiety differs from fear in that the latter is an emotional response to a clear and current danger, as opposed to apprehension about possible future events or unfocused or irrational worry. There are many ways anxiety disorders are expressed, including panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Anxiety disorders are also linked to depression; these are sometimes thought of as two sides of the same underlying issue(s). Anxiety disorders tend to begin early in life and follow a recurrent, intermittent course, exacting costs on life satisfaction, income, education, and relationships.

In fact, women tend to be two to three times more susceptible to all stress-related disorders, at least partly as a result of neurobiology that is only beginning to be investigated.

The difference between those with ADHD diagnoses and those without is quantitative: for those with the disorder, drug treatment brings their cognition within normal range.

Multiple studies have shown that when these substances are administered in a controlled laboratory setting, virtually everybody enjoys their effects.

other drug effects, including those associated with movement and cognition, tend to get more robust rather than less so with repeated exposures, a phenomenon called sensitization. Sensitization among stimulant users is thought to account for bizarre behavioral and cognitive changes that often develop over time, such as stereotypy. Stereotypy is evident as highly dosed or sensitized individuals engage in purposeless, repetitive movement. There can be other causes of stereotypical behavior besides drugs, but it is common enough among speed users to have its own slang: users often refer to stereotypies as punding or tweaking, as they mindlessly sort, clean, or dis- and reassemble objects,

In fact, there are several documented benefits to regular caffeine use including improvements in mood, memory, alertness, and physical and cognitive performance. It also seems to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes. This is all good news, especially because, unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated nearly everywhere.

over 1.1 billion people smoke tobacco, and more than 7 million die each year from their addiction. Like

Though I’m also a former smoker and can therefore be self-righteous, I don’t think nicotine is worth dying for. On average, tobacco users lose fifteen years of life.

In fact, the total annual cost of smoking is almost 2 percent of global gross domestic product, which is also about 40 percent of what all the world’s governments spent on education.

Once in the lungs, it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to the brain in about seven seconds. (A pack a day smoker takes in over two hundred separate hits of nicotine a day.)

As with all drug addictions, the target concentration is an ideal window between withdrawal and toxicity. Nicotine is metabolized fairly quickly, and a smoker has to regularly dose to avoid withdrawal,

The dynamic adaptations that lead to tolerance within such a short time are mirrored on the other end as tolerance partially decreases during even a few hours of withdrawal, so the first few puffs are the best of the day. The bigger lesson here is the temporal symmetry: tolerance that develops rapidly tends to reverse quickly too, while changes that take longer to accrue tend to persist.

Some of these effects have led to the idea that a nicotine patch might be used to treat cognitive decline in the elderly—the drug can improve some aspects of attention and memory—but the unlikelihood of being able to take anything long term without incurring compensatory adaptations, or substantial side effects, has so far kept these out of the clinic.

Many people notice that drinking makes them want to smoke, or vice versa, and wonder why this is. There are several hypotheses, each of which may explain part of the relationship. For one, any drug that stimulates dopamine greases the rails for another. Because they are both addictive, they can also serve as reminders of addiction, and especially when smoking was okay in bars, the contextual cues were largely overlapping. Also, the arousing effects of nicotine may counteract the sedative effects of alcohol, reflecting the familiar pattern of users counterbalancing uppers and downers. One more hypothesis suggests that smokers can drink more, perhaps because nicotine stimulates digestion and this might decrease alcohol absorption from the gut. So, until further study, we’re not sure whether, overall, the two drugs enhance or counteract each other’s effects.

My relationship with cocaine was more like leaving a mean, unfaithful lover. Pangs of desperate regret mixed with a growing sense of relief. It was like most users of coke and meth in that my compulsion was repulsive even to me, yet I’d have kept on, grinding my jaw tighter, had it not been for Steve’s brief epiphany that probably saved my life. He was the friend who noted with unexpected insight that there wasn’t enough cocaine in the world to satisfy our desire, and somehow—I honestly have no idea how—steered us both away from injecting over the ensuing several months that it took me to get to treatment.

Cocaine is like the sole porn shop in a down-and-out town. You hate yourself for going but end up visiting over and over. While using, especially in a binge, I felt as if I were flooring the gas pedal, headed for a granite wall, unable or unwilling to stop, or even to care. It was the short course to self-loathing, and with every bag my soul grew more and more hollow. Cocaine is the drug I miss the least.

does not involve interacting with a receptor. Instead, they interfere with the recycling mechanism for monoamine neurotransmitters. Though the name monoamine might be new, most people are familiar with the members of this group of neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine (or adrenaline), serotonin, and melatonin, chemicals that play major roles in mood and sleep.

Coke, speed, and E all act by blocking transporters. Transporters, like receptors, are proteins embedded in the neural cell membrane, but unlike receptors the function of transporters is to transport (or recycle) released neurotransmitter back into the presynaptic neuron, where it can be repackaged and reused. Transporters are one of the two main ways that synaptic transmission is discontinued; the other is through enzymatic degradation. Without transporters or enzymes to break apart neurotransmitters, synaptic transmission would persist much longer than it does, and therefore the signal would be quite different. When one of these drugs occupies a spot on a transporter, it prevents the monoamines from utilizing their reuptake mechanism and prolongs their effects. In the case of dopamine, for example, indication of something newsworthy would be more like a home alarm than a pop-up notification.

Thousands of people have lost their families, jobs, homes, and lives because the ability of cocaine to extend dopamine’s presence in the synapse seemed worth giving up relatively unimportant stimuli like relationships, a livelihood, and teeth. The half-life is very short (usually less than an hour), and though pharmacologists say the subjective effects last about thirty minutes, in my experience it was more like three, barely enough time to prepare the next bump.

Methamphetamine abuse is a significant problem worldwide. Though rates in the United States have been stable with about a million chronic users, the market is growing quickly in East and Southeast Asia.8 Meth is a Schedule II drug and may be prescribed for ADHD, extreme obesity, and narcolepsy, but amphetamine is more often the choice of physicians because it is less reinforcing than methamphetamine (the addition of a methyl group increases absorption and distribution). Either of these drugs can be neurotoxic when taken at high doses, and there is no treatment for this brain damage.

when all three superpowers (Japan, Germany, and the United States) might have been so as a result of loading their troops with “uppers.”

The half-life of methamphetamine is about ten hours (ten times that of cocaine), but amphetamine’s half-life varies widely—anywhere from seven to thirty hours, depending on the pH of the user’s urine.

In contrast to most other drugs, where there is more or less a linear relationship between time since last using and the experience of craving, with coke and meth craving seems to build over time, and most users relapse within a few weeks.

the way a hungry lab rat must

(As a rule of thumb, it takes about five half-lives to get rid of about 95 percent of any drug, so this one hangs around for a couple of days.)

But for many, the acute effects make this short-term dip well worth a little low. The drug greatly enhances a sense of well-being and produces extroversion and feelings of happiness and closeness to others, due in part to the fact that it impairs recognition of negative emotions, including sadness, anger, and fear. Affective neuroscience (the study of the brain’s role in moods and feelings) has demonstrated quite clearly that we can’t feel what we can’t recognize, so this pro-social bias seems perfectly engineered and helps explain why ecstasy is called the love drug and has been adopted for use by marriage counselors. In terms of unpleasant acute effects, the drug can cause overheating, teeth grinding, muscle stiffness, lack of appetite, and restless legs—none of which are especially contraindicated on a dance floor. At

But, alas, the more you take any drug, the larger the b process grows, and the opponent/dark side of this drug is truly awful. Many regular users look to be headed for a lifetime of depression and anxiety.

For example, primates given ecstasy twice a day for four days (eight total doses) show reductions in the number of serotonergic neurons seven years later.

There were two major findings. First, former and current ecstasy users were virtually identical, and, second, these groups showed significantly more clinically relevant levels of depression, impulsiveness, poor sleep, and memory impairment. Again, these were recreational users, many had not taken the drug for years, and still deficits were strikingly evident.

As discussed, coke, meth, and E interact not with receptors but with transporters, but that in itself is not what makes them dangerous. Indeed, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors as well as older tricyclic antidepressants are some of the most well-known transporter-blocking drugs, and neither shows evidence of permanent brain damage. Even cocaine doesn’t appear to cause the same sort of long-term damage that amphetamines and ecstasy do, perhaps because it—like the antidepressants—stays in the synaptic gap rather than being transported into cells like its more toxic cousins. It seems likely that the presence of these drugs inside the

A singular fact about psychedelics is that the majority of scientists who study abused substances don’t think these are addictive.

Psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT are natural compounds that have been used for millennia by indigenous people in sacred rituals; LSD is a synthetic compound, created by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist, in 1938.

and who often bring nothing to the experience but a vacuous yearning.

the very body of the Western heritage at best, in favor of exotic traditions they only marginally understand; at worst, in favor of an introspective chaos in which the seventeen or eighteen years

usually delivered through a paper tab that has been dosed with a small amount of liquid, will induce a trip that lasts for six to twelve hours. Mescaline is similarly long acting, while psilocybin’s duration is about half as long. All of these are typically taken orally and induce rapid and profound tolerance. In fact, besides the fact that they don’t cause dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, this tolerance is so quick that regular use is pointless.

The first time I tripped, and every time after, was like opening a door into a much more vast and mysterious existence than the one I usually inhabited.

worthwhile. My good fortune was probably partly due to my optimistic constitution and the somewhat idiotic naïveté that characterized the 1980s.

because deep down I knew my smoking was mostly to quell the panic and boredom of not smoking—I

These drugs don’t lead to the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens (need I say more?), so nonhuman animals won’t self-administer them.

For instance, khat is so popular in Yemen that its cultivation consumes an estimated 40 percent of the country’s water supply.

In addition to this sense of detachment, sometimes accompanied by a feeling of leaving one’s body, the drugs produce amnesia, so whatever happens under their influence is lost to conscious memory.

addition, at least some of PCP’s effects are due to increased levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate, and excess glutamate has also been implicated in schizophrenia. The

Unfortunately for them, chronic use is bad for the brain. Reflecting the ubiquitous role of glutamate signaling, a variety of negative effects are evident in regular users, supported by parallel research in other animals, including problems with incontinence, cognitive deficits, gross abnormalities in brain structure, deficits in dopamine signaling, and a loss of both dopamine and glutamate synapses. Because these drugs are still used in the clinic, there is some concern, especially regarding pediatric anesthesia, that they may be altering brain structure and function, although studies in humans are so far inconclusive.2 Unwittingly,

There is a well-established positive correlation between exposure to weed or other natural cannabinoids and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The general consensus has been that cannabinoids don’t cause the disorder but can unmask a latent vulnerability, bringing schizophrenic symptoms to the surface that might otherwise have remained below the threshold for detection.

drop in the number of functional CB1 receptors. In such cases, users can expect profound cross-tolerance so that smoking weed would actually be about as effective as smoking the grass in your backyard.

Although inhalant abuse exists worldwide, it’s especially common among the poor and the homeless, including especially children who work or live on the street.

The effects of inhalants are similar to getting drunk, but some people report experiencing something like hallucinations. A sudden sniffing death syndrome may occur, but more commonly these compounds tend to damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and bone in addition to the brain. Repeated use has been linked to cognitive impairment, likely due to degeneration of neural pathways as the axons that conduct information throughout the brain lose function, and perhaps to lead poisoning from huffing gasoline.

Schedule I or II substances were made illegal by analogy. The need for this law was so compellingly obvious, even to Congress, that it was introduced, passed by both houses, and signed by the president of the United States (Reagan) in less than two months. However, like virtually all legal attempts to control the drive to use drugs, it hasn’t made a dent.

one of those people who couldn’t control their use. I thought I was smarter…or more resolute…or more deserving. Besides, I was just getting started and way too young to have a habit. My desperate evasions were just like those of millions of other people determined that they’d never be like a drunkard parent or

Sure, I met some of the criteria some of the time, but my ability to fool teachers, clinicians, and law enforcement stemmed from an ability to fool myself.

say there are four primary reasons people like me develop addictions. Well, actually five, but I’m saving the gloomy news for last. The four are these: an inherited biological disposition, copious drug exposure, particularly during adolescence, and a catalyzing environment. It’s not necessary to have all four, but once some threshold is reached, it’s like breaching a dam—virtually impossible to rebuild. So, with enough exposure to any addictive drug, any one of us will develop the hallmarks of addiction: tolerance, dependence, and craving. But if the biological predisposition is very high, or use starts during adolescence, or certain risk factors are present, less exposure will do the trick. Genetics

for instance, some people might have a tendency toward anxiety or be naturally endorphin deficient, and both of these states can be remedied by drinking.

All genetic influence, we’ve learned, is context dependent and incredibly complex.

The relatively new field of epigenetics is just getting under way, but it is thought that some of our parents’ and grandparents’ experiences are imprinted in our cells this

other words, the experiment suggested that if your parent used THC before you were conceived, you may be at increased risk

It’s increasingly looking as if exposure to drugs of abuse in our parents and grandparents predisposes us to take drugs ourselves—effectively a b process across generations.

concretized by lasting patterns in the brain and behavior. The downside of this is that any neurobiological consequences of drug use are much more profound and longer lasting when exposure occurs during adolescence than when it occurs after about age twenty-five—the neural definition of adulthood.

Beyond the gateway effect, we know that chronic THC users have an increased tendency to feel blue, show more difficulty with complex reasoning, and suffer from things like anxiety, depression, and social problems. Scientists

The heart of the matter is that the brain adapts to any drug that alters its activity and it appears to do this permanently when exposure occurs during development. The more exposure to the substance we have, and the earlier we have it, the more strongly the brain adjusts.

Those with high anxiety—whether they got there from inherited liabilities or stressful experiences, or both—are obviously more likely to enjoy the benefits of sedatives like alcohol and benzodiazepines.

Even today, I’m confounded by people who can drink or use other drugs but don’t. For me, and others like me, nothing short of impending doom (and often even that) would provide enough incentive to forgo pharmacological stimulation. People who stop after only one drink, mete out cocaine like a banker, or keep a bag of weed around for months are entirely foreign to my experience and beyond my capacity to comprehend.

For example, on some reservations close to half of children are born with fetal alcohol poisoning, and rates of addiction are similarly through the roof.

However, no biological differences have been discovered that explain the higher rate of addiction in these people.

The more closely we examine any aspect of reality, the more we see how much there is to learn. Complexity,

As a result of looking closely at any problem, we increasingly realize the flaws in our assumptions and ask better and better questions. So, I can say with absolute certainty that there’s not “a gene” for addiction, nor is it caused by a “moral weakness”; it doesn’t “skip a generation”; all people aren’t equally vulnerable, nor is any one person equally at risk across the life span. In other words, we know a lot about the causes of addiction, and they are complicated.

but “how much more likely am I” to become an alcoholic if my parent or grandparent lost control of his or her drinking than if no one in my immediate family had done so? The answer is about 40 and 20 percent, respectively, versus 5 percent. In

It turns out that we have about half the number of genes as the average potato: around twenty thousand!

The truth is, people like me who are prone to excessive use are less likely than average to be swayed by outside pressure, including punishment. We’re also more likely to ignore public mores

it’s been done with Suboxone/buprenorphine for opiate addicts, with Chantix/varenicline for smokers, and with benzos for alcoholics, to a lesser degree, because the drug is such a generalist.

fact, there is no evidence of addiction among people who use coca in its indigenous form. Risk for addiction likewise increased with distillation of alcohol—yielding concentrations way above the limits of fermentation. And so on. As drugs get more potent, they are easier to traffic, and once they are popular, it’s a pretty good bet that synthetic versions—with even more potency—are on their way.

After being sober for some time, I was stopped at a light early one morning on Spanish River Boulevard in Boca Raton. Glancing over at the car next to me, I noticed a seemingly normal fellow guzzling from a bottle in a brown paper bag. He looked up, and our eyes connected over the edge of the bag. What has haunted me ever since is how thoroughly and quickly I looked away, as if I had done something wrong by noticing his early-morning nip. And I did feel, and can still recollect, a sense of shame and, I’m embarrassed to say, distaste. Why do people who are acting so contrary to their own best interests evoke denial in all of us? A victim of virtually any disease usually elicits pity; addicts mostly evoke revulsion. What is it about the irrational behavior of an addict that makes everyone want to turn away?

and behavior, in ways that are direct and profound. As we grapple to respond to the growing population of addicts, we’d do well to recognize that disordered use comes from, thrives in, and creates alienation. This means that building walls to keep us from our emotions or our neighbors will only make things worse, by feeding the epidemic.

Mine Were of Trouble by Peter Kemp

From my Notion Template

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. A somewhat erratic memoir of a Nationalist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. It doubles as something of a war travelogue, and has the general air of a tourist on a very gripping vacation trip, with grenades, death and maiming. It was seemingly written before they invented trauma in literature, or at least written by an author not able to write it.

How I Discovered It

The Amazon Algorithm.

Who Should Read It?

Anyone who enjoyed Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger – it’s not as good and could have used an editor, but good nonetheless.

How the Book Changed Me

How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

I’m not sure I was changed in any way, but seeing the very, very wide range of human experience is always interesting – particularly how Kemp could just turn the war on an off (rational, since he was a tourist/volunteer) whereas the Spanish on either side could not

My Top 3 Quotes

  • The details of his flight had been arranged in London by a certain Major Hugh Pollard, one of those romantic Englishmen who specialize in other countries’ revolutions.
  • Father Vicente, in great spirits, dominated the gathering. He was the most fearless and the most bloodthirsty man I ever met in Spain; he would, I think, have made a better soldier than priest.
  • The motto of the Legion was ‘Viva la muerte!’

Summary + Notes

Of course, if I had been willing to join the International Brigade and fight for the Republicans it would have been simple; in every country there were organizations, ably directed by the various Communist parties, for that very purpose. But

Certainly the execution of prisoners was one of the ugliest aspects of the Civil War, and both sides were guilty of it in the early months. There were two main reasons for this: first, the belief, firmly held by each side, that the others were traitors to their country and enemies of humanity who fully deserved death; secondly, the fear of each side that unless they exterminated their adversaries these would rise again and destroy them.

Resolved to be the first to welcome the victorious army, he and a Spanish friend of a similar temperament, Ricardo González, of the famous sherry family, loaded his aircraft with crates of sherry and brandy, took off from San Sebastian and soon afterwards landed on the airfield at Santander. A swarm of blue-clad soldiers surrounded the aircraft and Bellville and González climbed out with glad shouts of ‘Viva Franco!’ and ‘Arriba España!’ when they realized with astonishment and dismay that these were Republican militiamen and that Santander was still in enemy hands. They were brusquely marched to prison, transferred to Gijón, in Asturias, just before the fall of Santander and for a week or two were in grave danger of summary execution.

The details of his flight had been arranged in London by a certain Major Hugh Pollard, one of those romantic Englishmen who specialize in other countries’ revolutions.

The Nationalists started with the great advantage that the most important of the fighting Services, the Army, was on their side.

Their difficulty was that the crews, having murdered their officers, were unable to sail or fight the ships effectively until, later on, they were trained and officered by Russians.

So perished in the first few months of the war the finest flower of Spain.

Less wisely, they opened the prisons. These, as Señor de Madariaga points out,9 had been emptied months earlier of their political prisoners by an amnesty of President Azaña, and so could disgorge only common criminals. The latter were immediately enrolled in the various militias, and were responsible for much of the violence and horror that disgraced Republican Spain in the early months of the war.

Apart from Andalusia, where the Anarchist tradition was strong among the peasantry, it is reasonable to say that the agricultural districts were for the Nationalists, the cities and industrial areas were for the Republicans. Thus,

The Russians did for the Republicans roughly what the Germans did for the Nationalists—they supplied technicians and war material of all kinds. In return they exacted a far greater measure of control over Republican policy and strategy than the Germans were able to obtain from Franco; the price of Russian co-operation was Russian direction of the war and the complete domination by the Communist Party of all Republican political and military organizations.14

On many occasions during those early days it was the courage and initiative of individual commanders that turned the scale for the Nationalists. At the end of the war, when I was in Madrid, I heard the comment of an Englishman who had witnessed both the Russian and Spanish revolutions: ‘If Franco’s generals hadn’t had more guts than the White Russian generals, Spain would now be Communist.’

Their job was not made easy for them by the attitude of the military, which seemed to be that all foreign correspondents were spies who must be kept as far as possible from the scene of operations, who were only in the country on sufferance and who ought to be more than satisfied with whatever news the Army cared to issue in the official communiques. This was in marked contrast to the attitude of the Republicans, whose Press and Propaganda services were far superior to those of the Nationalists as their fighting was inferior and who took pains to give journalists and writers all the facilities they required. Although both sides imposed a rigid censorship on all dispatches going out of the country, the Nationalist made virtually no concessions to the Press, while the Republicans laid out enormous sums on propaganda abroad. These factors account in a large measure for the poor Press which the Nationalist received—and of which they ceaselessly complained—in England and the United States.

to look at the ruins of the Alcázar. There was nothing but a vast pile of rubble; the cellars, even the foundations, lay bare, with twisted iron girders sticking through the broken masonry and a great pit in the middle where the Republicans had exploded a mine. From the débris rose a foul stench of ordure and decay. The houses all around the square were pocketed with bullet holes, their windows shattered. A young Carlist from Galicia told us: ‘We are going to leave it like that as a monument to Marxist civilization.’ In fact, no attempt has been made to rebuild the Alcázar, and when I revisited it in the spring of 1951 it looked, and smelt, exactly the same.

It was early when we went to bed but late before I found my sleep. This was due partly to the thoughts racing through my mind, partly to the strangeness of my bed but chiefly to the thunderous sounds punctuating the stillness as my companions broke wind throughout the night.

The day after my arrival two troopers reported for duty incapably drunk; apparently they were old offenders. The following evening Llancia formed the whole Squadron in a hollow square in the main barrack-room. Calling out the two defaulters in front of us he shouted, ‘There has been enough drunkenness in this Squadron. I will have no more of it, as you are going to see.’ Thereupon he drove his fist into the face of one of them, knocking out most of his front teeth and sending him spinning across the room to crash through two ranks of men and collapse on the floor. Turning on the other he beat him across the face with a riding crop until the man dropped half senseless to the ground. He returned to his first victim, yanked him to his feet and laid open his face with the crop, disregarding his screams until he fell inert beside his companion. Then he turned to us: ‘You have seen, I will not tolerate a single drunkard in this Squadron.’ The two culprits were hauled, sobbing, to their feet to have half a bottle of castor oil forced down their throats. They were on duty next day, but I never saw either of them drunk again.

As we came over the crest San Merano gave the order, ‘Charge!’ Spurring our horses, we swept downhill in a cheering line, leaning forward on our horses’ necks, our sabres pointed. In a moment of mad exhilaration I fancied myself one of Subatai’s Tartars or Tamerlane’s bahadurs. Whoever, I exulted, said the days of cavalry were past? Preoccupied with these thoughts and with my efforts to keep station I never thought of looking at our target; nor, it seemed, did anyone else. For the next thing I knew we were in the middle of a bleating, panic-stricken, heard of goats, in the charge of three terrified herdsmen.

The enemy were evidently respecting the hour of the siesta for everything was quiet when we arrived. The

Father Vicente, in great spirits, dominated the gathering. He was the most fearless and the most bloodthirsty man I ever met in Spain; he would, I think, have made a better soldier than priest.

At first they made no progress against our fire. Many fell; some lay down where they were and fired back at us, others turned and ran in all directions, looking for cover, not realizing that this was the most certain way of being killed.

Parties with more divergent political views than the Requetés and the Falange could scarcely be imagined. Writing of ‘this magnificent Harlequin’, Señor de Madariaga says it was ‘as if the President of the United States organized the Republican-Democratic-Socialist-Communist-League-of-the-Daughters-of-the-American-Revolution, in the hopes of unifying American politics’. Either the Falange or the Requetés would have to dominate; the skill at intrigue of the former, and the political ineptitude of the latter made the outcome certain; the Requetés ceased to exert any serious influence on Spanish politics.

A former Chief of Police of the Irish Free State, General O’Duffy launched into Irish politics in the 1930’s, forming his own United Party, or ‘Blueshirts’. Seeing in the Spanish Civil War a chance to increase his prestige in Ireland, he raised a ‘Brigade’ of his countrymen to fight for the Nationalists. The ‘Brigade’ was in fact equal in strength to a battalion, but O’Duffy was granted the honorary rank of General in the Spanish Army.

Like some other Irishmen and some Americans—happily a minority—whose minds cherish the memory of past enmity he had a pathological hatred of the English, which he never tried to conceal. To his men he was known as ‘General O’Scruffy’ or ‘Old John Bollocks’.

It seems to me that nothing illustrates better the superiority of Republican propaganda over Nationalist than the Republican story about Guernica was given immediate and world-wide publicity, and is still generally believed; whereas the Nationalist case scarcely received a hearing.

At a smaller table nearby sat the newspaper correspondents, among them Randolph Churchill, Pembroke Stevens, Reynolds Packard and his wife and Philby of The Times; Churchill’s clear, vigorous voice could be heard deploring with well-turned phrase and varied vocabulary the inefficiency of the service, the quality of the food and, above all, the proximity of the Germans, at whom he would direct venomous glances throughout the meal. ‘Surely,’ he exclaimed loudly, ‘there must be one Jew in Germany with enough guts to shoot that bastard Hitler!’

He was greatly relieved when I assured him that I was not a Freemason; he had been convinced that all Protestants were Masons—a belief shared by most of the other officers. It was a waste of time trying to explain to Spaniards that English Freemasonry was a different thing from the Continental variety, which they abhorred because of its connection with the Popular Front governments in France and Spain. My friend FitzPatrick told me that what eventually finished his career in the Legion was his admission, in the course of an argument, that he was a Mason.

Another officer, Alférez Colomer, a Catalan from Gerona, was about the same age as myself. He was a noisy, rancorous little man, for ever bickering with his brother-officers and bullying his men. He had been badly wounded in an earlier battle, which had perhaps affected his temper; but he always seemed to me to have a chip on his shoulder. His contentious nature was, literally, the death of him: one day, after I had left the Bandera, he became very drunk after a battle, and challenged another officer to a stupid competition to see which of them could pick up more of the unexploded hand-grenades lying in front of their trenches. Colomer picked up one too many; it blew his head off.

