Friday


I started writing this blog in November 2008, and now it is November 2018, so this blog has remained active for ten years. In this respect, it has defied the odds, because most blogs rapidly go defunct, but it has defied the odds only because I have continued to plug away at writing about the things that interest me, and not because I have been rewarded for my efforts (I haven’t been), or because this blog is popular and widely read (it isn’t), or because of any support or assistance received (there hasn’t been any). If this blog is a “success,” it is only a success of stubbornness.

My rate of posting has continued to decline, but not because I am short of ideas. On the contrary, my conception of civilization is evolving so rapidly that I now hesitate to write anything down because the next day I will have a better formulation. In a way, this is a culmination of this blog, because I started writing about civilization here simply because it was a different topic than the things I was writing about in my notebooks at the time. In this sense, in the sense of being a form of intellectual stimulation, I can call this blog a success.

At first when I was writing about civilization (initially in Today’s Thought on Civilization) I was only throwing out random ideas. Now these ideas have started to coalesce into something more substantial, and I see the all-too-apparent weaknesses of my earlier, more random thoughts. When Darwin hit on the idea of natural selection he wrote, “Here, then, I had a theory by which to work; but I was so anxious to avoid prejudice that I determined not for some time to write even the briefest sketch of it.” This is something like I now feel.

As my rate of posting has slowed, I have thought about starting a newsletter that would be an anecdotal account of my ongoing research. I could take the email addresses of the individuals who have subscribed to this blog and start sending them a newsletter, but I understand that there are now laws in place that govern how email addresses can be used, and that some countries and many businesses have a “double opt-in” policy to ensure that those who get emails really did want to receive them. Therefore I will start from scratch.

I made several attempts to create a simple subscription form, but my technical skills are nonexistent, so I had to settle for a link (and, while I tested it, I’m not even sure if this will work properly). I signed up with an alternative email just to see if it would work, and it seemed to do so. Here is the link:

Grand Strategy Newsletter

If I get a dozen subscriptions, I will start some kind of newsletter. If you subscribe, be sure to check your junk mail and spam folders for the second of the double opt-in notices. If you don’t click on the link in the email sent to you as a result of clicking on the link above and entering your email, you won’t be subscribed. The test subscription I did myself went directly into the email’s junk folder.

I intend to continue my work, and to continue posting it here, as long as the opportunity to do so remains. For those who have taken the time to read and to comment, thanks. You’ve helped to keep me focused on the development of these ideas. Many people have brought my attention to resources and references of which I would not otherwise have been aware. This has been valuable for me, and, again, on this basis I can call this blog a “success” (with only modest irony in the use of the term).

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

project astrolabe logo smaller

. . . . .

. . . . .

Advertisements

Grand Strategy: Nine Years

8 November 2017

Wednesday


This month marks nine years of Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon. I started regularly posting in November 2008. Since then I have continuously maintained this blog, though my rate of posting has declined, especially over the past couple of years. My reduced rate of posting here is not due to my running out of ideas. On the contrary, I have more material than I can even write down. My posts have become more detailed and in-depth, which requires more research and more care in composition. This also means that I hesitate to post my more half-baked ideas. When I look back on some of my early posts I find things that I would never write today: it is no longer enough for me to suggest an idea; I want to develop the ideas that I present.

Already sensing my hesitation to post half-baked ideas some years ago, and knowing that the key to working out ideas is to maintain a continuous engagement with them (which is best done by writing about them every day), I started a blog on Tumblr, Grand Strategy Annex, where I post more spontaneously, just so that I can keep the ideas flowing without monitoring each word so closely that scholarly conscience prevents one from writing anything at all. I’m glad that I did this, even though it divides my efforts, because I often capture an idea in a quick Tumblr post fist, and later incorporate this in a longer post here, or on Medium, or on Centauri Dreams.

In addition to these online writings (and three Twitter accounts), I also keep numerous notebooks in which I write in longhand, and I work on dozens of different manuscripts on my computer. All this material, if collected together, would run to many thousands of pages. And over the past year or so I have discovered that I can accelerate my formulation of ideas even more by always carrying a digital recorder with me. I spend a lot of time each day driving around and running errands, and now I use that time listening to the ideas that I have recorded on previous days and then elaborating on them in further recordings. That means that I also have hundreds of spoken word notes that have not been transcribed. So, as I said above, I haven’t run out of ideas.

