‘Face-veil’ in Renaissance Rome was considered ‘the mark of a courtesan’

It is funny how different cultural traditions can ascribe different values to equivalent things:  in this case, the face veil.

We have come face-to-niqab (if you will excuse the expression) with the Islamic tradition of the face veil and are familiar with it:  Muhammad imposed ‘the veil’ on his wives but not on his concubines.

Some people think ‘Muhammad’s veil’ was worn on the front of the throat, but did not cover the face. This can be seen in some Pakistani dress traditions.

Others think it was based on the Slavic  headscarf, as he is reported to have first seen this garment on the Christian slave girl gifted to him by the patriarchs of Constantinopole.  He became so enamoured of it, he imposed it on all of his wives.  If you look at the linked illustrations, it is possible to think that the hijab could have evolved from it.  (This is, in my never-humble-opinion, the most likely the root of the Islamic ‘veil’, because there is a direct reference in the Hadith to the ‘Christian slave girl’.  Historically, Slavs were hunted by the Mediterranians , in order to be sold to Arabi harems – that is the origin of the word ‘slave’.)

Yet others suggest that the veil Muhammad imposed on his wives was meant to cover their whole face – the niqab.  Some people trace this to ancient symbols of prostitution – perhaps.

But, in our culture, the connection between women covering their faces with a veil while in public and prostitution exists in less distand history.  One need not go further than Renaissance Rome.

For reasons that are not exactly clear even to myself, I have been reading a biography of Lucrecia Borgia by Sarah Bradford.  (It is, perhaps, the worst-written book I have ever tried to chew my way through.  The author is completely absorbed in the minutiae and unless you are familiar with not just the ‘big picture’, but also the ‘medium picture’, you might find – like I did – that without frequent outside references, it is difficult to follow the significance of all the rigorously supported details she has managed to cram into the book.  It is precisely the rigorous support – extensive quotes from numerous letters – of what she writes which has kept me slogging through it…even though her analysis of the letters themselves and of their implications is often flawed, to say the least.)

One of the things I learned (supported by a quote from a letter written in that period), she indicates (though she does not dwell on the subject) that in Rome during the time of the Borgias, the high-class prostitutes – courtesans – would wear a veil that covered their face while they rode through the streets or were in public areas.  Not being well versed in the history of this period, I have not verified this assertion in  another publication – if anyone can suggest books I should check out for this, I would greatly appreciate their help.

While I would like to find further corroboration, the fact that this was a direct quote from a period letter, along with the fact that this was an extraneous detail which simply got in because it was part of a letter focused on another subject altogether, convinces me that this likely was the custom of the day. (The lette-writer complains how low Rome had sunk, as so many of the women one could see about were courtesans, which one could see from the fact that they covered their faces with a veil…)

Married women and mistresses – as well as umarried women and girls – did not veil their faces in public, as there was no need for ‘discretion’.  The lower class prostitutes also did not have a need for ‘discretion’, though for the opposite reason.  It was only the high-class prostitutes, the courtesans, who would cover their faces when on their way to visit ‘clients’.

So, the wearing of the face-veil was a ‘class’ thing:  it signified a higher class status among prostitutes.

Which is very curious, because in the Islamic tradition, ‘the veil’ also carries a very definite class distinction:  because Muhammad had imposed it on his ‘wives’ – but not on women who were his slaves, whether workers or concubines, women who wore ‘the veil’ were of a higher social status than women who did not.

It is the view of some current Muslims (and Muslimas) that wearing the veil is a symbol of membership in a socially superior class: the woman wearing the veil is demonstrating her class superiority over bear-headed women.  This explains why some of the Muslimas wearing veils seem to be doing it as an ‘in-your-face’ aggressive gesture.  Far from representing morality or religious piety, this particular set of Muslimas is wearing the veil as a symbol of their superiority.

I am continously fascinated by how, at different times and in different cultures, the same items symbolized different things.  In one time and place, the face veil represents a higher social status woman.  In another, it denotes a higher social status prostitute.

ADD, Aspergers and the ‘cannot-put-weight-on-foot’ syndrome

This is not a ‘medical theory’ or even an ‘expert hypothesis’,  just my own thoughts and ideas.  Still, I do suspect that ADD/ADHD and Asperges are both a type of ‘cannot-put-weight-on-foot’ syndrome:

Let us do a ‘thought experiment’…

You come to see your doctor because you can’t put any weight on one of your feet, and you want your doctors to help you. They run their ‘standard tests’ and diagnoses you with ‘cannot-put-weight-on-foot’ (CPWOF) syndrome.   You are told that predicting the success of the treatment is difficult, because different approaches work for different people.
Some people are lucky and the CPWOF syndrome goes away on its own – they ‘grow out of it’. For others, there is a variety of treatments they can try, hoping one will work.

