Will Nick Nicholas be touring Europe any time soon?

Bless your cotton socks, my confreres in Albania and Czechia!

As of this writing in 2017, I’m not planning a trip to Europe soon; gotta save up for a house move, gotta tow that barge, and given where we live and our predilections, our next holiday is likely to be Hawaii. I suspect there’ll be a visit to at least some of Europe two or three years down the road though…

What texts and experiences shaped the development of your political views? What were the seminal factors in the growth of your civic sensibilities? What books most influenced you? What events?

I am somewhat surprised to have been A2A’d this by four people. That my politics should be of interest at all, though I haven’t expressed my politics here coherently, is likely more a token of their esteem than my interest.

I am somewhat mortified to have been A2A’d this by four people. Unlike the other answers here, I have not distilled my politics in the crucible of texts and reflection; I’ve inherited tribal politics, identified axioms, and drifted accordingly.

I am somewhat grateful to have been A2A’d this by four people. The Decalogue of Nick was stalled at #8, my politics. So I get to write that here.

I come from a long line of Greek peasants, on both sides. The Left in the Grecosphere did not make social progressiveness its main rallying point (though that is there); the Right in the Grecosphere had no equivalent of the American Dream, to seduce the entrepreneurial poor. There are regions in the Grecosphere that are die-hard right-wing anyway; and they are not where my parents are from.

My father tried to be a union organiser as a nurse, before he was intimidated out of it by management. He kept a belief in social justice, but also a reticence which his boisterous brothers-in-law could not understand. The household was broadly socialist in Greece, though with a touch of cynicism that I was too young to identify.

1981 was a heady time to be a kid in Crete. Our apartment was across the road from the Socialist Party headquarters, blaring out Theodorakis and Loizos anthems: “This soil is theirs and ours”, “We’ll get the sun drunk”, “We took our lives the wrong way, and we changed our lives”.

There was hope, there was ferment, there was anticipation. “The People in Power!” “For the First Time, The Left [in government]!” And when the Socialists were voted in, honest to God, random people were lighting each others’ candles in the streets. Just like Easter. The People had been reborn.

And then there was clientelism and corruption and disillusionment, but I was not around for that. I came back eight years later, shocked to see Andreas a laughing stock, and much of the country bought up by a con-man.

A chubby blunt-spoken first time MP was around for it though, and was surprised when he discovered that his voters expected the same favours and preferential treatment as did the supporters of the party they’d just ousted. Greeks have never forgiven that MP, for proclaiming his conclusion three decades later, “We embezzled that money together”—that the People were complicit in corruption. (So much more blunt in Greek, μαζί τα φάγαμε.) The People are not guileless, and The People are not always right. That’s always a useful corrective to realise.

I’m grateful I wasn’t around for the election of Syriza, “For the First Time, The True Left!” I’m grateful that my formative political experiences were not the sullen betrayal and dysfunction that Dimitris Almyrantis witnessed, a generation later. I’m grateful I got to taste some of the romance that comes before the Fall.

In Australia, first generation Greek migrants were just as tribal about being Labor. The conservative parties were aggressively Anglo; Greeks in the Liberal party are a second and third generation thing. Those first generation Greek migrants were after all, for the most part, labourers. Menzies founded the Liberal party to appeal to the “forgotten” middle class of shopkeepers, but he never tried to grab the vote of the working man. (That was much later, under Howard.) So there was no question of the household aligning with Labor, and yelling “You ape” whenever Howard was on the TV. I don’t think they quite realised that the Labor vision was being traduced from under them until it was too late.

In Australia, Labor had the largesse and vision of Whitlam, who my parents venerated. An appalling manager of his caucus and of finances, I’ve learned latterly; but this was back when people expected politicians to do more than manage finances. It had Hawke, who charmed the people into reform, and it had Keating, the last left visionary the country has seen—though he was the pioneer of fiscal managerialism, he still dared to have big ideas, backed with an acid tongue.

And since then, we’ve had a queue of puny shopkeepers, reactionaries and reactive centrists, poll-spooked functionaries. And myself voting Australian Democrats while they still existed as a third party, then Australian Greens until the Greens were big enough for people to start talking about “tripartisan” consensus, and then the Australian Sex Party for the lulz. (Well, for the left-wing libertarianism. And the lulz.)

So I was formed with a tribal allegiance to the Left, and with a vague notion of ferment and the People.

I’ve realised, gradually and annoyedly, that I’m not Left in the way I’d assumed I am. To the extent any of this crystallised, it was in my 30s and 40s rather than my 20s.

The axioms I’ve come to arrive at are:

  1. Society must afford opportunity and equity to all. The State and redistribution of wealth are an appropriate mechanism of achieving this; and the individual owes a duty to the State, inasmuch as the State is going about this task.
  2. Social cohesion and continuity matter, though not at the expense of opportunity and equity.
  3. Individual freedom matters, though not at the expense of opportunity and equity. (And often not at the expense of social cohesion and continuity, but I concede that as more of a judgement call.)

