“wall street bankers are stupid” — 5/21/18

Today’s selection — from The Big Short by Michael Lewis. 

As financial cracks began to appear in 2007, bankers were still claiming that all was well, a woman who was a stock analyst at Oppenheimer was the first to claim loudly that the proverbial emperor had no clothes:

“Meredith Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for an obscure financial firm, Oppenheimer and Co., who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It’s never entirely clear on any given day what causes what inside the stock market, but it was pretty clear that, on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of, and who could have been dismissed as a nobody, had shaved 8 percent off the shares of Citi­group and $390 billion off the value of the U.S. stock market. Four days later, Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince resigned. Two weeks later, Citigroup slashed its dividend.

Meredith Whitney
“From that moment, Meredith Whitney became E. F. Hutton: When she spoke, people listened. Her message was clear: If you want to know what these Wall Street firms are really worth, take a cold, hard look at these crappy assets they’re holding with borrowed money, and imagine what they’d fetch in a fire sale. The vast assemblages of highly paid people inside them were worth, in her view, nothing. All through 2008, she followed the bankers’ and brokers’ claims that they had put their problems behind them with this write-down or that capital raise with her own claim: You’re wrong. You’re still not facing up to how badly you have mismanaged your business. You’re still not acknowl­edging billions of dollars in losses on subprime mortgage bonds. The value of your securities is as illusory as the value of your people. Rivals accused Whitney of being overrated; bloggers accused her of being lucky. What she was, mainly, was right. But it’s true that she was, in part, guessing. There was no way she could have known what was going to happen to these Wall Street firms, or even the extent of their losses in the subprime mortgage market. The CEOs themselves didn’t know. ‘Either that or they are all liars,’ she said, ‘but I assume they really just don’t know.’

“Now, obviously, Meredith Whitney didn’t sink Wall Street. She’d just expressed most clearly and most loudly a view that turned out to be far more seditious to the social order than, say, the many cam­paigns by various New York attorneys general against Wall Street corruption. If mere scandal could have destroyed the big Wall Street investment banks, they would have vanished long ago. This woman wasn’t saying that Wall Street bankers were corrupt. She was saying that they were stupid. These people whose job it was to allocate capi­tal apparently didn’t even know how to manage their own.”

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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
Author: Michael Lewis
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Copyright  2011, 2010 by Michael Lewis
Pages: xvi-xvii


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mahatma gandhi and adolf hitler — 3/29/18

Today’s selection — from Indian Summer by Alex Von Tunzelmann.

Gandhi advised the British to give up the fight against Hitler and Mussolini, and advised Jews in Germany to offer passive resistance to the Nazi regime:

“Gandhi’s position on nonviolence was absolute. Aggression could never be returned. He did not believe that women should resist rape, but preferred that they should ‘defeat’ their assailants by remaining passive and silent. Correspondingly, he did not believe that the vic­tims of war should resist attackers by physical force, but rather ought to offer satyagraha — that is, noncompliance with the invaders. ‘If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, war against Germany to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race would be completely justified,’ he wrote. ‘But I do not believe in any war.’

“He advised the British to give up the fight against Hitler and Mussolini: ‘Let them take possession of your beautiful island … allow yourself, man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.’ Furthermore, in one of his most controversial arguments, Gandhi advised the Jews in Germany to offer passive resistance to the Nazi regime — and to give up their own lives as sacrifices. He told the Jews to pray for Adolf Hitler. ‘If even one Jew acted thus,’ he wrote, ‘he would salve his self respect and leave an example which, if it became infectious, would save the whole of Jewry and leave a rich heritage to mankind besides.’

Gandhi leading the 1930 Salt March, a notable example of Satyagraha.
“Gandhi compounded this error of judgment by offering praise to Hitler. ‘I do not consider Herr Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted,’ he wrote in May 1940. ‘He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed. ‘ Ap­parently, he saw some parallel between his own efforts to return In­dia to the Indians and Hitler’s invasion of French territory to reclaim that lost to Germany under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War. He regretted that Hitler had employed war rather than nonviolence to achieve his aims, but nonetheless averred that the Germans of the future ‘will honour Herr Hitler as a genius, a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more.’

