Gays in the military, in history

The Senate struck down the  “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, allowing gays to serve openly in the military.  Unlike gay marriage, this is not unprecedented.  In fact, the Greeks sometimes purposefully cultivated homosexual attachments in military units in order to build unit cohesion.   This happened among the Spartans.  The most famous example, though, was the elite fighting force known as the Theban Band, a.k.a., the Sacred Band of Thebes:

Plutarch records that the Sacred Band was made up of male couples, the rationale being that lovers could fight more fiercely and cohesively than strangers with no ardent bonds. According to Plutarch’s Life of Pelopidas[2], the inspiration for the Band’s formation came from Plato’s Symposium, wherein the character Phaedrus remarks,

“And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their beloved, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?”

The Sacred Band originally was formed of hand-picked men who were couples, each lover and beloved selected from the ranks of the existing Theban citizen-army. The pairs consisted of the older “heníochoi”, or charioteers, and the younger “parabátai”, or companions, all housed and trained at the city’s expense in order to fight as hoplites.  During their early engagements, they were dispersed by Gorgidas throughout the front ranks of the Theban army in an attempt to bolster morale.

via Sacred Band of Thebes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

This, of course, is not the kind of unit cohesion our forces try to cultivate today.   The soldiers in these arrangements would live in homosexual relationships during their military commitment, but then afterwards they would usually get married and live normal heterosexual lives.

There is apparently a cultural component, at least in some cases, to homosexual behavior.  I’m not denying that some people seem to have some sort of innate same-sex attraction.  Still, it might help to study homosexuality in the ancient world, which was rampant–contrary to those who think the Biblical authors did not know anything about the subject–and yet it was also fluid–contrary to those who insist that homosexuality is always a fixed condition–with people going back and forth from homosexuality and heterosexuality.

Americans have gotten pessimistic

Engrained in the American character, it seemed, was optimism.  Liberals believe in progress and Conservatives believe in Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America.”  Now, though, we are seeing something very different:

Americans are deeply pessimistic about the state of the country and its future, according to a series of new national polls, a negativity that puts politicians in a difficult place as they try to woo voters and keep hold on office.

In the new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, the highest number in President Obama’s term to date. A similar 67 percent said the country was headed off on the wrong track in a Washington Post/ABC News survey released earlier this week.

New Pew data paints an even darker picture of Americans’ views about our current standing — particularly in regards the economy. Nearly nine in ten Americans say the current economic conditions are either “fair” or “poor” and there is an overwhelming sense that we as a country are losing ground.

Fully 67 percent of the sample said the country was “losing ground” on the budget deficit — today’s expected House vote on the tax cut compromise won’t help there — while 64 percent say ground is being lost on “cost of living”. Two thirds (63 percent) said the country is losing ground on the “availability of good-paying jobs” and 58 percent said the same about the “rich-poor gap”.

The numbers are startling and make clear the challenge before President Obama — or any politician — hoping to convince people that better days are indeed ahead.

via The Fix – America the pessimistic.

So, are you pessimistic, or have you found some grounds for optimism?  Might this new pessimistic phase be healthy for Americans?  Or the contrary?  And what does Christianity have to say about this?

The nativity in online terms

Have you seen this?  (If the video doesn’t show up, hit “comments” so that you can see the post separately. You should be able to see it then.)

{httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkHNNPM7pJA&feature=player_embedded}

HT:  Mary

Medieval England was better off than many countries today

More stereotype-busting about the Middle Ages.  From Science Daily:

New research led by economists at the University of Warwick reveals that medieval England was not only far more prosperous than previously believed, it also actually boasted an average income that would be more than double the average per capita income of the world’s poorest nations today.

In a paper entitled British Economic Growth 1270-1870 published by the University of Warwick’s Centre on Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) the researchers find that living standards in medieval England were far above the “bare bones subsistence” experience of people in many of today’s poor countries.

The figure of $400 annually (as expressed in 1990 international dollars) is commonly is used as a measure of “bare bones subsistence” and was previously believed to be the average income in England in the middle ages.

However the University of Warwick led researchers found that English per capita incomes in the late Middle Ages were actually of the order of $1,000 (again as expressed in 1990 dollars). Even on the eve of the Black Death, which first struck in 1348/49, the researchers found per capita incomes in England of more than $800 using the same 1990 dollar measure. Their estimates for other European countries also suggest late medieval living standards well above $400.

This new figure of $1,000 is not only significantly higher than previous estimates for that period in England — it also indicates that on average medieval England was better off than some of the world’s poorest nations today including the following (again average annual income as expressed in 1990 dollars).

Zaire $249

Burundi $479

Niger $514

Central African Republic $536

Comoro Islands $549

Togo $606

Guinea Bissau $617

Guinea $628

Sierra Leone $686

Haiti at $686

Chad $706

Zimbabwe $779

Afghanistan $869

via Medieval England twice as well off as today’s poorest nations.

HT:Joe Carter

Man of the Year

Time Magazine has announced that its Person of the Year for 2010 is Mark Zuckerberg , the founder of Facebook.  And why not?  He had a good year, as his online nation reached 500 million members and he had an movie made about him that is getting Oscar buzz.

Do you think he deserves the honor?  Who would you nominate for Person of the Year?

Civil unions replacing marriage

Gays want to get married while straight couples want to have civil unions.   In France, the latter newly-invented institution has become a sort of marriage-lite, a temporary marriage without the threat of alimony or child support.  Though designed to accommodate gays, most civil unions in France are being entered into by heterosexual couples.  From the New York Times:

Some are divorced and disenchanted with marriage; others are young couples ideologically opposed to marriage, but eager to lighten their tax burdens. Many are lovers not quite ready for old-fashioned matrimony.

Whatever their reasons, and they vary widely, French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages.

When France created its system of civil unions in 1999, it was heralded as a revolution in gay rights, a relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many couples would make use of the new law. Nor was it predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of civil unions would be between straight couples.

It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one. But it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes — and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter.

“We’re the generation of divorced parents,” explained Maud Hugot, 32, an aide at the Health Ministry who signed a PACS with her girlfriend, Nathalie Mondot, 33, this year. Expressing a view that researchers say is becoming commonplace among same-sex couples and heterosexuals alike, she added, “The notion of eternal marriage has grown obsolete.”

via In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage – NYTimes.com.


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