Of these, (1) is Big Government left; it’s the overt continuation of where I started from, though much more socially aware than its tribal origin. (2) is a social conservatism I’m somewhat surprised by, but it’s there, bolstered by my thinking on nationalism and on my upbringing. It’s the covert continuation of where I started from, which I had not acknowledged because it did not fit the tribal narrative.

(3) is a libertarianism I’m also somewhat surprised by. A Libertarianism by Australian standards, at least, and a reaction to the curtailment of personal liberties that has emerged as a national consensus in Australia in the last couple of decades. (The stuff libertarians decry as the Nanny State.) I don’t think that reaction in me was led by reading so much; but it certainly has been informed by awareness of the American libertarian streak in political thinking (and not just its big-L Libertarian manifestation of wishing to drown the government in a bathtub).

Economically, I have come to appreciate that The Market can be a force for good, so long as it is appropriately shackled and regulated. I don’t look forward to the People’s appropriation of the Means of Production, because The People are not guileless; I don’t rule out a future where technocommunism makes sense (though I think climate catastrophe likelier), but in our current fallen circumstances, a regulated market seems to me the best compromise.

  • Comrade Victoria Weaver, my teacher of technocommunism along with Star Trek, has said similar things to that in her less careful moments.
  • My main intellectual exposure to theories of The Market has been, oddly enough, a historical linguistics textbook: On Language Change, which drew parallels between Smith’s “invisible hand” and the forces driving language change—individual selfish choices converging into a stable equilibrium.
  • As for the shackling, I don’t know where I read it, but I was heartened to find Smith hated monopolies, as disrupting the equilibrium of the market. Preventing monopolies is where the State comes in. The State also comes in with infrastructure, and I’ve retained my faith in the State as the guarantor of collective welfare.

What symbols do you associate with your favorite Quorans?

In the cartoons gathered up in Gallery of Awesomery, I have frequently had recourse to symbols, as shorthands of the Quora users I’m depicting. Many of them are taken from their profile pics, but not all. Here’s the symbols that haven’t.

  • Michael Masiello: a beret, as befits an intellectual. A very very floppy beret.
  • Lyonel Perabo: skis and a camera. He’s become so Nordic, skis are growing out of his feet.
  • Sophia de Tricht: a sailor cap. She was formerly a sailor, and still swears like one.
  • Scott Welch: a dart, and optionally a dartboard. The dartboard being Quora.
  • Richard White: a stage mike. The guy’s a jazz singer.
  • Sierra Spaulding: a bandana, and an inconspicuous doobie. Sierra’s a bit of a self-proclaimed hippie, even if she hasn’t quite used that wording.
  • Mohammed Khateeb Kamran: the severed head of Han Solo. Khateeb accidentally a spoiler on the Star Wars movie cycle.
  • Jeremy Markeith Thompson: a tux. Man’s a class act, and somehow the Nation Of Islam uniform seemed appropriate, even if he’s nothing to do with NOI.
  • Habib Fanny: not socks! A stethoscope. And a laugh: my original nickname for him was not just Habib le toubib, but Habib le toubib qui rit: Habib the Laughing Medico.
  • Mary C. Gignilliat: a pitchfork, doubling as a gardening hoe. She has the devil in her eyes, don’t ya know.
  • Josephine Stefani: a bottle of Ararat brandy. We have bonded over having Armenian partners.
  • Gigi J Wolf: a vintage air hostess hat. A nod to her professional background.
  • Sam Murray: a packer and a clipboard. A packer, as Sam is bigender; a clipboard, through the anecdote she shared about arranging dates with a celebrity via an assistant.
  • Michaelis Maus: a cigarette holder. A representation of the aesthete, whether sported by Audrey Hepburn or him.
  • John Gragson: a British barrister’s wig. Even though he’s neither British nor a barrister.
  • Victoria Weaver: an Ushanka. It befits her Stalinist persona, at least.
  • Jennifer Edeburn: the scales of justice. Because her responses are so measured.
  • Victor Goodwin: the claw of a lion. A very peeved lion. From his bio motto: tanquam ex ungue leonem.
  • Peter Hawkins: a dumbbell. When he’s not explaining all there is to know about British politics, he does strength training.
  • Vicky Prest: a treadmill. As a stand-in for all that cardiovascular exercise she’s been missing out on.
  • Nikki Primrose: a Viking helmet. Because Danish.
  • Desmond James: a rat. Which used to feature in his profile picture.

What kind of people follow Michaelis Maus?

This question previously had question details. You can find them in the question comments.

What kind of people follow him? Those who are drawn in by his sartorial splendour, his wry anecdotes, and his way of looking at the world askance.

What kind of people keep following him? Those who find his brand of elegant nihilism bracing rather than off putting. Those who take it to heart when he excoriates us for staying stuck in The Matrix.

As well as those who never cull their list of followers.


What are the different accusations which have been made against you on Quora?

I’d forgotten about this:

Nick Nicholas’ answer to Why did the Ancient Greeks refer to Ancient Blacks (the Ethiopians) as ‘blameless’ and ‘favored by the gods’? Also, what does it mean?

