Random thoughts

The remembrance of the dead is an important component of almost all cultures, but despite the assertions of Joseph Bottum, the preponderance of tombs and other memorials of the dead among the ruins of ancient cities doesn’t exactly prove that the commemoration of the dead was the foundation and originally the most important function of civilization. Since lasting, remaining intact indefinitely, is not just the instrumental but the ultimate purpose of memorials, it seems pretty logical that they would outlast most of the other constructions of civilization, and the older the site, the more they will probably dominate.

It’s not necessarily always true that democracies are more peaceful than non-democracies, and it’s certainly not true that they never fight each other, but war in almost all cases represents a net loss for the populations involved as a whole, simply because presumably everyone on the losing side suffers, as does at the very least all those on the winning side who are killed. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that a majority of the population, even if they only consult their self-interest, will not support a war if they believe there is a high chance of winning and a low chance of being killed or maimed, but self-interest would definitely dictate against war as a long-term or normal state of affairs, which would pile up the costs of war without the benefit of permanent victory. Ony an élite which doesn’t bear those costs could coutenance that sort of policy.

Heroism depends on the existence of bad conditions and crises by which to distinguish itself. People in comfortable surroundings may regret the absence of grandeur in their lives (although the opportunities for risk and self-sacrifice are rarely as far away as one might feel comfortable with), but they ought not forget that just as taboo-breaking depends on the existence of censoriousness, freedom-fighting depends on that of oppression and charity on that of poverty.

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