Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cats of Melioria


"Why cats?" you say...

"Why not?" I reply.

You point out, "But there are already more pictures of cats than pornographic images on the web--Why more?"

Because I like cats. And it's easier putting up pictures of cats than it is actually writing shit.

Plus these are pretty awesome one and two-prim cats made by Seu Ahn. They are "animated" and only 120 lindens each. Aren't they cool?

I apologize that I don't have a slurl to Seu's shop (which I think is called "Seu's Shop" or something like that). But if you really want to look at it and can't find it in search for some reason, IM me in-world and I'll give you a landmark.

...after all, what kind of waterfront village doesn't have cats?


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I am learning at the coffee house


Hey guys, we've been having more coffee house salon sessions in Melioria, and it's been fun and interesting.  We've all been learning some things, not the least of which is a whole bunch of cool stuff about life and society in the 18th century.  A big part of what helps with that is that before each session, we pull together some readings and share them on a notecard with various groups whose members that are invited to take part.  For example, the most recent one, regrading crime and punishment, was preceded by a notecard with the following:

“The social treaty has for its end the preservation of the contracting parties. He who wills the end wills the means also, and the means must involve some risks, and even some losses. He who wishes to preserve his life at others' expense should also, when it is necessary, be ready to give it up for their sake. Furthermore, the citizen is no longer the judge of the dangers to which the law-desires him to expose himself; and when the prince says to him: "It is expedient for the State that you should die," he ought to die, because it is only on that condition that he has been living in security up to the present, and because his life is no longer a mere bounty of nature, but a gift made conditionally by the State.
The death-penalty inflicted upon criminals may be looked on in much the same light: it is in order that we may not fall victims to an assassin that we consent to die if we ourselves turn assassins. In this treaty, so far from disposing of our own lives, we think only of securing them, and it is not to be assumed that any of the parties then expects to get hanged.
Again, every malefactor, by attacking social rights, becomes on forfeit a rebel and a traitor to his country; by violating its laws be ceases to be a member of it; he even makes war upon it. In such a case the preservation of the State is inconsistent with his own, and one or the other must perish; in putting the guilty to death, we slay not so much the citizen as an enemy. The trial and the judgment are the proofs that he has broken the social treaty, and is in consequence no longer a member of the State. Since, then, he has recognised himself to be such by living there, he must be removed by exile as a violator of the compact, or by death as a public enemy; for such an enemy is not a moral person, but merely a man; and in such a case the right of war is to kill the vanquished.
But, it will be said, the condemnation of a criminal is a particular act. I admit it: but such condemnation is not a function of the Sovereign; it is a right the Sovereign can confer without being able itself to exert it. All my ideas are consistent, but I cannot expound them all at once.
We may add that frequent punishments are always a sign of weakness or remissness on the part of the government. There is not a single ill-doer who could not be turned to some good. The State has no right to put to death, even for the sake of making an example, any one whom it can leave alive without danger.
The right of pardoning or exempting the guilty from a penalty imposed by the law and pronounced by the judge belongs only to the authority which is superior to both judge and law, i.e., the Sovereign; each its right in this matter is far from clear, and the cases for exercising it are extremely rare. In a well-governed State, there are few punishments, not because there are many pardons, but because criminals are rare; it is when a State is in decay that the multitude of crimes is a guarantee of impunity. Under the Roman Republic, neither the Senate nor the Consuls ever attempted to pardon; even the people never did so, though it sometimes revoked its own decision. Frequent pardons mean that crime will soon need them no longer, and no one can help seeing whither that leads. But I feel my heart protesting and restraining my pen; let us leave these questions to the just man who has never offended, and would himself stand in no need of pardon.
Of the Origin of Punishments.
Laws are the conditions under which men, naturally independent, united themselves in society. Weary of living in a continual state of war, and of enjoying a liberty which became of little value, from the uncertainty of its duration, they sacrificed one part of it, to enjoy the rest in peace and security. The sum of all these portions of the liberty of each individual constituted the sovereignty of a nation and was deposited in the hands of the sovereign, as the lawful administrator. But it was not sufficient only to establish this deposit; it was also necessary to defend it from the usurpation of each individual, who will always endeavour to take away from the mass, not only his own portion, but to encroach on that of others. Some motives therefore, that strike the senses were necessary to prevent the despotism of each individual from plunging society into its former chaos. Such motives are the punishments established, against the infractors of the laws. I say that motives of this kind are necessary; because experience shows, that the multitude adopt no established principle of conduct; and because society is prevented from approaching to that dissolution, (to which, as well as all other parts of the physical and moral world, it naturally tends,) only by motives that are the immediate objects of sense, and which being continually presented to the mind, are sufficient to counterbalance the effects of the passions of the individual which oppose the general good. Neither the power of eloquence nor the sublimest truths are sufficient to restrain, for any length of time, those passions which are excited by the lively impressions of present objects.
Of the Punishment of Death.
The useless profusion of punishments, which has never made men better induces me to inquire, whether the punishment of death be really just or useful in a well governed state? What right, I ask, have men to cut the throats of their fellow-creatures? Certainly not that on which the sovereignty and laws are founded. The laws, as I have said before, are only the sum of the smallest portions of the private liberty of each individual, and represent the general will, which is the aggregate of that of each individual. Did any one ever give to others the right of taking away his life? Is it possible that, in the smallest portions of the liberty of each, sacrificed to the good of the public, can be contained the greatest of all good, life? If it were so, how shall it be reconciled to the maxim which tells us, that a man has no right to kill himself, which he certainly must have, if he could give it away to another?
But the punishment of death is not authorised by any right; for I have demonstrated that no such right exists. It is therefore a war of a whole nation against a citizen whose destruction they consider as necessary or useful to the general good. But if I can further demonstrate that it is neither necessary nor useful, I shall have gained the cause of humanity.
The death of a citizen cannot be necessary but in one case: when, though deprived of his liberty, he has such power and connections as may endanger the security of the nation; when his existence may produce a dangerous revolution in the established form of government. But, even in this case, it can only be necessary when a nation is on the verge of recovering or losing its liberty, or in times of absolute anarchy, when the disorders themselves hold the place of laws: but in a reign of tranquillity, in a form of government approved by the united wishes of the nation, in a state well fortified from enemies without and supported by strength within, and opinion, perhaps more efficacious, where all power is lodged in the hands of a true sovereign, where riches can purchase pleasures and not authority, there can be no necessity for taking away the life of a subject.
If the experience of all ages be not sufficient to prove, that the punishment of death has never prevented determined men from injuring society, if the example of the Romans, if twenty years' reign of Elizabeth, empress of Russia, in which she gave the fathers of their country an example more illustrious than many conquests bought with blood; if, I say, all this be not sufficient to persuade mankind, who always suspect the voice of reason, and who choose rather to be led by authority, let us consult human nature in proof of my assertion.
It is not the intenseness of the pain that has the greatest effect on the mind, but its continuance; for our sensibility is more easily and more powerfully affected by weak but repeated impressions, than by a violent but momentary impulse. The power of habit is universal over every sensible being. As it is by that we learn to speak, to walk, and to satisfy our necessities, so the ideas of morality are stamped on our minds by repeated impression. The death of a criminal is a terrible but momentary spectacle, and therefore a less efficacious method of deterring others than the continued example of a man deprived of his liberty, condemned, as a beast of burden, to repair, by his labour, the injury he has done to society, If I commit such a crime, says the spectator to himself, I shall be reduced to that miserable condition for the rest of my life. A much more powerful preventive than the fear of death which men always behold in distant obscurity.
The terrors of death make so slight an impression, that it has not force enough to withstand the forgetfulness natural to mankind, even in the most essential things, especially when assisted by the passions. Violent impressions surprise us, but their effect is momentary; they are fit to produce those revolutions which instantly transform a common man into a Lacedaemonian or a Persian; but in a free and quiet government they ought to be rather frequent than strong.
The execution of a criminal is to the multitude a spectacle which in some excites compassion mixed with indignation. These sentiments occupy the mind much more than that salutary terror which the laws endeavor to inspire; but, in the contemplation of continued suffering, terror is the only, or at least predominant sensation. The severity of a punishment should be just sufficient to excite compassion in the spectators, as it is intended more for them than for the criminal.
A punishment, to be just, should have only that degree of severity which is sufficient to deter others. Now there is no man who upon the least reflection, would put in competition the total and perpetual loss of his liberty, with the greatest advantages he could possibly obtain in consequence of a crime. Perpetual slavery, then, has in it all that is necessary to deter the most hardened and determined, as much as the punishment of death. I say it has more. There are many who can look upon death with intrepidity and firmness, some through fanaticism, and others through vanity, which attends us even to the grave; others from a desperate resolution, either to get rid of their misery, or cease to live: but fanaticism and vanity forsake the criminal in slavery, in chains and fetters, in an iron cage, and despair seems rather the beginning than the end of their misery. The mind, by collecting itself and uniting all its force, can, for a moment, repel assailing grief; but its most vigorous efforts are insufficient to resist perpetual wretchedness.
In all nations, where death is used as a punishment, every example supposes a new crime committed; whereas, in perpetual slavery, every criminal affords a frequent and lasting example; and if it be necessary that men should often be witnesses of the power of the laws, criminals should often be put to death: but this supposes a frequency of crimes; and from hence this punishment will cease to have its effect, so that it must be useful and useless at the same time.
Of Crimes and Punishments, Cesare Bonesana, Marchese Beccaria, 1764
The misfortunes of the wretched in the face of the severity of the law have induced me to look at the criminal code of nations. The humane author of the essay, Of Crimes and Punishments, is only too right in complaining that punishment is much too often out of proportion to the crime, and sometimes detrimental to the nation it was intended to serve.
Ingenious punishments, in which the human mind seems to have exhausted itself in order to make death terrible, seem rather the inventions of tyranny than of justice.
The punishment of the wheel was first introduced in Germany in times of anarchy, when those who seized royal power wished to terrify, by the device of an unheard-of torture, whoever would dare to rise up against them. In England they used to rip open the belly of a man convicted of high treason, tear out his heart, slap his cheeks with it, and then throw it into the fire. And what, very frequently, was this crime of high treason? During the civil wars, it was to have been faithful to an unfortunate king, and sometimes had to be explained according to the doubtful rights of a conqueror. In time, manners became milder; it is true that they continue to tear out the heart, but it is always after the death of the criminal. The torture is terrible but the death is easy, if death can ever be easy.
In 1749 a woman was burned in the Bishopric of Wurtzburg, convicted of being a witch. This is an extraordinary phenomenon in the age in which we live. Is it possible that people who boast of their reformation and of trampling superstition under foot, who indeed supposed that they had reached the perfection of reason, could nevertheless believe in witchcraft, and this more than a hundred years after the so-called reformation of their reason?
In 1652 a peasant woman named Michelle Chaudron, living in the little territory of Geneva, met the devil going out of the city. The devil gave her a kiss, received her homage, and imprinted on her upper lip and right breast the mark that he customarily bestows on all whom he recognizes as his favorites. This seal of the devil is a little mark which makes the skin insensitive, as all the demonographical jurists of those times affirm.
The devil ordered Michelle Chaudron to bewitch two girls. She obeyed her master punctually. The girls' parents accused her of witchcraft before the law. The girls were questioned and confronted with the accused. They declared that they felt a continual pricking in certain parts of their bodies and that they were possessed. Doctors were called, or at least, those who passed for doctors at that time. They examined the girls. They looked for the devil's seal on Michelle's body — what the statement of the case called satannic marks. Into them they drove a long needle, already a painful torture. Blood flowed out, and Michelle made it known, by her cries, that satannic marks certainly do not make one insensitive. The judges, seeing no definite proof that Michelle Chaudron was a witch, proceeded to torture her, a method that infallibly produces the necessary proofs: this wretched woman, yielding to the violence of torture, at last confessed every thing they desired.
The doctors again looked for the satannic mark. They found a little black spot on one of her thighs. They drove in the needle. The torment of the torture had been so horrible that the poor creature hardly felt the needle; thus the crime was established. But as customs were becoming somewhat mild at that time, she was burned only after being hanged and strangled.
In those days every tribunal of Christian Europe resounded with similar arrests. The faggots were lit everywhere for witches, as for heretics. People reproached the Turks most for having neither witches nor demons among them. This absence of demons was considered an infallible proof of the falseness of a religion.
A zealous friend of public welfare, of humanity, of true religion, has stated in one of his writings on behalf of innocence, that Christian tribunals have condemned to death over a hundred thousand accused witches. If to these judicial murders are added the infinitely superior number of massacred heretics, that part of the world will seem to be nothing but a vast scaffold covered with torturers and victims, surrounded by judges, guards and spectators.
It is an old saying that a man after he is hanged is good for nothing, and that the punishments invented for the welfare of society should be useful to that society. It is clear that twenty vigorous thieves, condemned to hard labor at public works for the rest of their life, serve the state by their punishment; and their death would serve only the executioner, who is paid for killing men in public. Only rarely are thieves punished by death in England; they are transported overseas to the colonies. The same is true in the vast Russian empire. Not a single criminal was executed during the reign of the autocratic Elizabeth. Catherine II who succeeded her, endowed with a very superior mind, followed the same policy. Crimes have not increased as a result of this humanity, and almost always, criminals banished to Siberia become good men. The same thing has been noticed in the English colonies. This happy change astonishes us, but nothing is more natural. These condemned men are forced to work constantly in order to live. Opportunities for vice are lacking; they marry and have children. Force men to work and you make them honest. It is well known that great crimes are not committed in the country, except, perhaps, when too many holidays bring on idleness and lead to debauchery.
A Roman citizen was condemned to death only for crimes affecting the welfare of the state. Our teachers, our first legislators, respected the blood of their fellow citizens; we lavish that of ours.
This dark and delicate question has been long discussed: whether judges may punish by death when the law does not expressly require this punishment. This question was solemnly debated before Emperor Henri IV. He judged, and decided that no magistrate could have this power.
There are some criminal cases that are so unusual or so complicated, or are accompanied by such strange circumstances, that the law itself has been forced in more than one country to leave these singular cases to the discretion of the judges. If there really should be one instance in which the law permits a criminal to be put to death who has not committed a capital offense, there will be a thousand instances in which humanity, which is stronger than the law, should spare the life of those whom the law has sentenced to death.
The sword of justice is in our hands; but we ought to blunt it more often than sharpen it. It is carried in its sheath before kings, to warn us that it should be rarely drawn.
There have been judges who loved to make blood flow; such was Jeffreys in England; such in France was a man who was called coupe-tĂȘte. Men like these were not born to be judges; nature made them to be executioners.
-- “A COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK, Of Crimes and Punishments,” Voltaire, 1766
“Laws too gentle, are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.”    
- Benjamin Franklin
more of interest:

Fun stuff, yes?  We don't always have readings that are as long as those, but this was a really intriguing subject.  And we've learned that for people to have the readings in advnace helps a great deal in prepping the folks for the discussion, especially as the conversation is taking place "in character" in the year 1780.  And there is something else we learned.  Doing that--conducting the discussion in an historical context, conversing as if we are people looking at the issue in question as 18th century people, makes for an interesting exercise.  It also makes it more fun, and that, in turn makes the content more memorable.
The following is a transcript of the salon session about crime and punishment:

[08:05]  Aldo Stern: I suspect we shall have a modest turnout
[08:05]  Aldo Stern: perhaps the topic is considered by some a bit "dry"
[08:05]  Mercury Gandt: On the contrary, I fond it rather "juicy"
[08:06]  Diogeneia: I would think so
[08:06]  Aldo Stern: it is a topic that certainly affects us all...
[08:07]  Aldo Stern: after all, when you look at crime from a philosophical standpoint...
[08:08]  Aldo Stern: it is an attack on that social agreement that makes society function
[08:09]  Diogeneia: I have been looking at what various thinkers have written on crime, and they all seem to agree that human nature is inclined to do things we would call crime, and it must be punished
[08:10]  Aldo Stern: oh I am sure that there are those who think man in his ideal state would not turn to crime, but I fear our practical experience suggests otherwise
[08:10]  Aldo Stern: what do you think Donna Sere
[08:10]  Sere Timeless: The notion of punishment is deeply seated in religion.
[08:10]  Aldo Stern: is human nature inclined more to be good, if given the chance, or are we naturally selfish?
[08:11]  Sere Timeless: The fallible nature of mankind goes back to the original sin in the Garden of Eden.
[08:12]  Diogeneia: so you think we are naturally inclined to pick pockets and cheat at cards because of Adam and eve?
[08:12]  Mercury Gandt: I can only tell you, what I have seen in my life:
[08:12]  Mercury Gandt: I know so called criminals, who
[08:12]  Mercury Gandt: after committing crimes, never feel shame or regret - ever
[08:13]  Mercury Gandt: They are only bothered by the possibility of getting caught
[08:14]  Sere Timeless: And yet there are so many other people who would never even consider breaking the law unless their life and well-being depended on it.
[08:14]  Aldo Stern: so should we work harder to teach people that they should want to obey laws, or is the threat of being caught and punished more useful?
[08:15]  Diogeneia: maybe a bit of both
[08:15]  Mercury Gandt: Or is it in their character maybe?
[08:15]  Aldo Stern: Well Donna Sere is saying it is the character of some to never wish to break the laws
[08:15]  Sere Timeless: Certainly one cannot underestimate the value of punishment as a deterrent. Some people obviously need more deterrent than others.
[08:16]  Aldo Stern: and the nature of others to be criminals
[08:16]  Aldo Stern: so perhaps Baronessa is correct we need both encouragement--or prevention and punishment
[08:16]  Mercury Gandt: What most surprised me in these readings is, that the authors believe in the good nature of people
[08:16]  Aldo Stern: but how much punishment
[08:16]  Aldo Stern: and what kind is necessary?
[08:17]  Diogeneia: in the Prussian army, the worst crime was desertion...
[08:17]  Diogeneia: you know how the great king worked to prevent it?
[08:18]  Sere Timeless: And what was the punishment for desertion?
[08:18]  Diogeneia: first he made sure the soldiers were fed well and had pride in their profession
[08:18]  Diogeneia: then he reduced the chances of deserting...
[08:18]  Diogeneia: for example he would never set up a camp near a forest if he could help it
[08:18]  Diogeneia: the woods are a deserter's best friend
[08:19]  Diogeneia: and then of course if you deserted and were caught by the gendarmerie, you were flogged
[08:19]  Diogeneia: so it was prevention AND punishment
[08:19]  Mercury Gandt: Very wise, I think
[08:20]  Aldo Stern: On the other hand, you have penal code such as in England, where pretty much everything you technically can be executed for is everything:
[08:21]  Aldo Stern: Theft of property is treated as seriously as treason or murder
[08:21]  Sere Timeless: Which gets to the question of how one decides the appropriate extent of the punishment for a certain crime.
[08:22]  Diogeneia: ah but if your crime is not serious in England, can't they transport you instead of hanging you?
[08:22]  Aldo Stern: well they were doing that, but now that their American colonies are in rebellion they will need a new place to send convicts to.
[08:23]  Aldo Stern: Let us go back for a moment to Signor Gandt's comment
[08:24]  Aldo Stern: you observed that in the readings--Rousseau, Beccaria and Voltaire, there was an emphasis you thought, on the goodness of human nature?
[08:24]  Mercury Gandt: Yes - they believe, every criminal can be useful or good in the future
[08:25]  Mercury Gandt: And they are able to make self-improvement by the punishment
[08:25]  Diogeneia: ah but I think Voltaire was also saying some you can't make them good themselves...
[08:26]  Diogeneia: but you can turn them into a useful thing for society by sentencing them to labor in the dockyards or rowing a galley or something like that
[08:26]  Aldo Stern: which the French do of course...
[08:26]  Aldo Stern: they have gotten away from executing men and instead send them to work in the royal dockyards and arsenals
[08:27]  Aldo Stern: basically as slaves
[08:27]  Mercury Gandt: Very economic (smiles)
[08:28]  Aldo Stern: but are you suggesting Signor Gandt, that the criminal more than likely can't be changed in his ways? that the leopard may never change his spots?
[08:28]  Mercury Gandt: I doubt that this kind of work would be useful at all, done by people who hate it, living in chains
[08:28]  Diogeneia: ha you are probably right
[08:29]  Mercury Gandt: and all their thoughts are around eloping
[08:29]  Diogeneia: I am not so sure I would wish to sail on a ship that had been repaired by angry antisocial lunatics
[08:29]  Mercury Gandt: One of the authors said: give them work and they will be honest
[08:29]  Mercury Gandt: but I would say: give them a goal in their life to reach
[08:30]  Mercury Gandt: and they won't be criminals
[08:30]  Aldo Stern: oh?
[08:30]  Mercury Gandt: give them a reward for their work
[08:30]  Sere Timeless: Voltaire, I believe, said that
[08:30]  Mercury Gandt: which they cab gain realistically, though not easily
[08:31]  Aldo Stern: so then, Signor Gandt, do you basically agree with the idea that the death penalty should not be used as often as it is in some places such as England and a few of the various Italian city states?
[08:32]  Mercury Gandt: I have never met anyone committing such a serious crime, so
[08:32]  Mercury Gandt: I cannot imagine who this man or woman could be...
[08:32]  Mercury Gandt: but
[08:33]  Mercury Gandt: I remember one of my older friends telling about the execution of Damiens
[08:33]  Mercury Gandt: And I never forget it, though I hadn't been there at all!
[08:34]  Diogeneia: I think I agree that if you execute someone, it must be for the worst thing possible...
[08:35]  Mercury Gandt: Yes, exceptional and very rarely done - to remember us what happened in that case
[08:35]  Diogeneia: in a place like England I think hanging is no deterrent, as you get hung for stealing a watch or shooting a man dead
[08:36]  Diogeneia: so if you are a highway man, might you not figure, "well I just stole this fellow's watch, I may as well shoot him so he doesn't tell on me...I get hung either way"
[08:36]  Sere Timeless: If laws are created to ensure that everyone is behaving consistently with the common good, shouldn't punishments also be consistent with the common good?
[08:36]  Aldo Stern: a good point Baronessa
[08:37]  Sere Timeless: A dead criminal can't contribute anything, but a thief forced into labor to repay can contribute something.
[08:37]  Aldo Stern: could you elaborate on that idea, Donna Sere?
[08:38]  Aldo Stern: so you are saying that as Beccaria suggests, the punishment should fit the crime?
[08:38]  Sere Timeless: I do think that is best for society, Professore.
[08:38]  Sere Timeless: And the punishments need to be consistent for whoever commits a certain crime.