He was just as severe on matters not strictly military but reflecting indirectly on the health and efficiency of the cadet. A model of rectitude in his own private life, he was also well aware of the temptations to which young men so easily succumb in a city. He therefore made it an order that every cadet, when walking out in the evening, must carry in his pocket at least one contraceptive. He would frequently stop cadets in the street and demand that they show him this armour; heavy was the penalty for him that failed to produce it.

The motto of the Legion was ‘Viva la muerte!’ It

In contrast, discipline on duty and the field was extremely strict, even savage by English standards. Orders were executed at the double and usually reinforced by threats or imprecations; the slightest hesitation, laxity or inefficiency was punished on the spot by a series of blows across the face and shoulders from the fusta—a pliant switch made from a bull’s pizzle, which was carried by all officers and sergeants. More

If there is any case of an attempt on the virtue of a woman, it will be punished on the spot by death.’ He

The earlier happy atmosphere evaporated without any corresponding gain in efficiency.

The New Year opened sadly for me. On January 31st a Press car containing four friends of mine—Dick Sheepshanks, Kim Philby, and two American correspondents, Eddie Neil and Bradish Johnson—was passing through the village of Caude, eight miles north-west of Teruel, during an enemy artillery bombardment, when a 12.40 cm. shell burst beside it. Sheepshanks and Johnson were killed outright. Neil died a few days later; Philby escaped with a wound in the head.

Campos was a tall, flabby young man, a little stupid and morose. He told me that he had been one of the original members of the Falange in Granada, and that he had taken part in the firing squad that executed the poet García Lorca. I prefer to believe him a liar. The Nationalists, including the Falange, strongly denied any responsibility for Lorca’s death, attributing to the vengeance of his private enemies, of which he had a large number; certainly he had many good friends on the Nationalist side who would have saved him if they could. His murder was a crime that robbed the world of one of its greatest living lyric poets; the mystery of it has never been satisfactorily explained.

They complained bitterly of well-fed Political Commissars who came from Madrid or Barcelona to give them lectures on The Fighting Spirit or The Meaning of Democracy.

At this moment a voice behind me said in English: ‘Excuse me, but didn’t we meet at Cambridge?’ Wondering if I was dreaming I turned and saw a lieutenant of artillery of about my own age, with a pleasant, clean-shaven face. He introduced himself as Guy Spaey. He had, in fact, been a contemporary of mine at Cambridge, where he was at King’s; we had a number of friends in common. Of mixed Belgian, Dutch and German extraction, he had arrived in Spain in October 1936, and immediately joined the Nationalist forces. At the moment of our meeting he was Gun Position Officer of a battery of 10.5 cm. mountain artillery, attached to Lieutenant-Colonel Peñaredonda’s command.

and from the north-west by the First Cavalry Division and the 5th Navarre Division, both under the command of General Monasterio.

Mora let her finish—I think she would have scratched his eyes out if he had interrupted. Then he asked her what she thought her loss was worth, paid her the sum she demanded and told the officer of the Vigilancia to find the offenders; they did a month in the Pelotón. I imagine the Duke of Wellington, who had his troops flogged for similar offences,1 would have approved of Mora.

At first sight von Hartmann, though short and handsome, looked like the typical Prussian officer of stage and screen, with close-cropped hair, scarred face and monocle.

am inclined to turn red in the face when scared, and I couldn’t help laughing when one of the ammunition numbers cried out: ‘Look at the colour of the Alférez’s face! It’s giving away our position.’

About this time I had another lesson in the workings of chance, in the form of a letter from my brother, once again at Gibraltar. He told me that his new observer, Charles Owen, had a brother who was also in the Legion; did I know him? His family were half Spanish and had lived in Vigo before the war. As it happened, there was a lieutenant in the 55th Company who came from Vigo, a sombre but friendly character called Arrieta; upon inquiry I had found that he knew the Owens well: Charles,

Cecil Owen and I must have been the only two British officers in the Corps; meanwhile our only brothers were in the same ship, flying together in the same aircraft. After receiving a citation for the Medalla Militar, Cecil Owen was killed in the Battle of the Ebro at the end of August, serving with the 16th Bandera.

Gay, courageous and sincere, he was one of the sweetest-natured men I have ever met. He did not live long.

At nine o’clock on the morning of February 28th I was ordered to withdraw my guns and rejoin the Bandera below; by ten o’clock I had completed the withdrawal. Around noon a ‘75’ shell landed squarely on top of my recent command post, blowing it inside out.

As we marched along the road we saw ahead of us the ‘circuses’ of our fighters diving in rotation to machine-gun the fleeing Republicans, harrying them incessantly with hand grenades tossed from the cockpits as well as with their guns. Later we heard from prisoners that these grenades, although they caused few casualties, were very demoralizing.

Beyond were several half-ruined shepherds’ huts; against their walls about a dozen prisoners were huddled together, while some of our tank crews stood in front of them loading rifles. As I approached there were a series of shots, and the prisoners slumped to the ground. ‘My God!’ I said to Cancela, feeling slightly sick. ‘What do they think they’re doing shooting the prisoners?’ Cancela looked at me. ‘They’re from the International Brigades,’ he said grimly.

It was over lunch the next day that I nerved myself to ask Cancela: ‘Where do the orders come from that we must shoot all prisoners of the International Brigades?’ ‘As far as we’re concerned, from Colonel Peñaredonda. But we all think the same way ourselves. Look here, Peter,’ he went on with sudden vehemence, ‘it’s all very well for you to talk about International Law and the rights of prisoners! You’re not a Spaniard. You haven’t seen your country devastated, your family and friends murdered in a civil war that would have ended eighteen months ago but for the intervention of foreigners. I know we have help now from Germans and Italians. But you know as well as I do that this war would have been over by the end of 1936, when we were at the gates of Madrid, but for the International Brigades. At that time we had no foreign help. What is it to us if they do have their ideals? Whether they know it or not, they are simply tools of the Communists and they have come to Spain to destroy our country! What do they care about the ruin they have made here? Why then should we bother about their lives when we catch them? It will take years

He paused for breath, then went on: ‘Another thing; I mean no offence to you personally, Peter, but I believe that all Spaniards⁠—even those fighting us—wish that this war could have been settled one way or another by Spaniards alone. We never wanted our country to become a battleground for foreign powers. What do you think would happen to you if you were taken prisoner by the Reds? You’d be lucky if they only shot you.’

it was better to be one of the heroic wounded than one of the glorious dead;

As I unwound the tape from a grenade and slung it across the clearing I understood that at last I was face to face with death; that there was nothing I could do about it. With that realization there came over me an extraordinary sense of freedom and a release from care. A few yards in front of me I caught sight of the red and yellow colours of a Nationalist flag which had been carried by one of our pelotones; it was on the ground beneath the dead body of its bearer. Running forward—I realize now, of course, that this was the most puerile dramatics—I seized the flag and ran back with it; calling encouragement to my men, I waved it in a wide arc. Whether this nonsense had any moral effect I am unable to say: a second or two later there was a soft thud beside me, an anguished shout of warning from my runner—‘Cuidado mí Alférez !—and a violent explosion.

Nearly a year later I learnt that our adversaries this day were a British battalion of the International Brigades; Captain Don Davidson, my informant and one of its Company Commanders, told me that their own casualties were very heavy.

Captain Don Davidson, an English officer of the International Brigades whom I met subsequently, confirmed that I should certainly have been shot if captured. CHAPTER TEN After

In fact it never occurred to me to offer my services to the British Intelligence authorities, even if I had known how to do so; certainly they never approached me—I suppose I was considered too irresponsible.

‘Oh God!’ I prayed, ‘don’t let me die like this, in terror!’ I took a grip on myself, remembering how someone once said to me, ‘You’re never dead till you think you are’.

Sheean had run his own hospital for the British Army in the First World War, after which he had gone to America, where he had a fashionable and lucrative practice lifting the faces of the ageing rich; but his hobby was travelling round Europe, treating wounded ex-Servicemen without payment; just before coming to Spain he had paid a visit to Turkey for this purpose.

Next morning, when I was wheeled down to the operating theatre, I took the bottle with me and asked Scherman if I might use it in place of the anesthetic he couldn’t give me. ‘Certainly! I might even have a nip with you.’ I started with an enormous swig, he with a very small one to encourage me; then he set to work. Whenever the pain became too much for me I signaled him to stop and took a long pull at the brandy. In this way I finished the bottle, feeling comparatively little pain during the operation, although I felt a great deal when the effect of the brandy had worn off. I was quite proud of myself until I remembered that this was the manner in which operations were usually performed before the last century.

The Land of Enterprise: A Business History of the United States – A review

From my Notion template

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. A surface level history of business in America. There nothing terribly new or interesting in this book. Other books, most notably American Republics , do a better job of presenting information.


It is a very surface level economic history of the United States. Granted – I’m a tough crowd, I’ve read several books on the topic – taken several classes, etc, etc, but there wasn’t that much new in the book.

How I Discovered It

The Amazon Algorithm

Who Should Read It?

Someone looking for a very rudimentary overview of US economic history

How the Book Changed Me

Nothing changed

My Top 3 Quotes

  • Approximately 80 percent of the English migrants to Virginia between 1607 and 1624, or close to five thousand, were dead by 1625. Hemorrhaging money and unable to attract new investors, the Virginia Company failed in 1624, when the English government declared Jamestown a royal colony
  • The push for national independence grew strongest in the parts of the British empire that could envision their economies operating without the British army present.
  • In fact, by the mid-19th century, approximately two hundred thousand slaves worked in industrial settings. At the outbreak of the Civil War, more than sixty worked for, and were owned by, William Weaver, a native Philadelphian who moved to Virginia in 1814 to establish an iron forge with two charcoal blast furnaces in the Shenandoah Valley.

All Quotes

When historians use the term feudalism, they are attempting to describe an economic system in which power relations among people formed the building blocks of society.

Monarchs in Spain, France, and England grew wealthier through trade, which spread from the Mediterranean to coastal West Africa, and then to the Americas. In the process, they consolidated military power at the expense of local lords.

At the same time, these mercantilist exploits brought a major economic downside. The huge amounts of silver shipped back to Spain flooded the currency market, sparking a bout of inflation that lasted a century and crippled the Spanish economy. In spite of its large land-holdings in the Americas, Spain would never recover the economic power it wielded in the early 16th century.

Most of those early migrants lived along the Atlantic coast in former Indian towns that had been abandoned during the plague epidemic that forced survivors inland from the coast in the late 16th century.

fact, the first two successful English colonies in what would become the United States—Virginia (1607) and Massachusetts Bay (1620)—were themselves private companies.

Joint-stock companies, the forerunners of today’s publicly owned corporations, pooled private sources of capital under the official protection of the crown, funding ventures that were too expensive or risky for an individual person. Drawing on a system of legal contracts developed in Italy centuries earlier, 16th-century English monarchs pioneered the practice of issuing corporate charters that granted an exclusive right to trade in a certain area to a particular group of subjects. In addition to creating a helpful monopoly, these charters created legal entities whose ownership was spread among several investors. These people purchased shares, or stock, to make up the whole company, which they owned jointly. Hence, “joint-stock company.”

Approximately 80 percent of the English migrants to Virginia between 1607 and 1624, or close to five thousand, were dead by 1625. Hemorrhaging money and unable to attract new investors, the Virginia Company failed in 1624, when the English government declared Jamestown a royal colony.15

Three years later, approximately one hundred people—a combination of the Separatists who had bought the patent and others who purchased their own passage directly—landed by accident far to the north of Jamestown in a former Massasoit Indian town, which they renamed Plymouth.

(We start to refer to “Britain” instead of “England” after the Acts of Union in 1706 and 1707 by the English and Scottish Parliaments unified those two countries into the United Kingdom of Great Britain.)

The American slave population became self-sustaining in the early 18th century, so even as the international trade declined, the population of enslaved people grew. By

the 1770s, nearly seven hundred thousand people, or 15 percent of the total non-Indian population of the United States, were enslaved.

Almost 95 percent of all enslaved people in the United States at the time of the Founding lived in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. One-third of the population of those southern colonies was enslaved, and approximately one-third of all southern households owned slaves.

The push for national independence grew strongest in the parts of the British empire that could envision their economies operating without the British army present.

On the other hand, Europeans on the periphery of the British empire depended greatly on the mother country. In present-day Canada, which Britain acquired from France after the Seven Years War in 1763, ongoing conflicts between the substantial native population and far-flung European fur traders and fishers meant that colonists depended greatly on British military support. In the slave societies of the West Indies, native inhabitants had been almost entirely annihilated, and small numbers of English colonists owned massive sugar plantations farmed by African slaves, whose numbers eclipsed those of their white owners by as much as ten to one in 1780. Landowners relied on brutal violence, sanctioned and backed by British law, and the strength of the British military, further cementing their ties to the crown.

generations. Beginning in the early 15th century, merchants from kingdoms and city-states along the west coast of Africa established commercial relationships with Portuguese merchants, trading gold and spices for European metals and textiles. From the beginning, African-European commerce included the trade in human beings.

In 1807, both the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress outlawed the international trade of slaves. (The Constitution of 1787, in an effort to forge a compromise between slave-owning interests and antislavery advocates, had included a clause prohibiting any move to ban the trade for twenty years.) By 1820, all other major European powers had as well.

Large plantations certainly wielded disproportionate economic power, but most southern whites were not slave-owners. Historians estimate that, by the time of the Civil War, about 385,000 out of a total of 1.5 million white households in the South owned slaves. (African Americans and Native Americans did not own slaves in significant numbers, and were usually legally barred from doing so.) About half of these slave-owning households owned between one and five slaves; another 38 percent owned between six and twenty. Although they held a vastly disproportionate level of wealth, the remaining 12 percent of slave-owners (those who had twenty-plus slaves) represented only 3 percent of all white households.

In fact, by the mid-19th century, approximately two hundred thousand slaves worked in industrial settings. At the outbreak of the Civil War, more than sixty worked for, and were owned by, William Weaver, a native Philadelphian who moved to Virginia in 1814 to establish an iron forge with two charcoal blast furnaces in the Shenandoah Valley.

A significant number of enslaved people lived in urban areas such as Charleston and Baltimore. There, some slaves labored for, and often alongside, their owners in workshops, but many were owned by urban professionals—doctors, bankers, and lawyers who kept slaves as investment property. Some performed domestic duties, but more often they were hired out to work for private companies or to perform public works projects, such as digging canals or dredging harbors. Slave-owners received hourly pay for their slaves’ labor, and in many cases the enslaved people themselves brought home those wages in cash. In both cases, urban slaves often labored alongside free workers, both black and white.8

By the eve of the Civil War, historians estimate that the total cash value of the 4 million slaves in the American South was $3.5 billion in 1860 money. At more than 80 percent of the country’s total economic output, that figure would be roughly $13.8 trillion today. Understood in that way, enslaved people were capital assets worth more than the country’s entire productive capacity from manufacturing, trade, and railroads combined.

1776, when Thomas Jefferson declared the “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal,” nearly 15 percent of the 4 million non-Indian inhabitants of the United States were enslaved. Although slavery remained legal in all states, almost 95 percent of enslaved people lived south of Pennsylvania, and the highest concentration was in Virginia.

By 1804, every state north of Delaware had legally abolished the practice, and new midwestern states and territories that joined the nation in the decades to come likewise prohibited it.

Slavery in the North died out because of the organizational power of antislavery activists combined with the lack of large-scale commercial agriculture in the region.

Evidence suggests that many, if not most, white northerners had no moral problem with slavery, but few powerful interests had much to gain by defending it.

In 1794, a twenty-eight-year-old Yale-educated New Englander named Eli Whitney, engaged as a tutor for the children of a plantation owner in South Carolina, patented a machine that mechanically separated cotton fibers from cotton seed. According to the traditional story, Whitney invented this “cotton gin” (gin was short for “engine”) after observing enslaved people slowly and painfully removing seeds from cotton balls.

The amount of cotton an individual enslaved person could prepare for export rose as use of the mechanical devices spread. By some estimates, the per-slave cotton yield increased 700 percent.

The results for the cotton industry were astounding. Southern planters produced around 3,000 bales of cotton per year in the early 1790s. By 1820—by which time domestic textile manufacturing had spread considerably—that number approached 450,000. By the eve of the Civil War in 1860, the South grew and exported (either domestically or abroad) nearly 5.5 million bales of cotton per year.

Karl Marx, who was simultaneously capitalism’s fiercest critic and its most trenchant analyst, viewed slavery and capitalism as incompatible.

Just as slavery drove the southern economy, manufacturing became increasingly important to the economies of the Northeast and, by the middle of the 19th century, the Midwest. And just as slavery’s social and economic reach extended far beyond the South, so, too, did industrialization exert a powerful influence on all Americans.

The Boston Associates engaged so-called “mill girls” to perform the difficult and monotonous work of textile production. Primarily the daughters of white Protestant farmers, these workers encountered a paternalistic social system at the mills, designed to “protect” their feminine virtue and convince their parents to allow them the social independence to live away from home. Lowell provided dormitories for workers as well as churches, libraries, and stores.

In 1790, only 5 percent of Americans lived in urban settings; by 1860, 20 percent did.

Unlike roads, waterways allowed merchants to move large quantities of textiles, iron, slaves, and foodstuffs over significant distances. According to one estimate, the amount of money it took to ship a ton of goods from Europe to an American port city would only get the same cargo about thirty miles inland pulled by a wagon.

These trenches—a few feet deep, a few dozen feet across, but sometimes hundreds of miles long—represented a tremendous engineering challenge. They were designed so that draft animals could walk parallel to the water, dragging nonmotorized barges laden with goods. As a result, the

In most cases, municipal governments saw a positive return on their investments, not only in direct payments but also through the tremendous economic growth generated by the new system of canals—three thousand miles’ worth by the 1840s, linking the Atlantic seaboard with midwestern cities such as Terre Haute, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

while canals increased the ease with which large quantities of goods could be moved from the interior to the seaboard, ultimately those goods moved only as quickly as the oxen dragging the barges.

The American foray into rail began in 1828, when the state of Maryland chartered the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad company, which laid tracks to the west to create an alternative to canal traffic. The first steam-powered locomotive to travel those rails moved slower than a horse, but within two decades, the technology improved. The railroad boom took off in the late 1840s, and the number of miles of tracks multiplied. Americans laid more than twenty-one thousand miles of railroad track in the 1850s. By the eve of the Civil War, a New Yorker could reach Chicago in two days, a trip that would have taken three weeks in 1830.

The U.S. Post Office, which was granted a special license and responsibility by the Constitution to deliver the country’s mail, expanded from seventy-five branches in 1790 to more than eighteen thousand by 1850.

In the 1840s, a group of investors formed a rapid-delivery service that charged customers high fees to move parcels by stagecoach westward from the East Coast. Within ten years, that original partnership broke up into several specialized companies, including Wells Fargo and American Express.

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The first telegraph was created by the French government in the 1790s to allow communication from Paris to twenty-nine cities up to five hundred miles away. But those original telegraph networks were optical, not electronic. To make them work, trained operators staffed towers spaced ten to twenty miles apart, from which they sent coded signals by shifting the positions of specialized panels. Although nothing in the United States matched the complexity of the French system, smaller networks of optical telegraphs emerged along the Atlantic Coast in the first decade of the 1800s, and others connected New York and Boston to their outlying farming communities in the 1810s. Optical

By erecting poles alongside railroad tracks, telegraph companies made all parts of their network accessible, so they could perform maintenance and protect against the elements and sabotage. Thus, as railroads spread across the continent in the mid-19th century, the electronic telegraph went with them.

Yet before 1800, corporate charters were far from common, and almost no business enterprises were incorporated. Because charters had to be granted by the sovereign—the king or Parliament in colonial times; the state or federal legislature after independence—the few corporations extant were almost exclusively public operations, such as turnpikes, bridges, churches, and cities, including New York. During the entire 18th century, charters were issued to only 335 businesses—and much more than half of those were issued in the last four years of the century.

Unlike today, when incorporation is granted in perpetuity, most antebellum corporate charters were limited in time, set to expire after a fixed period of ten, twenty, or thirty years. Nonetheless, having a distinct legal existence separate from their owners made corporations appear more stable and predictable, and made them more attractive to investors.

Slowly, states turned to a new model known as general incorporation, granting corporate charters administratively, rather than legislatively. In 1811, New York became the first state to enact such a law for manufacturing firms. In 1837, Connecticut became the first state to allow general incorporation for any kind of business.

A landowning Virginian, Jefferson believed that self-reliant and small-scale family farms, not impersonal factories (or, ironically, large slave-labor plantations like his), provided a bulwark against tyranny and ensured the future of self-governance.

In the years to come, the Jeffersonian Republicans completed the rout of the Federalists at nearly all levels—by the War of 1812, the Federalist Party barely clung on in remote and far-flung corners of state and local politics, but had largely disappeared as a national force.3 Yet

These three pillars—tariffs, internal improvements, and a national bank—formed the essence of the American System.

In addition, the Bank’s corporate structure reinforced the privileged place of the wealthy: The federal government itself owned 20 percent of the corporate stock, while the other 80 percent was sold to wealthy Americans. Yet this structure was exactly as Hamilton intended. By catering to elite merchants, the Bank wrapped up their financial interests in federal institutions and thus guaranteed that they would continue to lend political, moral, and economic support to the Constitution and its government.

Jackson’s coalition, heirs to the Jeffersonian Republican tradition, renamed themselves as Democrats during the fight. Beginning in 1833, their opponents identified as Whigs, taking the name of the British party that had historically challenged the authority of the king. (The “king,” to these American Whigs, was Jackson himself.) America’s second party system was born. The

Hoping to mollify southern planters, Congress passed, and President Jackson signed, a law to lower tariff rates in the summer of 1832. Enraged politicians in South Carolina still insisted that the rates were too high. In the fall of 1832, South Carolina’s legislature passed a law nullifying the federal tariff. In response, a vengeful Andrew Jackson asked Congress for the right to use military force to collect tariffs in that state. Calhoun resigned the vice presidency and declared that any use of force by Jackson would give South Carolina a just cause to declare its independence from the United States.15 For a few months, the possibility of armed conflict appeared real. Only skillful diplomacy defused the crisis. Congress passed a compromise tariff that lowered rates, on the condition that South Carolina repeal its nullification statute. Yet the battle lines that formed over the Nullification Crisis, as well as the constitutional and legal theories about the relationship between the federal government and the states, established a powerful precedent.

The first “land grant” law, passed in 1850, designated a line—which would become the Illinois Central Railroad—between Mobile, Alabama, and Chicago, Illinois. The law created a series of six-mile-square land parcels along each side of the proposed track; in an alternating, checkerboard pattern, the federal government bequeathed every other parcel to the states of Illinois, Alabama, and Mississippi, and sold the others off to farmers.

oceans. Although economic recession in the mid-1870s slowed the juggernaut somewhat, Americans laid up to 8,000 miles of track per year through the 1880s. By 1890, the country boasted 166,000 miles; by the early 20th century, there would be 254,000 miles of tracks.

Railroads became the first “Big Business” because they combined the unique scale and scope of their industry and the deliberate choices by their leaders to adopt what we now recognize as a modern system of management.

Educated and skilled office workers, they would—along with other professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants—form the heart of a new urban middle class in the modern American economy. Keeping their company in business for years to come meant job security, so professional managers tended to promote stable and less risky business practices.

In 1856, he borrowed $600 from a personal mentor (who was also his boss) and bought stock in a transport company that soon paid him his first return: a check for $10. By 1863, still a manager at the Penn Railroad, the $45,000 he made per year from his stock investments far outpaced his salary.

In 1867, he and a handful of partners launched an oil refinery in Cleveland, just as the commercial petroleum industry was beginning to grow.

A 19th-century “trust” resembled what we would call a holding company today. As a legal entity distinct from any of the member companies, the Standard Oil Trust controlled all the stock of those corporations, centralizing control over prices, distribution schedules, and other business decisions. By the 1890s, more than 90 percent of the oil produced in the United States was refined through Standard

As a percentage of gross domestic product, which at the turn of the last century was about $21 billion, the merger that birthed U.S. Steel would be worth about $1 trillion today.

The largest and fastest-growing corporations in the decades after the Civil War were typically more capital-intensive than labor-intensive.

Morgan had an extremely conservative disposition toward risk, even by the standards of bankers, who were traditionally averse to excessive gambles.

The disastrous financial Panic of 1893 created new opportunities for Morgan to put his vision of corporate control into action. The economic collapse, precipitated by overspeculation in railroads, crippled the nation. More than fifteen thousand companies, including six hundred banks, failed in what became the worst economic depression to that point in U.S. history. As countless railroad companies teetered on the verge of bankruptcy, Morgan and a handful of his partners engineered a series of takeovers and mergers. Shareholders in those failing companies surrendered their stocks in exchange for “trust certificates,” and the House of Morgan took control of the companies’ assets. In the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, approximately thirty-three thousand miles of railway track (one-sixth of the total) was “Morganized.”22

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877—the first major industrial strike in American history—began in July, when workers on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in West Virginia walked off the job. Their specific grievances were local—a series of sharp pay cuts as the B&O struggled through the protracted economic depression that followed the Panic of 1873—but their fury echoed across the industrial heartland. Within

Men, women, and children by the thousands toiled in dirty, dark, dangerous environments in factories and mills, quarries and mines, rigs and rail yards. The spread of mechanization and chemical technologies made work itself more boring and, simultaneously, more dangerous. Booming industry drew rural Americans away from farms and into cities, where they competed with a massive influx of European immigrants in a flooded labor market.

One of the earliest and most dramatic manifestations of class tension between laborers and economic elites was the creation of a national labor union in 1869 called the Knights of Labor. Officially called “The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor” and first organized as a secret society, the Knights of Labor grew into a major voice for the wholesale reform of the industrial system. Unlike most trade unions, the Knights welcomed both skilled and unskilled workers from the craft, retail, and manufacturing sectors, and, quite notable for their day, they encouraged membership by both African Americans and women. Central to the Knights’ social vision was the notion of the producer. So long as you made something, they reasoned, you served a social good, regardless of your race, sex, or relationship to the means of production. The only people the group actively excluded were “nonproducers”—liquor dealers, gamblers, lawyers, and bankers, for example.

A horrific incident in Chicago in the spring of 1886 helped cement the link between the Knights of Labor and radical, often violent, socialism in the minds of many business leaders. Amid a labor protest in Haymarket Square, someone threw a bomb that killed ten people. Eight suspects, all loosely affiliated with the Knights and variously described as anarchists, were convicted of murder. The Knights themselves were not involved, but their public image never recovered. Membership peaked in 1886, and the group declined in size and influence thereafter.