My approach to philosophy is what in the early modern period was called copia. (Erasmus wrote a short book On Copia of Words and Ideas.) I prioritize the generation of new ideas. I can imagine that, to someone who pursues the other strategy — that of confining oneself to a small number of ideas and spending a lifetime elaborating these in the most detailed and comprehensive manner possible — this sounds like a rather trivial way to think about things. However, I would suggest that one is statistically more likely to hit upon a significant idea by surveying many of them rather than focusing on a familiar few.

A blog is a good way to present the results of a copia strategy in philosophy, but I sometimes have misgivings about the time I put into writing blog posts. I could instead use this time to refine a manuscript. I worry that spending another ten years of writing blog posts may mean that I never produce anything more substantial. But I have already tried the book strategy. More than ten years ago I produced a couple of books that I self-published (Political Economy of Globalization and Variations on the Theme of Life). I thought (naïvely, as it turns out) that these two books would develop a readership over time, if only I could be patient. This has not happened. I changed my strategy and started writing blog posts instead of books as a compromise. While my blog readership is very small, at least these posts do occasionally get read, and when I post to Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams I have gotten as many as a hundred thoughtful comments on a single post. That is real engagement, and worth the effort to know that others have read carefully and have responded thoughtfully.

Part of my strategy of writing blog posts, then, follows from my native temperament; some of my strategy follows from my peculiar circumstances. Individuals in an academic or scholarly community, I assume, have others with whom they can have informal conversations in which they can float ideas that are not yet ready for systematic exposition. It is necessary to have a sympathetic ear for this sort of thing, as any tender, young, and inchoate idea can easily be torn apart. What is important is to try to discern within an idea if it has potential. Since I do my work in isolation, I float my ideas here. And what I post here is but a small fragment of the ideas I am working on at any given moment.

I won’t say that I have chosen the right strategy, and I certainly know that I haven’t chosen an optimal strategy, but I have chosen a strategy that is consonant with my own temperament. This consonance plays a role in the development of my ideas. Because I am doing what comes naturally to me, without any extrinsic prompting from any source outside myself, this is something that I can continue to do as long as I have life in me. It does not get old to me; the salt does not lose its savor.

. . . . .

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

project astrolabe logo smaller

. . . . .

Saturday


eight-ball

Last month, November 2016, marked the eight year anniversary for this blog. My first post, Opening Reflection, was dated 05 November 2008. Since then I have continued to post, although less frequently of late. I have become much less interested in tossing off a post about current events, and more interested in more comprehensive and detailed analyses, though blog posts are rarely associated with comprehensivity or detail. But that’s how I roll.

It is interesting that we have two distinct and even antithetical metaphors to identify non-trivial modes of thought. I am thinking of “dig deep” or “drill down” on the one hand, and, on the other hand, “overview” or “big picture.” The two metaphors are not identical, but each implies a particular approach to non-triviality, with the former implying an immersion in a fine-grained account of anything, while the latter implies taking anything in its widest signification.

Ideally, one would like to be both detailed and comprehensive at the same time — formulating an account of anything that is, at once, both fine-grained and which takes the object of one’s thought in its widest signification. In most cases, this is not possible. Or, rather, we find this kind of scholarship only in the most massive works, like Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or Mario Bunge’s Treatise on Basic Philosophy. Over the past hundred years or so, scholarship has been going in exactly the opposite direction. Scholars focus on a particular area of thought, and then produce papers, each one of which focuses even more narrowly on one carefully defined and delimited topic within a particular area of thought. There is, thus, a great deal of very detailed scholarship, and less comprehensive scholarship.

Previously in Is it possible to specialize in the big picture? I considered whether it is even possible to have a scholarly discipline that focuses on the big picture. This question is posed in light of the implied dichotomy above: comprehensivity usually comes at the cost of detail, and detail usually comes at the cost of comprehensivity.

Another formulation of this dichotomy that brings out other aspects of the dilemma would to ask if it is possible to be rigorous about the big picture, or whether it is possible to be give a detailed account of the big picture — a fine-grained overview, as it were? I guess this is one way to formulate my ideal: a fine-grained overview — thinking rigorously about the big picture.