[08:39]  Sere Timeless: I find that the wealthy can get away with quite a lot because of their status ins society.
[08:39]  Diogeneia: this is why in Prussian army they flog the deserter, they don't shoot him if they don't have to....they hate to waste a trained man
[08:40]  Aldo Stern: yes, laws are not applied evenly in most cases
[08:41]  Diogeneia: I think punishment works best as a deterrent if the law is applied justly for all
[08:42]  Diogeneia: but I might say differently if I was actually wealthy
[08:42]  Sere Timeless: And what should the punishment be for the judge who does not apply the law equally?
[08:42]  Aldo Stern: a good question
[08:43]  Mercury Gandt: Well, there is everywhere a monarch and a government who makes the law
[08:43]  Diogeneia: *shrugs* if he is wealthy then he should be punished where he would feel it most...his backside is probably too well padded to feel much sting of a flogging, so fine him and hit him in the pocketbook
[08:43]  Mercury Gandt: The monarch is above the law
[08:44]  Mercury Gandt: I'm afraid, the monarch's tradition is defining the philosophy of punishment in his country.
[08:44]  Mercury Gandt: I mean if the monarch is practical, like your Prussian King the system of punishment is about preventing, in a practical and economical way
[08:45]  Aldo Stern: perhaps the monarch is one class of citizen where the best course is to educate them and make sure they understand civic virtue and their responsibility to society
[08:45]  Sere Timeless: And if the monarch does not apply the laws equally will there not be revolt as there is in the English colonies in North America?
[08:45]  Mercury Gandt: Yes - if the monarch is not sure about his own rule...
[08:46]  Aldo Stern: though there have been examples of King who has been punished...your English parliament cut off King Charles head after all
[08:46]  Mercury Gandt: he will force punishments by pure power
[08:46]  Mercury Gandt: Punishments will all about the monarchy's power
[08:46]  Mercury Gandt: and about people or our society
[08:47]  Diogeneia: perhaps you punish a monarch by taking away some of his power
[08:47]  Aldo Stern: let us go back to the issue of death penalties
[08:47]  Aldo Stern: what do you think are crimes for which it should be applied?
[08:48]  Mercury Gandt: Yes, I think, Beccaria was implying King Charles when writing about the death penalty....
[08:48]  Aldo Stern: Rousseau too, perhaps...he was saying that you only execute someone who has the power and the will to hurt the state
[08:49]  Mercury Gandt: Yes... they describe a kind of dictatorship
[08:49]  Diogeneia: Like a King who is acting badly?
[08:49]  Mercury Gandt smiles on the boldness of the Baronessa
[08:49]  Aldo Stern: what about murder?
[08:50]  Aldo Stern: Donna Sere you mentioned the religious origins of our sense of crime and punishment--is an "eye for an eye" just?
[08:50]  Sere Timeless: That is the Old Testament view of punishment, Professore.
[08:50]  Aldo Stern: so then would it be right for society to kill a man who had killed one of his fellow citizens?
[08:51]  Sere Timeless: The more Christian view is to have a criminal redeem himself by penance and good works.
[08:51]  Mercury Gandt: And now we see the moral point of view of punishments :)
[08:52]  Diogeneia: if good works is being an unpaid workers in the royal shipyard, I still don't want to sail on a ship that has been fixed by a crazy killer
[08:53]  Aldo Stern: always the pragmatist, Baronessa
[08:54]  Diogeneia: you bet. I didn't get this old by relying on an idealized view of human nature
[08:54]  Sere Timeless: I should rather sail in a ship whose timbers had been hewn by a criminal in the royal forests.
[08:54]  Mercury Gandt laughs - And pragmatism will always conquer the moral point of view
[08:54]  Mercury Gandt: Better though, than a power-centered point of view conquering
[08:55]  Aldo Stern: but what about deterring crime?
[08:55]  Aldo Stern: what do you think Signor Gandt, you say you know some criminal types--what would turn them away from a life of crime?
[08:56]  Mercury Gandt: Hmmm... some of them are in the Debtors' Prison :)
[08:56]  Mercury Gandt: Maybe laws would prevent them to choose crime
[08:57]  Mercury Gandt: That kind of laws can allow them to follow their plans - for example, new laws about inheritance, marriage
[08:58]  Diogeneia: well to me, and this is as a pragmatist...
[08:58]  Mercury Gandt: Laws that can offer them the possibility to earn their living
[08:58]  Diogeneia: I think you make sure people have enough to eat, they are protected from abuse, and they know their role in society is important...
[08:58]  Diogeneia: less so they will be to turn to crime
[08:59]  Sere Timeless: Wise observations, Baronessa.
[09:00]  Diogeneia: not so wise I think--I just know what I know from watching people
[09:00]  Mercury Gandt: And I agree, you are right
[09:00]  Sere Timeless: What does the group think about the practice of branding criminals like livestock so that they carry the stigma of their crime for the rest of their lives?
[09:02]  Mercury Gandt: Very medieval?
[09:02]  Aldo Stern: I think that goes against Signor Gandt's point that you have to enable people to make a living to keep them from crime...if you brand someone and mark them forever, will it not be harder for them to find work?
[09:02]  Sere Timeless: Do you think it is unnecessary or counter-productive Signore Gandt?
[09:02]  Aldo Stern: not many people willingly will hire a branded thief, I suspect
[09:02]  Aldo Stern: so that person will have no choice but to turn to crime
[09:03]  Mercury Gandt: That stigma will force him to stay on the way of crime....
[09:03]  Diogeneia: yes, exactly
[09:03]  Diogeneia: it is silly, where is the sense in branding someone? it is just being cruel and stupid
[09:04]  Mercury Gandt: Well.. (looking at the fingers of the ladies, searching for a wedding ring...)
[09:04]  Aldo Stern: alas Baronessa, cruelty and stupidity are hallmarks of many legal systems throughout Europe
[09:04]  Mercury Gandt: Branding someone...
[09:06]  Aldo Stern: it is like the old practice of cutting off a thief's hand--probably another Old Testament carryover, do you think, Donna Sere?
[09:06]  Aldo Stern: that is another form of branding
[09:06]  Aldo Stern: and one which made it even harder for the miscreant to find useful work
[09:07]  Sere Timeless: It seems quite similar in intent, though branding does make it possible for the former criminal to do honest work in the future.
[09:07]  Sere Timeless: Cutting off a thief's hand renders him incapable to doing much useful work.
[09:08]  Diogeneia: maybe all a fellow is good for then is begging
[09:09]  Aldo Stern: I know some people might argue that such punishments serve as a lesson tithe public and discourage others from turning to crime...
[09:09]  Aldo Stern: but I have not seen crime greatly reduced in places where the punishments are cruel and numerous.
[09:10]  Mercury Gandt: :) Except, there are no more assassination against the French King since the execution of Damiens
[09:11]  Sere Timeless: Not yet at least, Signor Gandt.
[09:11]  Mercury Gandt: :) not yet
[09:11]  Diogeneia: and who knows maybe there are none for other reasons
[09:12]  Diogeneia: just because one thing follows another, does not mean the one caused the other
[09:12]  Mercury Gandt: For instance? what other reasons can be considered?
[09:13] Aldo Stern: perhaps the king's network of informers is doing a better job ...
[09:13]  Mercury Gandt: I would never think of that... (laughs)
[09:14]  Aldo Stern: perhaps the king is staying in places where it is harder for possible assassins to get at him
[09:14]  Aldo Stern: he avoids going to Paris
[09:14]  Aldo Stern: he avoids contact with people outside the inner circles of the court
[09:14]  Mercury Gandt: Indeed it's true
[09:15]  Mercury Gandt: Because the conditions in his country are hardly any better...
[09:15]  Aldo Stern: yes
[09:18]  Aldo Stern: although he was probably a bit mad
[09:18]  Sere Timeless: Professore, this has been a fascinating discussion, but I'm afraid I must take my leave.
[09:18]  Aldo Stern: Donna Sere, thank you for joining us
[09:18]  Diogeneia: Auf wiedersehen
[09:18]  Sere Timeless: Signore Gandt, Baronessa it has been lovely to see you. And Professore also.
[09:19]  Mercury Gandt: It was my pleasure
[09:19]  Aldo Stern: thank you for your contributions to the discussion
[09:19]  Sere Timeless curtsies.