They can try icing it – perhaps even using a brace to support it.

They might try hot baths in salty water, perhaps rubbing in some antibiotic ointment.

Some people respond well to pain medication. Or, anti-inflammatory drugs…

Or other ‘stuff’.

Or nothing.

So, let’s try cycling through the treatments!

By now, you may have guessed that the ‘standard tests’ are questionnaires to be filled out by your family, perhaps teachers, for their observations of how you walk. Pages and pages of questions like:

Does he favour his foot: all the time, most of the time, some of the time, a little bit of the time, never. Circle the answer that fits best….

If they want ‘hard metrics’ – you know, ‘scientific data’ – they may ask you to put your foot on a scale and put as much of your weight on it as you can manage. That will give them ‘a hard number’ to work with!

Of course, this diagnosis does not differentiate between the ’causes’ of CPWOF syndrome.   The syndrome itself is so fascinating, they want to take a ‘whole-istic’ (chuckle at their own little joke) approach to it and not get bogged down in the details of ’causes’. (Translation: they don’t know and don’t care.  They have a ‘name’ for it and a bunch of treatments to try, and that’s enough…)

To make a long story short – whether you cannot put weight on your foot because you sprained your ankle or broke your femur or got a rusty nail stuck in your heel – or, if your foot got eaten by some piranhas that somehow got lost and ended up in your bathtub while you were soaking in it – it does not matter. You have ‘cannot-put-weight-on-foot’ syndrome!

(I also secretly suspect that many immune system diseases and disorders, limbic system illnesses and brain chemistry imbalances are also one form of CPWOF syndrome or another…a ‘label’ hung onto a collection of ‘similar’ symptoms, regardless of their root causes.  I also suspect that this interferes with proper analysis of ‘problems’ where one set of root causes can present as a very diverse variety of external symptoms.  This then would, I suspect, prevent correct diagnosis and even preclude a search for any effective treatment…)

In other words, I think that diagnosing someone with ‘ADD’ or ‘Aspergers’ is like diagnosing them with a ‘headache’ – and treating all headaches as if they were ‘the same thing’, regardless of whether it is caused by migranes, having been hit in the head by a baseball, a tumour or having over-indulged in alcohol…or any other billion possible causes for a ‘headache’.

So, what is it that this ‘headache’, this CPWOF of Aspergers and ADD/ADHD is? Instead of ‘not being able to put weight on foot’, we  have ‘malfunctioning filters’.  But, I am getting ahead of myself…

In order to be diagnosed with Aspergers, one has to first be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. As in, everyone who has Aspergers has ADD/ADHD, but not everyone who has ADD/ADHD has Aspergers.  Therefore, it seems reasonable to see if there ‘is’ some ‘common mechanism’ to both conditions which differs from ‘the norm’.

This, then, is my hypothesis:

Both disorders/conditions could be caused by a break-down/partial development/some interference with the same ‘system’ in our brain and which could be described as: fewer ‘filters’, less conscious control over ‘filters’.

The difference is that in ADD/ADHD, only the sensory filters are broken. In Aspergers, these also don’t work, but, there are others that are also broken. And this is what leads to more pervasive disorders, problems, challenges – whatever you want to call them.

What do I mean by ‘sensory filters’?

One simple experiment that just about everyone I know has tried in one form or another is the whole putting one hand into cold water, the other into warm water. At first, we will have strong sensations that one hand is ‘cold’ and the other is ‘hot’. But, as time goes on, this will be less and less – the signal will diminish in strength over time, until we will ‘get used to’ the temperatures. Then, when we take our hands out of the water and touch them to each other, we’ll be amazed at the temperature difference between them when our brain is telling us both are ‘fine’….

That is an example of ‘sensory filters’ at work.

More simple examples:

We feel ‘clothing’ as we got dressed – but we are not consciously aware of every bit of clothing touching every bit of our skin at all times while we are wearing the clothes.

We may hear the furnace/air conditioner is on when we enter a room, but, after being in it for a while, we hardly notice its noise in the background…

People often over-apply perfume, because after they have been wearing it for a while, they do not smell it as much and keep re-applying more and more, increasing the ‘dose’ in order to get the same level of sensory input reporting it.

This is how our ‘filters’ ought to function. And, most ‘normal’ or ‘neurotypical’ people have lots of these ‘filters’, in various strengths.

In ADD/ADHD people, it is as if there were way fewer of these ‘filters’. Instead of, say, 100 (from weakest to strongest), we might have 20.

Or 3.

Or just 2:   100% ‘on’ and 100% ‘off’!

