I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 April 2023

A History of the Inca. Why the sudden interest in the Inca? you might ask. Just before Covid, I was planning to go to Peru with my son and daughter-in-law and little granddaughter. If the ‘vid didn’t kill off the plan, the high altitude with a young child did, and we didn’t end up going (my refunded deposit bought a new washing machine instead). But now I’m reading an Isabel Allende book (in English) Inez of my Soul, and I thought that I’d go back to the Inca podcasts again. Anyway, Episodio 3: Los Moche (in Spanish) or Episode 3 The Moche deals with the Moche society, one of the four that preceded the Incas until about 700-800 CE. I had no idea they existed. Here’s a short travel video about them (in English)– check out The Lord of Sipan- a discovery as jaw-dropping as the discovery of Tutankhamen .

Emperors of Rome Podcast Episode LIX – Martial. And there I was, thinking that I would be listening to a podcast about armies. But no, Martial was a poet, writing during the time of Domitian, Nerva and Trajan. He was famous for his epigrams, short poems that were often satirical or obscene, and the ‘sting’ often came in the last line. Matt Smith, the co-host, likens Martial to a stand-up comedian, which is probably not a bad parallel. Episode LXI – Gladiator (2000) looks at the Russell Crowe film, which I have never seen, so that made it a bit hard to follow what they were talking about. Of course, it’s a fictional film and Maximus is a fictional character, but Dr Rhiannon Evans was at pains to point out that Commodus didn’t kill Marcus Aurelius (which is the whole premise on which the film is based) – in fact, he wasn’t even there. Nor did Marcus Aurelius intend reverting to a republic, and it didn’t. Interlude – The Bronze Head of Augustus talks about the bronze head of Augustus which featured in the exhibition A History of the World in 100 Objects from the British Museum, which was on show at the National Museum of Australia in 2016- in fact, I went to it! You can see the sculpture at https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1911-0901-1 It’s a bit confronting, because the statue still has its inlaid eyeballs, instead of the blank holes in most statues. It was part of the publicity machine of circulating the emperor’s image throughout the empire (a bit like the Queen). It was found in the ancient city of Meroë, in what is now Sudan, buried under the steps of a temple, probably placed there as a victory trophy when the local people defeated Roman troops- they literally walked all over his head. This episode features Dr Lily Withycombe, a curator from the National Museum of Australia.

Witness History (BBC) Richard Dimbleby Describes Belsen . BBC journalist Richard Dimbleby was one of the first journalists to report on Bergen-Belsen. He filed this radio report soon after visiting Belsen, and at first the BBC mandarins were reluctant to release it because his report had not been verified by other witnesses. After they equivocated for four days, he made it clear that unless they aired it, he would never do another report for them again, and so it was broadcast. I don’t know if it’s included in this podcast, but the version I listened to (on Stitcher) had an interview with his son Jonathan, talking about his father’s interview, and then they played Richard Dimbleby’s report in full. It was not an extermination camp, instead it was a ‘holding’ came for prisoners of war, and the emphasis was on the starvation and disease amongst the 40,000 people who were imprisoned there. It’s pretty grueling listening.

The Guardian Long Read The Ciskei Experiment: A libertarian fantasy in Apartheid South Africa looks at the concept of a ‘zone’, much loved by libertarians and economic rationalists where you don’t have to worry about nasty annoying things like democracy or unions. It was promoted as a South African Switzerland, but in reality it was a cluster of sweatshops, especially in the textile industry, where South Africans were no longer citizens of South Africa, but instead of the ‘Bantustan’ Ciskei, nominally an independent country. For all the talk of ‘small government’, it was heavily reliant on the government to subsidize the industries that set up there. Rather soberingly, the episode points out that there are more ‘economic zones’ now than there were in the 1980s, and that they keep being championed as the powerhouse of economic growth.

Radio Ambulante Me autodeclara Negra is a podcast in Spanish, but if you click on the link it will take you to the Radio Ambulante website where you can find a transcript in English. During Dilma Rouseff’s presidency of Brazil, she established a system where universities would set aside quotas for black and indigenous applicants. Lindinês de Jesus Sousa applied unsuccessfully, and it was only when she looked closer that she found that many of these quotas were occupied by white students pretending to be black. As a result of her challenging the process, a board was set up to test applicants using physical characteristics- hair, skin, lips etc. It seemed to be purely appearance-based, without the ‘community acceptance’ criteria that applies in Australia, where I suspect a scheme based on physical distinctions would be much more problematic. Interesting and rather confronting.

Latin American History Podcast The Conquest of Peru Part 6. This episode started off with cheering and tooting horns to celebrate Argentina’s victory in the World Cup – not quite what I was expecting! So there are Atahualpa and Pizarro sitting there in in Cajamarca looking at each other after the Spanish troops defeated the Inca and Atahualpa had been taken captive. Atahualpa was still worried about his half-brother Huáscar, who he had defeated in the Civil War. He might pop up again, thus rendering Atahualpa irrelevant. So he suggested that he would pay a huge ransom in gold, to be brought in over the next seven months, and he suggested that they all go to Cusco, which was a Huáscar stronghold, to collect it. Pizarro wouldn’t come at that, so Inca and Spaniard troops went off to Cusco, which they looted from Huáscar’s supporters. The Spanish had no appreciation of the religious significance of the gold they plundered, or of its workmanship, and they just melted it down. Meanwhile, rumours were circulating that another of Atahualpa’s half-brothers was gathering an army (he had 50 half-brothers and the rumour never specified which one) so Pizarro had Atahualpa tried for treason, and executed. Atahualpa converted to Christianity to avoid being burned to death, and he was strangled instead. Meanwhile Almagro turned up, and Pizarro found himself just as threatened by his own Spanish compatriots as the Inca. Even though they were given instructions to colonize, they knew that once they reported that they had colonized an area, that would be counted as the geographical extent of their territory, and that other Spaniards would come and take the ‘unexplored’ land. So it was in their interests to keep conquering, to take as much land as they could.

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