“The American journalist Louis Fischer brought up this subject with Gandhi in 1946. By that time, the concentration camps had been discovered, and the true, awful extent of the Holocaust re­vealed. It might have been expected that the benefit of hindsight would have tempered the old man’s views. It had not. ‘Hitler killed five million Jews,’ Gandhi told Fischer, ‘It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs. . . . . As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.’ “

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Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
Author: Alex Von Tunzelmann
Publisher: Picador, Henry Holt and Company
Copyright 2007 by Alex von Tunzelmann
Pages: 110-111


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the rape of nanking — 8/30/17

Today’s selection — from Chiang Kai-Shek by Jonathan Fenby. The so-called “Rape of Nanking” witnessed atrocities that were among the most horrifying in the history of war. It was part of the Second Sino-Japanese War, which began in 1937 when Imperial Japan invaded China under Chiang Kai-Shek. Casualties in that war were estimated at between 20 and 35 million people. Nanking was the capital of the Republic of China and was upriver from Shanghai, China’s wealthiest and most important commercial city, which had already fallen to the Japanese:
“The Rape of Nanking was unique as an urban atrocity not only for the number of people who died but also for the way the Japanese went about their killing, the wanton individual cruelty, the reduction of the city’s inhabitants to the status of subhumans who could be murdered, tortured, and raped at will in an outburst of the basest instincts let loose in six weeks of terror and death. The death toll was put at 300,000 — some accounts set it even higher, though one source for the former figure, Harold Timperley of the Manchester Guardian, used it to refer to deaths in the Yangtze Valley as a whole.
“On the first day, a Japanese division killed more than 24,000 prisoners of war and fleeing soldiers. On the wharves by the river, coolies threw 20,000 bodies into the Yangtze before being killed themselves. Behind its white flags and Red Cross symbols, the foreign Safety Zone proved weak protection: indeed, by concentrating refugees there, it inadvertently provided a big target for the killers; the ‘good Nazi of Nanking’, the German John Rabe could only roam the streets trying to rescue individuals in his path.
 
The corpses of massacred victims on the shore of the Qinhuai River with a Japanese soldier standing nearby
“There were no imperial orders, as such, for the Rape of Nanking, and General Matsui gave senior officers a scathing rebuke after he entered the city for the victory parade on 17 December. But the general left for Shanghai two days later and, though he insisted there that misconduct must be severely punished, his words had no discernible effect. Any Chinese was liable to be a target. People were roped together and machine-gunned, doused with kerosene and set on fire. Thousands were buried alive — or put in holes up to their necks and then savaged by army dogs. Others were frozen to death after being thrown into icy ponds. Japanese soldiers used Chinese for bayonet practice. Civilians were nailed to boards and run over by vehicles, Mutilation, disembowelling and eye gouging took place before executions. People were sprayed with acid, or hung up by their tongues. Medical experiments were conducted in a former hospital where Chinese, known as ‘logs’, were injected with germs and poisons. Women, young and old, pregnant and ill, were raped in enormous numbers, and then killed, some with sticks rammed into their ******s. Foetuses were ripped from the bodies of expectant mothers. Other women were taken to so-called ‘comfort houses’ set up for the soldiers, who called the inmates ‘public toilets’.
“Japanese newspapers recorded a competition between two lieutenants to behead 100 Chinese with their swords. When they both passed the mark, it was not clear who had got there first, so the contest was extended to 150. One of the lieutenants described the competition as ‘fun’, though Japanese newspapers noted that he had damaged his blade on the helmet of a Chinese he cut in half. Revelling in their savagery, Japanese soldiers took photographs of the massacres and sent them to Shanghai to be developed; Chinese staff in the photographic shops passed copies to Rhodes Farmer who forwarded them to Look magazine in America in evidence of the horror.
“As the Nationalist capital, Nanking was obviously an important target where the Japanese wanted to achieve maximum humiliation of their adversary. But the sustained mass bestiality can better be explained — if it can be rationally explained at all — by the tensions that had built up in the army since the Shanghai battle erupted, by the knowledge of the Japanese troops that they were heavily outnumbered by the Chinese in the city, by the callousness bred in the previous four months — and, above all, by the dehumanisation of the Chinese which had become part of the psyche of the Imperial Army. The invaders saw the people around them as lower than animals, targets for a bloodlust which many, if not all, their commanders felt could only spur their men on to fight better. In his diary, one soldier described the Chinese as ‘ants crawling on the ground … a herd of ignorant sheep’. Another recorded that while raping a woman, his colleagues might consider her as human, but, when they killed her, ‘we just thought of her as something like a pig’.
“It seems certain that the Emperor in Tokyo knew at least the outline of what was going on. His uncle was in command, and Japanese newspapers reported the execution contests among officers as if they were sporting events. Hirohito still hoped that China could be defeated with one big blow, which Nanking might provide.”
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Chiang Kai-Shek: China’s Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost

Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers
Copyright 2003 by Jonathan Fenby
Pages: 307-309

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be simple and slow in speech — 8/24/17

Today’s encore selection — from Zhu Xi’s Reading of the Analects by Daniel K. Gardner. Confucius (551 – 479 BCE), a Chinese thinker and social philosopher whose influence extends to the present, attempts to define goodness. In the Analects, his definition of goodness starts with the “golden rule,” but he takes his concept further, famously stating that to be good one must be “resolute and firm, simple and slow in speech.” [Note: Most current historians do not believe that any specific documents can be said to have been written by Confucius]:
Confucius
“The Master said, ‘To be resolute and firm, simple and slow in speech, is to approach true goodness.’ (Analect 13.27 [17]). Commentator Wang Su said, ‘Gang [resolute] is to be without desire; yi [firm] is to be determined and daring; mu is to be [simple]; na [slow] is to be slow in speech. To be possessed of these four qualities is to approach true goodness.’ …
” ‘Simple and slow in speech’ becomes almost a refrain in the teachings of Confucius. For instance, in 12.3 he says, ‘The person of true goodness is restrained in speech.’ Throughout the text he repeatedly cautions his followers not to mistake eloquence for substance as in 1.3: ‘The Master said, Artful words and a pleasing countenance have little, indeed, to do with true goodness.’ …
“Zhu … wants to understand why this is so. The answer for him is partly that restraint in speech indicates a general self-restraint, which, in turn indicates that one’s original mind-and-heart with its endowed true goodness has been preserved and not won over by selfish desires. … For Zhu, words that are not simple but, rather, are ‘artful’ are evidence that one has become interested in ‘adorning oneself on the outside in an effort to please others, a matter of human desire’s having grown dissolute.’ “
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Author: Daniel K. Gardner
Copyright 2003 Columbia University Press
Pages: 75-76
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voters never approved the euro — 4/06/17

Today’s encore selection — from War and Gold by Kwasi Kwarteng. European countries have high levels of trade with each other, so they needed currency exchange rates that are relatively stable. In the early twentieth century, having their currencies tied to gold provided that. After World War II, it was provided by the Bretton Woods agreement, which tied these major currencies to the dollar, which was in turn tied to gold. But after President Richard Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard in 1971, the need reappeared and a number of European countries created a mechanism called the “snake,” which constrained fluctuations of currencies, and then the “exchange rate mechanism,” which did much the same thing. But the ultimate dream was to create a single currency — the euro — in one of the boldest monetary initiatives in history. For something so resolute and so laden with potential moral hazard, and for something that has in recent years contributed to so much European economic pain, it was surprisingly the creation of technocrats, and never taken to any country’s voters for their approval:
“The fiscal situation of the European countries which aspired to join the single currency [in 1997] did not inspire confidence. All through the late 1990s, the lack of preparedness of certain EU countries to join the euro was a subject of open debate. ‘There has, of course, been some sleight of hand,’ wrote Rupert Cornwell in the Independent in February 1998. ‘It remains mysterious quite how Italy, which for years regularly ran double-digit budget deficits, conveniently slashed last year’s to a mere 2.7 per cent of GDP.’ It was obvious, even before the euro was launched, that the single currency was an almost purely political project, which would be pursued without any real regard for the underlying economic reality. As the Frenchman Jacques Rueff had said, ‘Europe will make itself by money or not at all.’ The words of the Portuguese Prime Minister António Guterres at the Madrid summit in December 1995 were even more grandiose and emphatic: ‘When Jesus resolved to found a church, he said to Peter, “You are Peter, the rock, and upon this rock I will build my church.” You are the euro, and upon this new currency we will build our Europe.’

