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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 8, 2011”

>Slavic Paganism

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On January 21-25, 1998, Pope John Paul II visited Havana. His visit elicited such a wave of popular enthusiasm that it became obvious how little the Communist Party of Cuba managed to achieve in terms of combating the religious feelings of the Cuban people. Things were very different in the Soviet Union where the majority of the population let go of their religious allegiances with a notable ease. In the 20ies and the 30ies, people whose families seemed to have been deeply committed to the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries happily destroyed cathedrals and burned religious images. 
One of the reasons for this difference in the religious attitudes of the Soviet people and the Cubans lies in the history of how they came by their religious affiliations. In Cuba, Santeria integrated Catholicism, Yoruba religion and the traditions of the indigenous peoples. The resulting mix helped people experience catholicism as their own, since most of concepts that have currency in Catholicism could be easily explained in Santeria terms.
The Slavic people came by their Christianity in a very different way. In the late Xth century, Vladimir the Great, the grand prince of Kievan Rus, started casting about for a religion to which he could convert his people. He approached not only Christians but also Muslims and Jews with a request to be told more about their religions with a view to a possible forced conversion of the Slavic people to one of them. Islam didn’t work for him because, even though it allowed one to have several wives (a huge bonus for Vladimir), it prohibited alcohol, and that was definitely not going to be acceptable. The Jews were rejected because Vladimir didn’t feel like allying themselves with people whose loss of their land signaled, in his eyes, that they had been abandoned by God.
So Christianity was chosen and mass baptisms of Slavic people were conducted. Of course, nobody made any efforts to explain to the people what was going on, why their pagan rites had to be abandoned, the statues of their gods destroyed, and a religious tradition that was completely alien to them had to be accepted and practiced exclusively. Slavs were converted to Christianity through mass killings. Entire towns were burned alive for refusing to accept this alien religion. Christian churches were purposefully built on the sites of pagan cemeteries. This, of course, made any genuine popular acceptance of Christianity quite impossible.
For centuries to come, Christianity would be a huge divisive force in society where the rich and the powerful accepted it as their religion while everybody else still practiced pagan rites and only went through the motions of Christian traditions to avoid persecutions. Paganism was not only a system of beliefs for the Slavs. It was a way of finding a shared language with the nature that surrounded them and the climate that wasn’t making their lives easy. Forced Christianity took all that away and gave very little in return. Until the Revolution of 1917, Russian Orthodox Church was a profoundly oppressive force in society that celebrated its extremely expensive rites with great pomp and allowed its officials to live in incomparable luxury. (As we all know, these folks picked up right where they left off after the fall of the Soviet Union.) 
People, in the meanwhile, still retained a worldview that was deeply pagan even though they might not have remembered this word any longer. Prevented from venerating their pagan deities, they developed an attitude where the political leaders of the country were treated as such substitute deities. Today, this attitude towards politicians in charge of the country still persists in those of the Slavic countries where Christianity was imposed in this uninspired and violent way.
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>Happy Birthday, Dear Colleague!

>Happy Birthday to my dear colleague J.F.B. who is also a reader of this blog.

¡Feliz cumple, compañero!

>Planned C-sections Bring Greater Satisfaction Than Vaginal Births

>In spite of a recent trend to demonize C-section and prevent women from getting one if they want to, research demonstrates that those women who  still manage to get their planned C-sections are a lot happier and less likely to suffer from postpartum depression than women who undergo vaginal birth:

The doctors found that women who planned C-sections were much more satisfied with their experiences than those who planned vaginal births. . . The study polled 160 women planning vaginal delivery and 44 planning C-sections. The women were asked eight weeks afterdelivery about their fulfillment, distress and difficulty. They rated their satisfaction with the childbirth experience on a scale from one to 100 and how they felt right after birth using descriptors such as “disappointed,” “enthusiastic” and “cheated.” Those planning C-sections reported higher satisfaction, higher fulfillment and lower distress and difficulty, and a more favorable overall experience than those planning vaginal birth. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about one-third of U.S. women giving birth had C-sections in 2008, the latest data available. The number crossed all races and ages.

The main reason for the anti-C-section propaganda that we have been inundated with in recent years is the firm belief many still possess that true femininity is only achieved through pain and suffering. Consequently, women who plan to avoid the so-called “natural” childbirth have been demonized as not womanly enough. As this study shows, however, ultimately such women come out winning because they don’t sacrifice their emotional and physical well-being to some medieval prejudices about what is and isn’t “natural.”
You can see how terrified our culture still is that some women might escape the horrors associated with vaginal birth in the language of the very article that quoted this important piece of research. In order to make up for the article’s brave defense of planned C-sections, its author immediately proceeds to quote some unintelligent quack who obviously despises women for a living:

“How much this figures into an individual’s psyche is nothing we can measure, because we can’t do randomized studies by making some women have C-sections and some vaginal births,” she said. “Instead, we absolutely should have more counseling. Labor is OK, and they’ll survive. Most births go very well; there’s no good evidence now to circumvent Mother Nature.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the jerk who said this atrocity doesn’t rely on “Mother Nature” when she, say, gets a toothache. I also don’t believe that a dentist who’d tell her that pain is OK and she’ll survive would not be her dentist for long. It will be especially funny if Nada Stotland, the woman-hater who made this statement, has ever used birth control, painkillers, reading glasses or tampons. The same goes for refrigerators, washing machines, computers, and all the other things that mother nature didn’t provide us with but which we still use to make our lives easier on a daily basis.

>Giant Ants

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As a life-long insectophobe, I am always especially attentive to news involving insects. This is why I was terrified and traumatized to discover that gigantic winged ants of the size of hummingbirds existed on our planet 50 million years ago:

A winged ant queen fossilized in 49.5-million-year-old Wyoming rock ranks as the first body of a giant ant from the Western Hemisphere, says paleoentomologist Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.The new species, Titanomyrma lubei, is related to giant ants previously found in German fossils. These long-distance relatives bolster the notion that the climate of the time had hot blips that allowed warmth-loving giant insects to spread from continent to continent, Archibald and a U.S.-Canada team propose online May 4 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. An ancient ant wing from Tennessee had hinted that big ants lived in North America during this time, says Torsten Wappler of the University of Bonn in Germany.

Ants are extremely strong and especially well-organized. In my opinion, only their small size prevented these nasty creatures from taking over the planet. It’s good news that they didn’t grow any bigger than this!

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