While there is some satisfaction in being able to give a concise formulation of my intellectual ideal — a fine-grained overview — I cannot yet say if this is possible, or if the ambition is chimerical. And if the ambition for a fine-grained overview is chimerical, is it chimerical because finite and flawed human beings cannot rise to this level of cognitive achievement, or is it chimerical because it is an ontological impossibility?

While an overview may necessarily lack the detail of a close and careful account of anything, so that the two — overview and detail — are opposite ends of a continuum, implying the ontological impossibility of their union, I do know, on the other hand, that clear and rigorous thinking is always possible, even if it lacks detail. Clarity and rigor — or, if one prefers the canonical Cartesian formulation, clear and distinct ideas — is a function of disciplined thinking, and one can think in a disciplined way about a comprehensive overview. If one allows that a fine-grained overview can be finely grained in virtue of the fine-grained conceptual infrastructure that one employs in the exposition of that overview, then, certainly, comprehensive detail is possible in this respect (even if in no other).

I could, then, re-state my ambition as formulated in my opening reflection such that, “my intention in this forum to view geopolitics through the prism of ideas,” now becomes my intention to formulate a fine-grained overview of geopolitics through the prism of ideas. But, obviously, I now seldom post on geopolitics, and am out to bag bigger game. This is, I think, implicit in the remit of a comprehensive overview of geopolitics. F. H. Bradley famously said, “Short of the Absolute God cannot stop, and, having reached that goal, He is lost, and religion with Him.” We might similarly say, short of big history geopolitics cannot stop, and, having reached that goal, it is lost, and political economy with it.

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

project astrolabe logo smaller

. . . . .

Thursday


The photograph above of Tiananmen Square in 1989 is from Carl Bildt's Tweet on the anniversary.

The photograph above of Tiananmen Square in 1989 is from Carl Bildt’s Tweet on the anniversary.

Today marks the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. In the past year it almost looked like similar sights would be repeated in Hong Kong, as the “Umbrella Revolution” protesters showed an early resolve and seemed to be making some headway. But the regime in Beijing kept its cool and a certain patience, and simply waited out the protesters. Perhaps the protesters will return, but they will have a difficult time regaining the historical momentum of the moment. It would take another incident of some significance to spark further unrest in Hong Kong. The Chinese state has both the patience and the economic momentum to dictate its version of events. Hence the importance of maintaining the June 4th incident in living memory.

Just yesterday I was talking to a Chinese friend and I opined that, with the growth of the Chinese economy and Chinese citizens working all over the world, the government might have increasing difficulty in maintaining its regime of control over information within the Chinese mainland. I was told that it was not difficult to make the transition between what you can say in China and what you can’t say in China, in comparison of the relative freedom of Chinese to say whatever they think when outside mainland China. One simply assumes the appropriate persona when in China. As a westerner, I have a difficult time accepting this, but the way in which it was described to me was perfectly authentic and I have no reason to doubt it.

Over the past weeks and months there have been many signs of China’s continued assumption of the role of a “responsible stakeholder” in the global community, with the initial success of gaining the cooperation of other nation-states in the fledgling Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Financial Times last Tuesday noted, “…the IMF’s decision later this year about whether to include China in the basket of currencies from which it makes up its special-drawing-rights will be keenly watched.” (“What Fifa tells us about global power” by Gideon Rachman) The very idea of a global reserve currency that is not fully convertible and fully floating strikes me as nothing short of bizarre — since the value of the currency is not then determined by the markets, its value must be established politically — but that just goes to show you what economic power can achieve. And all of this takes place against the background of China’s ongoing land reclamation on small islands in the South China Sea, which is a source of significant tension. But the tension has not derailed the business deals.

If China’s grand strategy (or, rather, the grand strategy of the Chinese communist party) is to make China a global superpower with both hard power (military power projection capability) and soft power (social and cultural prestige), and to do so while retaining the communist party’s absolute grip on power (presumably assuming the legitimacy of that grip on power), one must acknowledge that this strategy has been on track successfully for decades. Assume, for purposes of argument, that this grand strategy continues successfully on track. I have to wonder if the Chinese communist party has a plan to eventually allow the history of the Tiananmen massacre to be known, once subsequent events have sufficiently changed the meaning of that the event (by “proving” that the party was “right” because their policies led to the success of China, therefore their massacre should be excused as understandable in the service of a greater good), or is the memory of the Tiananmen massacre to be forever sequestered? Since the Chinese leadership has proved their ability to think big over the long term, I would guess that there must be internal documents that deal explicitly with this question, though I don’t suppose this internal debate will ever become public knowledge.