(Not all people with ADD/ADHD will have ALL their filters broken.  Some individuals may have ‘fewer’ filters in one specific area, others may have fewer ‘across the board’.  And, for some, it seems as if the ‘filters’ existed – but were only accessible at some times while totally off-line and unavailable at other times….which would drive their teachers and parents absolutely nuts about ‘inconsistencies in behaviour’! )

So, if the filter were 100% ‘on’, people might be calling your name, the fire alarm might be on, but, since you are reading a book and the rest of your ‘filters’ is ‘100% on’, you honestly do not hear any of it.

The ‘neat’ thing – the one that made me think of this as ‘filters’ rather than anything else – is that you actually DO perceive the sounds physically. It’s just that the brain sticks the information that you perceived the sound into a ‘buffer’ – and leaves it there unless you specifically try to retrieve it. Then it is a toss up as to whether the buffer has been ‘wiped’ or whether you can access the info held in it.

My younger son, for example, would not react to sounds as an infant – sometimes. Not even the ‘flinch’ which babies are supposed to have (say, when we are getting to 8 months of age and so on) when a loud sound happens directly behind them. He had absolutely no reaction. Yet at other times he obviously found even moderate sounds painfully loud…

Now, when he does not respond to what I say – not even aware of me talking to him – and I get his attention, I can ask him ‘what did I say’. He says he doesn’t know. I ask him to’ re-play it’. He does. He can repeat it word per word perfectly.

Only after he repeats it does he comprehend it!

Weird, but true.

My husband has the same thing…..as does my dad.

With Aspergers, these same malfunctions with ‘filters’ – or, perhaps ‘missing filters’ also exist. But, rather than just sensory ones (that drive one to distraction at one point while make them oblivious to their surroundings the next moment), the filters on feelings and emotions and – hormones – are similarly not all there, or broken, or whatever.  (And, having problems with ‘both sets’ it is sometimes difficult to tell where the dividing line ‘ought to lie’…)

So, it is easy for Aspies to get ‘overwhelmed’ by emotion and adrenalin, because where a neurotypical (NT) person would feel a gradual rise in these, we don’t. The floodgates are either down – and we ‘appear cold, unfeeling and un-empathetic’ or they are all the way up and we are ‘out of control’.  Total meltdown.

Many of us learn to develop various ways of ‘shutting down’ as a self-protection from this overwhelming flood….because this flood is often accompanied with adrenalin flood (we panic from being emotionally overwhelmed, which releases the adrenalin…).

This is bad.

Not only does it shut down our brain functions like, say, thinking, it also leaves us physically ill from the overpowering adrenalin rush. We get clammy and shaky and icky inside and out.

And most Aspies really, really, really do not like this feeling.  A lot.

What many people don’t understand is that  it is not just ‘negative’ stuff that can trigger this reaction.  ‘Positive’ emotions and feelings are just as dangerous to Aspies and their end-result is just as unpleasant and uncomfortable – at times quite painful, physically!

So, as we grow up and try to cope with this world (!),  we try to learn how to avoid ’emotionality’, even on a sub-conscious level.

If you know people with ADD/ADHD and/or Aspergers – or if you happen to be one yourself – please, try to see your experiences through the prism of my little hypothesis.  Then, whether it ‘makes sense’ or not – or any other observations you might have about this, please, let me know through the comments.  Pooling our observations and analysis might, perhaps, help us help each other!

(Cross-posted at Xanthippa on Aspergers)

Diaspora and our ‘bronze-age-brains’

There are two common-use meanings for this term:  diaspora and Diaspora.

The ‘little d’ diaspora refers to any (more-or-less) peaceful migration or immigration or general re-settlement of a socially cohesive group of people with a well-defined social identity into an already populated area, with no intention of integrating into the host society.  The ‘capital D’ diaspora refers to one specific ‘little d’ diaspora:  the expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans and their resultant scattering around the World.

At this point, I am only focusing on ‘little d’ diaspora.

This ‘diaspora’ is a curious concept:  a group of people who share a common ancestry/language/culture/religion – such as a tribe, or a clan, settle in an area already inhabited by ‘different people’.  Once there, they do not attempt to gain the land by conquest:  they either legally purchase it or, if the population density is low, they simply settle there and eventually claim squatter’s rights. So, there is no war.

The ‘newcomers’ are usually not perceived as hostile, so the people in the ‘host culture’ do not harbour hostility towards them.  Or, at least, not particularly so.  At the beginning.

But, we, humans, have come to be who we are by following a certain path of social evolution.

Each one of us is, first and foremost, an individual.  And, even in the most collectivistic of human societies, there is an acknowledgement (or a lament) that we are, indeed, individuals.

This fact that each of us is an individual does not, in any way, change that we are also very social:  we nurture our young and have long learned that pooling our resources can help us survive and succeed.  We don’t always agree on how much of our resources ought to be pooled, and how this pooling ought to be accomplished – but that is a different matter.