“There was never any idea that the people of Europe, the citizens of the individual states, would be consulted before this momentous step was taken. As [Otmar] Issing [the German economist who also served as a member of the European Central Bank’s first executive board], himself later admitted, it was ‘doubtless in Germany that resistance to EMU was the greatest’. The decision to ‘abandon the D-Mark required a great deal of political courage’, he remembered. In opinion polls conducted as late as the autumn of 1995, only 34 per cent of Germans were in favour of the single currency, while 45 per cent were against. Needless to say, these figures were reversed as the decade wore on and the single currency became more imminent. By the spring of 1999, some 55 per cent of Germans now supported the single currency while only 36 per cent continued their opposition.

“In the same poll from 1995, the Finns were shown to be the least in favour of the currency among the nations which eventually joined: 53 per cent of Finns were hostile to the currency, while only 33 per cent approved. It is important to grasp the extent to which Europe’s political elites were committed to the single currency. The reasons why numerous political figures and bankers became strong advocates of the euro differed. For the Germans, it was often as much a symbol of fiscal discipline as a badge of European unity. For Issing, the benefits of the euro were explicitly focused on the need for fiscal discipline. This was a view widely held in Germany and the Netherlands.
“The people of Europe, of course, had not been consulted before the single currency was officially launched on 1 January 1999. The euro was always conceived as an elite project, conjured up by technocrats, to be foisted upon a largely acquiescent and amorphous European public. There was as yet no European superstate, a fact which worried Germans, unsure of whether a monetary union was possible without a political union.”
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War and Gold: A Five-Hundred-Year History of Empires, Adventures, and Debt

Publisher: PublicAffairs
Copyright 2014 Kwasi Kwarteng
Pages: 277-278

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stalin starves more than one million to their death — 3/10/17