I have read many times, from many different sources, that young party members are set to study the lessons of the fall of dictators and one-party states elsewhere in the world. Perhaps they also study damaging historical revelations as carefully, and have developed a plan to manage knowledge of the Tiananmen massacre at some time in the future. It is not terribly difficult to imagine China attempting to use the soft power of the great many Confucius Institute franchises it has sponsored (480 worldwide at latest count) to slowly and gradually shape the discourse around China and the biggest PR disaster in the history of the Chinese communist party, paving the way to eventually opening a discussion of Tiananmen entirely on Chinese terms. I suppose that’s what I would do, if I was a member of the Standing Committee of the Central Politburo. But, again, I am a westerner and am liable to utterly misjudge Chinese motivations. I will, however, continue to wonder about their long game in relation to Tiananmen, and to look for signs in the tea leaves that will betray that game.

. . . . .

Previous posts on Tiananmen Anniversaries:

2009 Anniversary of a Massacre

2010 Twenty-one years since Tiananmen

2011 Was the Tiananmen massacre an atrocity?

2013 A Dream Deferred

2014 Tiananmen and the Right to be Forgotten

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

project astrolabe logo smaller

. . . . .

Wednesday


six years

It is always a pleasure to mark another anniversary of Grand Strategy: The View of Oregon. While I remain a thoroughly marginal figure with very few readers, my efforts have not been entirely in vain. After all, you’re reading this.

A surprising number of blogs appear to be about nothing but blogging, statistics, attracting an readership, responding to comments, and so on. This is incredibly tedious, and I don’t know how they’ve gotten the subscribers and comments that these sites usually feature. (Maybe it’s mostly friends and family, or maybe its some unseen connection to the mainstream media.) There is nothing quite so tiresome as to hear writers talking about writing, or to hear the resentful talking about their resentments. Sometimes the two are one and the same. Thus I limit myself to one post per year in which I vent on the mundane details of writing this blog, so as not to presume too much upon my readers’ patience. My previous anniversary postings include:

Grand Strategy Celebrates One Year!

Grand Strategy Celebrates Two Years!

Grand Strategy Celebrates Three Years!

Four More Years!

Five Years!

That I have continued my efforts is a reflection of intrinsic interest; many blogs are started, and most fizzle, whether or not the writers gain an audience. Given that 95 percent of blogs are abandoned, that fewer men than women blog, that most blogs are written by individuals in their 20s, I am something of a statistical anomaly by dint of pure perseverance. I continue to produce posts, albeit at a slower rate than before, and because I still have plenty of ideas I don’t see myself running out of things to say any time soon.

I don’t blog because I expect a book deal to come out of my efforts, or because I expect to have a million hits a day, or because I think I’m going to be interviewed on television or by the New York Times (though, honestly, I would prefer the Financial Times). On the contrary, blogging is much more likely to bring ridicule than fame and fortune, as others express consternation as to why one bothers at all.

It is interesting to compare the nay-sayers at opposite ends of the spectrum. There are the working class nay-sayers who can’t understand why someone with a full time job would use their spare time to write a blog rather than to enjoy the short space of leisure to which their employment entitles them between the end of the work day and the onset of sleep. On the other hand, there are the privileged nay-sayers, those who have already come into a position of influence, fame, or money, who cannot understand why those on the bottom continue to struggle for some recognition when — obviously — they are doomed to eternal anonymity.

Nay-sayers aside, it is with a certain Schadenfreude that marginal individuals like myself can look upon the near catastrophic failure in the publishing industry today, even if the mainstream media continues to dominate public opinion on the internet now instead of through print. Those who assumed that the publishing industry would go on as it has always gone on have been forced to face hard truths about newspapers and magazines in a digital age. Media outlets that can come to be social institutions have had to change their way of doing business, and, as I have remarked elsewhere, no one should cry for the papers.