Within weeks, the strikers attracted the support of the burgeoning American Railway Union (ARU), the first industry-specific nationwide union. The ARU had been founded the previous year by Eugene V. Debs, a labor organizer from Indiana who would later—after his imprisonment for leading the Pullman Strike—become the country’s most prominent socialist politician and activist.

Troops killed several dozen strikers in clashes before the strike ended. Eugene Debs served six months in jail for violating a federal injunction to allow rail traffic to resume. During his imprisonment, he became a committed Marxist and later converted his American Railway Union into a socialist political party.

Yet the most distinctive aspect of the farmers’ political program, and the issue with which Bryan launched his career, was their attack on eastern banks and the influence of financiers over the national government. Monetary policy, in particular the question of the free coinage of silver, was their primary focus. The “silver question” often strikes history students as esoteric, obscure, and technical, yet it was one of the single most important political issues of the late 19th century. The struggle split the country between those who favored minting coins only in gold—monometallists—and those who wanted to use both silver and gold—the bimetallists. As a political rallying cry, the silver debate proved instrumental to a larger critique of corporate capitalism. Bimetallists,

As with everything in the history of big business, the story of regulation begins with the railroads.

Another strategy, which took aim at the rise of corporate monopolies more explicitly, led to the passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. If the ICC had represented an effort to regulate monopolistic behavior, the antitrust movement endeavored to disband monopolistic companies entirely. Named after its chief proponent, Ohio senator John Sherman (brother of Union general William Tecumseh Sherman), the act sought to preserve the benefits of free competition by cracking down hard on anticompetitive behavior. It criminalized “every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce.” Instead of prescribing rules and procedures to mitigate corporate power, as the ICC did, the law required the criminal prosecution of “every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade of commerce.

For the antimonopoly forces, U.S. Steel’s survival exposed the limitations of the antitrust movement. The Sherman Act successfully attacked cartels and price-fixing schemes, but because it banned restraint of trade, not market dominance in general, it did nothing to curb corporate mergers

Historians of the period have long used the phrase “Progressive Era” to describe the years between the turn of the century and the onset of World War I, defined by a political and intellectual response to the rapid rise of industrialized society. Rooted neither in radical socialism nor in unfettered laissez-faire economics, Progressivism sought to mitigate capitalism’s excesses while retaining its benefits. In the process, the Progressive period both reaffirmed classical elements of the American political tradition and established new institutions, government agencies, and expectations about the promise of democracy.

1908 Model T cost $850, but by the early 1920s, the price had fallen to under $300.

As one journalist put it in 1924: “The American citizen has more comforts and conveniences than kings had 200 years ago.”

Henry Ford didn’t invent the car—there were already six different models on display at Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893—but his devotion to the Model T starting in 1908 revolutionized the industry. Standardization was key: Ford simplified the design of his “Tin Lizzie” and used a bare minimum of parts (about five thousand).

To entice his workers to remain, Ford also pioneered labor policies that appeared progressive to many. In 1914, the company introduced the “five-dollar day,” when two dollars a day was more typical.9 In the next few years, Ford reduced the workday to eight hours and the workweek from six to five days, goals long championed by the labor, populist, and socialist movements. His business success, his personal austerity (especially when compared to the flamboyant wealth of men like J. P. Morgan), and his public devotion to the ideal that industrial workers should be able to afford the fruit of their labors—that a car should be inexpensive enough for the masses—contributed to Ford’s personal popularity around the world.

Before the rise of industrial capitalism, however, retail outfits were only found in cities and mostly sold specialty items such as books and furs. The idea of shopping for a variety of grocery or household items—or the notion that stores themselves could be big businesses—didn’t develop until the late 19th century.

In 1872, a Chicago-based traveling salesman named A. Montgomery Ward launched the country’s first mail-order firm. He published an illustrated catalog and mailed it, free of charge, to small-town farmers, who could then order products at lower prices than what local merchants charged. In 1886, another Chicagoan—a twenty-three-year-old man named Richard Sears—imitated Montgomery Ward’s success and started selling pocket watches by mail. Within a few years, Sears partnered with Alvah Roebuck, a watch repair specialist, providing both sales and maintenance services, all remotely. The pair broadened their offerings to compete directly with Montgomery Ward—their catalog became known as “the Farmer’s Bible,” and their Chicago warehouse filled orders from around the country.

Incorporated in 1893, Sears, Roebuck supplanted Montgomery Ward and became the country’s biggest mail-order company by 1900.13 In

The earliest and most famous pioneers of this model were F.W. Woolworth’s, which operated from 1878 to 1997, and the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which survived until 2015 as the A&P supermarket. Formed in 1859, the A&P opened its doors in New York as a discount purveyor of teas and coffees, which its founders purchased in bulk straight from ships (allowing them to offer cheaper prices). Within twenty years, the A&P offered a wide variety of grocery products and owned stores in more than one hundred locations, stretching from Minnesota to Virginia. Combining efficient distribution channels, inventory management, and low costs—the hallmarks of Taylorism—grocery chains like the A&P grew prominent in the early 20th century.14 The success of the retail revolution, and the chain store model in particular, changed the way Americans identified as consumers, but it came at a cost.

Invented in the mid-19th century, Listerine was an alcohol-based chemical designed as a powerful antiseptic for use during surgery. In 1920, advertising copywriters for Lambert launched a marketing campaign that proposed a new use for this old product—as a solution to bad breath (when taken in small quantities and not swallowed!). In its ads, Lambert introduced Americans to the word “halitosis,” an obscure but clinical-sounding, scientific word for “bad breath,” giving the impression that Listerine addressed a pressing medical problem. By 1927, Lambert’s profits, driven by Listerine sales, had skyrocketed from one hundred thousand dollars a year to more than $4 million, in the process changing the daily ablution habits of millions of people.18

General Motors was founded in 1904 when William Durant, a carriage maker in Flint, Michigan—just seventy miles northwest of Henry Ford’s headquarters in Detroit—took over a small and failing car company called Buick. Over the next several years, Durant expanded his production of Buicks and absorbed dozens of other car manufacturers under his corporate umbrella, following the model of horizontal integration pioneered by large extractive companies such as Standard Oil. That rapid growth created organizational and managerial confusion, because the various constituent companies (Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and so on) each had their own internal structure, products, and corporate culture. Many of General Motors’s cars targeted the same type of consumer, leading to a frustrating internal competition that hurt profits. In the mid-1910s, Durant set his company on the road to resolving these problems by launching an important collaboration with executives from the DuPont Corporation.

Only after the death of Henry Ford in the late 1940s would the Ford Motor Company start to catch on to the modern strategy for marketing cars.

What made the years framed by the Roosevelt presidencies so pivotal for business history was not the flamboyant rhetoric, but the long-term dance between two emerging giants of the 20th century: the massive integrated corporation and the administrative, bureaucratic state, which developed an essentially associational relationship with each other.

During World War I, income taxes provided vital revenue for the government, but the tax regime was steeply progressive, applying only to the top earners. Only approximately 15 percent of American households paid any income taxes at all in 1918; the richest 1 percent contributed about 80 percent of all revenue and paid effective tax rates of about 15 percent of their total income.

During the Coolidge administration (1923–29), Mellon achieved many of his goals, and the top rate paid by individuals declined from 73 to 25 percent.

Total corporate profits fell from $10 billion to $1 billion, a drop of 90 percent.

By the time the market bottomed out in 1933, nominal gross domestic product was nearly half what it had been in 1929.

and gestures such as the “Hoover flag,” an empty pocket turned inside out.

As he put it: “We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.”29 Social Security was highly popular (rising from a 68 percent approval rating in 1936 to 96 percent in 1944), but many large corporations and business associations recoiled at the new expense employers faced.

All told, the United States government spent approximately $320 billion (in 1940s money) on World War II, about half of it borrowed from the public through bond sales and the other half raised in taxes. That spending provided a massive boost to the gross national product, which shot up from $88.6 billion in 1939 to $135 billion in 1945.

By 1944, unemployment had fallen to just over 1 percent (remember that the official rate hit 25 percent in 1933). Within the span of eleven years, in other words, the country had seen both the highest and lowest levels of joblessness of the century.

In 1929, prescription drugs accounted for only 32 percent of all medicines purchased in the United States (by cost); by 1969, that figure reached 83 percent.

In 1954, however, General Electric became the first private firm to own a mainframe computer when it bought a UNIVAC.

Roughly defined, a conglomerate is a corporation that conducts business in a wide range of markets and industries that have little or no relationship to one another. Berkshire Hathaway, the company founded by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, provides a familiar example of the form today—it acts as a holding company that owns and operates an array of disparate businesses, from GEICO insurance to Jordan’s Furniture to Fruit of the Loom.

The rise of the conglomerate form reshaped managerial culture. Conglomerate builders such as Charles Bluhdorn succeeded, at least for a time, because they were experts at managing their company as an investment portfolio, not as a productive entity.

From the 1960s onward, boards of directors increasingly sought to hire men (and let’s not forget that occupying the corner office was a nearly exclusively male privilege) who were experts not in a particular industry or niche, but in business management itself. Versatile generalists, holding degrees from the newfangled business schools mushrooming throughout the country, could adapt their broad understanding of business principles to any specific managerial problem they encountered. Conglomerate executives in particular often bragged that they could manage their companies through financial controls and measurements, remaining disconnected from the actual product or service the company provided. The

Bluhdorn’s successor (he died of a heart attack in 1983) renamed the company Paramount Communications in 1989 to take advantage of one of its highest-profile holdings, Paramount Pictures. The entire operation became part of the media giant Viacom in 1994.

In short, the dominant regulatory trend had been economic regulation. In contrast, the trend in the 1960s and 1970s was toward social regulations, rules that, by design, targeted aspects of business behavior not traditionally considered “economic”—public health and safety and, quite literally, the downstream consequences of companies’ production processes. There had been earlier examples of social regulation, including the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which led to the creation of the FDA to improve the safety and quality of food and medicine. Yet the scale and scope of this new type of regulation exploded in the late 1960s, reinforcing a cultural and political distinction between protecting the economy and protecting people from business.

In the early 1970s, Congress overhauled the laws governing campaign finance contributions. The federal government had regulated campaign giving to various degrees since the Tillman Act of 1907, which barred corporations and unions from donating to political campaigns on the rather explicit grounds that they were not humans.

Instead, with minor exceptions, businesspeople preferred other, less official ways to skirt the campaign finance laws. Executives, for example, routinely arranged for special bonuses to top managers, with the clear expectation that those managers would donate their windfall to the candidate of the corporation’s choice.

In 1975, the FEC clarified that political action committees were legally legitimate, and an explosion in corporate-backed political action committees followed. In the four years between 1974 and 1979, the number of business PACs increased tenfold, from 89 to 950, while the number of labor PACs barely budged, rising only from 201 to 226. The number of corporate PACs continued to soar, peaking around 1,800 in the late 1980s before declining slightly and largely leveling off. In the winter of 2016, the Federal Election Commission counted 1,621 political action committees affiliated with businesses, and 278 for labor.

Not satisfied with running a traditional restaurant, the McDonalds spent the 1940s searching for a way to simplify. They wanted a food item that they could perfect and sell at a constant, affordable, and profitable price. They settled on the hamburger.

In 1955, the American automobile giant General Motors topped Fortune magazine’s list of global companies ranked by annual revenue. For the remainder of the century, GM held that crown. Yet in 2002, it fell to second place, bested by a company that had barely been known outside of Arkansas in 1980 but exploded onto the international stage thereafter: Walmart.

The son of a farmer-turned-debt-collector, a teenage Sam Walton spent the Great Depression with his father foreclosing on delinquent farms in Missouri.

Rural America had traditionally been a hotbed of populist opposition to unfettered capitalism, from the anti-chain-store movement to opposition to the gold standard and eastern finance. Yet by the late 20th century, conservative politicians found greater success linking evangelical Christianity with free market economics.

When Gates stepped down from Microsoft in 2014 (having reduced his role since 2000), he was the wealthiest person on Earth.

At the beginning of 2008, five venerable and highly respected investment banks—the descendants of the “House of Morgan”—sat atop American financial capitalism. By the fall of that year, none of them existed. Two, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, avoided bankruptcy through emergency mergers (engineered to a significant degree by government officials and the Federal Reserve) with J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, respectively. The 150-year-old Lehman Brothers was not so lucky. After its leaders failed to convince government regulators to offer either a direct bailout or a “shotgun marriage” to another financial institution, Lehman entered the largest bankruptcy in history on September 15. The remaining two, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, surrendered their status as investment banks and transformed themselves legally into traditional bank holding companies, which faced far greater government regulation in exchange for easier access to government loans. As the former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation put it, it was “the end of Wall Street as we have known it.”

That political shift proved to be a guiding force behind the movement for widespread deregulation, which often garnered the support of groups that otherwise opposed each other politically. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act, a law spearheaded by liberal politicians such as Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and consumer activist Ralph Nader, as well as free-market conservatives like the economist Milton Friedman. The opponents to airline regulation argued that a more market-driven airline industry would face greater competition to cut rates and, eventually, provide better service.8

By the mid-1990s, having stripped away most of its functions, Congress finally dissolved the Interstate Commerce Commission

The redirection of capital to financial pursuits—the hallmark of the process of financialization—led to growing number of deals known as “leveraged buy-outs” (LBOs)—mergers that depended on tremendous amounts of borrowed money.

Before the mid-20th century, just under 50 percent of American households owned their own home. Excluding farmers, who owned land at disproportionate rates, the rate of homeownership was below 40 percent. Between 1940 and 1970, American homeownership rose steadily to about 65 percent,

After hovering around 65 percent for several decades, homeownership rates rose quickly between the late 1990s and 2007, reaching 69 percent.

either renegotiate the loan or resell the home later at a profit, convinced many people that homeownership was a foolproof investment. “They’re not making any more land,” went a common refrain.

This unfounded faith in the never-falling value of houses was perpetuated by mortgage lenders and the real estate business, which profited from every loan made and every home purchased. (Economic historians showed that the misunderstanding of historical home price values came from the simplest of oversights: Once you account for the overall increase in prices over time, the real—noninflationary—price of homes remained remarkably stable throughout the entire 20th century.)

Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher by Thomas Bethell

From my notion book review template

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. This book is an honest account of the life of Eric Hoffer. It is an honest summary, including actual independent research and not just Hoffer’s version of his life. Bethell focuses his attention on his life and hot his political views.


I liked it a lot – it did actual research and dispelled lots of the Eric Hoffer self created legend and made him a much more interesting and mysterious character. This is one of the rare cases where more details adds mystery instead of taking it away.

How I Discovered It

An Amazon recomendation

Who Should Read It?

Eric Hoffer Fans

How the Book Changed Me

How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.

I don’t think it will change anything – perhaps it increases my willingness to disbelieve weird life origin stories in favor of even weirder life origin stories.

My Top 6 Quotes

  • Quite possibly, he was born in Germany and never became a legal resident of the United States.
  • It seems extraordinary, then, that no one from Hoffer’s early life should ever have shown up. Possibly—just possibly—he actually came to America for the first time across the Mexican border in 1934, the year after the El Centro camp was opened. Perhaps he walked to San Diego and was by then every bit as hungry as he said he was, ate some cabbage “cow fashion,” and found the truck driver who took him to El Centro.
  • It’s understandable that Hoffer might have concealed his background if he were indeed undocumented. If born abroad he was not an American citizen, for he never went through any naturalization ceremony. Congress severely restricted immigration to the United States in 1924 and by the 1930s, when jobs were scarce, U.S. residents found to be here illegally were deported without due process. Some were minor children born in the United States. In one report, “between 1929 and 1935 some 164,000 people were deported for being here illegally, about 20 percent of them Mexican.”32 Others estimate that between 1929 and 1939 as many as a million people were unceremoniously repatriated, many of them to Mexico. If Hoffer himself was in the United States illegally, he was wise to keep quiet about it.
  • Hoffer’s blindness has functioned in all accounts as an alibi, explaining why he didn’t go to school, didn’t have friends, spoke with a German accent, had “shadowy” recollections, and so on. How reliable is his blindness story?
  • Much later, Hoffer decided that “the social scientist is no more a scientist than a Christian scientist is a scientist.”
  • An ideal environment for him, he said, was one in which he was surrounded by people and yet not part of them.

Summary + Notes


As for Hoffer, Selden said: “All his conclusions are wrong—every one of them. But he writes beautifully and he asks the right questions.” They remained on good terms, and when Eric Hoffer died two years later, in the room where we had met, Selden was with him.

His date of birth is uncertain, often given as 1902 but more likely 1898.

And the account he often gave of losing his sight at an early age and then regaining it several years later doesn’t fit with some


Quite possibly, he was born in Germany and never became a legal resident of the 
United States.


Over the next thirty-three years she knew him better than anyone in the world. But, she said: “I never met anyone who knew Eric in his earlier life.”


One day, when he was six, she fell down a flight of stairs while she was carrying him. Two years later, she died and Hoffer went blind. His blindness lasted for eight years. When asked, “Did the fall cause those things?” he responded, “I don’t know.”5 Hoffer also didn’t remember the fall itself, nor could he recall whether his sight returned suddenly or gradually. In an early account he said that he went “practically blind,” followed by a “gradual improvement.”


Martha Bauer was a “Bavarian peasant” and his German accent came from


It seems extraordinary, then, that no one from Hoffer’s early life should ever have shown up. Possibly—just possibly—he actually came to America for the first time across the Mexican border in 1934, the year after the El Centro camp was opened. Perhaps he walked to San Diego and was by then every bit as hungry as he said he was, ate some cabbage “cow fashion,” and found the truck driver who took him to El Centro.

and during those fifteen years Cole saw Hoffer almost every week. His account coincides with Lili’s: “I never met a single person who knew him before he worked on the waterfront.”

It’s understandable that Hoffer might have concealed his background if he were indeed undocumented. If born abroad he was not an American citizen, for he never went through any naturalization ceremony. Congress severely restricted immigration to the United States in 1924 and by the 1930s, when jobs were scarce, U.S. residents found to be here illegally were deported without due process. Some were minor children born in the United States. In one report, “between 1929 and 1935 some 164,000 people were deported for being here illegally, about 20 percent of them Mexican.”32 Others estimate that between 1929 and 1939 as many as a million people were unceremoniously repatriated, many of them to Mexico. If Hoffer himself was in the United States illegally, he was wise to keep quiet about it.

Hoffer also spoke German and did so fluently.

Hoffer’s blindness has functioned in all accounts as an alibi, explaining why he didn’t go to school, didn’t have friends, spoke with a German accent, had “shadowy” recollections, and so on. How reliable is his blindness story?

There is no Martha, and in this account he clearly lived with this aunt for a year after his father died, thus accounting for the gap between his father’s 1920 death and his 1922 departure for Los Angeles. Hoffer’s later and oft-repeated account of a $300 legacy from his father’s guild is also contradicted.

“Martha had often consoled him with the advice: ‘Don’t worry Eric. You come from a short-lived family. You will die before you are forty. Your troubles will not last long.’ ” These thoughts

All attempts to locate Hoffer or his parents, Knut and Elsa, in the Bronx, either through census data or, have drawn a blank.

He was almost forty years old before he acquired a definite street address.


What may be more likely is that Hoffer came to America as a teenager or young adult and never did live in New York.

It’s easy to understand why Hoffer would make up an American background if he was eager to avoid questions about his citizenship, but why so elaborate a ruse? Hoffer was a great storyteller, and he insisted that a writer should entertain as well as inform his audience. He was also a master at diverting attention from his own background. Finally, he did provide a few hints that his story shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Much later, Hoffer decided that “the social scientist is no more a scientist than a Christian scientist is a scientist.” But

Although they were white Anglo-Americans, Starr writes, and often fleeing from the Dustbowl in Oklahoma, Texas, and elsewhere, they were regarded as a despised racial minority by much of white California.

In 1935 California had 4.7 percent of the nation’s population but triple that percentage of its dependent transients.

worked.” He described Hoffer as a natural loner; in fact, all his life he wanted to be left alone. For many years his relations with women were therefore confined, with one exception, to prostitutes.19 Koerner adds that Hoffer was “terrifically lusty”:


The earliest documentary record of Hoffer’s existence is a photostat of his application for a Social Security account, filled out on June 10, 1937. He said at the time that he was thirty-eight years old, having been born in New York City on July 25, 1898. If so, of course, he was four years older than he claimed at other times.

identified himself as the son of Knut Hoffer and Elsa Goebel, and gave his address as 101 Eye Street, Sacramento. His employer at the time was the U.S. Forest Service in Placerville, California. It is the only documentary evidence of his life to be found in the archives before he moved permanently to San Francisco.

Vigorous walking seems to ease the flow of words; and

The feeling of being a stranger in this world is probably the result of some organic disorder. It is strongest in me when I’m hungry or tired. But even when nothing is wrong I sometimes find it easy to look at the world around me as if I saw it for the first time.

The war, the nationwide draft, and a labor shortage on the docks made it possible for him to become a longshoreman at the age of forty-five.

There were many accidents. In 1943 a five-ton crate crashed to the wharf and just missed him, but it destroyed his right thumb. He was in the hospital for months as a new one was reconstructed from his own thigh. It was little more than a stump.

my case conditions seem ideal. I average about 40 hours a week, which is more than enough to live on. And all I have to do is put in 20 hours of actual work. It’s a racket and I love it.

Selden became a “diet faddist,” and Hoffer noticed that, too. How true is it, he wondered, “that true believers have an affinity for diet cults? You attain immortality either by embracing an eternal cause or by living forever.” Selden told Eric that when he ate, he methodically chewed so many times on one side, so many times on the other.

“It would be hard to find another occupation with so suitable a combination of freedom, exercise, leisure and income,” he wrote to Margaret Anderson in 1949. “By working only Saturday and Sunday (eighteen hours at pay and a half) I can earn 40–50 dollars a week. This to me is rolling in dough.”10 But in a 1944 notebook he recorded that creative thought was incompatible with hard physical work.

An ideal environment for him, he said, was one in which he was surrounded by people and yet not part of them.

But routine work was compatible with an active mind. On the other hand a highly eventful life could be mentally exhausting and drain all creative energy. He cited John Milton, who wrote political pamphlets throughout the Puritan agitation, and postponed Paradise Lost until his life was more peaceful.

Clumsiness, he concluded, is inconspicuous for those who are not on their home turf. Similarly, the cultural avant-garde attracts people without real talent, “whether as writers or artists.” Why? Because everybody expects innovators to be clumsy. “They are probably people without real talent,” he decided. But those who experiment with a new form have a built-in excuse.11

and it began with this issue. The union “was run by nobodies,” just like America, Hoffer said.

“It did not occur to the intellectuals,” Hoffer commented, “that in this country nobodies perform tasks which in other countries are reserved for elites.” It was one of his favorite reflections.

Financial records show that Hoffer made $4,100 as a longshoreman and $1,095 in True Believer royalties in 1953.

The examples of Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler, where intellectually undistinguished men made themselves through faith and single-minded dedication into shapers of history is a challenge to every mediocrity hungering for power and capable of self delusion.

During the day it occurred to me that if it were true that all my life I have had but a single train of thought then it must be the problem of the uniqueness of man.

Most days he set off for a “five mile hike in the Golden Gate Park,” he wrote, and there he found that he could “think according to schedule”: I have done it every day for weeks. Each day I took a problem to the park and returned with a more or less satisfactory solution . . . The book was written in complete intellectual isolation. I have not discussed one idea with any human being, and have not mentioned the book to anyone but

A visiting reporter, Sheila K. Johnson of the Los Angeles Times, said of this apartment: “There are no pictures on the walls, no easy chair, no floor lamps, no television set, no radio, no phonograph. There are in short no distractions.”

Hoffer himself received his retirement papers from the longshoremen’s union in 1966. He may have already received that news when he accompanied Tomkins to the docks later that

Here is a case where a genuine belief in God would make a difference. He is obviously drifting to an unmarked grave in a godforsaken graveyard. In lucid intervals he drifts back to San Francisco but does not stay long.2

“He wanted to change the world, and he wanted to change it alone,” Lili recalled. “He made a single convert—his mother.” Years after his death, reflecting on her former husband’s impractical nature, Lili still seemed amazed. “The idea that he chose to express his ideas was by leaflets,” she said with an emphasis that conveyed her frustration.

Reflecting on Hoffer’s account of his early life, and the implausibility of his claim that as a large child he was carried downstairs by a small woman who tumbled and then died, Gladstone said: “I don’t believe a word of it.”

In 1979, Eric moved to Alaska, became a fisherman, married, and had a family. He lives in western Alaska to this day.

At the San Francisco reception following his mother’s funeral in October 2010, Eric (by now the father of six) was receptive to the idea that Hoffer’s account of his early life didn’t quite add up. He thought Hoffer’s case might be comparable to that of B. Traven, the mysterious German author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. (B. Traven was a pen name for a German novelist whose actual identity, nationality, and date and place of birth are still unknown. The book, published in Germany in 1927, then in English in 1935, was made into the famous movie of the same name in 1948.)

Of the paternity question, Stephen said, “Has there been a DNA test? No. But Eric suspected that Hoffer [which he pronounced Hoafer] was his father. He asked my mother and she said yes.”

I have been generous with myself and my money and the truth is that Selden did not love Lili and felt my invasion as a liberation. He told me yesterday that my intrusion enriched the children’s life and whatever I have saved will be theirs when I am gone. My attachment to Lili after 33 years is undiminished. In Lili’s hand beneath she wrote: “Dear, dear Eric! Always beloved.”

Some of these fanatics act out of the weakness of their personalities, the reviewer added; some out of the strength. But by the end of the book Hoffer had brought “the fanatical leader and the fanatical follower into a single natural species.”

True believers don’t start mass movements, Hoffer wrote. That is achieved by “men of words.” But the true believers do energize those movements. Hoffer’s understanding of the relationship between true believers and mass movements was Hitler’s relationship to the Nazi Party. The German Workers Party—its name was later changed—was founded in 1919. Hitler soon joined it and ousted the founder, Anton Drexler, in 1921. With all the zeal of the true believer, Hitler infused it with fanaticism and Nazism became a mass movement. Hoffer did not make this Hitler relationship explicit in his book but it was his unstated guide.

“the preoccupation with the book is with theories—right or wrong. I cannot get excited about anything unless I have a theory about

For a movement to prevail, the existing order must first be discredited. And that “is the deliberate work of men of words with a grievance.” If they lack a grievance, the prevailing dispensation may persist indefinitely.8 Sometimes, a regime in power may survive by co-opting the intellectuals. The partnership between the Roman rulers and the Greek men of words allowed the Roman Empire to last for as long as it did.

As Hoffer saw it, then, men of words laid the groundwork for mass movements by creating receptivity to a new faith. This could be done only by men who were first and foremost talkers or writers, recognized as such by all. If that ground had not been prepared, the masses wouldn’t listen. True believers could move in and take charge only after the prevailing order had been discredited and had lost the allegiance of the masses.11 Mass movements are not equally good or bad, Hoffer wrote. “The tomato and the nightshade are of the same family, the Solanaceae,” and have many traits in common. But one is nutritious and the other poisonous.12 In adding this he was probably responding to another caution from Fischer, who wrote that some in-house readers “. . . got the impression that Hoffer is implying that all mass movements are equally good or bad, that the ideas on which they are based are always predominantly irrational, and that from the standpoint of value judgments there is not much distinction between, say, the Nazi movement, Christianity, and the Gandhi movement in India.”

The Harper contract to publish the book was sent to Hoffer in June 1950. Harper scheduled the book for publication and, not surprisingly, wanted some independent report about this mysterious author who was unreachable by phone, worked on the docks, had never gone to school, and yet wrote so well.

After publication, some reviewers, including the New York Times’s Orville Prescott, also called the work cynical—“as cynical about human motives as Machiavelli.”14 The libertarian author Murray Rothbard, writing for Faith and Freedom under the pen name Jonathan Randolph, was also highly critical. “Hoffer may be anti-Communist,” he wrote, “but only because he sneers at all moral and political principles.”

Hoffer later became openly political, attacking Stalin, Communism, and leftist intellectuals en masse. He had “a savage heart,” he reflected, and “could have been a true believer myself.”17 America and Israel were to become his great causes. But the neutrality of The True Believer contributed to its critical success.

Fischer also pointed out that the book would be more readable “if the author would make greater use of examples and illustrations.” Readers of The True Believer do indeed encounter a sea of abstractions—fanaticism, enthusiasm, substitution, conversion, frustration, unification—and many will have scanned its pages, often in vain, looking for the tall masts and capital letters of a proper name.

As a historical assessment, nonetheless, Hoffer’s treatment was questionable on several fronts. Longevity was just one. Nazism lasted for twelve years, Communism’s span was measured in decades, while Christianity has endured for two thousand years and shows no sign of disappearing.

Pipes has great admiration for Hoffer and assigned The True Believer to his Harvard class. “Mass movements do occasionally occur,” he added, “but my feeling is that most such movements are organized and directed by minorities simply because the ‘masses,’ especially in agrarian societies, have to get back to work to milk the cows and mow the hay. They don’t make revolutions: they make a living.”

Communism resembled a religion but it was the faith of disaffected Western intellectuals, not of the masses. After the immediate revolutionary fervor cooled it was sustained, in Russia and everywhere else, by coercion and terror. Communism never did bring about a release of human energies—or if so, only for a short time.

The explosive component in the contemporary scene, Hoffer wrote, was not “the clamor of the masses but the self righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities.” An “army of scribes” was working to achieve a society “in which planning, regulation and supervision are paramount, and the prerogative of the educated.”

In its May 22, 1983, obituary on Hoffer, the Washington Post said that The True Believer is “difficult to summarize [but] easy to admire.”

In contemplating the mystery of Eric Hoffer, Lili Osborne would ask herself how a self-educated laborer came to write so abstract a work. His early manuscripts had shown that he was a polished writer before he (apparently) had much experience of writing anything. His comments to Margaret Anderson give one or two clues. Looking back over his earlier notebooks, he was surprised to find how hard it had been for him to reach insights “which now seem to me trite.” The key was that “the inspiration that counts is the one that comes from uninterrupted application.” Sitting around waiting for lightning to strike got one nowhere.

His rewritten drafts of The True Believer showed how much he owed to perseverance. His self-assurance and stylistic mastery were remarkable coming from someone who had not yet published anything. But if his success with The True Believer were to be attributed to any single quality, it would be his capacity to concentrate and persevere. His ability to exercise these talents also explained his self-confidence. Still, the mystery never quite goes away.

warning them that woe betides a society that reaches a turning point and does not turn.

He worried that if workers’ skills were no longer needed they might become “a dangerously volatile element in a totally new kind of American society.” America itself might be undermined—no longer shaped by “the masses” but by the intellectuals. Hoffer increasingly saw them emerging as villains in the continuing American drama.

The culmination of the industrial revolution should enable the mass of people to recapture the rhythm, the fullness and the variety of pre-industrial times.

By now Hoffer’s life story was fixed. The KQED version became, in effect, the canonical account. In later interviews—by Tomkins, James Koerner, Eric Sevareid, and others—Hoffer stuck to the same script, sometimes almost word for word. He told the same anecdotes with no new details. The inconsistencies in his earlier accounts were gone. It was as though by 1963 he had settled on the story of his life and he no longer deviated from it.

Later, the FBI heard that Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, an assistant professor at Berkeley at that time, might have visited the class; at one point, agents combed through Hoffer’s papers at Hoover. “Anyone could drop in to Hoffer’s class,” Cole said. “But they never established that Ted Kaczynski was there. Lili asked me if I remembered him. I didn’t.”

So he taught himself Hebrew, “and his pronunciation was wonderful.” Cole heard Hoffer “more than a few times say something in Hebrew. He had such a great ear.” Hoffer told another interviewer that he had learned Hebrew while on skid row in Los Angeles. “I think I mastered it. I can speak it, but I cannot make out the text,” he said.

He memorialized this appeal to brevity by funding the Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize at UC–Berkeley. It is awarded each year for the best essays of 500 words or less on a topic chosen by the Committee on Prizes.

At least one of these columns was read by Pauline Phillips, the author of the “Dear Abby” column, who had been friends with Hoffer for some time.

At the time of the anti-Soviet revolt in East Germany in 1953, Hoffer recognized the Communist evil. He noticed, too, that the West held Communism in awe.9 But he was also impressed by what Communism had apparently achieved. Stalin had shown unbounded contempt for human beings, but he could justify it by pointing to “the breathtaking results of sheer coercion.” Cruelty worked, in other words. “Idealism, courage, tremendous achievements both cultural and material, faith and loyalty unto death can be achieved by relentless, persistent coercion.”

That industrial production had in fact collapsed following the Bolshevik Revolution and had made only a faltering recovery was not appreciated for decades. Led by U.S. government agencies that took Soviet statistics at face value, policy analysts and economic textbooks continued making the same mistake right up to 1989.

As always, he was aiming for the widest generalization.

An enduring problem was that Hoffer was not interested in economics and paid little attention to political institutions. He either took private property and the rule of law for granted, or thought them unimportant. “Far more important than the structure of a governmental system is the make-up of the men who operate it,” he wrote in 1952.

He persisted, surely, because his underlying argument—mass movements had animated societies by releasing pent-up energies—came from The True Believer.13 Abandon this search, then, and his argument about the role of mass movements might collapse. He had referred to his new book as “vol. 2.” His prolonged difficulty with that unwritten book was rooted in “vol. 1,” on which his reputation was largely based. Later on, Hoffer was inclined to ignore and even to disparage mass movements.

He had no wife and no debts, and his rent was as low as rents in San Francisco ever get. His expenses were minimal and his frugality ingrained. Pen, paper, and books from the public library were for him the key ingredients of contentment. When

A related theme was often found in his notebooks: “What tires us most is work left undone.” He kept insisting that he was not a writer, but to continue functioning he had to keep on writing:

He also saw reasons for believing that “Russia’s day of judgment will come sometime in the 1990s.” (The Soviet Union was always “Russia” in Hoffer’s lexicon.) “And when the day comes everyone will wonder that few people foresaw the inevitability of the end.”

There will be no peace in this land for decades. The journalists have had a taste of history-making and have become man-eating tigers. Life will become a succession of crises . . . What will political life be like when history is made by journalists?

As a symptom of aging, he noted what many in retirement have reported: he felt hurried though no one was pursuing him.

Working on an essay about the old, he knew that “to function well the old need praise, deference, special treatment—even when they have not done anything to deserve it. Old age is not a rumor.”

They say that on his deathbed Voltaire, asked to renounce the devil, said: “This is no time to be making new enemies.”

This talk of living a life of quiet desperation is the blown-up twaddle of juveniles and if it hits the mark it does so with empty people. I have no daemon in me; never had. There is a murderous savagery against people I have never met; a potential malice which is not realized because of a lack of social intercourse.

In the usual sense of the word, Hoffer himself was an intellectual. He read books and wrote them. But he had no desire to teach others, he said, and this made him “a non-intellectual.” For the intellectual is someone who “considers it his God-given right to tell others what to

Another correspondent was the community organizer Saul Alinsky.

the language is cryptic because the idea is not clear.”

He viewed them as a dangerous species. They scorn profit and worship power; they aim to make history, not money. Their abiding dissatisfaction is with “things as they are.” They want to rule by coercion and yet retain our admiration. They see in the common criminal “a fellow militant in the effort to destroy the existing system.” Societies where the common people are relatively prosperous displease them because intellectuals know that their leadership will be rejected in the absence of a widespread grievance. The cockiness and independence of common folk offend their aristocratic outlook. The free-market system renders their leadership superfluous. Their quest for influence and status is always uppermost.

free society is as much a threat to the intellectual’s sense of worth as an automated economy is a threat to the worker’s sense of worth. Any social order, however just and noble, which can function well with a minimum of leadership, will be anathema to the intellectual.

The intellectual regards the masses much as a colonial official views the natives. Hoffer thought it plausible that the British Empire, by exporting many of its intellectuals, had played a counter-revolutionary role at home. Employment and status abroad for a large portion of the educated class may have “served as a preventive of revolution.”

All intellectuals are homesick for the Middle Ages, Hoffer wrote. It was “the El Dorado of the clerks”—a time when “the masses knew their place and did not trespass from their low estate.”

Eric Osborne recalled one humorous incident: “Once Eric Hoffer was talking and a rabbi was in the audience; or maybe Hoffer was talking to a bunch of rabbis, and he was telling them that there is no God. One rabbi said, ‘Mr. Hoffer, there is no God and you are His prophet.’

Yet he continued to ponder the nature of God. It was speculation without faith—more philosophy than religion—but it was never far from his mind. In his notebooks he often wrote as though God was a reality whether he believed in Him or not. And he did (sometimes) capitalize the pronoun.

Sometimes you think how much of a better world it would be if Judaism, Christianity and Islam with their driving vehemence had never happened. Then you think of all the misery and boundless cruelty practiced in lands that never heard of Jehovah, his son and his messenger.

Hoffer’s ideas about the uniqueness of man and the great error of trying to assimilate man into nature—a key dogma of modernity—was perhaps his most original venture into philosophy.

Hoffer was strongly opposed to the modern tendency to see science and religion as antagonists. On the contrary, religious ideas about the Creator had inspired the early scientists. They tried to work out how God had created the world and science emerged from this study.

He believed Israel revealed that history is not a mere process, but an unfolding drama.

The insights and thoughts that survive and endure are those that can be put into everyday words. They are like the enduring seed—compact, plain looking and made for endurance.

La Rochefoucauld, in his maxims, delighted Hoffer with his brevity and wit, sometimes bordering on cynicism (“We are always strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others”).

Philosophers, on the other hand, had little to boast about. Why was this? Russell concluded, “As soon as definite knowledge concerning any subject becomes possible this subject ceases to be called philosophy and becomes a separate science. The whole study of the heavens, which now belongs to astronomy, was once included in philosophy; Newton’s great work was called ‘The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.’ Similarly, the study of the human mind, which was a part of philosophy, has now become separated from philosophy and has become the science of psychology. . . . [Only those questions] to which, at present, no definite answer can be given, remain to form the residue which is called philosophy.”1

He once wrote that “the trouble with the Germans is that they are trying to express in prose what could only be expressed in music.”

There was “a German desire for murkiness,” Hoffer argued, “a fear of the lucid and tangible.” Worse, “the German disease of making things difficult” had conquered the world.

The less we know of motives, the better we are off. Worse than having unseemly motives is the conviction that our motives are all good. The proclamation of a noble motive can be an alibi for doing things that are not noble. Other people are much better judges of our motives than we are ourselves. And their judgment, however malicious, is probably correct. I would rather be judged by my deeds than by my motives. It is indecent to read other people’s minds. As for reading our own minds, its only worthwhile purpose is to fill us with humility.

Nowhere is freedom more cherished than in a non-free society, for example. “An affluent free society invents imaginary grievances and decries plenty as a pig heaven.”

As for deciphering others, the only real key is our self. And considering how obscure that is, “the use of it as a key in deciphering others is like using hieroglyphs to decipher hieroglyphs.”

Sophistication is for juveniles and the birds. For the essence of naivety is to see the familiar as if it were new and maybe also the capacity to recognize the familiar in the unprecedentedly new. There can be no genuine acceptance of the brotherhood of men without naivety.

The most intense insecurity comes from standing alone. We are not alone when we imitate. So, too, when we follow a trail blazed by others, even a deer trail.

At times he felt euphoric and he wondered how that arose. He came to believe that “the uninterrupted performance of some tasks” was the key to happiness. It was not the quality of the task, which could be trivial or even futile. “What counts is the completion of the circuit—the uninterrupted flow between conception and completion. Each such completion generates a sense of fulfillment.”

Whenever conditions are so favorable that struggle becomes meaningless man goes to the dogs. All through the ages there were wise men who had an inkling of this disconcerting truth. . . . There is apparently no correspondence between what man wants and what is good for him.

Flaubert and Nietzsche have emphasized the importance of standing up and walking in the process of thinking. The peripatetics were perhaps motivated by the same awareness. Yet purposeful walking—what we call marching—is an enemy of thought and is used as a powerful instrument for the suppression of independent thought and the inculcation of unquestioned obedience.

Originality is not something continuous but something intermittent—a flash of the briefest duration. One must have the time and be watchful (be attuned) to catch the flash and fix it. One must know how to preserve these scant flakes of gold sluiced out of the sand and rocks of everyday life. Originality does not come nugget-size.

Like Hoffer, Montaigne almost never mentioned his mother, who came from a family of Sephardic Jews. Hoffer said that when he read Montaigne’s essays in 1936 he felt “all the time that he was writing about me. I recognize myself on every page.”

Overall, however, he found it remarkable “how little we worry about the things that are sure to happen to us, like old age and death, and how quick we are to worry ourselves sick about things which never come to pass.” Montaigne said something very similar. His life had been full of “terrible misfortunes,” he said, “most of which never happened.”

Theorizing in the future, he predicted, would tend to regard humanity “as unchangeable and unreformable.”

“I shall not welcome death,” Hoffer wrote. “But the passage to nothingness seems neither strange nor frightful. I shall be joining an endless and most ancient caravan. Death would be a weary thing had I believed in heaven and life beyond.”

September 27, 1981 How does a man die? Does he know when death approaches? Friday night (25th) I vomited the first time in my life. The vomit was dark and bitter. The new experience of vomiting gave me the feeling that I was entering the realm of the unknown.

As they lay there in the dark, Selden once again heard Eric’s heavy breathing. Reassured, Selden went back to sleep. But when he woke up again, perhaps an hour or two hours later, Eric’s breathing could be heard no more. He was gone—you could say that he didn’t say goodbye to anyone.

He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, just outside San Francisco. Lili Osborne’s grave is next to his.

the well-off will no longer be able to derive a sense of uniqueness from riches. In an affluent society the rich and their children become radicalized. They decry the value of a materialist society and clamor for change. They will occupy positions of power in the universities, the media, and public life. In some affluent societies the children of the rich will savor power by forming bands of terrorists.

Bacon touches upon two crucial differences between Judeo-Christianity and other religions. In a monotheistic universe nature is stripped of divine qualities—this is a downgrading of nature. At the same time, in a monotheistic universe, man is wholly unique, unlike any living thing. It would have gone against Bacon’s aristocratic grain to point out that the monotheistic God, unlike the God of other religions, is not an aristocrat but a worker, a skilled engineer. Bacon could have predicted the coming of a machine age by suggesting that if God made man in his own image, he made him in the image of a machine-making engineer.

An aphorism states a half truth and hints at a larger truth. To an aphorist all facts are perishable. His aim is to entertain and stimulate. Instruction means the stuffing of people with perishable facts. And since in human affairs the truthful is usually paradoxical, aphoristic writing is likely to prove helpful.

The French Revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath were the first instances of history on a large scale made by nobodies.

The intellectuals loathe democracy because democracy creates a political climate without deference and worship. In a democracy the intellectual is without an unquestioned sense of superiority and a sense of social usefulness. He is not listened to and not taken seriously. The sheer possession of power does not satisfy the intellectual. He wants to be worshipped.

years of pauseless killing of the First World War. This tangibility of death created a climate inhospitable to illusion..

But it is probably true that from the beginning of time talents have been wasted on an enormous scale. It is the duty of a society to create a milieu optimal for the realization of talents. Such a society will preach self-development as a duty—a holy duty to finish God’s work.

Where the creative live together they live the lives of witches.

The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes is one of the greatest history books I’ve ever read

TLDR – five stars, one of the best history books I’ve ever read. Go read it.

The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes is the history of Russia I’ve been looking for all these years. Figes’ writing is very good prose, concise, very well sourced and actually answers the questions like “how is it possible that {XXX} happened” to a greater degree than any book I’ve come across.

It starts at the very beginning where what we now call Russia formed (coalesced might be a better word) Unlike most histories of Russia it’s not just a listing of Czars and their internal political dramas but covers a lot of other life in Russia, i.e. peasants, workers, etc.

Figes makes the point again and again (the emphasis is correct) that there is, and has never been, that while family life is very strong, and the central government is strong, everything in between is weak. There are not, and have never been strong unions, minority political parties, non orthodox churches, non-state affiliated business, etc, etc. There were not any strong nobles, or regional powers. Essentially there is no middleware, which renders what we in the West think of as democracy impossible.

I think in every other country the monarch bubbled out of the nobility, in Russia it was the reverse.

One thing Figes did not highlight is how Russia land policies encouraged population growth in the pre-revolutionary times, in sort of a way that the pre-civil war American south favored the accumulation of slaves. “Human capital” became a very literal term. In the American south, the limiting factors were land and slaves to work the land. In Russia land was reallocated periodically according to the number of “eaters” which encouraged extremely high population growth, apparently higher than anywhere else. This meant very, very, weak property rights and consequently limited physical capital accumulation.

It seems that a lot of Russia has always lived under some form of village level proto-communism. It would be approximately Socialism 3.5 by this definition, but at the peasant village level.

I feel like reading it again just to let everything sink in. Figes wrote the most information dense book I’ve read in years.

Addendum – I now get much more of the Russian rhetoric regarding Ukraine, as well as references to “The Russias” instead of just Russia – the Anglosphere is sort of a comparison.

Things I highlighted in the book.

The only written account that we have , the Tale of Bygone Years , known as the Primary Chronicle , was compiled by the monk Nestor and other monks in Kiev during the 1110s .

in 862 , the warring Slavic tribes of north – west Russia agreed jointly to invite the Rus , a branch of the Vikings , to rule over them : ‘ Our land is vast and abundant , but there is no order in it . Come and reign as princes and have authority over us ! ‘

The timescale of the chronicle is biblical . It charts the history of the Rus from Noah in the Book of Genesis , claiming them to be the descendants of his son Japheth , so that Kievan Rus is understood to have been created as part of the divine plan . 4

Russia grew on the forest lands and steppes between Europe and Asia . There are no natural boundaries , neither seas nor mountain ranges , to define its territory , which throughout its history has been colonised by peoples from both continents . The Ural mountains , said to be the frontier dividing ‘ European Russia ‘ from Siberia , offered no protection to the Russian settlers against the nomadic tribes from the Asiatic steppe . They are a series of high ranges broken up by broad passes . In many places they are more like hills . It is significant that the word in Russian for a ‘ hill ‘ or ‘ mountain ‘ is the same ( gora ) . This is a country on one horizontal plain .

Pine forests give way to mixed woodlands and open wooded steppelands to the south of Moscow , where the rich black soil is in places up to several metres deep .

As their power grew , the Rus warriors attacked the Khazar tribute – paying lands between the Volga and Dnieper . In 882 they captured Kiev , which became the capital of Kievan Rus .

To grow the population and tax base of the new state the grand prince Vladimir forcibly transported entire Slav communities from the northern forests to the regions around Kiev . It was the start of a long tradition of mass population movements enforced by the Russian state .

Instead of the act of self – determination celebrated by the modern Russian and Ukrainian states , Vladimir’s conversion to the Eastern Church may have been a declaration of his kingdom’s subjugation to the Byzantine Empire .

Later it would be replaced by a high wall of icons , the iconostasis , whose visual beauty is a central feature of the Eastern Church . Seeing is believing for the Orthodox . Russians pray with their eyes open – their gaze fixed on an icon , which serves as a window on the divine sphere . 22 The icon is the focal point of the believers ‘ spiritual emotions – a sacred object able to elicit miracles . Icons weep and produce myrrh . They are lost and reappear , intervening in events to steer them on a divine path .

Of the 800 Russian saints created up until the eighteenth century , over a hundred had been princes or princesses . 26 No other country in the world has made so many saints from its rulers . Nowhere else has power been so sacralised .

At the core of the Russian faith is a distinctive stress on motherhood which never really took root in the Latin West . Where the Catholic tradition placed its emphasis on the Madonna’s purity , the Russian emphasised her divine motherhood ( bogoroditsa ) . This

Each prince was equipped with an army or druzhina of a few thousand horsemen led by warriors , known as boyars , who received part of the prince’s land .

On the death of the grand prince or one of his sons there was a reshuffling of the principalities held by the remaining kin . Normally the throne of the grand prince would pass , not from father to son , but from the elder brother to the younger one ( usually until the fourth brother ) . Only then would it pass down to the next generation . When the eldest brother took the throne in Kiev , all the others moved up to the principality on the next step of the ladder . It was a system of collateral succession not found elsewhere in Europe .

Kinship not kingship was its constitutional principle . The grand prince was not the equal of a king , but primus inter pares , a figurehead of unity . Outside Kiev itself , in the principalities , his authority was limited .

Kiev had a population of 40,000 people , more than London and not much less than Paris , at the start of the thirteenth century .

In fact , politically , Muscovy was different from Kievan Rus . Two hundred and fifty years of Mongol occupation had created a fundamental break between the two .

army was in a good position to conquer Europe , whose disunited countries had little chance of withstanding the onslaught . But the West was saved by the death of the great khan Ögedei , the favourite son of Chingiz Khan , in December 1241 . When Batu received the news , the following spring , he called off the western offensive and took his army back to Karakorum , the empire’s capital on the Mongolian steppe , to stake his claim to the succession .

They preferred indeed to fight in the winter when the rivers and marshlands – the main impediment to their horses – were frozen .

being punished by the Tatar infidels for its sins ( they called them the ‘ Tartars ‘ , with an extra ‘ r ‘ , to associate them with Tartarus , the Greek name for ‘ hell ‘ ) . In

So many craftsmen were captured by the Mongols that practically no stone or brick buildings were built in the half – abandoned towns during the next fifty years .

Nevsky’s collaboration was no doubt motivated by his mistrust of the West , which he regarded as a greater threat to Orthodox Russia than the Golden Horde , generally tolerant of religions . He

The Church too collaborated with the Golden Horde . The khan exempted it from taxation , protected its property and outlawed the persecution of all Christians , on condition that its priests said prayers for him , meaning that they upheld his authority . These dispensations allowed the Church to thrive . Under the Mongols it made its first real inroads into the pagan countryside .

An important part of this monastic movement was led by men of deep religious feeling who rebelled against the worldly hierarchies of the Orthodox Church and went into the wilderness to live an ascetic life of private prayer and contemplation , book – learning and manual work . They took their spiritual guidance from the hesychasm of Byzantium , a contemplative mysticism ( from the Greek hesychia , meaning ‘ quietude ‘ ) founded on the idea that the way to God was through a life of poverty and prayer under the guidance of a holy man or elder . The

the bringer of Christianity to the Komi people , who fought hard to defend their animist beliefs ( the artist Kandinsky found them still in existence when he visited the remote Komi region in 1889 ) ,

West . These lands ‘ political development was later shaped by the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth , a constitutional monarchy with an elected king and parliament dominated by the local landed nobles , which would rule this polyethnic area from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century .

The Mongols ‘ growing fear of Lithuania was also an important factor in their promotion of Moscow . In the early fourteenth century the Lithuanians were steadily expanding their control to the former western lands of Kievan Rus . Where they were unable to annex them by pressure or persuasion , the Lithuanians turned to religion . They established a separate metropolitan to prise away the western territories from the rest of Orthodox Russia . By the 1330s , Smolensk , Novgorod and Tver were all close to throwing in their lot with Lithuania ; Moscow was struggling to rein them in through military threats ; and the Mongols were confronted by the danger of a powerful new state appearing on their western frontier that might undermine their empire in the Russian lands .

‘ national awakening ‘ . Kulikovo is still celebrated in Russia . Putin has frequently referred to it as evidence that Russia was already a great power – the saviour of Europe from the Mongol threat – in the fourteenth century . This idea – Russia as a guard protecting Europe from the ‘ Asiatic hordes ‘ – became part of the national myth from the sixteenth century , as Muscovy began to see itself as a European power on the Asian steppe .

Today the Kulikovo victory is linked in the nationalist consciousness to other episodes when Russia’s military sacrifice ‘ saved ‘ the West , in 1812 – 15 ( against Napoleon ) or 1941 – 5 , for example ; each time its sacrifice had been unthanked , unrecognised by its Western allies in these wars . The country’s deep resentment of the West is rooted in this national myth .

Just as the Mongols were dealing with the challenge from Moscow , they faced a new threat from the Central Asian empire that was then emerging under the command of Timur , better known as Tamerlane . Timur’s army conquered Persia and the Caucasus and then went on to destroy the key trading bases of the Golden Horde , which began a slow but terminal decline . The weakening of the Horde , however , was due less to outside military threats than to the Black Death , which began on the Central Asian steppe in the mid – fourteenth century .

pandemic turned trade routes into plague routes , devastating the economy and killing perhaps half the population of the Golden Horde , which over the next century broke up into three khanates ( Kazan , Crimea , Astrakhan ) .