Finally, let me conclude with one other thing we seem to be learning: having modest attendance is not necessarily a bad thing.  Some of the best discussions have been with very small groups of participants.  But then that is one of the beauties of the platform, isn't it?  Doing this in virtual space is very cost effective compared to running an event in meatspace.  Therefore, you don't need to worry about having a big hairy audience in the same way that you do when you are meeting in a bricks and mortar space, and you feel a need to justify the expense and effort that goes with using that type of venue.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another Melioria coffee house salon transcript: Tolerance in the Englightenment


Our coffee House Salon held on July 23, 2011

My apologies for my tardiness in posting this--the convoluted adventure that is my meatspace existence has delayed me from attending to more important issues. What follows is the transcript from out second "coffee house salon" on the island of Melioria in Second Life. The subject was Tolerance in the Enlightenment, and participants prepared by reading a variety of pieces from the period including John Locke's Letters on Tolerance, an excerpt from an 18th century German play in which Jewish and Muslim characters were treated with great sympathy and respect, and the one of the key British anti-catholic laws of the 18th century. Please keep in mind that the discussion was conducted "in character" set in the year 1780 (which kept us from including some later interesting materials).

[08:12] Aldo Stern: The topic for today is...tolerance...particularly as it applies to various religions and religious affiliations in Europe.

[08:13] Aldo Stern: have you all had the opportunity to look at the readings that the Baronessa and I prepared in advance?

[08:14] OFlaherty Dreadlow: I confess that I haven't.

[08:14] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): Quite allright that is. It is merely to get the conversation going.

[08:14] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Yes, I have looked at the materials. And have been reviewing some recent publications by Monsieur’s Rousseau and Voltaire.

[08:15] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Ah, yes....I did read through it quickly.

[08:15] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): and I would start there...

[08:15] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): The Professore wanted to put the quote from the Jew, Shylock, at the beginning ... what did you have in mind with that, Herr Professor?

[08:15] OFlaherty Dreadlow: There are, of course, newer writings...from our friends in the erstwhile colonies.

[08:16] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Jefferson, for one

[08:16] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Indeed. Mr. Jefferson has stirred up quite a bit of trouble with his Declaration of Independence.

[08:16] Aldo Stern: oh excellent points...we will get to those in minute...

[08:16] Aldo Stern: in answer to the Baronessa, I put that piece from the play there, because I think it represents something ...the mixed state of tolerance and it's cousins, empathy and acceptance, in Europe have been for some time and remain mixed.

[08:18] Aldo Stern: the playwright puts words in Shylock's mouth that imply an understanding of the injustice of his situation and of his people.

[08:18] Aldo Stern: at the same time, that he is unlikable character and comes out badly in the end of the play.

[08:19] Aldo Stern: our feelings versus our ideals are often at odds...

[08:19] Aldo Stern: but let us start with ideals...Sere, you mentioned looking at Rousseau and others...what did you take away from reviewing their thoughts on tolerance?