I write not to fill column inches or to sell soap, but because I have something to say. I earn nothing from my efforts, but I would be writing this material anyway, without regard to readers or remuneration, so by putting this material that I would have written anyway on a blog, a few people read it who would not otherwise have read it. A few ideas are shared.

A sincere “thank you” to the handful of readers who have returned, and for whom I now write. There is more to come.

. . . . .

six

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

project astrolabe logo smaller

. . . . .

Five Years!

5 November 2013

Tuesday


Charles Demuth figure 5

Today I celebrate the fifth anniversary of this blog. I hope you will join me in toasting the end of another year and the beginning of a new year of blogging and ideas.

When I started this blog it was something of a spontaneous amusement, an impulse. My posts were short, simple and required little or no research. I purposefully wrote about matters that interest me while avoiding the “important” ideas I kept in my notebooks for book projects, which I saw at that time the primary beneficiaries of my intellectual effort.

Over time, the blog posts expanded, became longer and more detailed, and required more research. I still save aside material I plan to put into manuscripts, but the topics with which I began — mostly strategy and civilization — now have a much higher profile in my thought and are at least equal beneficiaries of my intellectual effort. In retrospect, I’m glad that I started to write about civilization here, as these thoughts have expanded over time and have pushed me unexpectedly in interesting directions.

With my posts getting longer, I have been posting far less often — once or twice a week. I’ve also been blogging at Tumblr, which has a very different demographic (meaning that I reach a different crowd there than I do by blogging here on WordPress). Also, in the past year I’ve had posts appear on the Transhumanity blog and on Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams blog (where, by the way, another post by me is scheduled to appear this coming Friday).

Over the past year the hits to my blog took a major hit, and I have gone from an average of nearly two thousand hits per day to an average of around four hundred or fewer per day. Interestingly, most of the lost traffic seems to have been image searches, so the few of you who come here to read and to reflect is perhaps about the same number as in earlier years.

I guess you could say that I write for my handful of subscribers — those few who return to read, spending precious and irretrievable moments of life to find something in what I have spent precious and irretrievable moments of life to write. That is a fair bargain — a part of my life for a part of your life — and as there are few fair bargains in the world today, I should count myself fortunate (which I do).

Nietzsche wrote, “…everywhere else I have my readers — nothing but first-rate intellects and proven characters, trained in high positions and duties; I even have real geniuses among my readers. In Vienna, in St. Petersburg, in Stockholm, in Copenhagen, in Paris, in New York — everywhere I have been discovered; but not in the shallows of Europe, Germany.” (Ecce Homo)

Nietzsche could perhaps speak in the plural; I must speak in the singular. I may not have readers (in the plural) in these celebrated cultural capitals of the world, but I do know from my statistics (which show repeat visits) that I have a reader in Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand, and in Mercer Island, Washington; in Washington D.C. at the Catholic University of America, and a reader in Groningen in the Netherlands; I have a reader in that ancient center of Western civilization, Greece, and in the ancient centers of learning in Paris, France, and Oxford, England; I have a reader in the Balkans, in Belgrade, Serbia, and elsewhere in the Balkans in Skopje, Macedonia; I even have a reader in Hillsboro, Oregon, just minutes away from my office, as well as a reader elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

To all of you — those who return, and those who stop by only a single time — my thanks.

. . . . .

signboard on sidewalk 5 years

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

Wednesday


wtc1

It has been a dozen years now since 11 September 2001. Like that day, today is a beautifully clear and pleasant September day. That such an event should be associated in my memory with nice weather is not unlike that memory almost a hundred years ago of the summer of 1914, just before the Guns of August, when Europeans reported one of their most pleasant summers ever, as though to drive home the stark horror of all that followed that beautiful summer.

I last wrote about September 11 two years ago, on the tenth anniversary, in Ephemera and Pseudo-Events, when I explored the nature of anniversaries as “pseudo-events” that are created by media participation. This year media participation seems pretty low key, making the anniversary perhaps less of a pseudo-event. Moreover, the anniversary of September 11 is also the anniversary of the coup that ousted Salvador Allende from power in Chile, and the news in the sources I read (I should mention that I don’t get my news from US sources) gave almost as much play to the 40th anniversary of the Pinochet coup as to the terrorist attacks on the US.

