Links: African Civilizations, Medieval Grapes, and More

Marginal Revolution charts when the New York Times became unbearably stupid to read. If you thought wokeness was a cultural phenomenon that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, the data support you. This suggests that rather than emerging as an organic concern, there was a large, deliberate attempt to steer public discourse in this direction. I have made this argument for a very long time: The model for publishing has shifted dramatically. Now, newspapers and magazines and online media do not even attempt to publish content with broad appeal. They just want to tickle the pleasure centers of a specific crowd so they will become a captive audience that clicks on their articles over and over again without thinking. It is creating some profoundly strange, heavily fortified (because they are profitable) intellectual bubbles in this country.

Africa’s Lost Kingdoms. I found this article fascinating. One of the things I love about homeschooling is the ability to do a more thorough job of teaching world history. We spend a lot of time on places like Africa, Asia, and Australia / Polynesia that kids unfortunately do not get in public schools (or private schools for that matter).

From the article:

There is a broad strain in Western thought that has long treated Africa as existing outside of history and progress; it ranges from some of our most famous thinkers to the entertainment that generations of children have grown up with. There are Disney cartoons that depict barely clothed African cannibals merrily stewing their victims in giant pots suspended above pit fires.1 Among intellectuals there is a wealth of appalling examples. Voltaire said of Africans, “A time will come, without a doubt, when these animals will know how to cultivate the earth well, to embellish it with houses and gardens, and to know the routes of the stars. Time is a must, for everything.” Hegel’s views of Africa were even more sweeping: “What we properly understand by Africa, is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World’s History.” One can hear echoes of such views even today from Western politicians. Donald Trump referred to a number of African nations as “shithole countries” in 2018, and French president Emmanuel Macron said in 2017, “The challenge Africa faces is completely different and much deeper” than those faced by Europe. “It is civilizational.”

It may remain a little-known fact, but Africa has never lacked civilizations, nor has it ever been as cut off from world events as it has been routinely portrayed. Some remarkable new books make this case in scholarly but accessible terms, and they admirably complicate our understanding of Africa’s past and present.

The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages by François-Xavier Fauvelle reveals—to many readers almost certainly for the first time—the existence of what specialists increasingly construe as medieval Africa. For Fauvelle, a leading French scholar of the continent, this was a period between the antiquity of places like Egypt, Nubia, and Aksum, all of which left spectacular archaeological legacies, and around 1500, after which Africa was deeply scarred by the slave trade and Western imperialism….

I would add The Fortunes of Africa: A 5,000-Year History of Wealth, Greed, and Endeavor by Martin Meredith to this list of books to read on Africa’s forgotten empires and trade routes. I am keeping a list of key texts on this topic for when our daughter gets older.

A medieval grape is still being used to make wine.

The Rolling Stones’ tour is being sponsored by a company pitching annuities. (For the love of God, do not let your parents put their wealth in annuities. All they do is turn elderly people into fee machines for Wall Street by overcharging them for managing market risk.)

Homeowners on golf courses are raising money to purchase failing courses to prop up their home values.

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