[08:20] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): The idea that it is important to separate religious allegiance from civil allegiance.

[08:20] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): That for the good of the state we must allow every person the right to their own religious practice.

[08:21] Aldo Stern: then they are saying societies should tolerate religious differences not so much for ideals, but for pragmatic reasons?

[08:22] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): I think so. But both Rousseau and Voltaire clearly believe there are some common civil ideals that must bind us all together.

[08:23] Aldo Stern: civil ideals , but not spiritual ones?

[08:23] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): It is interesting, I think, that both of those gentleman seem to separate the two. Yet when each talks about civic/civil ideas they seem very much grounded in the Christian tradition.

[08:24] Aldo Stern: interesting, indeed...

[08:24] Aldo Stern: your Lordship, you mentioned the American, Signore you have some insights into how he views the issue?

[08:24] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Well, that touches on what I think is the crucial point.

[08:24] Aldo Stern: yes?

[08:24] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Note that we tend to talk about religious tolerance....

[08:25] OFlaherty Dreadlow: In essence, that means that we "tolerate" those with dissenting--that is, incorrect--views for the sake of a civil society.

[08:25] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Jefferson wrote the Statute of Religious FREEDOM in 1777.

[08:26] OFlaherty Dreadlow: That states that ALL religious points of view--from the point of the state--are equally valid and is revolutionary

[08:27] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): I wonder if Mr. Jefferson would be quite so tolerant of a religion that required human sacrifice. That would seem to put religious beliefs and the common good at odds.

[08:27] OFlaherty Dreadlow: And, if I may broach a delicate subject, why most of views like that were hidden in secret societies.

[08:28] OFlaherty Dreadlow: That would violate a basic civil law and could be banned on that basis.

[08:29] Aldo Stern: but then is not Signore Jefferson essentially a deist.

[08:30] OFlaherty Dreadlow: He was but it was not crucial for him to be a deist to believe that--from society's point of view--all religions are valid.

[08:30] Aldo Stern: taking a philosophical perspective that there is a Divine, and all religions are some form of manifestation of that, and consequently all valid.

[08:31] OFlaherty Dreadlow: It's important to keep in mind that one period of "tolerance" can be followed by one of intolerance when those in "hiding" come out in the open and are...removed.

[08:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I think his Lordship makes a interesting point about the revolutionary nature of it does seem to be a mix of principles and ideals ... it is good for the state for the different groups to be productive elements of society.

[08:31] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Hence, the Masons....even more, speaking of Jefferson, hence the Illuminati.

[08:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): but also there is an idealism there.

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): it not just simply like with the Jews in some places where they are tolerated, but not accepted, because of their banking skills and resources.

[08:33] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Exactly, until the wealth those areas provide become tempting and subject to jealousy.

[08:33] Aldo Stern: yes, or they are perceived as becoming too politically powerful.

[08:33] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Indeed.

[08:34] OFlaherty Dreadlow: AND they are identifiable because of the earlier "tolerance."

[08:34] Aldo Stern: as happened when the British were considering a naturalization act for the Jews back in the 1750s.

[08:34] Aldo Stern: popular opinion was stirred up and the act failed not so much on issues of faith, but because many English people feared the Jews could take control of their political affairs.

[08:35] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Which brings us to the crux of the problem: human nature that seeks to protect itself by attacking the "other"

[08:36] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well is that not why the Freemasons are suppressed some places--fear of their power and influence?

[08:36] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): and isn't that what happened to the Jesuits as well?

[08:36] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): And it is often easier to "justify" acts of intolerance and suppression by appealing to religious belief and God, than to admit to jealousy and fear.

[08:37] OFlaherty Dreadlow: At the moment, their influence is open--consider General Washington--but there will undoubtedly be a reaction from those outside their area of power.

[08:37] Aldo Stern: well that is a very complex chicken and egg thing isn't it?

[08:37] Aldo Stern: like with Catholics in Britain

[08:37] Aldo Stern: there is a fundamental ideological difference between the catholic and protestant perspectives

[08:38] Aldo Stern: they each think they are the one true version of Christianity.

[08:38] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Yes, I fear my mother's family (I'm half British/half Irish) will suffer much for their refusal to "conform"

[08:39] Aldo Stern: but in trying to impose the ideals, there is a see-saw history of struggling for power, and kings of the different faiths, and the gunpowder plot and the Jacobites uprising... and on and on.

[08:39] Aldo Stern: there is fear of Catholics among protestant Britons not just because of issues of faith, but because of the history that is there.

[08:40] Aldo Stern: that is why they have the settlement act regarding the faith that their rulers must adhere to.

[08:40] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): which we had in our notes

[08:40] Aldo Stern: yes, Baronessa, we did

[08:40] Aldo Stern: thank you for finding that

[08:40] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): *grins*

[08:40] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): One thing that makes Britain and the papal states different from many other nations is the fact that their civil authority -- the king or the Pope -- is also a religious authority.

[08:41] Aldo Stern: ah an important point...head of state as also head of the state religion.

[08:41] OFlaherty Dreadlow: All wars--both military and political--believe that THEIR war will end all wars.

[08:42] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Hence the appearance, and often the reality, is that if you don't conform to the state religion you are somehow a lesser citizen.

[08:42] Aldo Stern: well speaking of political do you all feel regarding the Jesuits...and speaking of popes and their authority...

[08:42] Aldo Stern: have the Jesuits been suppressed in so many catholic states because someone fears them?

[08:43] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Intellectuals of all types are feared by the state

[08:43] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): but not all states.

[08:44] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): the Prussian King and Great Catherine in Russia have taken in the Jesuits and given them refuge.

[08:44] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Refuge....not inclusion

[08:44] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): mostly for the pragmatic reasons I think...good teachers they are.

[08:44] OFlaherty Dreadlow: And refuge can turn into entrapment at any time.

[08:44] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I know Der Alte Fritz thinks having them teaching in Prussia strengthens his state.

[08:44] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): There is often fear of things that one does not understand and cannot control. Most secret societies, including the Jesuits, fall into that category.

[08:45] Aldo Stern: There are some who see a connection between the Jesuits and the freemasons and revolutionary ideas that could potentially overthrow old systems in places like France.

[08:46] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Since Rome ruled the western world, we have seen outsiders being taken into the state as "workers" but they usually grow into threats to the state.

[08:46] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): Greetings...

[08:47] Aldo Stern: good day , Your Eminence. How good of you to join us

[08:47] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): Good Morning, Sir and Madame. Please continue your conversation...

[08:47] Aldo Stern: we were discussing the various manifestations of intolerance...and the suppression of certain groups such as the Freemasons and the Jesuits and the limitation of rights for Jews in many places, or Catholics in England.

[08:48] Aldo Stern: and I think one theme that we have seemed to agree on, is that at the heart of intolerance is fear.

[08:48] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): oh well, the age of enlightenment is an interesting topic...

[08:48] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): about the Jesuits...I have some definite ideas...

[08:49] Aldo Stern: yes, Your Eminence, what are your thoughts regarding the Jesuits?

[08:49] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): In my own opinion I don't think the Jesuits will be suppressed.

[08:50] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): first of all, if the Jesuits really introduce new ideas I don't see anything that will undermine His Holiness...

[08:51] OFlaherty Dreadlow: Not suppressed? Everywhere, Eminence....or just where the Pope holds power?

[08:51] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): There are some people who may disagree with my opinion, however, and we must obey the decisions of His Holiness...

[08:51] Aldo Stern: there is the possibility that His Holiness was pressured, particularly by the Spanish and French courts about the Jesuits, but that his heart is not really in the suppression and that he was secretly pleased that Prussia and Russia have given them refuge.

[08:52] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): The biggest problem, I think, will be the Spanish monarch.

[08:52] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Why do you suppose that the Spanish and French courts are so fearful of the Jesuits?

[08:53] Aldo Stern: Perhaps that brings us to the other side of this ... what moves some people to look upon the benefits of tolerance...and to give more rights to oppressed religious minorities in their countries...

[08:53] OFlaherty Dreadlow: And we should not forget the Dutch....who have been most tolerant.

[08:54] OFlaherty Dreadlow glances at the cardinal for his reaction to that

[08:54] Aldo Stern: we mentioned Jefferson and Rousseau and Voltaire, but I rather liked the quote we included in the readings from John Locke, the English philosopher and doctor who was such an early influence.

[08:54] Aldo Stern: and he seems to be saying that tolerance is what a good Christian would do.