September 11 not only marked a turning point for US geopolitical involvement in the world in the post-Cold War era, it also marked a decisive turning point in the narrative by which we understand these events and their place in history. New terms and political catch-phrases entered our vocabulary and were relentlessly repeated by media outlets until they became meaningless almost as rapidly as they were introduced. A lot can happen in a dozen years — three or four presidents, for example, though in fact the post-9/11 political environment has yielded only two.

WTC4

As rapidly as events occurred in the wake of September 11, events have continued to succeed each other with astonishing rapidity, and for all the day-to-day continuity that one experiences when swimming in the ocean of history, we can already begin to see the dissolution of the political patterns of the first decade of the 21st century and the emergence of patterns that will define the second decade of the 21st century. The US has sought to execute a “strategic pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region, even as the apparent clarity of purpose in Afghanistan and Iraq yield to the irremediable ambiguities of Libya and Syria.

It is a worthwhile thought experiment to attempt to see one’s own time in historical perspective, but this is admittedly very difficult. As I noted above, the onward rush of events in the present does not allow us to lose sight of the continuity of history, but we know that when we look back on previous centuries (which is itself an arbitrary historical periodization) we tend to break up the centuries into decades and make sweeping generalizations about each decade (perhaps an even more arbitrary historical periodization) as though each were lived separately, in isolation from the decade immediately preceding and immediately following.

What will be said, a hundred years from now (or five hundred years from now), about the first two decades of the twenty-first century? How will they be compared and contrasted in university examinations? What will our descendents say about how we lived, and how different it was to be alive in 2013 as compared to 2003? One obvious narrative structure would be to consign US political history to the presidents in office, so that the first decade of the twenty-first century will be thought of as the Bush years, defined by 9/11 and the response thereto, while the second decade of the twenty-first century will be thought of as the Obama years, when Americans wanted to distance themselves from the radical democratization initiatives of the Bush years and return to a more traditional isolationist stance in relation to the larger world.

WTC2

This is one particularly obvious narrative, but one of the things that makes it obvious is its traditionalist focus on political leaders and military engagements — the dreaded grammar-school triumvirate of “names, dates, places” — whereas historiography has turned decisively away from top-down narratives in favor of bottom-up narratives that focus on the ordinary lives of ordinary people. But who is ordinary? In the context of the succession of presidents, any one president is ordinary, so context must be taken into account.

How could we arrive at a bottom-up narrative structure for contemporary history since the end of the Cold War? Or must we change our perspective even more, acknowledging that on the micro-historical level things change little and slowly, so that periodizations must look to macro-historical forces and structures that are so much larger than the Cold War, and what preceded and followed it, that such events barely register in the lives of ordinary individuals? In this context, what would seem to matter is the slow erosion of the position of the middle class, widening income disparity (just yesterday it was reported that US income inequality at record high), and the large-scale change in the structure of the labor market influencing the kind of jobs that are available, how much they pay, and how long they last.

Of course, no one is going to be satisfied with any one narrative or another exclusively. Part of the complexity of history is the collision of competing narratives. While in the history text books one narrative may triumph to the exclusion of others, the conflict from which the triumph emerges inevitably alters the triumphant narrative so that it becomes a kind of synthesis of the trends of the age.

. . . . .

WTC3

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

Four More Years!

5 November 2012

Monday


Today marks the four year anniversary of Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon, so I would like to invite my readers to celebrate the occasion with me. And I have been given a gift for my four year anniversary. In the US, the traditional four year anniversary gift is linen and silk (elsewhere in the Anglophone world, it’s fruit and flowers in the UK). Well, I didn’t receive linen or silk, fruit or flowers, and, no, I didn’t get the brand new Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale that’s on my wish list, but I did have my statistics for visits recently pass the one million hits mark, which is the best gift for which I could reasonably hope.

You know you want one, so don’t try to pretend otherwise.

My hits on Statcounter turned over a million on 28 October, while my hits on WordPress turned over a million on 30 October. Statcounter obviously counts a little differently, as I started it a year after I started this blog. I racked up about 30,000 hits the first year, so the Statcounter tallies don’t even include this first year’s worth of hits.