(Oh, God, not Afrocentric history, anything but that.)

Afrocentric pages online say Diodorus Siculus said:

“The Aethiopians (Ethiopians) are high favored with the gods, they were the first of all men created by the gods and were the founders of the Egyptian Civilization.”

Diodorus Siculus actually says this:


I’m trying to understand your answer. A few thoughts:

  1. Are you being a bigot? You seem to suggest in your writing the Ancient Greeks were all one type of people instead of mix of people with various identities.

You can read the exchange in situ; we were clearly talking past each other. You can accuse me of hastily accusing the OP of Afrocentrism (though I don’t think that was an unreasonable assumption) or of dismissing Afrocentrism (I was certainly dismissing the stuff I’d found written about the quote on Google). Bigotry seems a little far-fetched to me, especially as my answer was saying Greeks were being benign-racist towards Africans (“noble savage”). But… I think that’s as direct an accusation as I’ve had.

Achilleas Vortselas did speculate about the psychology of Quora critics in a comment (?) to me once, and spoke of “fellow-travellers”. But fellow-travellers is a hallowed company to keep, and I certainly thought the speculation was fair game!

What are some stereotypes about linguists and linguistics majors?

In my experience in Australia, we slotted readily into the stereotype of Arts students in general. (Well, I didn’t: I was a refugee from Engineering.) Leftie do-gooders, dressed down, partial to cheap wine, mostly laid back.

Since Cyamites is probably an epithet for Hades, could the scythe/sickle be the meaning of the digamma missing from his name?

As OP clarified elsewhere, the prevalent account for the name Hades is that it originally had a digamma in it, and meant Unseen: Hades – Wikipedia. Ἀϝίδης A-wídēs > Ἀΐδης Ā-ï´dēs > ᾌδης Ā´idēs. The archaic wid– stem for ‘see’ is the same as the stem vid– in Latin, and wit in English. (The terms for know and see were interchangable in Indo-European; in fact the Ancient Greek for ‘know’ is the perfect tense of the verb for ‘see’.)

It is also true that the Digamma ϝ, which represented the letter /w/ in Archaic Greek, eventually came to look like a ϛ in the Middle Ages, when it was only used to represent the number 6.

That’s all there is to OP’s claim. The rest… no:

  • The digamma only started looking anything like a sickle in cursive writing in late antiquity—certainly after Christ.
  • Even if Bean-Man (Cyamites) was Hades, and not just a local hero, his worship in Athens would have long predated the digamma looking like a sickle; he is mentioned in Pausanias.
  • The digamma looked like an F from the time it was taken from Phoenecian, up until the time it was abandoned as a letter in the various dialects. (The numerical form had moved into a different glyph, that looked like a square C; that’s where the sickle shape comes from.) Bean-Man was celebrated in Athens, and Athens lost its /w/ before writing in Attic is attested.

So not only is it implausible that Bean-Man is somehow an allusion to the missing sickle-letter in Hades’ name; the time frames for Bean-Man, the sickle letter, and the pronunciation of /w/ in Hades are off by centuries.

Is there a language that have alphasyllabary beginning with vowel sounds instead of consonant sounds?

Pahawh Hmong – Wikipedia

Pahawh is written left to right. Each syllable is written with two letters, an onset (la, an initial consonant or consonant cluster) and a rime (yu, a vowel, diphthong, or vowel plus final consonant). However, the order of these elements is rime-initial, the opposite of their spoken order. (That is, each syllable would seem to be written right to left, if it were transcribed literally into the Roman alphabet.) This is an indication that Shong conceived of the rimes as primary; Pahawh Hmong might therefore be thought of as a vowel-centered abugida. Tones and many onsets are distinguished by diacritics.

Do you use your tenure on Quora as a credential? Why or why not?

I’ve been here close to 2 years, and others have been 7. So using a year count would be self defeating.

Such a year count would only be relevant to topics about Quora. I’m quite happy with my somewhat adversarial, somewhat self parodying Quora credential as a Welchite. At any rate, I don’t think there is much to be learned about how Quora works, that you haven’t worked out within the first six months of being an engaged poster. (Well, that plus doing some research on the site.)

Being here for 2 years does mean I’m not an expert in being an “Old Planter” TW. And that’s ok by me.

Do you think some kind of onboarding process for new Quora users would prevent a significant number of ‘Be Nice, Be Respectful’ and other violations?

Yes. BNBR is not an obvious notion to people who have commented to any significant extent on the Internet, and the requirement for BNBR is something users stumble on, not something they’re particularly alerted to. Quora’s particular notion of BNBR is far less intuitive than many are assuming it is: the tone policing, the expectation of deference towards public figures, the intolerance of several forms of humour.

Answerers are getting sidetracked into mechanisms of how the onboarding should be done, or how difficult it would be to ensure that people pay attention to onboarding. I would still retort that some onboarding is better than no onboarding, and no onboarding has been Quora’s MO for years now.