[08:55] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): The monarchs of Spain are afraid of what will happen if their colonies and trade arrangements are subjected to an organization that isn’t Spanish. Jesuits actually stand for the Papal State.

[08:56] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Getting back to the Professore’s point, I think many of the current batch of philosophers make the point that Christian teaching makes it clear that all human knowledge is fallible.

[08:56] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Thus it is difficult to assert that one group's understanding of religion is better than the rest.

[08:56] Aldo Stern: which brings us back to a philosophical underpinning for tolerance.

[08:57] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): philosophy is one thing, but ultimately when most states act ... when governments act, when rulers act, they are doing what they see as good for their interests.

[08:57] OFlaherty Dreadlow: and this is probably a good point for me to beg your pardon.

[08:57] OFlaherty Dreadlow: I fear I have another engagement...

[08:57] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr):

[08:57] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): We have appreciated your company and insights, Lord Dreadlow.

[08:59] Aldo Stern: your Lordship, thank you for joining us .

[08:59] Aldo Stern: anyway, Baronessa, you were saying?

[08:59] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well...

[08:59] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): that Prussia takes in the Jesuits because they are an intellectual resource.

[09:00] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): they take in the Jews and treat them relatively fairly because they have resources and skills.

[09:00] Aldo Stern: the British have arguably done the same.

[09:00] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): Russia has also done the same, I know.

[09:00] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): And so Prussia has separated religious belief from acting for the good of the state. Very progressive.

[09:00] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): and sometimes maybe one nation might take in the French protestants just because they are thinking it will annoy the French.

[09:01] Aldo Stern: *laughs*

[09:01] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): but apart from insuring the survival of the Jesuits, I see accepting the Jesuits into Russia as a more progressive action, especially because of what they can do for education.

[09:01] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja, Eminence you are right, I think Catharine likes the Jesuits for what they can do to advance learning in her country.

[09:02] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): pretty much backward they are, you know.

[09:02] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): exactly

[09:02] Aldo Stern: yes, she desperately wants to create a modern nation.

[09:03] Aldo Stern: It is essential for Russia's survival and that means modernizing thought and education as well as industry and the military.

[09:04] Aldo Stern: but as we have said before...

[09:04] Aldo Stern: it is one thing to be tolerant of a religious group or an organization for pragmatic reasons, but it is another to see the "other" as a person.

[09:05] Aldo Stern: to accept him and his beliefs

[09:05] Aldo Stern: which is why we included the last bit from the play Nathan the Wise

[09:05] Aldo Stern: because what is interesting to me in that is that the Jewish characters, unlike Shylock, are likable and sympathetic.

[09:05] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): Don’t forget that during most of the 18th Century, the church is a kingdom with a monarch (pope), prince (cardinal), land, and money.

[09:06] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja. eminence

[09:06] Aldo Stern: the individuals in the play ..., Muslim, Jewish and Christian

all have good qualities

[09:07] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): But 1773 is the year that the Papal State dissolved, and most of the cardinals became representative of their kingdom’s monarch ... not the Pope. This is especially true in Spain.

[09:08] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): The people who are afraid of the ideas of the enlightenment think the new ideas will destroy the christianity of the Church because they could undermine the traditional order and rules of the church. For example, the church had strong views about the nature of the universe.

[09:09] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): I forget the name of the scientist who was executed by the church because he described a theory of the universe which contradicted the church’s teaching.

[09:10] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Cardinal, do you think that the notion of religious tolerance ought to extend to matters of science?

[09:11] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): For the most part I agree. On the one hand I think the rule of the church, or I shall say the belief, should be under control by the Pope himself, but the Jesuits are another matter.

[09:11] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): Because of the Jesuits I think the church will be better able to focus on what we should focus on to do better.

[09:11] Aldo Stern: but again, as the Jesuits showed ... or John Locke stated ... learning, science, new ideas do not necessarily undermine our faith.

[09:12] Aldo Stern: we can be good Christians, ..or Jews ... or Zoroastrians I suppose, and still believe in the importance of new ideas and reason.

[09:12] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): But learning and science can undermine the ideas that have been promulgated for centuries by the head of a religious group like the Pope. That can seem very threatening.

[09:13] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): I certainly accept it will be threatening, but the oversight of the papal state is needed because the inventor of a new idea might overreach and cause further rebellion.

[09:14] Aldo Stern: change is always threatening from a certain perspective.

[09:14] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): But the Jesuits seem to be changing the thinking of the church especially on education and new scientific invention which is needed in the world today.

[09:15] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): I think we can agree that it is more difficult for a state to be tolerant of dissenting views, whether religious or scientific, when the head of the state is a religious leader.

[09:16] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): But I would like to get back to the ideas of Locke about how ordinary people view other religious groups.

[09:16] Aldo Stern: which is why as you said Sere, it was so interesting that Frederick of Prussia has separated the civil and religious authority...

[09:16] Aldo Stern: and his primary concern is what is good for the state.

[09:17] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): That separation makes it easier for ordinary people to be tolerant of other religions, I think. It seems almost a necessary precursor.

[09:19] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): I enjoyed the conversation today but must be going.

[09:19] Aldo Stern: we are very pleased that you could join us, Your Eminence

[09:20] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Thank you for coming Your Eminence. We have appreciated your ideas

[09:20] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): I am glad that the people have thought about the importance of enlightenment ... I am not one of those ultra-conservatives.

[09:20] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): have a good day...

[09:20] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): a pleasure it was to meet you.

[09:20] Giovanni Marco Byers (joubert.byers): pleasure to meet you all too.

[09:20] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Good day.

[09:20] Aldo Stern: arrividerci

[09:22] Aldo Stern: well shall we finish with Locke?

[09:22] Aldo Stern: the bit I was really impressed by was this:

[09:22] Aldo Stern: "I esteem that toleration to be the chief characteristic mark of the true Church."

[09:23] Aldo Stern: I think Locke sees tolerance as a Christian duty.

[09:23] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): A very revolutionary idea, and one that has resonated among the Enlightenment thinkers.

[09:24] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well I think especially those who have a broader, less dogmatic view of their Christianity.

[09:25] Aldo Stern: like a Jefferson?

[09:26] Aldo Stern: unless I am very much mistaken we are all getting mentally tired.

[09:27] Aldo Stern: but may I sum up a few pints and see if we agree...

[09:27] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): I think perhaps you are right, Professore.

[09:27] Aldo Stern: that the root cause of intolerance and persecution may be ideological...or based in issues of faith...

[09:27] Aldo Stern: but he real engine of intolerance is fear.

[09:28] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I would agree with that

[09:28] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): An excellent summary.

[09:28] Aldo Stern: and that the growth of tolerance is to a great extent based in pragmatism.

[09:29] Aldo Stern: but what will give it greater resonance is the philosophical ideals...from a broader view of what it means to be a person of faith.

[09:29] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): hmmm

[09:29] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): maybe

[09:30] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Certainly if tolerance can be made to seem like a core tenet of faith it is easier for most people to practice it.

[09:30] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): but what makes tolerance work in my old homeland in Franconia...where both Catholics and Lutherans coexist happily...

[09:30] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): is simple live close with people and you see them as people, not a papist or a Lutheran.

[09:31] Aldo Stern: or a Jew

[09:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja

[09:31] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Living side by side reduces the amount of the "unknown" -- there is simply less to fear about people you know.

[09:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): my husband he was a Lutheran but not such a good one.

[09:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): maybe that helped?

[09:32] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): If tolerance is a Christian virtue, your late husband might have been the very best kind of Lutheran.

[09:32] Aldo Stern: well on that note, I think we can bring this to a close

[09:32] Aldo Stern: I found the discussion very interesting

[09:33] Sere Timeless (serenek.timeless): Thank you for leading us Professore.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

More than tea and fashion--the first "Coffee House Salon"

One of the criticisms of the 18th century rp in SL is that the intellectual discourse is mostly fashion chit chat and gossip over tea. That is of course about as unfair and incorrect as saying that SL is nothing more than griefers and cyber-sex.

The entrance to the coffee house near the harbor

As an example I would like to present to you an edited transcript of this morning's first in a series of discussions at our informal "Coffee House Salon" near the harbor in Melioria.

The following is presented with the permission of those who participated:

[08:26] Aldo Stern: at any rate, , the topic, is servants and masters...and how those tradtional relationships are perhaps changing

[08:27] Aldo Stern: recently, in another venue for discussion...

[08:27] Aldo Stern: a fellow asked the question of how people treated their servants...

