Friday, November 12, 2010

Earthquakes, Mt. Merapi, Lorenzo & the dark ages

I am P1010510working on my next Greece post. But just for something both Greek and Minoan, the photo is from excavations of a Minoan town on Santorini. Notice how the stone steps are buckled. That reflects the force of the earthquake that destroyed the town. The subsequent volcanic eruption buried it, preserving it for today.

Congratulations to North Coast Voices on turning three. I may disagree with the collective from time to time, but I am always glad that they are there.

Congratulations, too, to Paul Barratt on visitor 35,000 to Australian Observer. The blog only began in February 2009, so that's not bad at all.

In 7/11 in Burma: the shelves are bare, Paul repeats a comment on the Burmese elections by former Australian Ambassador Garry Woodard. It makes for depressing reading.

In the The Eruption of Mt. Merapi, Niar provides an interesting and very human picture of this natural disaster. Niar, by the way, is now working for the ASEAN Secretariat, thus achieving one of the objectives she blogged about while she was still at University in Jember.

I hadn't really read Lorenzo's blog Thinking Out Loud until we had a discussion on one of the Skepticslawer posts. While I have yet to respond as promised with comments on one of his posts, I have been reading the blog with interest.

I wasn't sure of Lorenzo's background beyond his blog description as a free-lance educator, Clearly he had a very impressive historical knowledge, so I followed the links through to Multisensory Education Pty. Ltd. This "offers a wide range of educational programs, including our extremely comprehensive range of history incursion programs for schools under the trading name 'Medieval Education'." From the front page, I then followed through to the Directors, where I found Michael Warby.

In one of my Greek posts, Mad, bad and dangerous to know, I commented that I grew up in an Australian world that was saturated with history in a way that was, I thought, not true today. That's good. I also noted that the historical view I absorbed was partial, fitting into a particular view of historical progression. That's not necessarily bad, history is always partial, but it does need to be corrected, challenged, by the evidence.

One element of that partial view I grew up with can be simply summarised: medieval = dark ages. Rome fell, and Western Europe was plunged into darkness. I was never totally comfortable with that view, but it was quite pervasive. Part of Lorenzo's mission, if I can put it that way, is to bring the medieval period out of the dark, to present it as it was, a time of change. I quote from one of his posts:

There is surely no period of European history that is loaded down with more misconceptions than the medieval period. It is regularly dismissed as centuries of social stagnation, fearful of change, an intellectual desert.

Lorenzo argues the alternative view quite persuasively. To see what I mean, have a look at these posts in order:

In his professional capacity as Michael, Lorenzo states in part that his "specialty is analysis of how social structures develop over time". I wouldn't claim this as a speciality, but it's certainly an interest. As part of this, both of us use our historical knowledge to inform our commentary on social structures, social change and the present.

Now this is, I think, where there are differences between us flowing from our different experiences and world views. Our different frames affect our use of history in present discussions.

I make this point cautiously because I have not yet read enough of Lorenzo's thinking to fully understand his underlying positions. I think that it will be interesting to find out more.   

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