Almost every language has an idiom that maps to the French plus ça change. In English, it’s “the more things change (the more they stay the same),” in German, Leid oder Freud’, in fünfzig Jahren ist’s alles eins comes closest.

Corroborating this observation is the following passage by Edward Gibbon,i with the replacement of the relevant parties of the time of antiquity with the relevant parties today left as an exercise to the alert reader:

We have already seen that the active and successful zeal of the Christians had insensibly diffused through every province and almost every city of the empire. The new converts seemed to renounce their family and country, that they might connect themselves in an indissoluble band of union with a peculiar society, which everywhere assumed a different character from the rest of mankind. Their gloomy and austere aspect, their abhorrence of the common business and pleasures of life, and their frequent predictions of impending calamities, inspired the Pagans with the apprehension of some danger which would arise from the new sect, the more alarming as it was the more obscure. ‘Whatever,’ says Pliny, ‘may be the principle of their conduct, their inflexible obstinacy appeared deserving of punishment.’


The Christians, with the intrepid security of innocence, appeal from the voice of rumour to the equity of the magistrates. They acknowledge that, if any proof can be produced of the crimes which calumny has imputed them, they are worthy of the most severe punishment. They provoke the punishment, and they challenge the proof. At the same time they urge, with equal truth and propriety, that the charge is not less devoid of probability than it is destitute of evidence; they ask whether any one can seriously believe that the pure and holy precepts of the Gospel, which so frequently restrain the use of the most lawful enjoyments, should inculcate the practise of the most abominable crimes; that a large society should resolve to dishonour itself in the eyes of its own members, and that a great number of persons, of either sex, and every age and character, insensible to the fear of death or infamy, should consent to violate those principles which nature and education had imprinted most deeply in their minds. Nothing, it should seem, could weaken the force or destroy the effect of so unanswerable a justification, unless it were the injudicious conduct of the apologists themselves, who betrayed the common cause of religion, to gratify their devout hatred to the domestic enemies of the church.


The Gentile converts who by a spiritual adoption had been associated to the hope of Israel, were likewise confounded under the garb and appearance of Jews; and as the Polytheists paid less regard to articles of faith than to the external worship, the new sect, which carefully concealed, or faintly announced, its future greatness and ambition, was permitted to shelter itself under the general toleration which was granted to an ancient and celebrated people in the Roman empire. It was not long, perhaps, before the Jews themselves, animated with a fiercer zeal and more jealous faith, perceived the gradual separation of the Nazarene brethren from the doctrine of the synagogue: and they would gladly have extinguished the dangerous heresy in the blood of its adherents. But the decrees of Heaven had already disarmed their malice, and though they might sometimes exert the licentious privilege of sedition, they no longer possessed the administration of criminal justice, nor did they find it easy to infused into the calm breast of the Roman magistrate the rancour of their own zeal and prejudice. The provincial governors declared themselves ready to listen to any accusation that might affect the public safety; but as soon as they were informed that it was a a question not of facts but of words, a dispute relating only to the interpretation of the Jewish law and prophecies, they deemed it unworthy of the majesty of Rome seriously to discuss the obscure differences which might arise among ta barbarous and superstitious people. The innocence of the first Christians was protected by ignorance and contempt; and the tribunal of the Pagan magistrate often proved their most assured refuge against the fury of the synagogue.

As with religion and as with politics, so it was and so it is, so it will be with youth and the whinging of the media.

“Keeping in mind that actual stalking has never been dealt with in any significant way ever, the desire of a few female writers to curb online anonymity wouldn’t be enough to get an @ mention, except that this happens to coincide with what the media wants, and now we have the two vectors summing to form a public health crisis. “Cyberbullying is a huge problem!” Yes, but not because it is hurtful, HA! no one cares about your feelings– but because criticism makes women want to be more private– and the privacy of the women is bad. The women have to be online, they do most of the clicking and receive most of the clicks. Anonymous cyberbullying is a barrier to increasing consumption, it’s gotta go.”

mircea_popescu: In retrospect this is the best discussion of this ever-returning zombie of “cyberbullying” I ever read.