Different human societies have indeed reached different states of balance (or, imbalance) between the ‘individual’ and ‘society’.  This is only to be expected, because humans are such a prolific organism that we thrive – or, at least, survive – in greatly varying regions of the world.  These produce very different pressures (stresses) on the different human groups and their social rules that they govern themselves by.  Thus, very different attitudes, moral codes and social rules had developed.

Many people I have talked to seem to think that there is some sort of a ‘universal’ set of rules of ‘morality’ that all people subscribe to.  I am sorry to disappoint these people:  there is no such thing.  It is only because most cultures which had, historically, interacted with each other had been ones which were also in physical proximity:  thus, both a similar set of environmental pressures and long-term contact (such as trade) between the cultures served to spread ideas, learn of each other’s attitudes – in short, served as a ‘normalizing’ pressure on the development of these cultures.  This then gives an ‘appearance’ of ‘universal’ concepts of ‘right and wrong’.

Thus, this ‘universality’ is no more than an appearance.  What worked for one group of people in one specific time and place became their set of ‘right and wrong’.  Sure, if they learned a rule that seemed to produce better results, they usually found a way of incorporating this new rule into their society.  (Often, this was in the form of a new deity – which is why so many monotheistic cultures seem to freeze in their ‘moral’ development… but THAT is a completely different post!)

Isolated cultures are  prime examples of just how different ‘right and wrong’ is, depending on the pressures on the society.  Most ‘mainland’ cultures prospered if there were more offspring:  the more babies born, the more were likely to survive and become productive members of their clan, the better the clan did.  So, in most of these cultures, homosexuality (actually, most activities which would divert natural sex-drive away from baby-production) was forbidden and became considered ‘immoral’.  I remember my Anthropology prof telling us about an isolated culture on a small South Pacific island, where the overpopulation was the stress which drove the development of the society.  On this island, homosexuality was not only permitted, it was considered to be morally superior to heterosexuality!  As a matter of fact, heterosexual sex was taboo for over 300 days of the year…

The same is true of ‘murder’ – the concept of ‘killing another human being’ as ‘bad’ or ‘immoral’ is actually not all that common… as I have ranted on before.

As any physician will readily confirm, our brains are not any different from those of our bronze-age ancestors.  Sure, when we have better nutrition and vitamins, when we grow up mostly free of diseases, our brains develop into a much fuller potential then they would otherwise.  But not all our ancestors were malnurished or ill….  Our brains are have the very same physical characteristics, the same ‘blueprint’, if you will, that the brains of our bronze-age-ancestors did.

What differentiates us from our ancestors is our culture – our learning and our social attitudes.  In other words, ‘culture’ is what ‘defines us’ as ‘us’.

As opposed to ‘them’.

And this ‘them’ concept is extremely important to the way our ‘bronze-age blueprint-of-a-brain’:  because in our bronze-age past, ‘them’ could never really be trusted!  The simple fact that ‘they’ were not ‘us’, but ‘they’ meant that ‘they’ did not have a vested interest in ‘our’ survival.

That is why so many ‘ kings/chieftains’ would marry a daughter of a king/chieftain with whom they had just reached a peace-treaty:  the ‘father-king’ would have a vested interest in the survival of his grand-children, just as the ‘bride-groom-king’ has a vested interest in the survival of his own children.  This marriage and its ‘blood-bond’ reduces the ‘they’ factor and makes both sides see the other as at least a little bit more part of ‘us’.

Which brings me back to the ‘diaspora’:  the very point of a diaspora is that the newcomers do not become part of the ‘us’ which surrounds them. By the very definition of the word ‘diaspora’, these newcomers have a fully formed cultural (which includes religious) identity of their own and are not willing to compromise it in any way – especially through mingling of the blood!

In other words, the newcomers – by their choice – do not become ‘us’ to their neighbours/hosts.

This results in both sides being unable to fully trust each other:  blame our ‘bronze-aged brains’!

The ‘frog in hot water’ story…

First of all, I must say that I do not approve of this sort of experiments.  Not at all.

Still, this story is worth learning from:

If someone puts a frog into a pot of very hot water, the frog will jump out of the pot.  BUT,  if one puts the frog into a  pot of cool water, and then heats it up very, very slowly, the frog will not jump out – it will allow itself to be boiled!

Because the temperature is increasing so slowly, there is no ‘trigger’ to signal the danger in the frog…so the frog takes no action to avoid it!

When it comes to our rights and freedoms, we are a lot like these frogs:  because our rights are being eroded very, very slowly, we just sit there and allow it to go on and on and on, without lifting a finger to try and preserve the very rights and freedoms which define our society.

Because  the process of erosion of our rigthts is so slow and gradual, we lack the ‘trigger’, that one ‘oppression’ which is, on its own, worth standing up and starting to fight!