[08:27] Aldo Stern: which struck me as interesting, the fact that he was even asking the question

[08:28] Aldo Stern: in the past....not so long ago, I do not think anyone would have bothered asking such a question

[08:28] Belladonna OHare: indeed

[08:29] Aldo Stern: have any of you read Castiglione's “Book of the Courtier?”

[08:29] Aria Vyper: no :-(

[08:29] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja, but it was many years ago

[08:30] Belladonna OHare: no

[08:30] Belladonna OHare: I have not

[08:30] Aldo Stern: Frau Kuhr, would you describe it for the others?

[08:30] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ah, it is the grandfather, so to speak , of the conduct books

[08:30] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): telling people how they should behave

[08:30] Belladonna OHare: ahhh indeed

[08:31] Belladonna OHare: I must get it

[08:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): back in the 1500s I think it was written

[08:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): telling how the good nobleman should act, and dress and all that

[08:31] Aria Vyper: wow - long time ago

[08:31] Aldo Stern: exactly

[08:31] Aldo Stern: all the books of manners today are arguably descended from Castiglione's

[08:32] Aldo Stern: do you recall Frau Kuhr, did he say anything about how a proper nobleman should treat his servants?

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ah

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): hmmm

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): no

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I think it said the good courtier is gracious to everyone

[08:33] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I said... it was a long time ago I read it

[08:33] Aldo Stern: that's my his day, social rank and position was set...everyone had a place

[08:34] Aldo Stern: and yes the good courtier was gracious and proper with everyone...but all Castiglione said about servants was that they should be as polite and well mannered as their lord

[08:34] Aldo Stern: well dressed, clean

[08:34] Aldo Stern: he put a lot of emphasis on being clean for some reason

[08:34] Aldo Stern: but back then...I suspect how people were to treat servants was understood

[08:34] Aldo Stern: no one would have asked the question, “how do you treat your servant?”

[08:34] Aldo Stern: ...but now they times, are changing, yes?

[08:34] Belladonna OHare: now those lines are being blurred

[08:35] Aldo Stern: ah Donna Bella has already answered question

[08:35] Aldo Stern: yes lines are blurred

[08:36] Aldo Stern: I know of a novelist and philosopher in germany...both of his parents were domestic servants

[08:37] Aldo Stern: two hundred years ago, could you have imagined such a thing happening?

[08:38] Aldo Stern: in your observations, ladies, may I ask, what do you observe? how do your friends and acquaintances treat their servants?

[08:39] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): you mean when they aren't slapping them?

[08:40] Aldo Stern: oh come now, they aren't all slapping them, all the time

[08:41] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well, no not all the time...sometimes they are asleep

[08:41] Belladonna OHare: I observed an incident recently of one noble lady

[08:41] Belladonna OHare: abusing a small boy, the servant of the king's mistress

[08:42] Belladonna OHare: many ladies of the court where appalled at the treatment and comforted the child

[08:42] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I am glad to hear that Fraulein Bella...but I wonder if the abuse had been of an adult, would any sympathy have been offered?

[08:42] Vanessa Montpenier: well I think the majority of people still thinks a servant is born with his "title" and dies with his "title" but on the other hand, I believe this attitude for the servants differs in every culture

[08:42] Aldo Stern: ah that is an interesting point Donna is different in different situations and cultures?

[08:43] Vanessa Montpenier: indeed

[08:43] Belladonna OHare: I believe basic humanity is the same from culture to culture

[08:43] Belladonna OHare: some are kind...some are not

[08:44] Aldo Stern: ah very true...

[08:44] Belladonna OHare: I have observed that the woman who was cruel to the servant is cruel in all her dealings

[08:45] Aldo Stern: not just to servants, but to her equals as well?

[08:45] Belladonna OHare: Yes, Professore

[08:45] Vanessa Montpenier: well in the oriental world, they collect small boys from the vilages and take them to the palace and some of them are chosen to have the education with the future "sultan" and the rest are chosen to be servants

[08:46] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): so that is just by chance? that you become a vizier or a servant?

[08:46] Belladonna OHare: The luck of the dice determines your future?

[08:47] Belladonna OHare: How interesting those Easterners are.

[08:47] Vanessa Montpenier: you quite misunderstand madame.. when they collect the kids from the villages, they are taken to a place like a dormitory

[08:47] Aldo Stern: I suspect there is more to it--that they see which child may be best suited for a certain future...

[08:47] Aldo Stern: so it is a bit more of a judgement

[08:47] Vanessa Montpenier: yes, they how to say... exams... physical and intellectual

[08:47] Belladonna OHare: I see

[08:47] Aldo Stern: but perhaps at the heart of it, they look on them all as servants

[08:48] Aldo Stern: it is simply that the educated vizier is still a servant of his sultan in matters of diplomacy and administration...

[08:48] Belladonna OHare: I quite agree, as there is no choice for the children in the matter

[08:48] Aldo Stern: while his less educable brother serves as the cup bearer

[08:48] Belladonna OHare: so in the end they are all servants

[08:49] Vanessa Montpenier: but the point is, the sultan always keeps his servants close to him and he trusts them more than anyone in the palace

[08:50] Vanessa Montpenier: what I am tryin to say is, in the oriental world, servants are collected and raised from the early ages

[08:50] Belladonna OHare: Indeed, there has always been a vast difference between East and West!

[08:50] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ahhhh... I think Donna Vanessa's point about different cultures is very important...Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): not just different places, but different circumstances

[08:50] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): for the great palace of a king, the hundreds of servants will have a different relationship than in a country house, where the family has one steward, and a cook

[08:50] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): in those country houses...well, like mine...the servants were part of the family

[08:51] Belladonna OHare: Indeed Frau Kuhr

[08:51] Aldo Stern: and I assume you as the lady of the household had obligations to those servants, as they were, more or less, "part of the family"?

[08:52] Belladonna OHare: In the country the servants are not separated physically by vast distances, such as in a large chateau

[08:52] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): yes of course

[08:52] Vanessa Montpenier: but unfortunately no matter how they are different from us, the gold coins talk nowadays *smiles*

[08:52] Aldo Stern: how do you mean Donna Vanessa?

[08:53] Vanessa Montpenier: I mean financially Don Aldo

[08:54] Aldo Stern: can you elaborate on what you mean?

[08:55] Vanessa Montpenier: Europe has a deep history and modern culture, although how the majority of people still treat their servants, is in the old ways...but what I am trying to say is that East has the chance to adopt this civilization but their culture, I think, will not let them do so...

[08:56] Aldo Stern: hmmm

[08:56] Aldo Stern: so our relationships between different people of different stations are set by traditions..,.even religion, perhaps?

[08:57] Vanessa Montpenier: well.. what I personally believe, no matter how people try to enlighten themselves, their traditions can haunt them..

[08:58] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ahhhh

[08:59] Aldo Stern: which is why, even in modern Europe of 1780, there is so much tension and inconsistency as our relationships change?

[08:59] Belladonna OHare: those traditions may be in the back of our mind Madame, but I believe the truly the enlightened can learn and change and better themselves.

[08:59] Belladonna OHare: that is my hope for our future

[09:00] Vanessa Montpenier: despite your correct remarks madame, enlightenment needs certain amount of time and philosophy

[09:00] Aldo Stern: that is a very enlightened viewpoint Donna Bella, it brings to mind the excerpt from Daniel Defoe's Family Instructor that I included on the notecard

[09:00] Aldo Stern: did any of you have a chance to read it?

[09:02] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja...once I got used to his style, I thought it was interesting...Herr Defoe, he wrote about this very religious servant, who "taught" things to not just the children of the family she worked for, but to her Mistress as well!

[09:03] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): it was the ideal, not so much the reality, I think

[09:03] Aldo Stern: yes...probably

[09:04] Aldo Stern: it is in some ways a conduct book

[09:04] Aldo Stern: like the Book of the Courtier, but it is so very very different...written as a fictional story, almost like a play

[09:05] Aldo Stern: it is also important to note that it is about families that are not of high rank, but in the middle somewhere

[09:05] Aldo Stern: and at the end, the sea captain, who is wealthy but not of noble rank, marries the good servant girl

[09:06] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja, that would not happen with the servant of a noble...they might have the carnal relations, but never the getting married

[09:06] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): where I come from, in places like Prussia, if a noble marries outside of their class, they lose the noble status, by law

[09:07] Aldo Stern: hmmm good point

[09:07] Aldo Stern: but still..even if it is not a realistic story...more like a is encouraging something: that servants should do more than just dress the children and teach them nursery rhymes...

