Archive for culture
No one has ever made me laugh so hard.
I did not realize that this was ‘a thing’ until I made a recent trip to Washington. This video is an excellent feature story on the phenomenon:
For centuries, nothing was more meaningful or more defining than whether one was born to a noble family. One’s entire existence was influenced in every single aspect by the accident of birth into a certain social class.
After WWI, the titles of European nobility started to lose their value. Save for a couple of Windsors or Borbons, the rest of the “nobles” accepted that their titles’ place was on the trash heap of history. I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant for the antiquated aristocrats to see how “nobodies” were stripping them of importance but that’s the march of history for you.
Today the same is happening with citizenship. And people are just as unhappy that the accident of birth that used to give them so much good stuff is becoming meaningless. Like the nobles of 100 years ago, they can’t believe that the lottery win they thought they had gained just by being born in the right place is losing its value.
Of course, their loss is somebody else’s gain. Just like 100 years ago.
All of Clarissa’s posts on Liquid Capital and the end of the nation-state are compelling.
Immigrants have made my American hometown more and more wonderful. They are beloved there.
“I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” – Daniel Boone
It is practically impossible to make it through the day without seeing or hearing someone use “if not” to mean “maybe even,” as in: “Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of his era, *if not* of all time” when what’s clearly meant is this: “Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of his era, *maybe even* of all time.”
We will lose this usage battle, alas, and “if not” will join that list of words or phrases that are their own opposites.
The authors of The Hobo Ethical Code (1889) used the phrase “if not” poignantly (and correctly):
When jungling* in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you.
The Code did not ask its hobo readers to imagine that others might be even worse off than themselves, for to do so might play down the troubles of someone who was at rock bottom, better off than no one.
Now read the quoted sentence again, replacing “if not” with “maybe even” – and experience how different it feels.
*About the “hobo jungles.”
In Ukraine graves are separated by fences so that people can get some boundaries around them at least in death. Of course, they still have family members crowding them inside the enclosures but at least the strangers stay out.
In North America, graves are not separated. This brings people out of isolation at least in death.