Today’s selection — from Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. Joseph Stalin wanted to build his country and advance the cause of communism. Central to that was his desire to build industrial factories in cities. But to do that he needed to make a massive investment in large-scale machines, purchasing them in large part from more advanced countries. The only way to afford these machines was to sell surplus grain, which required collectivizing and squeezing a surplus from the primitive farming communities in the vast and fertile lands of the Ukraine. Over time, this effort led to the death of millions of Soviet citizens:
“[After an initial attempt at collectivization that failed,] Stalin maintained that the problem with collectivization was that it had been imple­mented with just a little too much enthusiasm. It had been a mistake, he now asserted, to force the peasants to join the collective farms. The latter now dis­appeared just as quickly as they had been created. In 1930, peasants in Ukraine harvested the winter wheat, and sowed the seeds for the autumn crops, just as if the land belonged to them. They could be forgiven for thinking that they had won.
“Stalin’s withdrawal was tactical. Given time to think, Stalin and the politburo found more effective means to subordinate the peasantry to the state. In the countryside the following year, Soviet policy preceded with much greater deftness. In 1931, collectivization would come because peasants would no longer see a choice. The lower cadres of the Ukrainian branch of the Soviet communist party were purged, to ensure that those working within the villages would be true to their purpose, and un­derstand what would await them if they were not. The independent farmer was taxed until the collective farm became the only refuge. As the collective farms slowly regrouped, they were granted indirect coercive power over neighboring independent farmers. They were allowed, for example, to vote to take the seed grain away from independent farmers. The seed grain, what is kept from one crop to plant the next, is indispensible to any working farm. The selection and preservation of the seed grain is the basis of agriculture. For most of human his­tory, eating the seed grain has been synonymous with utter desperation. An in­dividual who lost control of the seed grain to the collective lost the ability to live from his or her own labor.
Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933
“Deportations resumed, and collectivization proceeded. In late 1930 and early 1931, some 32,127 more households were deported from Soviet Ukraine, about the same number of people as had been removed during the first wave of de­portations a year before. Peasants thought that they would die either of exhaus­tion in the Gulag or of hunger close to home, and preferred the latter. Letters from exiled friends and family occasionally escaped the censor; one included the following advice: ‘No matter what, don’t come. We are dying here. Better to hide, better to die there, but no matter what, don’t come here,’ Ukrainian peas­ants who yielded to collectivization chose, as one party activist understood, ‘to face starvation at home rather than banishment to the unknown.’ Because col­lectivization came more slowly in 1931, family by family rather than whole vil­lages at once, it was harder to resist. There was no sudden attack to provoke a desperate defense. By the end of the year, the new approach had succeeded. About seventy percent of the farmland in Soviet Ukraine was now collectivized. The levels of March 1930 had been reached again, and this time durably. …
“By autumn 1931 the failure of the first collectivized harvest was obvious. The reasons were many: the weather was poor; pests were a problem; animal power was limited because peasants had sold or slaughtered livestock; the pro­duction of tractors was far less than anticipated; the best farmers had been de­ported; sowing and reaping were disrupted by collectivization; and peasants who had lost their land saw no reason to work very hard. …
“More than half of the (nonspoiled) harvest was removed from Soviet Ukraine in 1931. Many collective farms met their requisition targets only by handing over their seed grain. Stalin ordered on 5 December that collective farms that had not yet fulfilled their annual requirements must surrender their seed grain. Stalin perhaps believed that peasants were hiding food, and thought that the threat of taking the seed grain would motivate them to hand over what they had. But by this time many of them truly had nothing. By the end of 1931, many peasants were already going hungry. With no land of their own and with little ability to resist requisitions, they simply had no way to ensure that a sufficient number of calories reached their households. Then in early 1932 they had no seed grain with which to plant the fall crop. The Ukrainian party leadership asked for seed grain in March 1932, but by that time the planting was already delayed, meaning that the harvest that fall would be poor.
“In early 1932 people asked for help. Ukrainian communists requested that their superiors in the Ukrainian party ask Stalin to call in the Red Cross. … Ukrainian party members bypassed [General Secretary Stanislav] Kosior and wrote directly to Stalin, taking an angry tone: ‘How can we construct the socialist economy when we are all doomed to death by hunger?’
“The threat of mass starvation was utterly clear to Soviet Ukrainian authori­ties, and it became so to Stalin. Party activists and secret police officers filed countless reports of death by starvation. In June 1932 the head of the party in the Kharkiv region wrote to Kosior that starvation had been reported in every single district of his region. Kosior received a letter from a member of the Young Communists dated 18 June 1932, with a graphic description that was probably, by then, all too familiar: ‘Collective farm members go into the fields and disap­pear. After a few days their corpses are found and, entirely without emotion, as though this were normal, buried in graves. The next day one can already find the body of someone who had just been digging graves for others.’…
“That Stalin’s own policy of collectivization could cause mass starvation was also clear. By summer 1932, as Stalin knew, more than a million people had already starved to death in Soviet Kazakhstan. … Stalin, a master of personal politics, presented the Ukrainian famine in personal terms. His first impulse, and his lasting tendency, was to see the starvation of Ukrainian peasants as a betrayal by members of the Ukrainian communist party.”
Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Publisher: Basic Books
Copyright 2010 by Timothy Snyder
Pages 32-35

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human sacrifice — 1/30/17

Today’s selection — from Mexico City by Nick Caistor. When Hernando Cortez and his troops arrived at Tenochtitlán (current day Mexico City) they witnessed the Mexica [rulers of the Aztec empire] performing the ritual of human sacrifice. These sacrifices were performed at a moment of dread for the Mexica, the end of a 52 year cycle, when they were unsure whether the world would be renewed or come to an end in disaster, and they offered these sacrifices in hopes that the cycle would be renewed:
“During the final assault on Tenochtitlán, Bernal Díaz del Castillo was witness to what happened to some Spanish soldiers captured by the Mexica and taken to the Great Temple. His gruesome account spared no details:
Human sacrifice as shown in the Codex Magliabechiano, Folio 70.