Muscovy remained a vassal of the khans until 1502 . Long before , however , it began to act as if it were an independent state .

Mongols stayed in Russia for more than three centuries . It was not until the 1550s that the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan were finally defeated by Ivan IV ( the khanate of Crimea survived until 1783 ) . How much impact did these centuries have on the course of Russian history ? There

The Mongol period brought some positive advances for Russia . The postal system was the fastest in the world – a vast network of relay stations , each equipped with teams of fresh horses capable of carrying officials to all corners of the Mongol Empire at unheard – of speeds . It became the basis of the Muscovite system , which so impressed foreigners . Sigismund

The nineteenth – century socialist Alexander Herzen compared the repressive Nicholas I ( who reigned from 1825 to 1855 ) to ‘ Chingiz Khan with a telegraph ‘ . The Bolshevik Nikolai Bukharin said that Stalin was like ‘ Chingiz Khan with a telephone ‘ .

The most senior boyar clans – those who were closest through marriage or royal favour to the Moscow court – formed an oligarchic ruling class , which at times , when the grand prince was weak , might direct his government . But their wealth and power came from him . They kept them only for as long as they retained his protection . It was a system of dependency upon the ruler that has lasted to this day . Putin’s oligarchs are totally dependent on his will .

To some extent this greater freedom from the Mongol influence set the lands of Kiev on a different historical trajectory from Muscovy . The Kievan lands were more oriented to the West , less exposed to the institutions of patrimonial autocracy .

The dual nature of the Christian ruler – fallible in his humanity but divine in his princely functions – was a common notion in Europe . 4 The

By the 1530s the idea had been fleshed out in church tracts and legendary tales into what would later become known as the ‘ Third Rome doctrine ‘ .

year . Moscow itself had a population of perhaps 100,000 people by the early sixteenth century , almost twice as many as London .

Its vast complex of palaces and churches was constructed largely by Italians . The Hall of Facets ( the tsar’s palace ) was the work of the Venetian architects Marco Ruffo and Pietro Antonio Solari , who built the Kremlin’s walls in the style of the Sforza castle in Milan . Aristotele Fioravanti was responsible for the newly rebuilt Dormition Cathedral ( 1475 – 9 ) and Alevise Novi for the Archangel Cathedral , completed twenty years later . Over centuries many of the Kremlin’s buildings became Russified – Russian architectural elements and ornaments were gradually added – so that today visitors will not easily recognise its Italianate character . There

‘ All the people consider themselves to be the slaves of their Tsar , ‘ remarked Herberstein , who thought that ‘ in the sway which he holds over his people , he surpasses the monarchs of the whole world ‘ . 8 Ivan referred to his servitors as ‘ slaves ‘ ( kholopy ) . Protocol required every boyar , even members of the princely clans , to refer to themselves as ‘ your slave ‘ when addressing him – a ritual reminiscent of the servility displayed by the Mongols to their khans . This subservience was fundamental to the patrimonial autocracy that distinguished Russia from the European monarchies .

As this service class increased in size , the pressure on the state to find more land for it intensified . This became a major driving force of Russia’s territorial expansion – the conquest of new lands for the military servitors .

One result of the pomeste system was the creation of a landowning service class with only weak ties to a particular community . The pomeshchiki were creatures of the state .

The persistence of autocracy in Russia is explained less by the state’s strength than by the weakness of society . There were few public institutions to resist the power of the monarchy . The landowning class was overly dependent on the tsar .

This imbalance – between a dominating state and a weak society

Between 1500 and the revolution of 1917 , the Russian Empire grew at an astonishing rate , 130 square kilometres on average every day . 10 From the nucleus of Muscovy it expanded into the world’s largest territorial empire . The history of Russia , as Kliuchevsky put it , is the ‘ history of a country that is colonizing itself ‘ . 11

The Cossacks ‘ name derived from the Turkic word qazaqi , meaning ‘ adventurers ‘ or ‘ vagrant soldiers ‘ who lived in freedom as bandits on the steppe . Many of the Cossacks were remnants of the Mongol army ( Tamerlane had started out as a qazaq ) . They were joined by Russians from the north who fled in growing numbers to the ‘ wild lands ‘ of the south because of the economic crises caused by wars , rising taxes and crop failures in the ‘ little ice age ‘ of the sixteenth century .

The iconography borrows from the Book of Revelation , in which Michael defeats Satan before the Apocalypse . Ivan appears as a new King David and the Russians as God’s Chosen People , the new Israelites , reinforcing Moscow’s mythic status and mission in the world as the Third Rome . 12

Russian folklore , the ‘ fool for the sake of Christ ‘ , or Holy Fool , held the status of a saint , though he acted more like a madman or a clown , dressed in bizarre clothes , with an iron cap or harness on his head and chains beneath his shirt , like the shamans of Asia . He wandered as a poor man round the countryside , living off the alms of villagers , who found portents in his strange riddles and believed in his supernatural powers of divination and healing . Unafraid to speak the truth to the rich and powerful , he was frequently received by the nobility and became a common presence at the court . Ivan enjoyed the company of Holy Fools .

Instead he licensed private entrepreneurs to settle on the land , allowing them to exploit it for their own economic purposes and defend themselves with mercenary troops , usually Cossacks . The Stroganovs were the first big beneficiaries of this colonial policy . A wealthy merchant family with interests in saltworks and mining , in 1558 they leased vast tracts of land on the Kama River between Kazan and Perm . Their

Ivan became ‘ the Terrible ‘ – in the sense we understand today – only in the eighteenth century . The epithet ( grozny ) was first applied to him in the early seventeenth century , when a rich folklore about the tsar was just developing . At that time the meaning of the word was closer to the sense of awe – inspiring and formidable rather than cruel or harsh – so basically positive . In

They dressed in long black cloaks like a monk’s habit and rode around the country on black horses with dogs ‘ heads and brooms attached to their bridles – symbols of their mission to hunt out the tsar’s enemies and sweep them from the land . 15

The horror of the scene was captured by Repin in his 1885 painting Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 , in which Ivan is shown consumed by remorse .

He was particularly angered by the film’s depiction of the oprichniki who , he said , appeared as ‘ the worst kind of filth , degenerates , something like the Ku Klux Klan ‘ , no doubt fearing that the viewing public would see in them a reference to his own political police .

The crucial factor in the tsar’s authority – his godlike personality projected through the myth of the holy tsar – could thus be turned against him if his actions did not meet the people’s expectations of his sacred cult .

There were dozens of ‘ pretender tsars ‘ ( samozvantsy ) who stirred the people to revolt by claiming they were the true tsar , the deliverer of God’s justice . At least twenty – three of these pretenders have been documented before 1700 , and there would be over forty in the eighteenth century .

The only way the Russians could legitimise rebellion was in the name of the true tsar . No other concept of the state – neither the idea of the public good nor the commonwealth – carried any force in the peasant mind .

historiography as the first peasant revolutionary . In fact he was a small – scale landowner and military servitor who , like so many of his kind , had fallen on hard times and run away to join the Cossacks , living as a bandit on the steppe .

Petitioning the tsar had a long tradition in Russia . It continued through the Soviet period when millions of people wrote to Stalin for his help against the abuses of his officials , and can still be seen in Putin’s annual TV programme Direct Line when viewers call in with their questions for the president .

The new Law Code extended their collective duty to mutual surveillance and denunciation of sedition to the state .

In one section worthy of the Stalinist regime , the code stated that the families of ‘ traitors ‘ , even children , were liable to execution if they failed to denounce their seditious relatives . Included in such crimes were expressions of intent to rebel against the tsar or public statements against him . The practice of informing became deeply rooted in society . By the late nineteenth century it was an effective tool of the police .

The Law Code divided the population into legally defined classes , known as estates ( sosloviia ) , strictly ordered in a hierarchy according to their service to the state . Each class was closed and self – contained . The service nobles , townsmen , clergy and peasants could neither leave their class nor hope their children would .

The social mobility that made Western societies so dynamic in the early modern age was basically absent in Russia . The town population in Russia was permanently fixed .

They sold themselves as slaves to the richer servicemen , which meant fighting in their place . The struggling pomeshchiki begged the tsar to support them . They wanted stricter laws to bind the peasants to their land . The result of their pleas was the institution of serfdom under the provisions of the new Law Code .

Stepan Razin was a Cossack from an area of the Don overrun by peasant fugitives . The migrants were ready to become ‘ Cossacks ‘ , to live a life of freedom , without masters or taxes .

Around 60,000 Jews were killed in 1648 alone – a level of killing that would not be equalled until the pogroms of the Russian Civil War .

In 1686 , Russia signed a Treaty of Eternal Peace with the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth .

Publishing was also controlled by the Church . Russia was the only country in Europe without private publishers , printed news sheets or journals , printed plays or poetry . When Peter the Great came to the throne , in 1682 , no more than three books of a non – religious nature had been published by the Moscow press since its establishment in the 1560s .

where priests were trained in Latin as well as Slavonic .

Elsewhere , as the soldiers of the tsar approached , the Old Believers shut themselves inside their wooden churches and burned themselves to death to avoid submitting to the Antichrist .

They continued to follow the teachings of Avvakum , disseminated from his place of enforced exile in the Arctic fort of Pustozersk , where in 1680 he was burned at the stake .

Until the eighteenth century , the Russians followed the Byzantine custom of counting years from the creation of the world , an event which they believed had occurred 5,508 years before the birth of Christ . But in December 1699 Tsar Peter decreed a calendar reform . Henceforth years were to be numbered from Christ’s birth , ‘ in the manner of European Christian nations ‘ , beginning on 1 January 1700 ( 7209 in the old system ) .

Peter was a man in a hurry . Almost seven feet in height ,

He set up a new system of conscription , unparalleled in Europe , in which units of twenty peasant households were each collectively responsible for sending one man for life into the army every year , and even more at times of war . This sweeping militarisation of society produced the largest standing army in the world – some 300,000 troops by Peter’s death , in 1725 , and 2 million men by 1801.4 No other state could mobilise so many men .

It was said that Peter made his city in the sky and then lowered it , like a giant model , to the ground . Here was a new imperial capital without roots in Russian soil .

He gave himself the Latin title ‘ Imperator ‘ and had his image cast on a new rouble coin , with laurel wreath and armour , in imitation of Caesar . It was a symbolic break from Muscovy , with its Byzantine mythology , in which the tsar had been portrayed as a divine agent and defender of the faith . Now he appeared in armour with a Western crown and cloak and imperial regalia

He made state service compulsory for the nobility , whose status was defined by the seniority of their office rather than by birth .

The Table of Ranks , introduced in 1722 , established fourteen ranks or categories of state service , in which hereditary nobility was conferred on office – holders in the top eight ranks . Commoners could enter at the bottom rank and earn noble titles by working up to the eighth rank ( collegiate assessor in the government , major in the army or third captain in the navy ) . This ordering of the nobles by their service to the state lasted until 1917 . It had a deep effect on the nobles ‘ way of life , further weakening their attachment to the land . Because promotion was normally by seniority , the system rewarded time – servers and encouraged bureaucratic mediocrity .

From the middle of the eighteenth century we can see the emergence of a new national consciousness which found its first expression in an anti – Western ideology . It was based on the defence of Russian customs and morals against the corrupting impact of the West – a trope of the later Slavophiles .

Whether Saltykov was Paul’s father remains unknown , but Catherine’s memoirs hinted that he was , much to the horror of her nineteenth – century descendants , who censored any mention of his name .

Peter meekly surrendered ( on hearing of his overthrow , Frederick the Great said that he had ‘ let himself be driven from the throne as a child is sent to bed ‘ ) . Peter was exiled to one of his estates near St Petersburg , where he was murdered three weeks later by Orlov . It was announced that he had died of ‘ haemorrhoidal colic ‘ – prompting one French wit to note that haemorrhoids must be very dangerous in Russia . 18

A follower of the Enlightenment , she emphasised the need to educate the nobles as agents of enlightened government . She wanted to create a noble class that would serve the public good , not by compulsion but from a sense of obligation to society ( noblesse oblige ) .

What she meant by this simple statement was that , on account of its European character , Russia had a natural mastery over all the peoples of Asia .

Montesquieu . Although she disputed Montesquieu’s conception of Russia as an oriental despotism , she accepted his idea that laws should be consistent with the spirit of a nation shaped by climate and geography .

‘ You were right in not wanting to be counted among the philosophes , ‘ she wrote to Grimm at the height of the Jacobin terror in 1794 , ‘ for experience has shown that all of that leads to ruin ; no matter what they say or do , the world will never cease to need authority . It is better to endure the tyranny of one man than the insanity of the multitude . ‘

On his accession to the throne Paul restored the principle of primogeniture to the law of succession , effectively ensuring that his mother would be the last female ruler of Russia .

Appalled by his tyranny , a small group of drunken officers broke into the Mikhailovsky Palace and strangled Paul to death on the night of 23 – 24 March 1801 . The officers were acting on the orders of a court conspiracy with close links to Alexander , son of Paul and heir to the throne , who had set the date for the killing .

Barely 10 per cent of the invasion force would make it back

Alexander was convinced that all these groups were connected to a secret international Bonapartist organisation . He urged the Holy Alliance to root them out and destroy them before they spread to Poland and Russia . At

The officers began to organise themselves in secret circles of conspirators , like those in Spain and Italy , often building on the networks of the Freemasons , banned by Alexander in 1822 , to which most of them belonged . All were in favour of a liberal constitution and the abolition of serfdom , but they were divided over how to bring this end about . Some wanted to wait for the tsar to die , whereupon they would refuse to swear allegiance to his successor unless reforms were introduced .

His younger brother Nicholas did not announce his decision to take the crown instead until 12 December . Pestel resolved to seize the moment for revolt and hurried to St Petersburg to organise it with his fellow officers – the Decembrists as they would be known .

They conceived of the uprising as a military putsch , instigated by orders issued by the officers , without even thinking whether the soldiers ( who showed no inclination for an armed revolt ) would go along with them . In the end , the Decembrist leaders rallied the support of 3,000 troops in Petersburg – far fewer than the hoped – for 20,000 men , but still enough perhaps to bring about a change of government if well organised and resolute . But that they were not .

Pestel and four others were hanged in the courtyard of the fortress , even though officially the death penalty had been abolished in Russia . When the five were strung up on the gallows and the floor traps were released , three of the condemned proved too heavy for their ropes and , still alive , fell into the ditch . ‘ What a wretched country ! ‘ cried one of them . ‘ They don’t even know how to hang properly . ‘ 6

Known as ‘ official nationality ‘ , this new ideology was based on the old myth that the Russians were distinguished from the Europeans by the strength of their devotion to the Church and tsar and by their capacity for sacrifice in the service of a higher patriotic goal .

The Slavophiles were opposed to the Westernising reforms begun by Peter the Great . They feared that these changes , imposed by a state that was ‘ foreign ‘ to the peasants , would result in the loss of Russia’s national character , its native customs and traditions . The

‘ Intelligentsia ‘ is in origin a Russian word .

Published in the same year as Uncle Tom’s Cabin , the Sketches had as big an impact in swaying Russian views against serfdom as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book had on the anti – slavery movement in America .

The humiliation was to leave a deep and lasting sense of resentment towards the West . It continues to this day . All Putin’s talk of Western ‘ double standards ‘ and ‘ hypocrisy ‘ , of Western ‘ Russophobia ‘ and ‘ disrespect ‘ for Russia , goes back to this history . In

The war had brutally exposed the country’s many weaknesses : the corruption and incompetence of the command ; the technological backwardness of the army and navy ; the poor roads and lack of railways that accounted for the chronic problems of supply ; the poverty of the army’s serf conscripts ; the inability of the economy to sustain a state of war against the industrial powers ; the weakness of the country’s finances ; and the failures of autocracy . Critics focused on the tsar , whose arrogant and wilful policies , as they now seemed , had led the country to defeat and sacrificed so many lives . Even within the governing elite the bankruptcy of the Nicholaevan system was coming to be recognised .

‘ My God , so many victims , ‘ wrote the tsarist censor Alexander Nikitenko in his diary . ‘ All at the behest of a mad will , drunk with absolute power … We have been waging war not for two years , but for thirty , maintaining an army of a million men and constantly threatening Europe . What was the point of it all ? ‘

They found one , a semiliterate peasant and Old Believer called Andrei Petrov . After studying the proclamation for three days , he managed to interpret the statutes in a way that told the peasants what they had wanted to hear all along .

The commune emerged from the Emancipation as the basic unit of administration in the countryside . The mir , as it was called , a word that also means ‘ world ‘ and ‘ universe ‘ , regulated every aspect of the peasants ‘ lives : it decided the rotation of the crops ( the open – field system of strip farming necessitated uniformity ) ; took care of the woods and pasture lands ; saw to the repair of roads and bridges ; established welfare schemes for widows and the poor ; organised the payment of redemption dues and taxes ; fulfilled the conscription of soldiers ; maintained public order ; and enforced justice through customary law .

Second was the labour principle – basically a peasant version of the labour theory of value . The peasants attached rights to labour on the land . They believed in a sacred link between the two . The land belonged to God . It could not be owned by anyone . But every peasant family should have the right to feed itself from its own labour on the land . On this principle the landowners did not fairly own their land , and the hungry peasants were fully justified in claiming their right to farm it . A constant battle was thus fought between the state’s written law , framed to defend property , and the peasants ‘ customary law , which they used to defend their transgressions of the landowners ‘ property . The

The practice of communal repartitioning encouraged the peasants to have bigger families – the main criterion for receiving land . The birth rate in Russia was nearly twice the European average in the latter nineteenth century . The rapid growth of the peasant population ( from 50 to 79 millions between 1861 and 1897 ) resulted in a worsening land shortage . By the turn of the century 7 per cent of the peasant households in the central zone had no land at all , while one in five had less than one hectare . Although

Lacking the capital to modernise their farms , the easiest way the peasants had to feed themselves was by ploughing more land at the expense of fallow and other pasture lands . But this made the situation worse . It meant reducing livestock herds ( the main source of fertiliser ) and the exhaustion of the soil . By 1900 , one in three peasant households did not have a horse . 6 To cultivate

The common image of the tsarist regime as omnipresent and all – powerful was largely an invention of the revolutionaries , who spent their lives in fear of it , living in the underground . The reality was different . For every 1,000 inhabitants of the Russian Empire there were only four state officials at the turn of the twentieth century , compared with 7.3 in England and Wales , 12.6 in Germany and 17.6 in France . For a rural population of 100 million people , Russia in 1900 had no more than 1,852 police sergeants and 6,874 police constables . The average constable was responsible for policing 50,000 people in dozens of settlements scattered across 5,000 square kilometres . 10

After the failure of the ‘ Going to the people ‘ , as the events of 1874 were known , Tkachev argued that such methods were too slow . Before a social revolution could be organised a class of richer peasants , whose interests lay in the status quo , would appear as a result of capitalist development and assert its domination in the countryside . Tkachev argued for a putsch by a disciplined vanguard , which would set up a dictatorship before engineering the creation of a socialist society by waging civil war against the rich . He claimed the time was ripe to carry out this coup , since as yet there was no major social force , just a weak landowning class , prepared to defend the monarchy . Delay would be fatal , Tkachev argued , because soon there would be such a force , a bourgeoisie , supported by the ‘ petty – bourgeois ‘ peasantry , which would be formed by the new market forces in Russia .

It is hard to think of a more momentous turning – point in Russian history . On the day the tsar was killed , 1 March , he had agreed to a reform that would include elected representatives from the zemstvos and town councils in a new consultative assembly . Although it was a limited reform , by no means implying the creation of a constitutional monarchy , it showed that Alexander was prepared to involve the public in the work of government . On 8 March , the proposal was rejected by his son and heir , Alexander III , in a meeting of grand dukes and ministers . The most reactionary and influential critic , Konstantin Pobedonostsev , procurator of the Holy Synod , warned that accepting the reform would represent a first decisive step on the road to constitutional government . At this time of crisis , he maintained , Russia was in need not of a ‘ talking shop ‘ but of firm actions by the government . From that point , the new tsar , who would rule from 1881 to 1894 , pursued an unbending course of political reaction to restore the autocratic principle .

Until 1904 , they could even have the peasants flogged for minor crimes . The impact of such corporal punishments – decades after the Emancipation – cannot be overstressed . It made it clear to the peasantry that violence was the basis of state power – and that violence was the only way to remove it .

Russian was made compulsory in schools and public offices . Polish students at Warsaw University had to suffer the indignity of studying their national literature in Russian translation .

During the 1907 cholera epidemic in the Kiev area , doctors were forbidden to publish warnings not to drink the water in Ukrainian . But the peasants could not read the Russian signs , and many died as a result .

The last two tsars encouraged this . Nicholas II , in particular , saw the pogroms as an act of loyalty by the ‘ good and simple Russian folk ‘ . He became a patron of the Union of the Russian People , formed in 1905 , which instigated more than one pogrom . Little wonder , then , that Jews were prominent in the revolutionary underground . The Marxist movement , in particular , was attractive to the Jews . The

Whereas Populism had proposed to build a socialism based on peasant Russia , the land of pogroms , Marxism was based on a modern Western vision of Russia . It promised to assimilate the Jews into a movement of universal human liberation based on internationalism .

Millions of peasants came into the towns , some drawn by ambition , others forced to leave the countryside because of overpopulation on the land . Between 1861 and 1914 the empire’s urban population grew from 7 to 28 million people . First came the young men , then the married men , then unmarried girls , who worked mainly in domestic service , and finally the married women with children

Contrary to the Soviet myth , in which Lenin was a Marxist theorist from his infancy , he came late to politics . He was born in 1870 into a respectable and prosperous family in Simbirsk , a typical provincial town on the Volga . His father was inspector of the Simbirsk district’s primary schools . In Lenin’s final year at secondary school , a middle – class gymnasium , he was highly praised by his headmaster , who by one of those strange historical ironies was the father of Alexander Kerensky , the prime minister Lenin would overthrow in October 1917 .

Lenin came to Marx already armed with set ideas . All the main components of his ideology – his stress on the need for a disciplined ‘ vanguard ‘ ; his belief that action ( the ‘ subjective factor ‘ ) could alter the objective course of history ; his defence of terror and dictatorship ; his contempt for democrats ( and for socialists who compromised with them ) – stemmed not just from Marx but from Tkachev and the People’s Will . He injected a distinctly Russian dose of conspiratorial politics into a Marxist dialectic that might have remained passive otherwise , tied down by a willingness to wait for the revolution to develop socially rather than bringing it about through political action . It was not Marxism that made Lenin a revolutionary but Lenin who made Marxism revolutionary .

He wanted followers who would devote their whole lives to the Party’s cause . It had to be a small but secret party made up of committed revolutionaries ( be they workers or , more likely , intellectuals ) who understood ‘ the fine art of not getting arrested ‘ .

From his tutor , the arch – reactionary Pobedonostsev , Nicholas had learned to see his sovereignty as absolute , unlimited by bureaucracy , parliaments or public opinion , and guided only by his conscience before God .

Kovno did not have the peasant commune . The peasants owned their land , and as a result they farmed it more efficiently than the peasants did in central Russia where the commune gave them no incentive to improve their landholdings . Stolypin’s solution to the land question was to help the peasants break away from the commune and consolidate their landholding as private property .

Stolypin had misunderstood the peasantry’s attachment to the mir . He had assumed that they were poor because of it . But in fact it was the other way around : the commune served to share the burden of their poverty , and as long as they were poor they had no reason to leave

They believed that Europe was heading unavoidably towards a final struggle between the Teutons and the Slavs . They saw the Drang nach Osten , the Drive to the East , as part of a broader German plan to undermine Slavic civilisation , concluding that , unless it made a firm stand to defend its Balkan allies , Russia would suffer a long period of imperial decline and subjugation to Germany . ‘ In

eight Ukrainian provinces produced one – third of the Russian Empire’s wheat , two – thirds of its coal and more than half its steel . If Russia lost Ukraine , it would no longer be a great power .

Nicholas was under intense pressure from his generals and ministers , Duma leaders and the press to go to war . Sergei Sazonov , his foreign minister , told him that ‘ unless he yielded to the popular demand for war and unsheathed the sword on Serbia’s behalf , he would run the risk of a revolution and perhaps the loss of his throne ‘ . Nicholas went pale . ‘ Just think of the responsibility you’re advising me to assume , ‘ he said to Sazonov . But he was too weak to argue against

The soldiers , for the most part , were strangers to the sentiment of patriotism . With little direct knowledge of the world outside their villages , they had only a weak sense of their identity as Russians . They thought of themselves as natives of their village or region . ‘ We are from here and Orthodox , ‘ they would say in response to questions about their nationality . As

A large proportion of the population was younger than the minimum draft age . Where 12 per cent of the German population was mobilised for military service , Russia was able to call up only 5 per cent .

By 1915 , new recruits were being trained without rifles . Thrown into battle , they were ordered to retrieve the guns dropped by men shot down in the line in front of them .

The collapse of discipline was related to the spread of rumours about treason at the court . It was said that the empress and Rasputin were working for the Germans , that they were pushing for a separate peace ( a myth encouraged by the German press which printed fake news of negotiations with the Russian government ) . The court had no idea how to counteract these damaging rumours .

It had never attached any importance to public opinion and had not learned to manage

The Soviet leaders , mostly Mensheviks , believed in line with Marxist doctrine that Russia was too backward to proceed at once to a socialist government . Marx had taught them that what was needed now was a ‘ bourgeois democratic ‘ period of development with freedom for the masses to organise themselves through trade unions , political parties and so on . These

The monarchy was dead . All its institutions of support had collapsed virtually overnight . No one tried to revive it . None of the counter – revolutionary armies of the Civil War – the fight to remove the Bolsheviks from power after 1917 – embraced monarchism as a cause , although many of their officers were monarchists .