And that is, in a very real way, true.  No single little encroachment on our rights, no new little oppression, is, by itself, so big that it alone would be worthy of a ‘revolt‘.  That is why it is so easy to ridicule those who get incensed about it!

But it is the continuous process of steady and unmistakable – and, it seems, unavoidable – usurption of our rights, encroachment on our freedoms, which is going to leave us slaves of The State:

  • The State will control what we can spend all of our money on (they will tax just about all our disposable income and only give us ‘tax-rebates’ to buy the products they ‘approve’:  an ‘allowance’ which we will only ‘get’ if we spend it ‘the right way’)
  • The State will control what medical care is warranted, and when, and who maybenefit from it and who may not (many ‘smokers’ are already being denied medical treatment…just the tip of the iceberg:  the justification that ‘we are all paying into Medicare, so we have the right what ‘risks’ to your health you must avoid’ will be used more and more to control people’s private behaviour, threatening to deny medical treatment to those who do not comply) (OK – I worded this badly…I am trying to get across that The State already does, and will do so more and more, use the justification that it is ‘paid into by’ everyone’ – so ‘everyone’  has the responsibily to only use it ‘wisely’ – and since they are administering it, they get to decided what is ‘using it wisely’ ‘ to weild ‘Medicare’ as a means of controlling more and more of our behaviours.)
  • The State already controls what we may or may not eat/put into our body – and these laws are becoming more and more intrusive, and will continue this trend
  • The State is passing more and more laws which erode private property rights and regulate how we may or may not behave while we are ‘in our private homes’
  • The State already controls education
  • More and more people are becoming directly or indirectly employed by The State, as The State is increasingly usurping the roles of private businesses:  this gives The State even more intrusive control over the populationwhile effectively suppressing dissent (most people are afraid to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’)
  • The State is increasingly controlling what we may or may not say – and has even, through its singularly misnamed ‘Human Rights Commissions/Tribunals’ – found a way to punish people for thinking forbidden thoughts!
  • …the list goes on and on and on…

And because each tiny little step is so small, we are letting it happen!

We should pay attention to the ‘frog in hot water’ story, before it is too late to ‘jump out of the pot’!

Groundhog Day – What does it mean?

If you live in North America, you are likely ‘familiar’ with ‘Groundhog Day’:  on the 2nd of February, ‘The Groudhog wakes from winter slumber and sticks hear head out of her den.

If it is sunny enough for the groundhog to cast a shadow, the sleepy gal will get startled and run back into her den to continue napping.  This will cause the cold winter weather to continue for 6 more weeks.  If it is cloudy, there will be no shadow to startle her and she’ll wake up nice and slowly.  She will then stay awake, causing the winter weather to recede and the spring weather to come early.

So, what is this quaint little legend all about?

Perhaps there is a reversal of causality:  this could simply be a weather pattern observation, set into a quaint little story.  After all, during the coldest winter temperatures, the sky is cloud-free and sunny.  Clouds act like a blanket that traps heat, so cloudy winter days tend to be warmer.  That is why it never snows when the temperatures are cold.  (We are talking relative winter temperatures here….as in, -40 degrees (Celsius and Fahrenheit ‘meet’ this point) is ‘chilly’, -10 degrees Celsius is ‘warm’.  Remember, I am writing from Canada.)  When it gets that cold, one could not even drive a groundhog out of its den!

It is conceivable that, over generations, people observed that if this time period was particularly cold – it was likely to signal that the winter weather would drag on for a bit.  Conversely, if the temperature at this time was mild, it would be followed by more mild weather, bringing the spring in earlier.  So, the co-relation.

Plausible.  Or, the roots of ‘Groundhog Day’ may lie somewhere else….

There are several things which are significant:

  1. The date – 2nd of February (plus or minus a day or two)
  2. 6 more weeks of winter
  3. The Groundhog herself
  4. The Groundhog affects the weather

1.  The date:  2nd of February

It is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox:  this makes it a ‘cross-quarter day’.

From earliest historical records of human civilizations, we have seen that the solstices and equinoxes had been noted and celebrated by our ancestors.  These 4 ‘easy to define’ (through simple observation) markers of the Earth’s annual cycle are called ‘quarter days’.  The midpoints between them – when that season is most ‘intense’ – are also marked: these are called ‘cross-quarter days’.

Many cultures have described this ‘cycle’ as the ‘Wheel of the Year’:


This image is from the names of the ‘marker days’ reflect the one of traditions descended from the British isles.  The ‘Pagan’ belief systems which accompany the annual cycles associate various Gods and Goddesses with specific parts of this cycle.

The 2nd of February is Candlemas, often also called Imbolc.  When considering the roots ‘Groundhog Day’, its date would suggest that we are not discussing simple long-term weather pattern observation.

2. ‘6 more weeks of winter’

This is also closely connected to the Wheel of the Year:  the period between each of the 8 ‘markers’ along the wheel is 6 weeks.

Let us consider the ‘season’ of ‘winter:

Astronomically, Winter Solstice marks the first day of winter and the darkest day of the year – after this point, daylight periods: begin to lengthen.   Astrologically, this marks the ‘Rebirth of the Sun’:  still too ‘young’ to bring warmth, but his strength is growing.

Even though the Sun had been ‘reborn’ and the days are now getting longer, the momentum of the ‘cooling’ takes 6 weeks to ‘ripen’.  That is why, 6 weeks after the beginning of a season, its’ ‘weather characteristics’ are the ‘strongest’.  And, winter is usually most bitter around the beginning of  February… just as we approach the ‘height of the season ‘holiday’:  Candlemas.

Accordingly, following Candlemas, winter begins to recede.  It is still there – but overall, the temperatures begin to warm, the sun is more visible and begins to slowly but surely melt the snow… and it will only be 6 weeks before the day is longer than the night!

Is it only co-incidence that the ‘Groundhog Day’ tradition cites this identical time period of 6 weeks?

3.  The ‘Groundhog’ herself

Spring is the time when things begin to grow.  Accordingly, Pagans associated growth and fecundity with spring and anthropomorphised the principle into the Goddess of Spring and Renewal:  Eostera (also spelled Ostara, and about 8 other ways, like ‘Easter’).

What is interesting about this goddess is that she is said to ‘awake’ on the winter cross-quarter day, Candlemas.  As she awakens, she adds her own magic to strengthen the growing Sun and because of her effort, the winter begins to recede.

Her power is greatest at the full moon following the Spring Equinox:  that is how we derive the timing of our Easter celebrations even today.  (Yes, there is a ‘detour’ through the Judeo-Christian tradition, but their ‘timimng’ of these festivals in Judaism and Christianity ultimately leads to the same archetype, even if through Ishtar and Isis.)

Since chickens only lay eggs when the day is longer than the night, the Spring Equinox marked the return of this cherished source of nutrition:  it became one of the symbols of the Goddess Eostera.  With their renown fecundity – and the timing of giving birth to their babies – rabbits also became symbols of Eostera.  And yes, that is why the ‘Easter Bunny brings eggs’.

Yet, there was another shape Eostera is said to take on when appearing to humans:  Groundhog.

So, is it co-incidence that it is Groundhog, as opposed to another hibernating animal, day?

4. The Groundhog affects the weather

Our little modern myth of Groundhog Day specifically states that it is the groundhog who changes the weather – not the other way around.  Why should the groundhogs ‘going back to sleep’ cause the weather to be colder, while ‘staying awake’ would cause it to warm up?

Curiously enough, it is when Eostera awakens and lends a helping hand to the Sun that the Pagan myths say winter begins to recede…  Co-incidence?  I think not!

In Conclusion

Today, ‘Groundhog Day’ is in no way a ‘religious celebration’.  Not in the least!  It is nothing more than a bit of fun to liven up chilly winter days.

Yes, it contains an echo of its roots in old Pagan traditions.  And that’s great!  Just as ‘inheriting your mother’s smile’ does not make one the same person as one’s mother, having fun with Groundhog Day does not mean one is inheriting its ancient religious significance.

Yet, just as looking at an old family photo album is fun, allowing one to trace certain characteristics they inherited from various ancestors, it is also fun to trace our today’s fun little customs, to see which echos of our ancestor’s traditions we have inherited!  It’s just a different kind of a ‘photo album’…

add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

‘Tax cut’ vs. ‘tax rebate’

What exactly is the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’?  There are several very fundamental differences.

First, let us look at ‘taxes’

Taxes are the money we pay to our government.  This money is supposed to be used for something people need to get together for in order to achieve, such as ‘policing’ and ‘national defence’.  Other ‘common goods’, such as education, road construction, and so on,  are among the things we contract our governments to do.  Paying taxes is the way we ‘pool our pennies’ to do this. 

We pay taxes in many ways.  It can be through income taxes, where an employer has to take a part of a worker’s earnings and send it to the government – only the remnant goes to the worker.  Or, it can be through consumption taxes, where part of the price of each product or service is raised by some amount which is then paid (remitted) by the merchant or service provider to the government.  There is more, but – you get the picture.

The government has lots of wonderful, highly trained (and higly paid) civil servants who keep meticulous records of every penny that comes in:  whom it comes from and where it is going.  They also keep meticulous records making sure everybody has paid what they are supposed to.

Tax Cut

In a tax cut, the amount of money the government asks for is reduced.  Fewer pennies are coming into the government coffers, so more of them stay in your pocket – either because less of your wages gets sent to the government so that more can go to you, or because the price you pay for something is closer to its cost, since the price is less artificially raised by taxes. 

It also means that fewer pennies are entering the government coffers.  And (in an ideal world) fewer pennies coming in means fewer people who need to keep meticulous records of the pennies.  As in, fewer highly skilled, well paid professionals whose salaries are paid from all these pennies coming in.

Tax Rebate

A tax rebate works very differently.  The government is asking for the same amount of money to be sent into the government coffers, so the same amount of money is taken from a worker’s paycheque as before and sent to the government.  Buying ‘stuff’ is still expensive, because the price of everything still includes the same amount of of taxes – which are sent to the government coffers. 

The legions of highly trained (and highly paid) civil servants still keep meticulous track of all of this.  Then, at the end of the year, after the civil servants have done all the figuring out and balancing of things, they decide how much more you have paid than you should have.  So, they issue a cheque for this amount and send it to you. 

All this time, these pennies were in the government coffers, not in your pockets – so it was much harder to make the ends meet during the whole year….but now, you get a little bit back.

These are the ‘mechanics’, if you will, of the difference between a ‘tax cut’ and a ‘tax rebate’.  But there is another very important difference between these two – a difference I have not really heard people discussing. 

It is the difference in who is dominant in the government-taxpayer relationship.

When we pay taxes to our government, we are, in effect, contracting the government to act on our behalf in certain areas.  We, the taxpayers, are the boss.  Yes, the government has means to coerce us to pay, but the psychological and philosophical principle holds for how the relationship is set up.  The individual is the one who is employing the government, the individual is the empowering partner in the relationship.

When the government sends us rebates, it is the government who is the decisionmaker and the dominant partner in the relationship.  The taxpayer is reduced to the grateful recipient while the government is the power which decides who deserves to get money, and how much.

To make it easier to understand the relationship, let’s reduce the scale to the level of a family.  One partner works and earns a paycheque, the other looks after the household. 

If the earner controls the money, then the earner decides how much to hand over to the one who looks after the household and how much to keep.  The house-keeper may ask for extra when needed, but it is the earner who is in control.  If, on the other hand, the earner hands over the full paycheque to the house-keeper, and perhaps gets a little allowance for personal expenses, it is the house-keeper who is in control…  as in the first minute or so of the clip below:

To sum up, the idea behind a tax rebate in Oscar’s words:   ‘Holy hell!  The government has us on an allowance!’

Question about ‘Hippies’

All right, we all know what the Hippies stood for:  peace and love and removing socially repressive barriers imposed by mainstream culture.  Sort of  modern-day Dionysians, except with LDS and marijuana instead of wine…

They self-describe as being peaceful, accepting, laid-back…  When one hears the word, we think of open-air music festivals, free love, the ‘peace’ movement, bad hair and ‘punch-Buggies’ painted in psychadelic colours and other similar cultural icons of the 60’s era.

Here is my question:

What can we conclude about the Hippie counterculture from the fact that they self-branded with the only car whose distinctive ‘look’ was designed by Adolf Hitler?

One lie comes out to light!

As I wrote yesterday:  a lie repeated often enough eventually becomes perceived as the truth (because of the mechanisms our brain uses to process its input), I had no idea one frequently repeated – and widely accepted as true – statement would be proven to be a big, fat lie!!!

Perhaps only Canadians are following the circus happening in the Star Chambers of the British Columbia HRC .  (The commission sometimes has tribunals – but as they are the same people, the names get confusing…officially, they call themselves tribunal in BC- usually they say commission/tribunal.  I think they are just trying to confuse us.) 

What is happening there?

The BC HRC(/T) is dragging a mainstream news magazine, Macleans, and a writer, Mark Steyn, ‘onto the carpet’ for having the audacity to quote a Norwegian Imam.  Apparently, his words could cause prejudice or hate against Muslims in BC, and so they should not be allowed to print them.  The fact that the statement was quoted truly and accurately – and in context – is no defence.  It is the fact that the statement could be perceived as ‘hateful’ or ‘demeaning’ .  Not was, just could be.  So, no need to go through that pesky business of proving any actual damages….

What is perhaps most frightening is that TRUTH IS NO DEFENSE!!!

The complainants live in Ontario.  The magazine is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.  The writer lives in the USA.  Yet, the complaint is brought forward in BC….among other places (yes, double or tripple jeopardy do not apply).

One of the key pillars of their position, the thing that demonstrated how ‘unreasonable’ the magazine’s behaviour was, was the complainant’s insistence that MacLeans refused their suggestion that they publish an impartial article on that topic, written by a mutually acceptable writer.

Today, the truth comes out!  This was NEVER part of their demands! 

They never asked for a ‘more neutral’ article to be published, to be written by a mutually acceptable – or agreed upon (one variation wording of the LIE) writer.  Never.  One of the complainants admitted this, today, under oath, while questioned by a lawyed for Macleans who was actually present at that meeting where this alleged request took place.

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Thanks for Blazing Catfur for the tip! 

More Mind Games

Yesterday, I had a fun post on how easily our perceptions can play mind games on us – looking at optical illusons.  Of course, optical illusions, at least of the ‘fun’ type, are just the tip of the iceberg!

The post showed, I hope, just how easy it is for our eyes to be tricked. 

Our brains are wonderful, comples structures.  They take the information from our eyes, and process it.  It is this processing of information which ‘tricks’ our mind.  Why?  Because our brains have developed some mightily useful ways of ‘figuring things out’ without telling us.  At least, without telling that conscious part of our thoughts we often think of as ‘us’. 

Yes, it is a form of subconscious ‘prejudice’ system – but it is precisely through this type of ‘pre-judgements’ that let humans  anticipate what is likely to happen next, so as to react in the best, most advantageour (to survival) way.  {Aside:  it is precisely because so many of our bad prejudices are also rooted this very deeply, among other survival tools, that we have a hard time recognizing our own ones… and why it is healthy for us to see other people’s ‘obvious’ prejudice openly, so we may learn to recognize our own bad/destructive/unreasonable prejucices and guard against acting on them.  But, that is for another day…}

When our brain gets some input, it matches this input to ‘past experiences’, compares patterns, looks for similarities.  It then interprets this new inputas best as it can – with respect to all the stored past experiences! And it does so quickly, without us even noticing it is doing it…

That is why we find it so hard to ‘wrap our brains’ around something completely new and outside of our experiences:  our brain has nothing to match it to, and would be just as happy ‘not noticing it’…

The immortal Douglas Adams was quite fascinated by this phenomenon.  And, as was his way, he used humour to get his point across… Please, indulge me (highly paraphrased):

The story went something like this:  A guy had a bet with some people about erecting an invisibility field on the mountain that blocked his view…  It was no easy thing, and in the end, the nay-sayers had lost, because even though the mountain could no longer be seen, there was now a suspicious new moon in low orbit, just about the size of that mountain…  Douglas Adams said that trying to generate an ‘invisibility field’ was silly, that is just so very troublesome.  It would have been much easier to simply paint the mountain pink during the nighttime and erect an S.E.P. field on it.

What is an S.E.P. field?  It simply means ‘Somebody Else’s Problem’ – anything that is ‘unusual’ or appears’ unexpected, and has this S.E.P. field on it – will be less than invisible!  People will look straight through it and not see it!  Their brain will just process it as ‘somebody else’s problem’ and refuse to acknowledge its existence…

Seems to me that this is one take on the whole ‘mind tricks’ phenomenon I am trying to get at.  Can’t relate to it – it’s not there. 

But, there are way more sinister uses of this ability we, people have, to interpret what we see according to familiar patterns.  This can be seriously abused by people with very particular – and not always honourable – aims.

Just like we can be tricked by a simple optical illusion, we can be tricked into seeing ‘things’ that never happened.  And once people ‘see things for themselves’, they accept them as true… and belieave them.

All our actions are based on what we perceive.  Not on facts – only on what we think are the acts. Not on truth, because we have no way of separating truth from our very distorted – and sometimes intentionally tricked – perceptions of the truth, on what we think the truth is.

A lie repeated often enough will eventually appear to us as the truth (it’s precisely this ‘previously encountered pattern’ matching thing in our subconsciousness that does this!). 

Conversly, a truth never heard of, will never be considered when one makes decisions.  After all, we can only decide on our best understanding of the truth…

Perhaps it is time we took a moment and re-evaluated just how easy it is for our brains to become victims of ‘mind games’…

Perceptions and mind games

Our mind is always processing ‘stuff’ around us.  And it is relatively easy for our mind trick us into perceiving things that are not there, or into not perceiving things that are there.  And so on….

This is such a fascinating subject!  What is it about our minds that allows this trickery to go on?  Many people have been asking this – Scientific American addresses it in ‘The Neuroscience of Illusion’.

Yes, true, this is looking at optical illusions only, but, well, that is the first step!  And some of these illusions are pretty neat! (If you want to skip the article, here is a link for the 5 illusions themselves).  And here is a whole gallery of them!

And, in my never-humble-way, here, for your enjoyment, is an optical illusion that I think is my own (though, with the mind playing tricks like this, I might have seen it somewhere, and then just been tricked into thinking I thought of it…) 

Do you see the big bird, or the little bird?

Because it is in a tree, it is ‘obvious’ (hopefully) that this is a picture of a bird.  Well, two birds – but not at once.  One is a big bird, one is a little bird.

Which one did you see first?