[09:09] Aldo Stern: but teach them their a good christian influence on those you work for

[09:09] Aldo Stern: this I think is a pretty remarkable idea...that a servant could have a good influence on their "betters"

[09:10] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): this Defoe fellow, he is the writer of the Robinson Crusoe story, ja?

[09:10] Aldo Stern: yes, indeed he is

[09:11] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I think he writes about how he thinks things should be like, more than how they are

[09:12] Aldo Stern: yes...he actually got placed in the pillory for three days for his writing

[09:12] Aldo Stern: but that was early in this century

[09:12] Aldo Stern: things are different now...

[09:12] Aldo Stern: I hope...

[09:13] Aldo Stern: for example...Signore Pierre Beaumarchais, who has written the humorous play the “Barber of Seville”....

[09:14] Aldo Stern: the French King and his government, would not let them show the play at first...but at least he did not have Beaumarchais thrown in prison or put in the pillory

[09:14] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): and now they have even let him put onthe play, yes?

[09:15] Aldo Stern: yes..did any of you have the chance to see the play, or perhaps read the little excerpts inthe notecard?

[09:16] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): very funny I thought they were

[09:18] Vanessa Montpenier: I am afraid I have not had the chance yet

[09:18] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): surprised I am that he didn't get in more trouble for that...making fun of nobles

[09:19] Aldo Stern: I particularly found these lines from the play to be striking:


I do not believe thou tellest all the Truth; I remember thou had’st but a dubious Character when in my Service.


My God! my Lord, you rich Folks always would have us poor ones be entirely without faults.


Idle, debauch’d,


According to the Perfections you fine Gentleman expect in your Servants, does your Excellency think many of your Acquaintance worthy the Office of Valet-de-Chambre?

[09:20] Aldo Stern: Figaro is saying that if the Count held his noble friends to the same standards he tried to apply to his servants, none of his noble friends would qualify as even a valet

[09:21] Vanessa Montpenier: *laughs

[09:21] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well , it is the truth, ja?

[09:21] Belladonna OHare laughs

[09:21] Belladonna OHare: I would agree to that, based on some of the conduct I have seen at the various courts I have visited

[09:22] Aldo Stern: there is also, a lively give and take between the Count, and Figaro, who was his servant

[09:22] Aldo Stern: there is no deference given to the Count by fact, if you read the whole play, you realize he helps the Count partly out of fear....

[09:23] Aldo Stern: and partly out of self interest

[09:23] Aldo Stern: to gain an advantage

[09:23] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): it was very funny...someone should make an opera out of that play

[09:24] Aldo Stern: I understand Beaumarchais originally wanted it done as a comedic opera...but it just didn't seem to work out. *shrugs* oh well, maybe someday

[09:26] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): is it true the queen of France wanted it shown on stage, but her husband was the one that felt it was too hard on the nobles?

[09:27] Aldo Stern: I have heard something to that effect, but I do not know if it is true or not

[09:27] Aldo Stern: we are almost at our allotted time to end

[09:28] Aldo Stern: and I think we have well established that yes, regarding the relationships between masters and fact between all Donna Bella said, the lines are becoming blurred...

[09:28] Aldo Stern: we all agree that it is changing yes?

[09:29] Belladonna OHare: indeed they are

[09:29] Aria Vyper: yes

[09:29] Vanessa Montpenier: I completely agree

[09:29] Belladonna OHare: and I for one am thrilled, I feel it heralds a new age

[09:29] Aldo Stern: haha, you Donna Bella, unless I am very mistaken...are a nonconformist at heart?

[09:30] Belladonna OHare: In my heart and soul Don Aldo

[09:30] Aldo Stern: but then the last question is why....

[09:31] Aldo Stern: Donna Vanessa mentioned gold...are economics changing our relationships?

[09:31] Vanessa Montpenier: Economics is changing the world itself Don Aldo, not only the relationships *smiles*

[09:31] Belladonna OHare: I believe it was the invention of the printing press that started the change--but it has taken time

[09:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ah that is an interesting idea

[09:32] Belladonna OHare: but people have begun to receive knowledge and information

[09:32] Belladonna OHare: which is the key in my opinion to change

[09:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): maybe the nobles who don't want things to change they should try to keep the poor and the servants ignorant and illiterate

[09:33] Belladonna OHare: yes but now even servants can read and have access to large numbers of books...some even own a book, at least a bible

[09:33] Aldo Stern: yes, Donna Bella...I am sorry none of the apprentices are here today...they are remarkable boys. They not only read and write but they are well read and fluent in different languages

[09:34] Belladonna OHare: yes

[09:34] Aldo Stern: Rico the printer’s apprentice can read and write in Hebrew

[09:34] Aldo Stern: and the boy Fiorino can read and write in ancient greek and latin

[09:34] Belladonna OHare: and I believe it all started with the printing printing press, I believe it will be the greatest invention of the last 1000 yrs

[09:34] Aldo Stern: they will not be content to gondoliers and printers helpers

[09:35] Aldo Stern: they will want to be more

[09:35] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well that is the other thing that makes the change, ja? That the people in lower stations like servants, they have more choices now

[09:35] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): they can go into a city and work in a factory or workshop of some kind

[09:36] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): the men they can become soldiers...

[09:36] Belladonna OHare: the women open shops

[09:36] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): you mentioned the man whose parents were servants and he is now a novelist...

[09:36] Belladonna OHare: my wig makers and dressmakers are talented women

[09:37] Belladonna OHare: I am sorrry

[09:37] Belladonna OHare: I must leave

[09:37] Belladonna OHare: thank you for a wonderful time

[09:37] Aldo Stern: thank you for coming Donna Bella, you added a great deal to the discussion

[09:37] Belladonna OHare curtsies respectfully

[09:38] Aldo Stern: we thank you for your insights and contribution

[09:38] Aldo Stern: but still people need the servants for their households, whether they are large or here is the last thing I will share...also I put this in the notecard

[09:38] Aldo Stern: but let me repeat it

[09:39] Aldo Stern: this is from Signora Hester Chapones book which is a guide to how a young lady should behave and run her household:

“Those who continually change their servants, and complain of perpetual ill-usage, have good reason to believe that the fault is in themselves, and that they do not know how to govern. Few indeed possess the skill to unite authority with kindness, or are capable of that steady and uniformly reasonable conduct, which alone can maintain true dignity, and command a willing and attentive obedience.“

[09:39] Aldo Stern: you notice how she mentions "kindness"?

[09:40] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja,

[09:40] Vanessa Montpenier: well. all starts with kindness Don Aldo...*smiles*

[09:41] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): you know I bet you the reason why she thinks the mistress has to mix the kindness and authority is because with the choices servants have, they are going to walk out if you just slap them around anymore

[09:41] Aria Vyper: everyone - I must go meet a friend, I hope you don't mind me taking my leave

[09:41] Aldo Stern: or course Donna Ariella, thank you for joining us

[09:41] Aldo Stern: well I think you are both right...

[09:42] Aldo Stern: the Baronessa from a very practical standpoint

[09:42] Aldo Stern: and Donna Vanessa, from the idealistic, moral standpoint

[09:42] Vanessa Montpenier: on the other hand Don Aldo,

[09:43] Vanessa Montpenier: being idealistic does not always work nowadays in these circumstances

[09:44] Aldo Stern: oh? how so?

[09:45] Vanessa Montpenier: well..

[09:46] Vanessa Montpenier: when a country is ruled by a king who says " l'etat , c'est moi", it can be a mistake to be so idealistic

[09:47] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): but even if he is the state, cannot the state be based on the ideals of some kind?

[09:48] Aldo Stern: do ideals make him somehow weaker?

[09:49] Vanessa Montpenier: everything that grows against him makes him weaker

[09:51] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): hmmm I am thinking i would argue that it is not the ideals that make for is the resistance to change

[09:51] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): we all agree things are changing, ja?

[09:51] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): maybe it becomes like the avalanche rolling down the hillside, you stand in front of it and say "stop" and it will just be rolling right over you

[09:52] Vanessa Montpenier: good remark

[09:52] Aldo Stern: but if you get behind it...

[09:52] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): or maybe you climb up a tree *pictures Louis of France clinging at the top of a pine tree*

[09:53] Aldo Stern: well, this has been an enjoyable discussion

[09:54] Aldo Stern: I hope you found it interesting, Donna Vanessa

[09:55] Vanessa Montpenier: it was a pleasant discussion for my side

[09:55] Vanessa Montpenier: thank you for the invite

[09:56] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): very good it was, Herr Professor, danke for leading it