In the countryside the peasants formed their own ad hoc committees ( they sometimes called them Soviets ) and seized the gentry’s property , first the tools and livestock and then their fields , which the commune divided in line with its customary principles ( usually according to

Soldiers ‘ committees supervised relations with the officers and discussed their military commands . In some units they refused to fight for more than eight hours a day , claiming the same rights as the workers . Throughout the army they demanded to be treated as equals by their officers when they were not engaged in fighting . This assertion of ‘ soldier power ‘ was essential to the spirit of ‘ trench Bolshevism ‘ – a term used by the officers to describe the troops ‘ refusal to obey their orders

Kerensky , now the minister of war , toured the front to raise the troops ‘ morale . He dressed in military uniform and wore his right arm in a sling , although no one knew of any injury . Kerensky was an actor – politician , made for the revolutionary stage , where his fiery speeches , filled with theatrical gestures and even fainting fits , genuine but timed to coincide with the dramatic climax of his speech , captured the emotions of the crowd .

For two days the Russians advanced , led by the Women’s Battalion of Death , formed by female volunteers in 1917 and chosen now to shame the men into fighting ; but when the Germans launched a counteroffensive , the Russians fled to the rear in panic .

The failed uprising sparked a reaction from the right . Leaflets were released by the Ministry of Justice claiming that the Bolsheviks were German agents – an idea based on concrete evidence ( the Bolsheviks undoubtedly received German money and logistical support in 1917 ) but giving rise to the dangerous myth that Soviet power was imposed on Russia by the Germans , Jews and other foreign enemies of the country .

He did not want to share power . From his hideout in Finland , he had been calling for an armed uprising before the Congress met . The Party ‘ can and must ‘ seize power , he had argued in a series of impatient letters to the Bolshevik Central Committee . He said ‘ can ‘ because the Party had enough support to win a civil war , which was more important than elections at this point . And ‘ must ‘ because by waiting for a vote in the Congress they would give time to Kerensky to organise a counter – revolutionary force and close down the Soviet .

He had left that morning for the Northern Front in a desperate search for loyal troops . His government by this time was so helpless that it did not even have a car : he had departed in a Renault seized from the American Embassy . The

By walking out of the Congress , the Mensheviks and SRs had surrendered the Soviet to the Bolsheviks .

Trotsky pounced on the opportunity . Denouncing Martov’s resolution , he gave his verdict on the renegades : ‘ You are miserable bankrupts , your role is played out ; go where you ought to go – into the dustbin of history ! ‘ Trotsky then proposed a resolution condemning their ‘ treacherous ‘ attempts to kill Soviet power at its birth . 16 The Soviet delegates , who did not understand what they were doing , raised their hands to support it . The effect of their action was to give a Soviet stamp of approval for a Bolshevik dictatorship . Not

Meanwhile , at the grass – roots level of society , the Bolsheviks gave free rein to the ‘ looting of the looters ‘ – mob trials , lynchings , violent robberies and requisitionings of anyone who bore the slightest trace of wealth or privilege .

‘ especially distrustful of a Russian when he gets power into his own hands . Not long ago a slave , he becomes the most unbridled despot as soon as he has the chance to become his neighbour’s master . ‘ 17

Their terror took a leaf out of the old playbook of krugovaya poruka , collective responsibility , applied now to a whole social class . They called this terror the ‘ internal front ‘ of the Civil War .

The Civil War demanded an immediate peace , or as Lenin put it with his usual bluntness , ‘ The bourgeoisie has to be throttled and for that we need both hands free . ‘

All in all , the Soviet Republic lost 34 per cent of its population ( 55 million people ) , 32 per cent of its agricultural land , 54 per cent of its industrial capacity and 89 per cent of its coalmines ( peat and wood now became its biggest source of fuel ) . 20 As a European power , Russia was reduced to a status on a par with seventeenth – century Muscovy .

The armies of the Civil War were being formed . The anti – Bolshevik forces , known as the ‘ Whites ‘ ( a name derived from the white cockades worn in the hats of the anti – Jacobins during the French revolutionary wars ) , were a motley bunch without a clear or unifying ideology except to remove the

Where they found none , they assumed that it was being hidden by the ‘ kulaks ‘ – the phantom class of ‘ capitalist ‘ peasants invented by the Bolsheviks – and an unequal ‘ battle for grain ‘ began . The brigades beat and tortured villagers ; villages were burned , until they handed over what they had , which was often their last stocks of food and seed for the next year . There were hundreds of peasant uprisings – a ‘ kulak counter – revolution ‘ according to the Bolsheviks – behind the Red fronts in the Civil War .

By 1920 , some 3 million people were employed in the Soviet bureaucracy . This was not a Dictatorship of the Proletariat but a Dictatorship of the Bureaucracy .

Their propaganda was cleverly adapted to the old religious myths of social justice and freedom which had long inspired popular rebellions . It was communicated in a simple visual and iconic form easily accessible and understood by a population with low rates of literacy and little understanding of political discourse . Pamphlets for the rural poor compared socialism to the work of Christ . The cult of Lenin , which took off from August 1918 after he was wounded in an assassination attempt , carried clear religious overtones . Lenin was depicted as a Christlike figure , ready to die for the people’s cause , and , because he had survived , blessed with miraculous powers .

The Whites ‘ refusal to recognise the national independence movements was disastrous . It lost them the support of the Poles , Ukrainians , Estonians and Finns – any one of which could have tipped the military balance in their favour – and complicated their relations with the Cossacks , who wanted more autonomy from Russia than the White leaders were prepared to give .

Once the Whites had been defeated the peasants turned against the Bolsheviks , whose requisitionings had brought them to the brink of starvation . By the autumn of 1920 , the whole of the country was engulfed in peasant wars . Most were small revolts but there were also larger armies , sometimes called the Greens , such as Makhno’s in Ukraine or Antonov’s in Tambov , which set up peasant governments . Everywhere their aims were basically the same : to restore the peasant self – rule of 1917 . Some expressed this in the slogan ‘ Soviets without Communists ! ‘

But Lenin insisted that as long as the state controlled the ‘ commanding heights of the economy ‘ ( heavy industry , the utilities and natural resources ) , there was no danger in allowing private farming , retail trade and handicrafts to satisfy consumer needs .

The NEP was to be a temporary retreat from the utopian dream of building socialism by decree – the essence of the War Communist model .

should support their country’s war campaign . To mark their ideological opposition to the Social Democrats , some of whom had backed their national wartime governments , the Bolsheviks in 1918 changed their name from the SDs to the Communist Party . The distinction was reinforced by the Comintern , known as the Third International , whose ‘ Twenty – One Conditions ‘ ( passed in 1920 ) obliged its member parties to rename themselves as Communist , to fight against the ‘ social patriots ‘ of the parliamentary socialist parties and give loyal support to the Soviet Republic , which , as the sole existing seat of Communism in the world , was their only true homeland .

During the Civil War he took on many jobs that others had considered too mundane . He

a consequence he had gained a reputation for modest and industrious mediocrity .

the police . Hidden in a drawer inside his desk , Stalin had a secret telephone on which he was able to listen to the private conversations of senior government officials in the Kremlin . He knew all his comrades ‘ weaknesses – their mistresses , their cocaine use , their homosexuality – and knew how to exploit them .

Lenin had asked to be buried next to his mother’s grave in Petrograd . But Stalin wanted to embalm the corpse and put it on display . In the Russian Orthodox tradition the uncorrupted body was a sign of holiness .

the market mechanisms of the NEP alive , requisitioning was brought back for the 1928 harvest .

Most of the peasants were afraid of giving up a way of life their families had lived for centuries – a life based on the family farm , the peasant commune , the village and its church , all of which were to be swept away as legacies of ‘ backwardness ‘ . In many villages there were demonstrations and riots , assaults on Communists , attacks on kolkhoz property and protests against church closures in which peasant women often took the lead . It was almost a return to the situation at the end of the Civil War , when peasant wars had forced the Bolsheviks to abandon requisitioning , only this time the regime was strong enough to crush the resistance . Realising their own weakness , the peasants ran away or slaughtered their livestock to prevent them being requisitioned for the collective farms . The number of cattle in the Soviet Union fell by 30 per cent in 1929 – 30 , and by half from 1928 to 1933 .

The war against the kulaks was an economic disaster , on top of its immense human costs . It deprived the new collective farms of the best and hardest – working peasants ( because these are what the kulaks in fact were ) and ultimately led to the terminal decline of the Soviet economy .

Tied to the collective farm by an internal passport system , the peasants saw this enforced labour as the restoration of serfdom .

the levies on collective farms were particularly high . This has prompted some historians to argue that the ‘ terror – famine ‘ was a calculated policy of genocide against Ukrainians , although that is hard to prove . 6 Certainly the famine , or Holodomor ( ‘ killing by starvation ‘ in Ukrainian ) , has left a bitter legacy of hatred towards Russia among the descendants of Ukrainians who died from Soviet policies . Although

The rates of growth that Stalin had demanded in the Five – Year Plan could not have been achieved without the use of forced labour , particularly in the cold and remote regions of the Far North and Siberia , where so many of the Soviet Union’s precious economic resources ( diamonds , gold , platinum and nickel , oil , coal and timber ) were located but where nobody would freely go . The Gulag was the key to the colonisation of these areas . A vast slave economy organised by the police , the Gulag ( an acronym for the Main Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies ) oversaw the process of arresting ‘ enemies ‘ and sending them to prison camps where they were worked to death on construction sites , building railways and canals , mining coal and gold by hand , and chopping down whole forests in the Arctic zone . Their labour made an incalculable contribution to the country’s economic growth – far more valuable than any figures can communicate because of its added benefit of colonising these inhospitable regions with their precious resources .

The speed of change in the early 1930s was intoxicating . There were so many signs of the country’s progress – or so it seemed from the Soviet press and other propaganda media – that people believed

propaganda aimed to foster the belief that the utopia was imminent , that it could be reached by one last collective effort . The promise was renewed by every Five – Year Plan , of which there were twelve , but the utopia was never reached .

Whereas Lenin , in his cult , appeared as a human god or saint , a sacred guide for the Party orphaned by his death , the cult of Stalin portrayed him as a tsar , the ‘ little – father tsar ‘ or tsar – batiushka of folklore , who would protect the people , like his children , and guide them to a better life . ‘ The Russians need a tsar ‘ , Stalin said on many occasions . 8

Dmitry studied hard but could not go to university or hold down a proper job because of his kulak origins . Yet he never ceased believing in Stalin , and was himself , in his own words , an ‘ ardent Stalinist ‘ . Looking back on his life decades later , he said in interviews : ‘ it was easier for us [ the repressed ] to survive our punishments if we continued to believe in Stalin , to think that Stalin was deceived by enemies of the people , rather than to give up hope in him … Perhaps it was a form of self – deception , but psychologically it made life much easier to bear , believing in the justice of Stalin . It took away our fear . ‘ 9

Better known as the Riutin Platform , the typescript was a blistering critique of Stalin’s politics and personality , denouncing him as a mediocre thinker , ‘ unscrupulous intriguer ‘ and ‘ gravedigger of the revolution ‘ through his catastrophic policies , which , in forcing through collectivisation , had betrayed Lenin’s voluntarist principles . 11

She went to her room and shot herself with a pistol . Among her things they found a note to Stalin in which she had written that she was opposed to everything he was doing . They also found a copy of the Riutin Platform . Stalin

The army had been the one institution capable of standing up to Stalin in his quest for complete power ( which is why the Trial of the Generals had been in secret ) . Now its leadership was virtually destroyed : of the 767 members of the high command , 512 were shot , 29 died in prison , 3 committed suicide and 59 were still in jail when the war with Germany began in 1941 .

The typical provincial town was ruled by a clique of senior officials – the district Party boss , the police chief , the heads of local factories , collective farms and prisons – who each had their own client networks in the institutions they controlled . These officials protected one another as long as their power – circle was maintained . But the arrest of one official would inevitably lead to the arrest of all the other members of the ruling clique , as well as their hangers – on , once the NKVD got to work revealing the connections between them .

The duty to inform was a long – established principle in Russian governance , dating back to the sixteenth century , as we have seen . It was connected to the obligations of krugovaya poruka , the medieval principle of collective responsibility , which we have observed as a recurrent feature in the country’s history . During

The concept of ‘ objective guilt ‘ applied to crimes against the state – meaning that a person might act with sincere and innocent intentions and yet serve the counter – revolution through their behaviour . It was the objective consequence ( the ‘ meaning ‘ ) of a person’s actions that determined guilt or innocence .

‘ To win a battle , ‘ Stalin warned in 1937 , ‘ several corps of soldiers are needed . But to subvert this victory on the front , all that is needed are a few spies somewhere in army headquarters . ‘ On this reasoning , if only 5 per cent of those arrested turned out to be truly enemies , ‘ that ‘ , Stalin said , ‘ would be a good result ‘ . 13

He would surely put things right if they wrote to him , as many people did , continuing the old tradition of petitioning the tsar to correct the abuses of his officials .

himself was exposed as an ‘ enemy of the people ‘ . It was said that he had tried to undermine the government by spreading discontent through false arrests . He was later shot in a basement near the Lubianka , the NKVD headquarters .

Stalin realised that patriotic pride was a more solid base of popular belief than Marxist ideology . After the mass upheavals of the Five – Year Plan , he recognised the need to reunite the country around familiar national symbols and ideas .

Under Stalin’s leadership the Bolsheviks continued with their atheist campaigns against the Church , but they adopted new ‘ pro – family policies ‘ ( for example , the outlawing of abortion , more state child support , the prosecution of homosexuals ) to boost the birth rate , which had fallen sharply since the launching of the Five – Year Plan . Like Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany , Stalin’s Russia needed more young people for its military . The

On 7 September , he told his inner circle that they would wait for the Western powers and Nazi Germany to exhaust themselves in a long war before they joined the fighting to ‘ tip the scales ‘ and emerge as the victors . The capitalist system ( in which he included the Fascist states ) would be weakened , enabling the Red Army to export the Soviet revolution as it marched into Europe .

‘ You can send your “ source ” from German aviation headquarters back to his fucking mother . This is disinformation , not a “ source ” , ‘ he wrote to his state security commissar , who on 17 June had warned of an imminent attack .

Hitler wanted the destruction of Russia . He viewed the Russians , like the Slavs , as ‘ sub – humans ‘ , incapable of building their own civilisation . He once said , in terms reminding us of the early German historians of Russia we met in the first chapter , that ‘ unless other peoples , beginning with the Vikings , had imported some rudiments of organisation into Russian humanity , the Russians would still be living like rabbits ‘ .

By 1941 , they were more prepared than other peoples for the hardships of the war – the sharp decline in living standards , the breaking – up of families , the death and disappearance of their relatives – because they had been through these during the 1930s . The most selfless sacrifice was made by teenagers .

Her generation fought with reckless bravery . Only 3 per cent of the eighteen – year – olds mobilised in 1941 would still be alive in 1945 .

The Soviet command economy was made for war . Its ability to organise production for the military campaign – to move and build new factories overnight , to subject workers to martial law and to work to death a million Gulag slaves mining fuel and minerals – gave it an advantage over the Nazis , who were unable to demand so much from the Germans .

Only by considering this ruthless disregard for human life can we explain the shocking losses of the Red Army – around 12 million soldiers killed between 1941 and 1945 – three times the number of German military losses between 1939 and 1945.13

The poem ‘ Kill Him ! ‘ by Konstantin Simonov was read to soldiers by their officers before they went into battle :

Around 2 million German women are believed to have been raped by Soviet soldiers , whose actions went unpunished by their commanders . When

‘ Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach . ‘ Stalin

Timofei Lysenko , the director of the Soviet Institute of Genetics , even claimed to have developed a new strain of wheat that would grow in the Arctic – a bogus claim that was responsible for millions of deaths in Maoist China where the pseudoscience was adopted during the 1950s .

might have been saved if medical assistance had been called in time . But in the panic of the Doctors ‘ Plot none of Stalin’s inner circle dared take the initiative . He became the final victim of his system of terror .

The Gulag population reached its peak in 1952 , when there were around 2 million prisoners in its labour camps and colonies .

In 1957 , Moscow hosted the World Festival of Youth . The Kremlin’s aim was to win over the young people of the capitalist countries to the Soviet way of life . But the outcome was the opposite . With their jeans and easy – going manner the visitors converted Soviet youth to the Western way of life . Rock and roll and its attendant fashions captured the imagination of a generation of Soviet students too sophisticated for the dull , conformist culture of the Komsomol , the Communist Youth League . On their short – wave radios , they listened to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe , where rock and jazz were the draw for news and information about the freedoms of the West . This

By 1960 , more than half the population was under thirty years of age . The October Revolution was not something they could relate to – for them it was ancient history – while the Great Patriotic War was something that their parents had lived through . It was a challenge to engage this generation in the system’s values and beliefs .

Like so many Party apparatchiks promoted during Stalin’s purges and the war , he had more practical than intellectual capacities ( according to his brightest minister , Alexander Yakovlev , his main talent was an uncanny ability to ‘ recognise precisely who was his friend and who was his enemy ‘ ) . 29 He was good at building political alliances and networks of support among the regional Party leaders , many of them comrades from the 1930s , when he had risen from the factory floor to become the propaganda chief of the Dnepropetrovsk Party organisation in Ukraine .

received protection from the Party leadership . Nationalism was regarded as an antidote to the growing influence of Western ideas and culture . It

By the end of the 1970s , they took up 4 per cent of the country’s agricultural land , but produced 40 per cent of its pork and poultry , 42 per cent of its fruit and over half its potatoes . 31 The prices in the peasant markets were too high for most

man goes into a shop and asks : ‘ You don’t have any meat ? ‘ ‘ No , ‘ replies the sales assistant , ‘ we don’t have any fish . It’s the shop across the street that has no meat . ‘

The one product not in short supply was alcohol . Consumption more than doubled in the Brezhnev years . By the early 1980s , the average kolkhoz family was spending one – third of its household income on vodka . Alcoholism was the national disease . It had a major impact on crime rates ( 10 million people every year were detained by the police for drunkenness ) and male life expectancy , which declined from sixty – six in 1964 to just sixty – two in 1980 . Brezhnev’s

Oil revenues rescued the regime from probable

Before the revolution , Russia had been a major agricultural exporter . But within sixty years of 1917 it had become the biggest food importer in the world . One – third of all baked goods were made from foreign cereals . Cattle farming was entirely dependent on imported grain .

After only fifteen months in office , Andropov died from a long illness . He had nominated Gorbachev to succeed him , but Chernenko took his place . Within weeks he too became terminally ill . The Bolsheviks were dying of old age .

A tired – looking Yanaev , his hands seized by alcoholic tremors , announced uncertainly to the world’s press that he was taking over as the Soviet president .

But in a referendum on 1 December the Ukrainians voted by a huge majority for independence . Their departure blew a massive hole in the Soviet ship of state , an act that would not be forgotten by those who saw its sinking as a tragedy . A

Gorbachev declared that he could not support the abolition of the Soviet Union . It had not been ratified by constitutional procedures or even by a democratic vote . Popular opinion had been in favour of a union , but the nationalist leaders had gone against the people’s will . 11 ENDS How does the story of Russia end ?

The events of 1991 were not a revolution but an abdication of power by the Communist Party . There was no mass uprising or opposition movement to bring down the Soviet regime in Russia . There were no parties , no trade unions or civic forum groups ready to take power , as they did in the east European revolutions of 1989 .

Without a democratic revolution , the old elites soon re – emerged at the top of the post – Soviet system . The KGB renamed itself the Federal Counter – Intelligence Service ( later changed to the Federal Security Service , or FSB ) without changes in its personnel . Yeltsin filled his government with former Communists and set about reclaiming the old Soviet bodies ( the army , the state bank , the Soviet seat in the United Nations ) for Russia .

Even the leaders of the August putsch were amnestied in February 1994 . Some went straight from jail to leading positions in Russia’s largest banks and companies .

Yeltsin wanted a successor who would protect him . His choice fell on Putin , Berezovsky’s favoured candidate , whom he made prime minister in August 1999 , announcing at the same time that he wanted Putin to succeed him as the president . One of Putin’s first acts in that office was to grant immunity to Yeltsin and his family .

His victory depended , not on an assessment of his policies ( no one knew what he stood for ) but on how he came across on television screens : sober , clean – cut , competent , someone who would not bring shame to Russia on the international stage – in sum , Yeltsin’s opposite .

Russia had existed as an empire for so long that it could not simply reinvent itself as a nation after 1991 .

Outside the main cities , few people had the internet in their homes . Eight out of ten received their news from the

Vladislav Surkov , Putin’s deputy chief of staff and principal adviser , whose approach to words was the same as Humpty Dumpty’s in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass ( ‘ When I use a word … it means just what I choose it to mean ‘ ) . The meaning of ‘ sovereign democracy ‘ , as Surkov defined it , was that Russia should be free to choose its own political system and call it a ‘ democracy ‘ ( Putin , after all , had been elected ) .

Fifteen hundred Serbians , half of them civilians , were killed by NATO aerial bombardment between March and

Statues of the partisan leader were erected in cities such as Lviv and Ternopil . The Bandera cult was a gift for Moscow’s propaganda about the threat of ‘ Nazis ‘ in Ukraine .

it Putin argued , yet again , that the Russians and Ukrainians were one nation , that Ukraine was a part of ‘ greater Russia ‘ ( an entity at times he equated with the Soviet Union and at times with its inner Slavic core ) and , as such , had no real statehood of its own .

The Russians began their military build – up in March 2021 .

His decision surprised even senior Kremlin officials . It must be explained by Putin’s isolation from reality . Terrified of Covid , he had spent the past two years in lockdown on his own in the Kremlin , seldom meeting anybody in person ( even the President of Kazakhstan was made to spend two weeks in quarantine before Putin would see him ) .

It relied on heavy firepower and on its sheer size to overwhelm its better – supplied and more agile opponents – a distinctly Russian way of fighting wars , as we have seen . The

Society has been too weak , too divided and too disorganised to sustain an opposition movement , let alone a revolution , for long enough to bring about a change in the character of state power . Today

With only fossil fuels , precious metals and raw materials to offer the Chinese , Russia would become the junior partner in this new relationship .

Russia might have taken a more democratic path . It had strong traditions of self – rule in its medieval city republics , in the peasant commune and the Cossack hetmanates and not least in the zemstvos , which might have laid the basis for a more inclusive form of national government .

Seeing is believing for the Orthodox . Russians pray with their eyes open , their gaze fixed on an icon , which serves as a window onto the divine sphere .

Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 ( 1885 ) . The remorseful tsar , haunted by his own destructive terror , captured the imagination of many artists from the nineteenth century .

Peter was a man in a hurry . Almost seven feet in height , he walked with giant , rapid strides , leaving his advisers far behind .

Can Such Things Be by Ambrose Bierce

From my Notion book template

What It’s About

A collection of short stories by mysterious and cynical hall of famer Ambrose Bierce

How I Discovered It

I was originally looking up the name “Carcosa” from the series true detective, which led me to the fictional city, which was created by Bierce, and used by HP Lovecraft in a few of his stories. The “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” story was written in 1886. I came across Bierce in Florence King’s With Charity Towards None book in the 90s. I think I read The Devil’s Dictionary then too.


I liked it – it was very uneven with minimal editing, which made some things hard to follow, but kept a mystery around others. Bierce felt uncompelled to end things neatly which has the effect of keeping me as the reader in suspense.

What I Liked About It

I liked the genuine feeling of suspense and periodically dread. I had very little idea of where many of the stories were going – very much a random walk in a horrible place.

What I Didn’t Like About It

Sometime the editing was too minimal – events in the stories made very little sense and a lot of stuff was under introduced.

Who Would Like It?

Anyone who like HP Lovecraft

Related Books

Anything by HP Lovecraft.


As he grew to such manhood as is attainable by a Southerner who does not care which way elections go.

and there is a graveyard that would delight a poet.

Nevertheless, there was something lacking. I had a sense of comfort, but not of security.

Unfortunately, our feelings do not always respect the law of probabilities, and to me that evening, the possible and the impossible were equally disquieting.

If there is ever sunshine I do not recall it; if there are birds they do not sing.

To each and all, the peace that was not mine.

“Because you cannot without affirming what you wish to deny, namely, intelligent cooperation among the constituent elements of the crystals. When soldiers form lines, or hollow squares, you call it reason. When wild geese in flight take the form of a letter V you say instinct. When the homogeneous atoms of a mineral, moving freely in solution, arrange themselves into shapes mathematically perfect, or particles of frozen moisture into the symmetrical and beautiful forms of snowflakes, you have nothing to say. You have not even invented a name to conceal your heroic unreason.”

I had never been invited into the machine-shop— had, indeed, been denied admittance, as had all others, with one exception, a skilled metal worker, of whom no one knew anything except that his name was Haley and his habit silence.

“Who rescued me?” “Well, if that interests you— I did.” “Thank you, Mr. Haley, and may God bless you for it. Did you rescue, also, that charming product of your skill, the automaton chess-player that murdered its inventor?” The man was silent a long time, looking away from me. Presently he turned and gravely said: “Do you know that?” “I do,” I replied; “I saw it done.”

The forest was boundless; men and the habitations of men did not exist. The universe was one primeval mystery of darkness, without form and void, himself the sole, dumb questioner of its eternal secret.

What we inherit as a superstition our barbarous ancestors must have held as a reasonable conviction. Doubtless they believed themselves justified by facts whose nature we cannot even conjecture in thinking a dead body a malign thing endowed with some strange power of mischief, with perhaps a will and a purpose to exert it.

The old belief in the malevolence of the dead body was lost from the creeds and even perished from tradition, but it left its heritage of terror, which is transmitted from generation to generation— is as much a part of us as are our blood and bones.”

I ventured faintly to remonstrate with Jo. for his unchristian spirit, but he merely explained that there was nothing about Chinamen in the New Testament, and strode away to wreak his displeasure upon his dog, which also, I suppose, the inspired scribes had overlooked.

It was as if the Old-World barbarism and the New-World civilization had reconciled their differences by the arbitration of an impartial decay— as is the way of civilizations.

They had a child which they named Joseph and dearly loved, as was then the fashion among parents in all that region.

“I have so frequently related them that nothing but observation could shake my conviction. Why, gentlemen, I have my own word for it.”

Many of the graves were sunken, from others grew sturdy pines, whose roots had committed unspeakable sin.

the place was a dishonor to the living, a calumny on the dead, a blasphemy against God.

As to John Bartine, my friend, my patient for five minutes, and— Heaven forgive me!— my victim for eternity, there is no more to say. He is buried, and his watch with him— I saw to that.

Soldiers in the intervals of battle laugh easily, and a jest in the death chamber conquers by surprise.

Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where some pompous tomb or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at oblivion.

