Society and Politeness (was Re[2]: Child Rrearing)

Mark Crosby (
Tue, 30 Dec 1997 10:07:14 -0800 (PST)

Guru George wrote:
< But there are some complications: for example, if
we're saying that torturing kids turns them violent
how come the German burgher was so law-abiding? (Or
was he? Is that just a myth? Or is it that all that
pent-up burgher's aggression burst out in two World
Wars?) >

Sounds, in some ways, like my ancestors on the
18th-century island of Nantucket, which I was just
reading about last week. Although I have no
information on their child-rearing practices (I
suspect children were forcefully compelled to carry
on traditions, probably in ways that might be
considered 'torturous' today - in the psychological
sense rather than any kind of physical mutilation),
socially they sound similar to these German burghers.

Nathaniel Philbrick's _Away Off Shore: Nantucket
Island and Its People, 1602-1890_ (1994) notes the
paradox that 18th-century Nantucket whalers and
traders were "some of the deadliest, most conniving
hunters the earth has ever known, [but yet] they were
Quakers, a sect that stood against war and conflict
and anything that might excite undue emotions".

Still IMO, they exhibited many extropian
characteristics for their time: disdain for remote
government and organized religion, strong
individualism, a rational and business-like approach
to most affairs - their treatment of women, Native
and African Americans was also relatively enlightened
compared to other Europeans in America at the time.

Philbrick also relates: "Nantucket had its share of
brutal and inhumane whaling captains ... by 1830 the
whalemen's debaucheries in the Sandwich Islands were
already public knowledge ... for the Nantucketer, the
whale was not so much a living, breathing creature as
it was, according to one commentator, 'a
self-propelled tub of high-income lard' ".

Yet, back on their island, while the Quaker culture
insisted on business-like manners and prohibited
public displays of emotion, at the same time it seems
to have encouraged a kind of pent-up ferocity and
intolerance toward any who did not see things their
own way.

Mark Crosby
Get your free address at