“If Hess has made you wonder, hmm, maybe unrestricted anonymity is bad because it gives trolls too much power, then the system has successfully used her for its true purpose: brand it as bad, to you. She is unwittingly teaching the demo of this article, e.g. women in their 20s with no actual power looking to establish themselves, who are the very people who should embrace anonymity, not to want this: only rapists and too-weak-to-try rapists want to be anonymous. Smart women write clickable articles about their sexuality for nothing, because what good are you if you can’t make someone else money? Interesting to observe that the article’s single suggested solution to cyberharassment is to reframe a criminal problem into a civil rights issue using a logic so preposterously adolescent that if you laid this on your Dad when you were 16 he’d backhand slap you right out of the glee club: “it discourages women from writing and earning a living online.” Earning a living? From who, Gawker? Most of the women writing on the internet are writing for someone else who pays them next to nothing. None of them control the capital, none of them get paid 1/1000 of what they bring in for the media company. You know what they do get? They get to be valued by work, and in gratitude they are going to the front lines to fight for the media company’s right to pay them less.”

mircea_popescu: This is quite exactly it, and it’s not limited to poorly educated, insufficiently fucked, infantilized 20something wymyn. The mirror-image infantilized 20something bois are idem fighting for Paul Graham‘s right to pay them nothing while turning them into a strange sort of pulp fiction’s gimp. The funniest thing in all of this isn’t exactly the horde of children who don’t understand how the fuck they were tricked exactly. The funniest thing is the plethora of articles about how “Apple could buy Russia.” It’s going to get even funnier once they actually try.

asciilifeform: Why not ‘buy’ whole planet. What, not enough ink in printer ?
mircea_popescu: No but you know, the fumes of confused teenagers are going to somehow coalesce into moving as much as a hair of actual matter. ANY DAY NOW. I could be sitting in a Parisian cafe cca 1815 and lol the same way for the same reasons at the same people. This, they call progress.
asciilifeform: Fumes of confused teenagers are going to somehow coalesce into moving << ‘dog barks, caravan moves’

After all, people are people.

___ ___ ___

  1. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Everyman’s Library, 1910. Volume II, page 11.

11 thoughts on “s/then/now.

  1. Alrenous says:

    Yeah, LastPsych is usually on the ball. Indeed when he has issues, it’s usually because his reach exceeds his prose skill’s grasp. Turns out if your V IQ is too high it can get caught in knotted feedback loops.

  2. […] The differences between the two news services are as stark as they are because each approaches the world from different causes. The former works from the premise that physical offices are required to house people with government-granted degrees in such a way as to curry the most favour with advertisers through the measurement of “eyeballs.”i The latter works from the premise that trust is the most important thing in the world, just as it was all those years ago everywhere from rural farming communities to ancient kingdoms and whatnot. […]

  3. […] weren’t, it seems, any more genuinely deserving then than they are now. Plus ca change. […]

  4. […] Even today, with the power of the Internet increasingly eroding the puritanism and protestantism of the last few decades, Powers would have a bit of a time finding an environment offering a panoply of free love and top-notch drugs outside of perhaps the international rave scene,vi which, even if David Guetta is on the pop radio stations, isn’t embedded into everyday culture in nearly the same way. Times have changed… a bit. […]

  5. […] so long as everyone gets along and there’s no unfair hierarchy to speak of, ya ? And just as long as everyone keeps consuming endless piles of refuse so that a few impoverished souls can keep their jobs at Gawker, for as long as that’s a […]

  6. […] where we started, betting reputations as much as pocketbooks between gentlemen in good standing. Plus ca change. […]

  7. […] so? Well, people are people and no amount of wizardry, sorcery, and gadgetry is going to improve on this broken code of ours. […]

  8. […] nothing ever dies. This is why it’s so bloody important to read history, and of the Edward Gibbon variety rather than the Jared Diamond variety. While our age is certainly enlightened in […]

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