And then I knew that these were ruins of the ancient and famous city of Carcosa.

Such are the facts imparted to the medium Bayrolles by the spirit Hoseib Alar Robardin.

man is like a tree: in a forest of his fellows he will grow as straight as his generic and individual nature permits; alone in the open, he yields to the deforming stresses and tortions that environ him.

Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger

The Book in 3 Sentences

Ernst Junger writes about his experiences in the trenches of World War 1. It covers events of epic drama in a hyper-descriptive, unemotional fashion, which creates a weird, ambient feel of both drama and dread over time. What struck me most was how small the difference was between a victory and defeat for Junger.

How I Discovered It

I think I came across Junger on Time Ghost or the Great War on YouTube

Who Should Read It?

History buffs, and anyone needing to see a contrast between our times of excessive virtuality and something very, very different.

How the Book Changed Me

Over time, and maybe not on purpose, but Storm of Steel presented a very broad view of the human experience by detailing a very narrow view of a very broad event – such is life in the trenches. Junger is pretty much one of a kind, and made to thrive on trench warfare – pretty much a German Sargent York, Audie Murphy, Captain America and Sargent Rock all rolled into one. The Great War was a transcendent experience for him, who knows how.

Maybe this is just what autism looks like in German people.


Regardless, an officer must not be separated under any circumstances from the dangers experienced by his men. Danger is the noblest moment of his military profession, because it is needed to prove superior manliness. Honor and chivalry elevate an officer to the lord of the hour. What is more lofty than for a hundred men to march forward to death? The rank and file will never deny the commands of a noble personality; his acts of courage spread in a flash through the ranks with exhilarating power.

The Battle of Eparges was my first. It was very different from what I expected. I had been in a major combat operation, without having an opportunity to directly face an opponent. Only much later, I experienced that confrontation.

The security of a position is based on the freshness and the inexhaustible courage of its defenders, not on its construction and approaches, or on the depth of its trenches.

Old men crept along, slumped over by the new order of things. The war alienated them with brutal ruthlessness from the place where they had spent all their lives.

We interacted with the French locals only if we brought them our laundry for cleaning, or wanted to buy butter and eggs. Intimate relations among the sexes were extremely rare. Eroticism found no place in the dry, disrupted order of things.

was dubbed “Bellevue,” or “Beautiful View,” because of its wide-ranging vista of the battlefront.

Large pits were in the ground, strangely beckoning with their mysterious darkness. They sometimes revealed a cellar of a leveled house. Perhaps down below, the skeletons of unfortunate former residents were being gnawed by very busy swarms of rats.

However, we had in our company commander, Lieutenant d. R. Brecht, an officer who was the right man for defending such a place. A former German emigrant to America, he had hurried back over at the beginning of the war. His bold nature sought danger and brought him, in the end, a death full of glory.

Some cats are drawn from the destroyed villages into the trenches. They like to be close to the people. A large white cat, with a gunshot through the front paw, often haunts us, and seems to frequent both sides of the front.

The trench makes thousands of construction requests daily to us. We dig deep tunnels; build bomb shelters and concrete blockhouses; and prepare barbed-wire obstacles. We also create drainage systems; put down floor boarding and supports; level, increase, and slope off the earth; pour out latrines; and so on.

Thus our days passed in stressful monotony.

The only consolation was that the opposing Englishman fared no better. Our troops saw how energetically water was pumped from his trenches. Since we are somewhat on higher ground, we pumped downstream to him our abundance of water and mud.

The cascading water eroded trench walls. A number of buried bodies were exposed from the fighting of the previous autumn.

The local inhabitants (French civilians) were under strict discipline. Transgressions and offenses were punished by the local commander with prompt justice, e.g., painful fines and imprisonment. As much as I am in favor of the logic of the power concept, i.e., might makes right, its excesses were, in my view, too repugnant and embarrassing, even at that time.

For example, it was the duty of every inhabitant, even the women, to salute the German officers they encountered on the street. Such arrangements are pointless, degrading, and harmful. Yet we generated a lot of this animosity throughout the war. We were “smart” in little things, but weak in opposing severe harm to the heart of our cause.

However, I am tempted to say that we conversed more in a manner like a sportsman’s mutual respect, than as enemies. At the end of our talk, we even would have liked to exchange a gift as a souvenir. It has always been my ideal in war, to look at the enemy as opponents only in battle. I eliminate any personal feeling of hatred, and consider the courage of the man. I have learned that many English officers had similar feelings. As regards to our truce that day, we restored normal relations: The English officer and I solemnly agreed to return to war within three minutes after breaking off the negotiations.

In this and similar ways, we all had moments of losses due to carelessness that occurred with the constant handling of explosives. One unsettling neighbor in this respect was Lieutenant Pook. He lived in a lonely dugout in an intricate confusion of trenches behind the left flank. He had dragged there a number of huge artillery duds and busied himself by unscrewing the fuses and studying their design. If my duties led me near his place, I made a big detour around this eerie abode every time.

With all my energy, I had provided for the defense of my 200 meters (220 yards) of combat trenches, and for the welfare of my 60 men.

They had lit a roaring log fire and bent over the purifying flame to escape the effects of the chlorine. I joined them in this activity, until the shell fire had subsided, and then went forward through runner-trench Number 6.

We had endured an open air “blister” attack of pure chlorine, a poison gas that works by etching and burning the lungs.

Only a single Englishman climbed over and got through the obstacle. Our Lieutenant Brecht grabbed the man by the throat and greeted him in English with “Come here, you son of a bitch!” (Lieutenant Brecht had been a planter in America before the war.)

I only realized later that this patrol experience had gone to my nerves. That night, I lay with chattering teeth on a cot in the dugout and could not sleep despite the exhaustion. The next morning, I could barely walk, because out of one of my knees I extracted a long broken wire, and in the other, a piece of shrapnel protruded from the grenade thrown by Bartels.

You could tell that the man had tasted every horror until he despaired, and then had learned to despise it all. Nothing seemed left in him except a great and manly indifference.

Because of violent headaches and ear pains, we could communicate only by fragmentary, shouted words. The ability for logical thought and the sense of gravity seemed suspended.

Finally, our guide found the way again to reach the rendezvous point to deliver his promised squads of living corpses.

Behind me there was a persistent, unpleasant sound. I had a remarkable lack of emotion when I realized what it was. The noise came from a gigantic, decomposing corpse that was slowly merging into the surrounding soil. (The sound was the hissing outgas of rotting flesh.)

The excited, misplaced grasp of a single man, Sergeant H., had triggered our whole mighty war machine. He was, and remained, a man of misfortune. That same night, while loading his pistol, he even fired a flare into the legging of his boot. He had to be carried back with severe burns.

The doctor congratulated me for being so lucky, because the lead ball passed cleanly between the tibia and fibula, without injuring any bones. “Habent sua fata libelli et balli,” (“Books and bullets have their own destinies”) said the old Medical Corps student in Latin.

The days of Guillemont made known to me for the first time the devastating effects of the battle of materiel, the battle against things. We had to adapt to completely new forms of war.

Above all, there fell the flower of our disciplined youth into the dust. The lofty values that had made great the German people, shone there again in dazzling splendor. Yet, slowly those same values perished in a sea of mud and

Such small observations gave me a comforting assurance:  In France, national pride is also not a characteristic of the general public. After the war, this realization helped me endure the remarkable reception which some of our comrades received upon returning to Germany, after four honorable years of hard combat. “Il y a des cochons partout.” (French for “There are pigs everywhere.”)―

stopped in my tracks. On the modern battlefield, unpopulated areas are always suspicious.

There were only five men remaining in the 2nd Company who had also celebrated the previous Christmas with me in the trenches of Monchy.

In war, everything is determined by unintended effects. From that probably also came the preference of field troops for alcohol in its concentrated forms. Sexual relations with the opposing civilian population was, in part, unwanted intimacy. Venus, the mythical goddess of love, deprived Mars, the god of war, of some of his servants.

We later learned that the whole position was undermined by the enemy (tunneling underneath to plant explosives).

Note:That is where that word originates

As for the English sergeant, he had both legs all but torn off by shrapnel from hand grenades. Yet with a stoic peace, he clenched his short pipe in his teeth up to the moment of death.

Soon, the land that awaited the advancing enemy, was transformed into a most desolate wasteland. The moral justification for this destruction is much disputed. However, it seems to me that the chauvinistic howls of rage then supporting it, is best interpreted as the satisfied cheers of armchair soldiers and newspaper writers. When thousands of peaceful people living in these areas were robbed of their homes, one has to mention the selfish pleasure of power.

As a necessity of fact, I am, as a Prussian officer, naturally without a moment of doubt (and follow orders). The conduct of war calls for seeking to destroy the opponent by varied uses of power without regards to consequences. War is the hardest of crafts; its master may be humane morality only so long as the heart is open to it, and as long as that heart itself cannot be hurt in the war.

This was the sole, but very important, message that I passed on to my superiors during the three weeks of my stay in Fresnoy. By itself, it justified my large organization devoted solely to the collection of intelligence. Alas, now, when my men were of greatest value, artillery fire knocked out of action almost all of my installations.This was the consequence of over-centralization, i.e., basing too many assets in a small area.

The frontline officer in war must sometimes commit tactical mistakes for reasons of a subjective nature (i.e., accept personal risk so as to maintain the respect of the men).

The respect for this commander raises every chivalrous-minded man in the ranks above himself, and spurs him on to ever greater achievements. As such, commander and men kindle within each other powerful manifestations of energy. The morale factor is the most important element of war.

I could say with satisfaction, that through mastery of the situation and personal influence on my people, I gave the enemy leader a bad disappointment and an early grave.

What did Nietzsche say about a warrior people? “You may only have enemies which are to be hated, but not enemies to be held in contempt. You must be proud of your enemy, then the achievements of the enemy are also your achievements (when you defeat him).”

To be a leader with a clear head, is in itself the finest reward a man can have, just as cowardice is its own punishment. I have always pitied the coward. For him, a battle becomes a series of hellish torments. By contrast, the courageous man is filled with great vigor, and views battle only as a chain of more exciting events.

This shows above all the consequences of an arcane system of promotion. Based solely on their seniority, i.e., years of service, officers of obscure military specialties are given command of infantry companies engaged in combat. Yet, in their previous service, they have not once ordered “Guns at the ready! Prepare to fire!” (The above company commander formerly belonged to the horse cavalry.) One may prefer such ancient traditions as seniority, if you believe you cannot manage without it. However, it should only be used where men’s lives are not at risk. O

Following the principle of old soldiers: “A good breakfast holds body and soul together,” my first action was to eat heartily. I then lit my pipe, and looked at what was going on outside our house.

The hours we just experienced were without a doubt the most dreadful of the whole war. You cower alone, scrunched up in your foxhole, and feel abandoned to a relentless, blind force of destruction. With horror, you sense that all your intelligence, skills, spiritual and physical abilities, have become trivial, laughable things. Already, while you are thinking this, iron projectiles could have begun their whining path through the sky to smash you into a formless nothing. Your anxiety focuses on your sense of hearing: You try to pick out the approaching flutter of the “Bringer of Death” from the clutter of background noise. For

Yet you are observed by someone. The symbolic man of morals may unconsciously work in you. He confines you to this place because of two powerful forces: Duty and Honor. You know you are placed in this piece of trench to fight, and a whole nation trusts that you will do your job. The feeling is that if I leave my position, I am a coward in my own eyes, a villain who must later blush at every word of praise. Hence, you clench your teeth and remain where you are, standing your ground.

The limestone was a reddish-white rock and crawling with fossils. After every time I walked through the trench, I came back to my dugout with pockets full of fossilized mussel shells, starfish, and Ammon horns.

The division commander greeted me very kindly and soon soothed my discontent. At lunch I sat next to him in a ragged field coat with a bandaged hand. I remembered the old saying, “Only bums are modest!”, and endeavored to depict our actions of the morning in the best light.

I jumped on this pathetic soldier, a product of a failed military training. By holding a pistol under his nose, I forced information from him. If since then, the man has not yet been killed or deserted, he will certainly have bolstered the antiwar activists of the German Spartacus League as a worthy member.

It is not good to send two sons to war in the same regiment. We had four pairs of brothers in the officer corps of the regiment. Of these eight young people, five fell in battle, and two, including my brother, took severe injuries back to their homes. I am the only one who has come out in some measure unharmed. This small example illustrates the losses of the Fusiliers Regiment.

His first words demonstrated that I had a man in front of me: “We were surrounded.” He was compelled to declare to his opponent why his company had so quickly yielded. We chatted in French about different topics.

Even modern industrial war has its moments of glory. One hears so often the mistaken view that infantry combat has sunk to a dull mass slaughter. On the contrary, today more than ever, the individual soldier decides the outcome. This is known by everyone who has seen them in their kingdom: Soldiers are princes of the trench, and rule with hard, determined faces. They are daring and fluid, gracefully jumping back and forth with sharp, bloodthirsty eyes. They are the heroes that no official report ever cites by name.

One time, a gunner in my company tested his light machine gun and accidentally shot the commander of a regiment of foreign allies. The latter was on a saddle-horse in the midst of a parade review. Fortunately, the wound was slight, and our involvement not clearly proven.

Every midday at exactly 12 noon, a black ball was lowered from our observation balloons, and then disappeared at 12:10 p.m. This was apparently done to provide the troops with more exact hourly time.

Someday, after the passage of many years, the waves of hatred against us will fade; history will then recognize that we fought like a people never before us.

Yet immediately retorted the other voice, “Man, you’re the company commander!” Exactly so. I do not say it to boast. I would rather say: To whom God gives a position of authority, God also gives the wisdom to do it.

I reached the end of my mental rope with this last observation. I threw myself to the ground and burst into convulsive sobs. My people stood around me in a dark mood.

Also in the bomb shelter were the advanced scouts who had gotten us lost in the first place. Since that day, whenever we moved into a new position, I have always personally made the selection of the advanced scouts, and with the greatest care. War is a great teacher of fundamental lessons, but the tuition is expensive.

Our joy was disturbed by tears and the burning of our mucous membranes. The wind was blowing back the toxic vapors of our own gas-filled shells!  The unpleasant effects of “Blue Cross” gas (hydrogen cyanide)—gagging and coughing—forced many people to tear off their gas masks. I was very worried about the gas, but I firmly trusted our leaders. They could not possibly have made a miscalculation that would be our undoing. Still, by summoning all my energy, I forced back my first coughs, so as to avoid increasing attention to the problem.

fell short

Note:So mny expressions came from ww1

The immense desire for destruction dominated our thinking and behavior. It weighed heavily upon the battlefield, and concentrated itself in the brain. This was not unique in history. The men of the Renaissance were in the grip of passion. Cellini, the Florentine artist, wanted to be full of fury. Werewolves, on the other hand, rushed howling through the night to drink blood.

A bullet hit him in the eye, and he fell dead at the bottom of the trench. The man had been the last man alive in Lieutenant Wedelstädt’s company. When Wedelstädt saw him fall, he leaned his head on the trench wall and wept. The lieutenant would also not survive the day. I

As I learned later, the artillery had orders to fire continuously at maximum range into the enemy’s rear. This incomprehensible arrangement tore from our grasp the most beautiful fruits of victory. Grudgingly gnashing our teeth, we had to call a halt to our advance in front of the fiery wall of artillery blasts.

However, my escort claimed that he could not see my brains coming out. So, I pulled myself up and ran on with him.

There this sixth double-wounding healed as well as the previous ones.


Then we had to one more time to retreat to the main defensive trench in the rear, because our relief battalion had been nearly wiped out by the Spanish disease (a world-wide flu epidemic). Also in our own company, several men daily reported sick. In the neighboring division the flu also raged strongly.

I attempted to stop the “friendly fire.” I sent one protest after another to the artillery command posts. I urgently called for a cease fire, or for the presence of artillery officers, or spotters, in the trench. Instead of answering me, a heavy mortar began to again fire on us, and, in my opinion, completely made the trench into a slaughterhouse.

Note:Friendly Fire way higher than thought

The bright full moon of the nights favored frequent visits by enemy aircraft. They gave us an idea of the overwhelming material superiority of the opposite side. Night after night, multiple squadrons floated and zoomed

The discipline of drilling, e.g., practice marching in formation, is a means to an end. No army can do without it. Neither formal education, nor athletic training, can entirely replace strict drilling. A man who has doubtful self-esteem in a crisis, must learn to obey orders, even in a dull stupor. His instincts to run from danger must be curbed by the spirited demands of his commander, even in the most terrifying moments.

found it quite smart for the English to bomb the German mind with poems, and also quite flattering for us. A war where you fight through poetic verses would be a quite blessed invention.

A bullet had pierced his steel helmet and struck him in the temple. This brave man sealed his loyalty to his commander with death. He was a teacher’s son from Letter, a town near Hanover. I later visited his family, and hold his memory sacred.

Although I have not been an enemy of women, their feminine nature irritated me every time when my fate after battle was thrown into the bed of a sick ward. From the masculine, goal-oriented, and practical actions of war, I was immersed in an atmosphere of indefinable, emotional outpourings. A pleasant exception was the down-to-earth practicality of the Catholic order of sisters.

However, at age 23, author Ernst Jünger finished the war as one of the most decorated soldiers on either side. He survived being wounded on seven occasions, and never fought troops from his cherished American West. See

A “Fusilier” was an 18th-cenetury soldier armed with a light flintlock musket, or “fusil.”]

No less than Hitler himself admired Mr. Jünger’s war memoir, and the Nazis actively courted Mr. Jünger.  Mr. Jünger, though, politely, but firmly, refused to join the Nazi Party.

Mr. Jünger also distanced himself from rising antisemitism. He and his brother both resigned in protest from their veterans’ organization, after its Jewish members were expelled.

wing organizations associated with Mr. Jünger.  On the eve of the Second World War, the author published On Marble Cliffs, a thinly veiled, anti-Hitler allegory.

Mr. Jünger ultimately published around 50 books. In 1982, he won the much-coveted Goethe Prize of the City of Frankfurt. However, passionate left-wing protesters raged through the streets, denouncing his alleged militarism.

In 1992, captured Nazi archives from the collapsed Soviet Union became available. A stunning 1944 memo confirmed the planned arrest by the Nazis of one Captain Ernst Jünger for disloyalty. Surprisingly, the German dictator Adolf Hitler abruptly halted the proceedings, without comment, and much to the disappointment of his henchmen.

Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday

From my notion template – goodreads digest here

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. The story of Peter Theil’s feud with Gawker
  2. A periodically interesting look at the nature of conspiracies and grudges
  3. A nice study in patience and the power of our modern tech oligarchs
  4. The oligarch’s power resides in the ability to be patient and thoroughly work the system


Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday – would have made a great Atavist article, as a book it is ignorable – the subject matter is interesting, but it is overlong and very padded

My Top Quotes

  • Alexandre Dumas once wrote that the king of the press has a throne everywhere.
  • To begin you must study the end. You don’t want to be the first to act, you want to be the last man standing.
  • Ethics don’t win the war, but they do help keep the peace.
  • The majority of their communication is done over the phone or alone in Peter’s home. Emails can be subpoenaed, or can be hacked. Meeting in public, being seen at Thiel’s offices or in public
  • Mr. A claims that the conspirators had nothing to do with starting Gamergate, but they undoubtedly fanned the flames. His description of Gamergate to me as “largely autonomous but very helpful” is perfectly typical of the lawyerly gymnastics I’ve come to expect from him.
  • The line attributed to the management guru Peter Drucker is that culture eats strategy. It’s a truism that applies as much to conspiracies as it does to businesses. It doesn’t matter how great your plan is, it doesn’t matter who your people are, if what binds them all together is weak or toxic, so, too, will be the outcome—if you even get that far. But if the ties that bind you together are strong, if you have a sense
  • As far as I know, Gawker conducted no mock trials—at least it couldn’t in the Tampa Bay region. Because Mr. A claims he hired the only two firms in the area to conflict them out of being able to work with Gawker. His simple move had kept the fog of war thick around them. No chance for last-minute clarity or perspective.
  • “It became very clear that the kind of jurors we wanted were overweight women. Most people can’t empathize with a sex tape, but overweight women are sensitive about their bodies and feel like they have been bullied on the internet. Men don’t have that problem. Attractive women don’t have that problem. They haven’t been body shamed,” Mr. A tells me proudly. Hypothetical Juror #3 might not have been a victim of revenge porn. She might not care about celebrity privacy. Hypothetical Juror #3 might not have known what it feels like to be Hulk Hogan, but she knows what it’s like to have an unflattering picture of herself on the internet. She knows what it feels like to be embarrassed or ashamed. Which is why they would choose her.
  • The great sin for a leader, Frederick the Great once observed, was not in being defeated but in being surprised.
  • Without a way out, tensions only increase and combatants have no choice but to fight on. Scipio Africanus, the general who defeated Hannibal, would say that an army should not only leave a road for their enemy to retreat by, they should pave it. The Romans had a name for this road, the Gallic Way.

Odd John by Olaf Stapledon

From my notion template – good reads link here

What the book is about

A new race “Homo Superior” much like mutants in X-men, emerges – this is their story

How I Discovered It

From Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon


Pretty weird and brilliant

What I Liked About It

It was a big story, lots of weird detail – insightful in lots of ways – particularly with the “only part he had to play was to be an ugly hateful trap (paraphrase)” and the part about the wise old man letting the kids do their thing, while he did important work like contemplating God.

What I Didn’t Like About It

Kind of short – no clear resolution to several of the characters

Who Would Like It?

Science Fiction people – between wars fiction people

Related Books

Star Maker


  • To this day I know little but the amazing facts of his career. I know that he never walked till he was six, that before he was ten he committed several burglaries and killed a policeman, that at eighteen, when he still looked a young boy, he founded his preposterous colony in the South Seas, and that at twenty-three, in appearance but little altered, he outwitted the six warships that six Great Powers had sent to seize him. I know also how John and all his followers died.
  • discovered, the great majority of these very rare supernormals, whom John sometimes called “wide-awakes,” are either so delicate physically or so unbalanced mentally that they leave no considerable mark on the world.
  • John’s birth had put the great maternal animal to a severe strain. She carried her burden for eleven months, till the doctors decided that at all costs she must be relieved.
  • On a certain Tuesday he was merely babbling as usual. On Wednesday he was exceptionally quiet, and seemed for the first time to understand something of his mother’s baby-talk. On Thursday morning he startled the family by remarking very slowly but very correctly, “I—want—milk.” That afternoon he said to a visitor who no longer interested him, “Go—away. I—do—not—like—you—much.”
  • The latter was for John the easier task. He set about studying our conduct and our motives, partly by questioning us, partly by observation. He soon discovered two important facts, first that we were often surprisingly ignorant of our own motives, and second that in many respects he differed from the rest of us. In later years he himself told me that this was the time when he first began to realize his uniqueness.
  • He was at this time plainly going through a phase of concentrated self-assertion.
  • “Philosophy,” he said, “is really very helpful to the growing mind, but it’s terribly disappointing too. At first I thought I’d found the mature human intelligence at work at last. Reading Plato, and Spinoza, and Kant, and some of the modern realists too, I almost felt I had come across people of my own kind. I walked in step with them. I played their game with a sense that it called out powers that I had never exercised before. Sometimes I couldn’t follow them. I seemed to miss some vital move. The exhilaration of puzzling over these critical points, and feeling one had met a real master mind at last! But as I went on from philosopher to philosopher and browsed around all over the place, I began to realize the shocking truth that these critical points were not what I thought they were, but just outrageous howlers. It had seemed incredible that these obviously well-developed minds could make simple mistakes; and so I had respectfully dismissed the possibility, and looked for some profound truth. But oh my God, I was wrong! Howler after howler! Sometimes a philosopher’s opponents spot his howlers, and are frightfully set up with their own cleverness. But most of them never get spotted at all, so far as I can discover. Philosophy is an amazing tissue of really fine thinking and incredible, puerile mistakes. It’s like one of those rubber ‘bones’ they give dogs to chew, damned good for the mind’s teeth, but as food—no bloody good at all.”
  • He wanted my affair with the Pax-like girl to go forward and complete itself not only because, as my friend, he espoused my need, but also because, if I were to give it up for his sake, I should become a vindictive rather than a willing slave. He preferred, I imagine, to be served by a free and roving hound rather than by a chained and hungry wolf.
  • But he regarded the whole commercial world with a contempt which suggested now the child, and now the philosopher. He was at once below it and above
  • Examining her racquet, she suddenly asked, “Do you blame me, about John?” While I was trying to reply, she added, “I expect you know what a power he has. He’s like—a god pretending to be a monkey. When you’ve been noticed by him, you can’t bother about ordinary people.”
  • “Well, they’re damned fine stuff, these fishermen, and Abe and Mark are two of the best. You see, when Homo sapiens is up against the sort of job and the sort of life that’s not really beyond him, he’s all right. It’s only when civilization gives him a job that’s too much for his intelligence or too much for his imagination that he fails. And then the failure poisons him through and through.”
  • “Ninety-nine per cent. slush and one per cent.—something else, but what?”
  • What’s the group, anyhow, but just everybody lumped together, and nearly all fools or pimps or knaves? It’s not simply the group that fires him. It’s justice, righteousness, and the whole spiritual music that ought to be made by the group. Damned funny, that! Of course, I know all Communists are not religious, some are merely—well, like that bloody little man the other day. But this fellow is religious. And so was Lenin, I guess. It’s not enough to say his root motive was desire to avenge his brother. In a sense that’s true. But one can feel behind nearly everything he said a sense of being the chosen instrument of Fate, of the Dialectic, of what might almost as well be called God.”
  • Things haven’t got bad enough for that in England yet. At present all that can be done by blokes like this is to spout hate and give the other side a fine excuse for repressing Communism. Of course, hosts of well-off people and would-be-well-off people are just as ashamed of themselves subconsciously as that blighter, and just as full of hate, and in need of a scapegoat to exercise their hate upon. He and his like are a godsend to them.”
  • “You talk,” he said, “as if hate were rational, as if men only hated what they had reason to hate. If you want to understand modern Europe and the world, you have to keep in mind three things that are really quite distinct although they are all tangled up together. First there’s this almost universal need to hate something, rationally or irrationally, to find something to unload your own sins on to, and then smash it. In perfectly healthy minds (even of your species) this need to hate plays a small part. But nearly all minds are damnably unhealthy, and so they must have something to hate. Mostly, they just hate their neighbours or their wives or husbands or parents or children. But they get a much more exalted sort of excitement by hating foreigners. A nation, after all, is just a society for hating foreigners, a sort of super-hate-club. The second thing to bear in mind is the obvious one of economic disorder. The people with economic power try to run the world for their own profit. Not long ago they succeeded, more or less, but now the job has got beyond them, and, as we all know, there’s the hell of a mess. This gives hate a new outlet. The have-nots with very good reason exercise their hate upon the haves, who have made the mess and can’t clean it up. The haves fear and therefore zestfully hate the have-nots. What people can’t realize is that if there were no deep-rooted need to hate in almost every mind the social problem would be at least intelligently faced, perhaps solved. Then there’s the third factor, namely, the growing sense that there’s something all wrong with modern solely-scientific culture. I don’t mean that people are intellectually doubtful about science. It’s much deeper than that. They are simply finding that modern culture isn’t enough to live by. It just doesn’t work in practice. It has got a screw loose somewhere. Or some vital bit of it is dead. Now this horror against modern culture, against science and mechanization and standardization, is only just beginning to be a serious factor. It’s newer than Bolshevism. The Bolshies, and all the socially left-wing people, are still content with modern culture. Or rather, they put all its faults down to capitalism, dear innocent theorists. But the essence of it they still accept. They’re rationalistic, scientific, mechanistic, brass-tack-istic. But another crowd, scattered about all over the place, are having the hell of a deep revulsion against all this. They don’t know what’s the matter with it, but they’re sure it’s not enough. Some of them, feeling that lack, just creep back into church, specially the Roman Church. But too much water has passed under the bridge since the churches were alive, so that’s no real use. The crowds who can’t swallow the Christian dope are terribly in need of something, though they don’t know what, or even know they’re in need at all. And this deep need gets mixed up with their hate-need; and, if they’re middle class, it gets mixed up also with their…
  • Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.
  • Note the sin eater
  • what happened in Italy. That sort of thing will spread. I’d bet my boots that in a few years there’ll be a tremendous anti-left movement all over Europe, inspired partly by fear and hate, partly by that vague, fumbling suspicion that there’s something all wrong with scientific culture. It’s more than an intellectual suspicion. It’s a certainty of the bowels, call it a sort of brute-blind religious hunger. Didn’t you feel the beginnings of it in Germany last year when we…
  • so worthy and so easily twisted into something bloody. If Christianity could hold it in and discipline it, it might do wonders. But Christianity’s played out. So these folk will probably invent some ghastly religion of their own. Their God will be the God of the hate-club, the nation. That’s what’s coming. The new Messiahs (one for each tribe) won’t triumph by love and gentleness, but by hate and ruthlessness. Just because…
  • “The best minds!” he said. “One of the main troubles of your unhappy species is that the best minds can go even farther astray than the second best, much farther than the umpteenth best. That’s what has been happening during the last few centuries. Swarms of the best minds have been leading the populace down blind alley after blind alley, and doing it with tremendous courage and resource. Your trouble, as a species, is that you can’t keep hold of everything at once. Any one who is very wide awake toward one set of facts invariably loses sight of all the other equally important sets. And as you have practically no inner…
  • They also demanded aesthetic pleasure of a rather self-indulgent sort, and the thoroughly self-indulgent pleasure of tasting ideas, just for their spiciness or tang, so to speak. Bright young things! Yes, blowflies of a decaying civilization. Poor wretches! How they must hate themselves, really. But damn it, after all, they’re mostly good stuff gone wrong.”
  • You see they’re all very sensitive creatures, very susceptible to pleasure and pain; and early in their lives, whenever they bumped into anything like a fundamental experience, they found it terribly upsetting. And so they formed habits of avoiding that sort of thing. And they made up for this persistent avoidance by drenching themselves in all sorts of minor and superficial (though sensational) experiences; and also by talking big about Experience with a capital E, and buzzing intellectually.”
  • Homo sapiens is a spider trying to crawl out of a basin. The higher he crawls, the steeper the hill. Sooner or later, down he goes. So long as he’s on the bottom, he can get along quite nicely, but as soon as he starts climbing, he begins to slip. And the higher he climbs the farther he falls. It doesn’t matter which direction he tries. He can make civilization after civilization, but every
  • with bleeding blisters. But the deed was accomplished. The hunters of all the ages saluted him, for he had done what none of them could have done. A child, he had gone naked into the wilderness and conquered it. And the angels of heaven smiled at him, and beckoned him to a higher adventure.
  • It began to dawn on me that the discovery of his own kind, even in a lunatic asylum, must have been for John a deeply moving experience. I began to realize that, having lived for nearly eighteen years with mere animals, he had at last discovered a human being.
  • In fact he’s the sort any decent society would drown at birth. But the mother loves him like a tigress; though she’s scared stiff of him too, and loathes him. Neither parent has any idea he’s—what he is. They think he’s just an ordinary little cripple. And because he’s a cripple, and because they treat him all wrong, he’s brewing the most murderous hate imaginable.
  • Presently I began to ask myself what sort of a devil this baby Satan really was. Was he one of ‘us,’ or something quite different? But there was very little doubt in my mind, actually. Of course he was one of us, and probably a much mightier one than either J. J. or myself. But everything had gone wrong with him, from conception onwards. His body had failed him, and was tormenting him, and his mind was as crippled as his body, and his parents were quite unable to give him a fair chance. So the only self-expression possible to him was hate. And he had specialized in hate pretty thoroughly. But the oddest thing about it all was this. The further I got away from the experience, the more clearly it was borne in on me that his ecstasy of hate was really quite self-detached. He wasn’t hating for himself. He hated himself as much as me. He hated everything, including hate.
  • And why? Because, as I begin to discover, there’s a sort of minute, blazing star of worship right down in the pit of his hell. He sees everything from the side of eternity just as clearly as I do, perhaps more clearly; but—how shall I put it?—he conceives his part in the picture to be the devil’s part, and he’s playing it with a combination of passion and detachment like a great artist, and for the glory of God, if you understand what I mean. And he’s right. It’s the only thing he can do, and he does it with style. I take off my hat to him, in spite of everything. But it’s pretty ghastly, really. Think of the life he’s living; just like an infant’s, and with his powers! I dare say he’ll manage to find some trick for blowing up the whole planet some day, if he lives much longer. And there’s another thing. I’ve got to keep a sharp look-out or he’ll catch me again. He can reach me anywhere, in Australia or Patagonia. God! I can feel him now!
  • I asked what language they had been talking. “English,” he said. “She wanted to tell me a lot about herself, and didn’t want the old one to know about it, so she started in on English-back-to-front. I’ve never tried that before, but it’s quite easy, for us.” There was a faint stress on the “us.”
  • For some years she lived upon him, latterly giving him nothing in return but the terrible charm of her society once a week at dinner.
  • Save for these, John found nothing but lunatics, cripples, invalids, and inveterate old vagabonds in whom the superior mentality had been hopelessly distorted by contact with the normal species.
  • But Adlan’s brilliance made his way of life seem all the more perplexing. With some complacency John assured himself that if he were to live as long as Adlan he would not have to spend his old age toiling for a pittance from Homo sapiens. But before he parted from Adlan he began to take a humbler view of himself and a more respectful attitude to Adlan.
  • “My son, my dear son,” he said, “Allah wills of his creatures two kinds of service. One is that they should toil to fulfil his active purpose in the world, and that is the service which you have most at heart. The other is that they should observe with understanding and praise with discriminate delight the excellent form of his handiwork. And this is my service, to lay at Allah’s feet such a life of praise that no man, not even you, my very dear son, can give him. He has fashioned you in such a manner that you may serve him best in action, though in action inspired always by deep-searching contemplation. But me he has fashioned such that I must serve him directly through contemplation and praise, though for this end I had first to pass through the school of action.”
  • One morning she came down to breakfast as though nothing had happened, but looking, so John said, “like a corpse animated by a soul out of Hell.”
  • Distance, apparently, made no difference to the ease with which he could pick up the psychic processes of other supernormals. Success depended entirely on his ability to “tune in” to their mental “setting” or mode of experience, and this depended on the degree of similarity of their mode to his own.
  • And we know, you must remember, that Homo sapiens has little more to contribute to the music of this planet, nothing in fact but vain repetition. It is time for finer instruments to take up the theme.”
  • One bit of hypnotic technique (or magic, if you like) I felt sure I could now perform successfully on normal minds in which there were strong religious convictions. This we decided to use. The natives had welcomed us to their island and arranged a feast for us. After the feast there were ritual dances and religious rites. When the excitement was at a climax, I made Lo dance for them. And when she had done, I said to them, in their own language, that we were gods, that we needed their island, that they must therefore make a great funeral pyre for themselves, mount it together, lie down together, and gladly die. This they did, most gladly, men, women and children. When they had all died we set fire to the faggots and their bodies were burnt.”
  • Her general appearance was that of a cretin; yet she had supernormal intelligence and temperament, and also hyper-sensitive vision. Not only did she distinguish two primary colours within the spectrum-band that we call blue, but also she could see well down into the infra-red. In addition to this colour-discrimination, she had a sense of form that was, so to speak, much finer-grained than ours. Probably there were more nerve-endings in her retinae than in normal eyes, for she could read a newspaper at twenty yards’ distance, and she could see at a glance that a penny was not accurately circular.
  • Seeing all these supernormals together, I was struck by a pervading Chinese or Mongolian expression about them. They had come from many lands, but they had a family likeness. John might well be right in guessing that all had sprung from a single “sporting point” centuries ago, probably in Central Asia. From that original mutation, or perhaps from a number of similar mutations, successive generations of offspring had spread over Asia, Europe, Africa, interbreeding with the normal kind, but producing occasionally a true supernormal individual.
  • One of the most disconcerting features of life on the island was that much of the conversation of the colonists was carried on telepathically. So far as I could judge, vocal speech was in process of atrophy. The younger members still used it as the normal means of communication, and even among the elders it was often indulged in for its own sake, much as we may prefer to walk rather than take a bus. The spoken language was prized chiefly for its aesthetic value. Not only did the islanders make formal poems for one another as frequently as the cultured Japanese; they also delighted sometimes to converse with one another in subtle metre, assonance and rhyme. Vocal speech was used also for sheer emotional expression, both deliberately and inadvertently. Our civilization had left its mark on the island in such ejaculations as “damn” and “blast” and several which we do not yet tolerate in print. In all reactions to the personality of others, too, speech played an important part. It was often a vehicle for the expression of rivalry, friendship and love. But even in this field all finer intercourse, I was told, depended on telepathy. Speech was but an obbligato to the real theme.
  • “helped greatly by Shên Kuo, whose genius moves in that sphere. We attained also a kind of astronomical consciousness. Some of us at least glimpsed the myriads of peopled worlds, and even the minds of stars and of nebulae. We saw also very clearly that we must soon die. And there were other things which I must not tell you.”
  • The true purpose of the awakened spirit, they reminded me, is twofold, namely to help in the practical talk of world-building, and to employ itself to the best of its capacity in intelligent worship. Under the first head they had at least created something glorious though ephemeral, a microcosm, a world in little. But the more ambitious part of their practical purpose, the founding of a new species, they were destined never to fulfil. Therefore they were concentrating all their strength upon the second aim. They must apprehend existence as precisely and zestfully as they could, and salute That in the universe which was of supreme excellence.
  • The Commander was one of those exceptional seamen who spend a good deal of their time in reading. His mind had a background of ideas which rendered him susceptible to the technique.
  • Note:That is deep. the more ideas the more convincible you are or susceptible to bad ideas maybe
  • But at this point, apparently, Shên Kuo interposed, and urged that the project should be abandoned. He pointed out that it would absorb the whole energy of the colony, and that the great spiritual task would have to be shelved, at any rate for a very long time. “Any resistance on our part,” he said, “would bring the whole force of the inferior species against us, and there would be no peace till we had conquered the world. That would take a long time. We are young, and we should have to spend the most critical years of our lives in warfare. When we had finished the great slaughter, should we be any longer fit mentally for our real work, for the founding of a finer species, and for worship? No! We should be ruined, hopelessly distorted in spirit. Violent practical undertakings would have blotted out for ever such insight as we have now gained into the true purpose of life. Perhaps if we were all thirty years older we should be sufficiently mature to pass through a decade of warfare without becoming too impoverished, spiritually, for our real work. But as things are, surely the wise course is to forego the weapon, and make up our minds to fulfil as much as possible of our accepted spiritual task of worship before we are destroyed.”

From Eros To Gaia

From my notion template

From Eros to Gaia

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. A rambling book by Freeman Dyson – some nuggets not seen anywhere else, some duplicated in his other books. It could have been a bit more focused but I think this was a collection of essays that did not fit elsewhere

How I Discovered It

I’m working my way through all of the more mainstream Freeman Dyson Books

Who Should Read It?

Freeman Dyson Fans – everyone else should start with his other works

How the Book Changed Me

  • The most interesting nugget of wisdom is the thought that the size of any human endeavor, while measurable quantifiabley, is inherently a qualitative trait/attribute – i.e. comparisons are hard to accurately make and very few things are “just” half the size of, twice as long as, 3X the weight of, etc”
  • If it involves humans everything should be measured by my dad’s definition of order of magnitude – which is to say that all comparisons are imprecise by definition and are comparisons of fundamentally different things that differ by more than just the size, even if the size is the only apparently different variable

My Top 3 Quotes

  • Humanity is fortunate in having such a variety of energy resources at its disposal. In the very long run we shall need energy that is unpolluting; we shall have sunlight. In the fairly long run we shall need energy that is inexhaustible and moderately clean; we shall have deuterium. In the short run we shall need energy that is readily usable and abundant; we shall have uranium. Right now we need energy that is cheap and convenient; we have coal and oil. Nature has been kinder to us than we had any right to expect.
  • The destiny of our species is shaped by the imperatives of survival on six distinct time scales. To survive means to compete successfully on all six time scales. But the unit of survival is different at each of the six time scales. On a time scale of years, the unit is the individual. On a time scale of decades, the unit is the family. On a time scale of centuries, the unit is the tribe or nation. On a time scale of millennia, the unit is the culture. On a time scale of tens of millennia, the unit is the species. On a time scale of eons, the unit is the whole web of life on our planet. Every human being is the product of adaptation to the demands of all six time scales. That is why conflicting loyalties are deep in our nature. In order to survive, we have needed to be loyal to ourselves, to our families, to our tribes,
  • You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes.


  • The pilgrimage from Eros to Gaia is a good metaphor for the life of a writer, beginning with a joyful fantasy of interplanetary fireworks and ending with a serene fantasy of green leaves and peaceful death.
  • You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes.
  • Plan B gave the political authorities in Moscow what they wanted, a tangible symbol of Soviet greatness. Plan A might have been better for science. Plan A might have saved a whole generation of astronomers from frustration. But with plan A, the political authorities would not have had the satisfaction of building the biggest telescope in the world, and there would have been no hundred-foot wall for the visitors to write their names
  • In science, as in the quest for a village water supply, big projects bring enhanced status; small projects do not. In the competition for status, big projects usually win, whether or not they are scientifically justified. As the committees of academic professionals compete for power and influence, big science becomes more and more preponderant over small science.
  • Fortunately, the American academic system is pluralistic and chaotic enough that first-rate small science can still be done in spite of the committees. In odd corners, in out-of-the-way universities, and in obscure industrial laboratories, our Fulanis are still at work.
  • One of the main differences is that accelerators have short working lives, whereas telescopes last forever. An accelerator usually does its most important work within five years of being switched on. At the age of ten it is ready to be scrapped or converted into an injector for a larger machine. Telescopes are still young at forty. The forty-year-old 200-inch at Palomar is still as productive as it has ever been. The seventy-year-old 100-inch at Mount Wilson was recently retired, not because the telescope itself was obsolete but because the growth of the city of Los Angeles had made the sky too bright for serious astronomy. Almost all the major telescopes that have ever been built are still in use.
  • A high-visibility accelerator project, driven by political prestige rather than by scientific need, usually sets back the progress of particle physics in a country by about ten years.
  • This is another criterion for deciding the right size for a scientific project. The right size means a size at which you can afford to take a gamble. If you are too big to gamble, you are too big to do creative science.
  • The success of Apollo was mainly due to the fact that the project was conceived and honestly presented to the public as an international sporting event and not as a contribution to science. The order of priorities in Apollo was accurately reflected by the first item to be unloaded after each landing on the Moon’s surface, the television camera. The landing, the coming and going of the astronauts, the exploring of the Moon’s surface, the gathering of Moon rocks and the earthward departure, all were expertly choreographed with the cameras placed in the right positions to make a dramatic show on television.
  • The history of the shuttle is a typical example of a generic problem that occurs frequently in the development of science and technology, the problem of premature choice. Premature choice means betting all your money on one horse before you have found out whether she is lame. Politicians and administrators responsible for large projects are often obsessed with avoiding waste. To avoid waste they find it reasonable to choose one design as soon as possible and shut down the support of alternatives. So it was with the shuttle.
  • In science and technology, as in biological evolution, waste is the secret of efficiency. Without waste you cannot find out which horse is the fittest. This is a hard lesson for politicians and administrators to learn.
  • It occurred to me then that there might be a connection between the wastefulness and the flourishing of science at Cornell. If you want to do well in science, you had better not be too much concerned with saving envelopes.
  • The moral of this story is clear. Even a smart twenty-two-year-old is not a reliable guide to the future of science.
  • From a military point of view the attack was more costly to England than to Germany. Like many other such follies, it was a public-relations triumph and was made into a successful movie.
  • He chose to keep his squadron busy with operations which were technically brilliant, emotionally satisfying to the British public, and not too dangerous to his crews. Bert Harris, usually a hard man to please, loved these cheap and spectacular victories. The cheapest and most spectacular of all was the sinking of the Tirpitz. So it happened that Tait achieved the ritualization of strategic bombing operations, even before the war was over. And the operational exercise at Fairchild was only the same process of ritualization carried to its logical conclusion. I
  • The reason why LeMay succeeded while Bert Harris failed was that the Japanese did not have effective defenses. LeMay was able to ignore such defenses as there were over Japan. The fact that the Japanese defenses were negligible is well known. Another fact is not so well known. The Japanese might have had an effective defense when LeMay attacked. It was, like the Battle of Waterloo, a close-run thing. The Japanese had a twin-engined night fighter, called by them the Gekko and by the Americans the Irving.
  • While I was inspecting Tomahawks at various stages of their manufacture and deployment, I could see the pride and joy which these weapons inspire in those who handle them. That is the tragedy of the Tomahawk. It is a genuine work of art. It is an expression of human genius. Thousands of talented and dedicated people are devoting their lives to it. My friend and colleague Sidney Drell said, after visiting one of our cruise missile assembly plants, “these people build cruise missiles the way Stradivarius built violins.” Why must our skilled craftsmen and engineers find their fulfillment in building such lethal toys? Why can’t they build violins?
  • Physicists talk about two kinds of fields: classical fields and quantum fields. Actually, we believe that all fields in nature are quantum fields. A classical field is just a large-scale manifestation of a quantum field. But since classical fields were discovered first and are easier to understand, it is useful to say what we mean by a classical field first, and to talk about quantum fields later.
  • Quantum field theory is a theory of the behavior of field strengths averaged over finite regions of space and time.
  • Some ten or twenty different quantum fields exist. Each fills the whole of space and has its own particular properties. There is nothing else except these fields; the whole of the material universe is built of them. Between various pairs of fields there are various kinds of interaction. Each field manifests itself as a type of elementary particle. The particles of a given type are identical and indistinguishable. The number of particles of a given type is not fixed, for particles are constantly being created or annihilated or transmuted into one another. The properties of the interactions determine the rules for creation and transmutation of particles.
  • For any speculation that does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope.
  • Energy of a higher form can be degraded into a lower form, but a lower form can never be wholly converted back into a higher form. The direction of energy flow in the universe is determined by one basic fact, that gravitational energy is not only predominant in quantity but also highest in quality. Gravitation carries no entropy and stands first in the order of merit.
  • I do not say that the experts are giving us wrong answers. I say that they are frequently not asking the right questions.
  • To indicate the crucial nature of the nonclimatic effects of carbon dioxide, it is sufficient to mention the fact that a field of corn plants growing in full sunshine will completely deplete the carbon dioxide from the air within one meter of ground in a time of the order of five minutes.
  • We scientists must share the blame. It is much more comfortable for a scientist to run a computer model in an air-conditioned supercomputer center rather than to put on winter clothes and try to keep instruments correctly calibrated outside in the mud
  • Up to a point, the computer models are useful and necessary. They are only harmful when they become a substitute for real-world observation.
  • The moral of this story is that for plants growing under dry conditions, enriched carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a substitute for water. Give a plant more carbon dioxide, and it can make do with less water.
  • But the snobs at our Institute could not tolerate the presence of electrical engineers who sullied with their dirty hands the purity of our scholarly atmosphere. Von Neumann was like Bragg, strong enough to override the opposition. But when von Neumann tragically died, the snobs took their revenge and got rid of the computing project root and branch.
  • We are trying to strengthen and extend in our own era the scientific conspiracy of nations.
  • “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.”
  • intelligent enough to tell the difference between a challenging intellectual adventure and a welfare program for holders of the Ph.D.
  • Complementarity says that nature is too subtle to be described from any single point of view.
  • Perhaps that is why, during all those years when the schools were teaching Latin and Greek and totally neglecting science, England produced so few great classical scholars and so many great scientists.
  • At Cambridge I learned that it is almost impossible for a Russian, even a Russian with wide knowledge of the Western world, to grasp the idea of a government being unable to do whatever it decides to do.
  • One fact of human life is nationalism. In all parts of the world nationalism is the strongest political force. In most places it is the only effective force making possible the organization of people’s efforts for peace or war. Where nationalism is weak, as in Nigeria or Belgium, it is usually because a smaller political unit, a tribe or a province, has usurped the place of the nation in people’s minds. The strength of nationalism in the world as a whole has steadily increased during recent centuries, and is probably still increasing.
  • In the pure white English society into which I was born, having at that time no racial problems to worry about, we developed our famous class system instead. As a middle-class child, I was unable to communicate with most of the children of my neighborhood, since they were “Oiks” and spoke a different dialect.
  • This is human life the way it is, my son wearing his hair odiously long because I dislike to be seen together with it in public, and we of the older generation fulfilling our duty as parents by keeping our hair short and marijuana illegal.
  • We all have a psychological need to feel identified with a group, preferably not too large a group, with a common purpose and a common enemy. Countries as big as the United States are already far too big to fulfill this need satisfactorily. Countries as small as Holland or Switzerland generally handle social problems better than big countries do. Nationalism is most genuine and spontaneous in countries which are both small and threatened, such as Finland or Israel.
  • People will prefer to live in filth with the threat of annihilation hanging over their heads, rather than allow foreigners to tax them.
  • After a government kills one thorium-breeding reactor project, nobody has the heart to try to begin another.
  • Inventive spirits rebel against such rules and leave the leadership of technology to the uninventive. These are the hidden costs of saying no. To mitigate such costs, lawyers and legislators should carry in their hearts the other lesson that Blake has taught us: “One Law for the Lion and Ox is Oppression.”
  • He fails to understand the historical background of the 1940s and 1950s because his interpretations are dominated by the ideological clichés of the 1960s and 1970s. I am not saying that history ought to be morally neutral. I am saying only that history ought to understand before it condemns
  • He came closer than any later historian can come to answering the crucial question, “Would Japan have surrendered if the atomic bombs had not been dropped?” I asked Butow this question explicitly when he was visiting Princeton. Butow replied, “The Japanese leaders themselves do not know the answer to that question, and if they cannot answer it, neither can I.” Butow went on to explain that the Japanese government in 1945 was delicately balanced between the civilian leaders, who were trying to open peace negotiations through the Soviet Union, and the military leaders, who were preparing to defend every inch of Japanese soil with the same suicidal ferocity with which they had defended Okinawa.
  • preventive war in 1936, when Germany was still effectively disarmed and incapable of serious resistance against invading forces, might have overturned Hitler’s regime in a few days and saved the 50 million human beings who were to die in World War 2.
  • a free society needed superior military technology to withstand the superior discipline of a totalitarian enemy, and the military establishment needed a free society to allow scientists and soldiers to work together in an informal and creative style that a totalitarian state could not match.
  • When Heims writes of von Neumann and of the arms race without discussing the notion of “Fighting for Freedom,” that grand illusion that lies at the root of the turmoil and tragedy of our times, he is plowing a shallow furrow in the rich soil of history.
  • The healthy growth of science requires that both traditions be honored. Bacon without Descartes would reduce science to butterfly collecting; Descartes without Bacon would reduce science to pure mathematics.
  • Tolstoy’s uniqueness lies in his profound understanding of the ordinary, and in the very ordinariness of his profound understanding. In his view, truth is not buried but camouflaged. Unlike most thinkers of his time and ours, he rejected philosophy’s prevailing impulse to locate meaning in the distance, in a concealed order. Tolstoy was instead a philosopher of the present, of the open present, with all its unrealized opportunities and wasteful carelessness. (Steve Note – i.e. the god of the open spaces)
  • My friend and colleague, the physicist Chen Ning Yang, told me once that when he was a boy of six in China he looked up at the stars and asked what are the laws that make them move across the sky. But when I was a boy of six in England, I looked up at the stars and asked what are their names
  • When fear of death assails me, as it assails everyone from time to time, I take courage from that memory of green leaves and blue sky. Perhaps, when death comes, he will once again come as a friend.
  • Just as no single termite knows how to build a nest, no single human knows how to build a culture. A single termite alone cannot survive, and a single human being alone is not human. Termite societies are glued together with mud and saliva; human societies are glued together with conversation and friendship. Conversation is the natural and characteristic activity of human beings. Friendship is the milieu within which we function.
  • The destiny of our species is shaped by the imperatives of survival on six distinct time scales. To survive means to compete successfully on all six time scales. But the unit of survival is different at each of the six time scales. On a time scale of years, the unit is the individual. On a time scale of decades, the unit is the family. On a time scale of centuries, the unit is the tribe or nation. On a time scale of millennia, the unit is the culture. On a time scale of tens of millennia, the unit is the species. On a time scale of eons, the unit is the whole web of life on our planet. Every human being is the product of adaptation to the demands of all six time scales. That is why conflicting loyalties are deep in our nature. In order to survive, we have needed to be loyal to ourselves, to our families, to our tribes,