I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 December 2022

Emperors of Rome Episode XIX Nero the Youngest Emperor introduces Nero, the 17 year old adopted son of Claudius, grandson of Germanicus, and great-grandson of Mark Antony and Octavia so he had a peerless pedigree on both sides. Yet he was not groomed for power because his mother Agrippina was exiled for plotting to overthrow Caligula until they were both brought back when Agrippina married Claudius. Claudius made both Nero and his step-brother Brittanicus co-heirs, which was pretty much a death sentence for Brittanicus who mysterious died the day before he came of age. Nero’s reign started off well for the first five years. During this time he conducted a proxy war with Parthia over Armenia but it backfired badly as a PR exercise when he insisted that the client king of Armenia come to pay obeisance to him in Rome at great financial expense. Episode XX Agrippina looks at this woman so thoroughly enmeshed in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. She was the daughter of Germanicus, Caligula’s sister and her mother Agrippina the Elder was seen as the perfect wife. The grew up surrounded by strong women and a stable empire. She was married off twice, before marrying her uncle Claudius, which even the Romans saw as a bit ‘off’. Even though she was a victim of Nero, she has been viewed as a malign influence by association because Nero was bad. Nero tried to drown her and eventually had her stabbed. Interlude Q and A is a special session where Matt and Rhiannon answer questions about themselves- who they are, how they became interested in Rome etc. Episode XXI The Great Fire of Rome in 64CE distinguishes Nero’s fire from the ones that preceded and followed it. Rome was always a fire hazard, but in this case, Nero himself was blamed FOR the fire, and not just playing his lyre during it. It’s not clear that he was really responsible, but he was happy enough to blame the Christians (although this might just be a throw-away line from Tacitus, because the Christians weren’t particularly important or visible at that time). The fire burned for 6 days and destroyed 10 of the 14 zones of Rome. Nero did put a lot of money and effort into rebuilding housing for the poor, but he also took the opportunity to build his golden house across three of the seven hills of Rome (the Colosseum is now on the site).

Russia If You’re Listening (ABC) Season 7 In Episode 4: Undersea sabotage? The mysterious pipe blasts Matt Bevan asks who blew up the Nord Stream pipelines on the bottom of the Baltic Sea on 26 September. Was it Germany? They had a long history of trade with Russia, and Germany gambled that if both countries remained mutually dependent there would be peace between them. Was it Ukraine? Ukraine was no fan of Nordstream because it went directly between Russia and Germany, thus depriving Ukraine of transit fees and political influence. Was it America? The US has long been fearful of Russia’s influence – in fact, Reagan imposed sanctions on anyone who was involved in building the pipe lines. Biden threatened that the US would bring Nordstream to an end. Was it Russia? Gazprom is under the direct control of the Kremlin, who told it to cut back. Russia had already turned off the gas in Pipe 1. All in all, the whole thing has been a disaster

Boyer Lectures (ABC) I am no great fan of Noel Pearson. I dislike his biblical, stentorian tones when speaking, his conservative worldview, his Western Canon name-dropping and his dripping contempt for ‘progressives’. However, I recognize that if the Recognition Referendum is to succeed, then it needs support from both conservatives and the Labor Party. When Pearson came out so strongly against Senator Jacinta Price and her rejection of the Voice to Parliament, I decided that I would listen to these Boyer lectures after all. Episode 1: Who we were, who we are and who we can be was very good. In many ways it encapsulated Pearson’s view of Australia as being a mixture of Aboriginal, British and multicultural elements. Episode 2 A Rightful but not Separate Place went through the history of the journey that has led to the Uluru Statement, crediting John Howard with starting the 15 year process by declaring his support for constitutional recognition if he won the 2007 election (although note that he only did this the night before the election). Pearson does, however, point out where his path and that of Howard diverged, and he comes out very strongly for the Voice to Parliament. Episode 3: A Job Guarantee for the Bottom Million revealed more of the Pearson I expected, railing against ‘progressives’ and welfare dependency, and valorizing the family as the means for improvement. In Episode 4: Transformational School Education he displays his enthusiasm for Direct Instruction, and has another dig at ‘progressives’ who have qualms about Direct Instruction as a pedagogy (Disclaimer here: I have used Direct Instruction, complete with the chanting and hand-movements. It is very effective with some children, but I would not want to build a whole curriculum on it). By this time I had had almost as much as I could stomach. Fortunately Episode 5: We the Australian People was more inclusive – arguing that we are more united by similarities than our differences. He had a bit of a rail against identity politics (although it seems to me that the right is just as guilty of this as ‘progressives’) and the dangers of constant campaigning in politics that never leaves space for governing, just campaigning. He then goes through a roll call of the dead, and asks rhetorically how they would vote in the upcoming Referendum.

History Hit Germany’s Extreme Monarchists. Good grief- what happened? Over 3000 police officers raided the ‘Reichsburger’ group comprising a celebrity chef, former police officers and serving army officers as part of an extremist coup to overthrow the government. They planned to reinstate the German monarchy with a 71 year descendent of the Hohenzollern dynasty, Henrich XIII. The world is going mad. This episode features historian Katja Hoyer who speaks about the deposing of the German monarchy after World War I, and the influence of conspiracy thinking among right-wing groups in Germany.