 

Again there was sounded the dismal drum of Huichilobos (Huitzili) and many other shells and horns and things like trumpets and the sound of them all was terrifying, and we all looked towards the lofty Cue [Great Temple] where they were being sounded, and saw that our comrades whom they had captured when they defeated Cortés were being carried by force up the steps, and they were taking them to be sacrificed. When they had got them up to a small square in front of the oratory, where their accursed idols are kept, we saw them place plumes on the heads of many of them and with things like fans in their hands they forced them to dance before Huichilobos, and after they had danced they immediately placed them on their backs on some rather narrow stones which had been prepared as places for sacrifice, and with stone knives they sawed open their chests and drew out their palpitating hearts and offered them to the idols that were there, and they kicked the bodies down the steps, and Indian butchers who were waiting below cut off the arms and feet and flayed the skin off the faces, and prepared it afterwards like glove leather with the beards on, and kept those for the festivals when they celebrated drunken orgies, and the flesh they ate in chilmole. In the same way they sacrificed all the others and ate the legs and arms and offered the hearts and blood to their idols, as I have said, and the bodies, that is their entrails and feet, they threw to the tigers and lions which they kept in the house of the carnivores.

“Experiences such as this meant that when Cones and his men finally completed their conquest of the city, they were all the more determined to pull down the ‘accursed’ buildings of the Mexica. Like much of the rest of the city center, the Great Temple was razed to the ground. Some of its stones were used in the construction of the first Christian churches in the Spanish Mexico City. And that was the last that was seen of the Great Temple for more than 450 years. …
“The [archeologists] who [beginning in 1978] uncovered the remains [of Tenochtitlán] confirmed what the early Spanish chroniclers had suggested: that Tenochtitlán, the city of the Mexica, was first and foremost a religious and ceremonial center. Its main function was a religious one, … the Mexica hoped to bring divine blessing, to ward off evil, and to keep the world turning. …
“The sacrifices, which had so horrified Díaz del Castillo, were not mere acts of barbarism, but a sacred reenactment of that victory over the dark forces that constantly threatened the stability of the Mexica world. This hill in the middle of the island on the great lakes of Tenochtitlán was the focal point, …  the central point on the vertical plane in which human beings, gods, and their spirits existed. The souls of the Mexica dead went down through nine planes to reach the realm of Mictlán. The gods dwelled on the thirteen higher levels, while at the highest sat the ‘lords of creation’ of the myth, Omeyocan and Ometecuthli. It was the Templo Mayor that offered access to all these worlds.
“But this world was an unstable one, in which the forces of life, the sun, and the water god Tlaloc, who also had his temple at the top of the sacred hill, were constantly threatened. Human sacrifice was needed to ensure that the cycle of life and death continued as it should, with the rebirth of the cosmos at the end of each 52-year period that the Mexica calendar described.
“The Florentine Codex of Mexica history describes this moment of dread, when the Mexica were unsure whether the world would be renewed or come to an end in disaster. As the closing days of the old period approached, everyone in their homes put out their domestic fires, swept the hearths clean, and threw their household gods into the waters of the lake. On the fearful night that had been calculated as the end of one great heavenly cycle, the fire priests and a chosen warrior climbed the Hill of the Star in Tenochtitlán. All the people watching ‘with unwavering attention and necks craned towards the hill became filled with dread that the sun would be destroyed forever.’ The priests watched the progress of the constellation we know as the Pleiades as it moved across the heavens on that one night after 18,980 nights. Seeing that it still moved through the night sky, the priests saw it as the sign that the world had not stopped turning. A small fire was then kindled. The warrior was laid out on the sacrificial stone, ‘then speedily the priests slashed opened the breast with a flint knife, seized the heart, and thrust it into the fire.’ The people of Tenochtitlán cut their ears ‘and spattered their blood in the ritual flicking of fingers in the direction of the fire on the mountain.’ That fire was taken down from the Hill of the Star and conveyed by priests to the Templo Mayor, where it was placed in front of the statue of the god. Messengers and runners then took fire back to all the towns of the empire, where people rekindled their fires, sure in the knowledge that the stars and the sun would continue on their way for another cycle of 52 years.
“However solid and imposing the Great Temple looked to worshippers and to Spaniards alike, the world that revolved around it was a fragile one. And when Cortés and his men arrived toward the close of one of these 52-year cycles, it seemed like a confirmation of the Mexica’s worst forebodings.”
Mexico City: A Cultural and Literary Companion (Cities of the Imagination)

Author: Nick Caistor
Publisher: Interlink Publishing Group
Copyright Nick Caistor 2000
Pages 43-48

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Delanceyplace.com is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.