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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Unsung role of Dinner in the Historical rise of Cooperative Action

Why is it that at particular times and places, a certain collection of individuals set aside their competitive natures, their feuding, and take collective action? The otherwise inexplicable "union" of disparate peoples into Mongols (from feuding tribes), or British, or Americans, for example, how does this happen?

We know that Ghengis Khan met with the man who had killed his father and who, by all the traditions of race and tribe, he should have avenged in blood. We know that instead of combat, the two met over Dinner, again and again, and invited others to the feast, and instead of continuing centuries of blood feuds, they formed a new and unitary concept -- the "Mongol" meme was formed.

More recently, we are able to give names to the people who were in charge of the unifying Dinner. For example, the American Colonies were extremely fractious. Even after cobbled together in the sinews of War and Treaties of Trade, each "State" was jealous and a creature of its native and competitively loyal sons. In particular, the "Southern" Virginians (Jeffersonians) and the "Northern" New Englanders (Federalists) were riven by major cultural and economic divisions. Yet the "United" States held together through the War of 1812 in spite of the total destruction of its capital, its economy, its Navy, its military, and the loss of every possible ally. France did not come on this occasion. The best explanation for the residual survival of the Americans as a unified country is...Dinner! Dolly Madison, the wife of the President during this "final" destruction of the Revolutionary impulse, was such a great hostess, we are still familiar with her name to this day as a Dinner enabler.

Again, a hostess serves as the best explanation for the ascendence of the "British" people in their most golden hours. At the turn of the century in the 1800-1900's, Dinner became a profound event in England. The viciously competitive scions of the nasty little prep schools -- widely and uniformly described by a variety of writers (C.S. Lewis, Shaw, Chesterton, Dahl) -- set aside their squabbles and dominated the world in a thinly-spread unitary action. Why? In the same period, it was the golden age of Dining. Jenny Churchill would deliberately invite arch-enemies to dinner, and somewhere between the chery and the cheroot, they would put aside their hostilities, and proceed to govern ungovernable India, build railroads in Bolivia, and trade centers in Africa and Hong Kong.

Of course, the hostess was a woman, and the "event", Dinner, was hardly monumental. Nothing is left in stone. Still, the China is there.

Speaking of "the China", the discovery of ceramic techniques in China is itself a large and as yet unexplored explanation for how the Chinese civilization unified. Again, it was a Dinner event. The appeal to graces and the belly, under the auspices of a hostess whose name, and whose critical role, has been overlooked.
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