New Books Network: Latin America This episode features Sarah Zukerman Daly, author of Violent Victors: Why Bloodstained Parties Win Postwar Elections Based on her studies of various Latin American countries, she explores the question of how parties that commit mass atrocities in war often win the support of victimized populations to establish the postwar political order. She argues that in post-war societies, people are likely to vote for whichever party will bring peace and security, even if the party is deeply implicated in violence and atrocities. Often it’s the party that won the conflict that is rewarded, and by purging a few people, it offers security although often at the expense of justice, liberal democracy, and social welfare. This is real social science, using interviews, court transcripts, polls and statistics and at times it gets very technical. But great question, though.

Statue of Duke Wenceslaus, St Vitus Cathedral Prague. Wikimedia http://www.heiligenlexikon.de/BiographienW/Wenzeslaus.html

Gone Medieval It’s coming up to Christmas, so a bit of seasonal listening to The Real ‘Good King Wenceslas’ – not one of my favourite carols. Who is King Wenceslas, anyway? And when IS St Stephen’s day ?( Answer: the 27th December in the Eastern calendar- the second day of Christmas) Well, he was born around 905 CE and died in 935CE when he was murdered by his brother. He wasn’t actually a King, although he was a Duke or a Prince of a Bohemian noble family. Bohemia at that time was in the western region of the Czech republic, with its capital in Prague. Europe at this time was riven by dynastic rivalries, including the Magyars, the Franks and the Saxons. It’s not really clear why his brother killed him. He was made a saint quite soon after his death, as part of the shift to the idea of the Holy King. St Wenceslas’ Square in Prague is named after him, but his reputation suffered when the Nazis issued Medals of St Wenceslas to reward their supporters. He was embraced by both German speaking and Czech speaking Bohemians, and later kings drew on his reputation in their iconography. Dr. Cat Jarman is joined by Czech historian Dr. David Kalhous.

History This Week A bit more Christmas in my ears! The Surprising History of Christmas Gifts gives a very American-centric history of Christmas at it takes us back to New York in December 1913 when shoppers are being exhorted to ‘Shop Early’. In fact, newspapers had been exhorting them to do so since May 30th. Although the Puritans had banned Christmas, the people had been celebrating mid-winter anyway out in the streets, and in the early 19th century it was domesticated by people being encouraged to bring it inside. This, alongside the conceptualisation of childhood, led to New York becoming the centre of toy manufacture and department stores. You might think that it was avaricious department store owners who might have encouraged the ‘shop early’ theme, but it was instead Florence Kelly, a labour organizer, who wanted to protect factory and shop workers from the loophole in their labour agreements which limited the hours of work for women and children except between December 15-31, without overtime payments. Later, wealthy women patrons supported the SPUG movement- The Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving- which criticized the practice where pressure was placed on working women (in particular) to chip in to buy a present for their bosses! In recognition of the gift giving qualities of Christmas, FDR moved Thanksgiving a week forward in 1939 to give more time for Christmas Sales. Features Jennifer Le Zotte, professor of history and material culture at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington; Ellen Litwicki, Professor Emerita at the State University of New York at Fredonia; and Paul Ringel, professor of history at High Point University and author of Commercializing Childhood.

Soul Search (ABC) The Gospel of John and the poetry of belief. To be honest, I always found the Gospel of John a bit flakey, with all it’s “beginning was the word and the word was God” stuff. This episode, features Meredith Lake and Dorothy Lee and Bob Derrenback, editors of The Enduring Impact of the Gospel of John . Chronologically, Mark was the source text for Matthew and Luke, but you can find things in John that don’t appear in the other synoptic gospels. They don’t really know who the author who identified himself as “disciple that Jesus love” was. By the 2nd century CE it was assumed that it was Apostle John, but it could be John the Elder. Mark was probably written around 70AD, and Mark and Luke in 80AD. John was probably written in the 90s. Literacy rates were about 5% in the Roman Empire at that time, so while there were eyewitnesses around, there was no urgency to put in on paper. As far as Christmas is concerned, we don’t get any at all in John. In fact, Christmas is a bit of a mash-up, with the shepherds in one gospel and the wise men in the other. The interviewees then go on to talk about John as a devotional text, at which point I lost interest.

3 responses to “I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 December 2022

  1. Oh dear, I thought I’d listen to Undersea Sabotage, but honestly, I have never heard so-called current affairs presented in such a frivolous melodramatic way. The ABC coverage of anything to do with Ukraine has been amateur propaganda at best and left us in the invidious position of not believing much of what comes out of Ukraine and knowing nothing about what comes out of Russia. But this podcast is a new low.

    • So you’re not a fan of Matt Bevan, I guess? I like him and have listened to all seven of his series. I could do without the sound effects though, which were introduced sometime after the first series. I like the lightness of his touch and that there is often some distance between the events he is describing and his narrative so you have the opportunity to rethink the perceptions you received from the reporting at the time.. However, I do agree that it is very hard to cut through the propaganda on both sides.

      • I’ve never heard of him before, and I’m certainly not impressed now. I don’t think the war in Ukraine is a matter for levity at any time, and there is nothing in this podcast that I hadn’t heard before from other sources. And thank goodness I have access to them!

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