Also, Statcounter shows that my Tumblr blog only gets about one percent of the hits that my WordPress blog receives. I don’t doubt that there is a big difference in traffic between the two, but I know that a lot of Tumblr hits go uncounted because there are times when a post gets “liked” or “reblogged” on Tumblr when Statcounter has not recorded any hits to the post in question. On the other hand, the hits that Statcounter does record to my Tumblr blog come with a lot more detail than the recorded hits to my WordPress blog. For example, Statcounter will sometimes show me what search engine was used to find a post, what search terms were used, and what position in the search returns my post had. This has been a fascinating feature to me, and a surprising one. Some Tumblr posts that have never tallied a hit earlier through Statcounter come up at the number one search return for a particular set of terms.

What does a million hits really mean? Well, about 90 percent of all hits that this blog receives are the result of Google image searches, so it’s mostly people looking for pictures. So a million hits means that maybe a hundred thousand people visited for something other than a photograph. Of that hundred thousand, probably only one in ten stayed to read something, so a million hits probably means about 10,000 readers — about one percent of the total. Still, that’s not bad. As I’ve mentioned before, when you start from zero, everything above zero is pure gravy. I am a long way short of those websites that get a million hits in an hour, but I am a long way ahead in readership compared to before this blog.

For the “one percenters” out there who paused to read, possibly to reflect, occasionally to respond, and perhaps also to point and laugh, you have my thanks and my gratitude. I’ll keep writing, and I hope you’ll keep reading.

Fate willing, I look forward to four more years.

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

Thursday


blog statistics

Coincidentally, on this one year anniversary total hits passed 30,000. Some sites get as many hits in a day or an hour, but it is more than I expected.

One year ago, on Wednesday 05 November 2008, I began this blog with the post Opening Reflection. In that opening reflection I announced my intention to see contemporary events through the prism of geopolitics, and geopolitics in turn through the prism of ideas. While I have attempted to do this, and have on occasion successfully tied these together, I also made no rigorous effort to contain myself within self-imposed boundaries.

Like an intellectual Epicurean, I have followed my tastes and inclinations quite to the exclusion of any systematic program of comment, sampling whatever fare attracted me. I gravitate to the ideas I most enjoy, for it is with the ideas that I most enjoy that I feel most free and can write spontaneously. Most of the pieces I have posted have been more or less spontaneous productions of the day. A few I labored over for several days, but that was the exception. Sufficient unto the day has been the inspiration thereof.

It is only recently that I have learned of a wonderful quote from Fernand Braudel, the great French historian of the longue durée and representative of the Annales School of historiography:

Events are the ephemera of history; they pass across its stage like fireflies, hardly glimpsed before they settle back into darkness and as often as not into oblivion.

Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume 2, Part Three: Event, Politics and People, p. 901

While this passage does not appear in the abridged version, the abridged version does include much that reflects this point of view. Braudel returns time and again, in detail and in general overview, to his structuralist orientation. There is a sense in which Braudel’s approach to history is something genuinely new, a novel way to understand human experience. Braudel is no less a methodological naturalist than Thucydides, but his method is nevertheless profoundly distinct from that of Thucydides, though not in a sense in which he seeks to confront and overturn the tradition.

This passage from Braudel also reflects, more and more, my own point of view on history. The political events of the day, upon which I had primarily intended to comment in this forum, seem to me to progressively embody the ephemera of history. I was always committed to understanding the world in terms of the big picture, in terms of the longue durée; the experience of writing this blog has only confirmed me in this prejudice. The passing events of the day are as meaningless as the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave unless they are understood to be shadows of Forms that can be apprehended only by turning away from the fleeting shadows and looking into the blinding light of the ideal.

While I have had very few readers compared to those blogs that are sufficiently popular to have become news in and of themselves, I have nevertheless had more viewers than I expected; far more people have read something here than have ever picked up a copy of one of my books. And while most people who visit probably don’t read much, or in great detail, I do know that I have had a few visitors who have read me quite carefully, as I have received some perceptive comments (and criticism) over the past year. To all who have visited this forum, thank you.

. . . . .

Braudel Mediterranean

. . . . .

signature

. . . . .

Grand Strategy Annex

. . . . .

project astrolabe logo smaller

. . . . .

%d bloggers like this: