From the Spanish Civil War to Spring 2024

I’ve always been puzzled by the phenomenon of the foreign brigades in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Why, why, WHY would young American men who (IMHO mercifully) had been too young to fight in the Great War, but who certainly knew and had seen many “Mutilés de guerre”, who had read the poetry of Owen, Sassoon, Graves—WHY did they go fight in Spain, when they didn’t have to?
Of course it wasn’t only Americans, there were many foreign brigades, and I read that the Spanish essentially used them as cannon fodder: they were so gung-ho, so starry-eyed about …glory, I reckon. So weird! I heard a very popular Irish singer, Christy Moore, I think is his name, in a concert in Edinburgh in 2019. The song which got the biggest audience reaction was “Viva La Quinta Brigada”, about a buncha Irish guys who had died , the entire brigade, in a suicidal attack somewhere in the Spanish Civil War. Sheesh, as if Ireland didn’t have enough problems!
This year is the centennial of Byron’s death at Missolonghi, He joked about it:
“if a man has no freedom to fight for at home, let him battle for that of his neighbors;
Let him fight for the glories of Greece and of Rome, and get bashed on the head for his labors!”

….but, as Larkin wrote: “Being brave/Never let anybody off the grave.” Byron did die in Greece, although of a fever not a wound.

Anyway dear polymaths: this morning on American Greatness I read an article by Christopher Roach: “Efforts to Control Gaza Protests Threaten Free Speech and Academic Freedom” . Tru dat!!! People on the Right have been sententiously mouthing the platitude that speech everybody LIKES doesn’t need protection; the First Amendment means nothing if it doesn’t protect UNpopular speech—but now that the chants have turned nasty—very nasty—at Columbia and elsewhere, they wanna censor antisemitism and anti-Israel content.

Yeah SO DO I! But I know we ( if there still IS an American “we”) CAN’T—nuh-uh: this is critical, we gotta stick to our mantra: the cure for speech you don’t like is: more speech.

My point at long last: WTF has this got to do with the Spanish Civil war?
Roach says that the golden age of student protests, (“the 60s” which really didn’t start till 1968) is legendary to many of these young(ish) people. They missed out on Kent State (1970), “Four Dead on O-hi-o!” They missed out on Mayday 1971, a huge student march on DC and a “strike” by students everywhere, in response to Nixon’s announcement that we were going to bomb Cambodia. It’s a time now shrouded in legend, acts of heroism and defiance which (it feels like, in hindsight) ended the Vietnam war!
The chant “Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Minh!” was no less shocking to our parents’ generation than “We are Hamas! “ is to us today.
Leave aside for the moment the presence of Soros funded agitators. Are these student protestors in part “children ardent for some desperate glory”, as Wilfred Owen wrote in his WW I poem “Dulce et Decorum Est”?
Like the foreign brigades in Spain, like Byron, they feel they missed out on the great consequential battles of their forbears, so they’ll come out THIS time, even if they aren’t too well informed about the various factions?
I’ve thought for some time that they are, in part, 60s wannabes—and the faculty, of course , even includes people who were actually there, or were mentored by people who were.

Can the spirit of Spring 2024 be analogized to the spirit of the volunteers in the Spanish civil war?

What do you think, dear polymaths, especially if , like me, you were in college in 1971?


Protected free speech does not include the right to disrupt institutions, block public/private roads, or intimidate others. The ongoing obliteration of even the basic right to speak to a peaceable audience in an auditorium on campus has been repeatedly ongoing, perpetrated by these exact same types for years with the acquiescence - if not outright support of university faculty and administrations. So much for Roach’s worry about speech and academic freedom. Obviously, the effectiveness of the right is entirely dependent on the content.

As to why the passionate activities to fight for “causes”- I have suggested a theory before, several times. Long story short, I believe it arises from the same psychic mechanism which accounts for addiction. In this case, to so-called “process addiction” as compared to “ingestive addiction”. The latter is exemplified by ongoing use of substances (alcohol, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, etc.) despite obvious negative consequences.

“Process” or behavioral addictions actually produce the same positive perceptions - neuro -transmitters - in the pleasure centers of the brain as do ingested chemicals. Their repetition becomes strongly self-reinforcing, especially over time, and especially when the acts take place in a group setting - like in a mob.

Many human activities (if not all, if one digs deeply enough) can be traced to genetically inherited instincts, which historically had great survival value. These can be thought of - when they become excessive or out of control as motivations for behavior in modern times - as the seven deadly sins: pride, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust, greed, wrath. In addiction theory, these raw instincts can be seen to motivate much of the behavior of those in the throes of either ingestive or behavioral addiction. In the “normal” population of non-addicts, their diluted remnants can be seen as functional motivations, respectively: self-esteem, competition, rest from work, healthy nutrition, propagation of the species, saving for future scarcity, self-assertion. Any of these instincts/motivations, when out of control, can be seen to motivate “inappropriate” behavior. Lust, for example, makes for sex and love addicts; greed/envy for gambling addicts, etc.

When it comes to (usually) young people being dedicated to “causes”, the universal instinct of pride - out of all proper proportion - has a special place in the analysis. Pride, in the form of behavioral addiction, can be seen expressed on the faces of most every participant in today’s “demonstrations”, which have the potential for destruction even beyond that of historical events like the French Revolution of 1789.

Especially in a mob setting, with the known support of various surrounding institutions like faculties/administrations/MSM, true believers are virtually “possessed” or transported by their own self-righteous indignation. I have recovered from both ingestive and process addictions and have years of active addictions of both kinds “under my belt”. I can tell you that the pleasure sensations (ecstasy) of mob-associated righteous indignation (a demonstration) gives the exact same “high” as a drink, a drug, an orgasm, flying an airplane upside down, a motorcycle at reckless high speed, a battle in the Spanish Civil War (surviving any risk to life is the “high” - especially if undertaken by passionate belief in some abstract principle), The “rush” from barely-controlled self-righteous indignation and anger in the middle of a “demonstration” is every bit as addictive as a hit of IV fentanyl. In some ways, it is even better, as it lasts longer and there’s no withdrawal or shame afterward. In anything, afterward, one may safely bask in the afterglow with the intense approbation of the in-group/tribe.

Experience is a powerful teacher and I have a long and broad personal experience of these things of which I speak. I have little doubt there exists objective scientific evidence that behavioral addictions are indistinguishable neuro - chemically from ingestive ones. That, then is my own personal answer to your question of WHY those young men want to Spain to fight. It is a clear example of the power of behavioral addiction to risk life and limb in pursuit of a reliable, irresistible and long-lasting high of self-righteousness and anger.


CW, I don’t think we’re in disagreement here, but maybe talking on two different levels.
Did you go to Vietnam?
If you did, kudos and thank you for your service, truly. But, none of the men I know, from our own socio-economic class, professionals or professionals- to-be, did go. I wrote about this period, which nobody else seems to remember!— on, “Saving Our Lives in ‘Nam” if anybody wants to read it.

(Maybe you’re like my BMD, had to make decisions and commitments in your professional training to defer the draft , which affected the subsequent course of our lives…?)
My memory is: we were terrified!
Of course women weren’t being drafted but our brothers, lovers, fiancés, were, and HELL NO we didn’t wanna go!
Oh, we WERE a “risk-addicted” bunch. I still don’t understand how so many people coulda taken a drug like LSD. But our addiction did not extend to actually risking life’n’ limb(s) in the steamy, bamboo-spiked jungles of Vietnam.
I agree with everything you say. But I stil think, as Roach points out (although he discusses the Civil War and the Spanish-American War of 1898) that among the foreign brigades there might’ve been an aspect of disappointment in having missed out on the “Great War” ( um, yeah… gents, just WAIT eight years!) “Pride” as you say, denied. And that there might be an aspect of the same …idk, disappointment, anticlimax?— subject to attempted redress, in the student protests of 2024.


I’m one of your above “socio-economic class, professionals or professionals-to-be”. I went to an Eastern prep school for 4 years of high school, and an Eastern Ivy college for 4 years, and graduated in 1968. I joined the Marine Corps. I am among the youngest in my Basic School class (where the Marines teach young Lt’s how to be Marine infantry leaders). You should know that being in Basic School meant that you had survived 10 weeks of “winnowing”, to prove to the Staff NCO’s that you were OK to lead Marines. My OCS platoon started with 67 guys, recycled some 20 or more at midpoint (5 weeks) and got a bunch of recycles in, and graduated to officer status 42 total. And your observation was also seen in my Basic School classmates. When ever I was asked where I went to school, after I told them, there was an automatic response, “?WTF are you doing in the Marine Corps!” Seems even then the young men were jaded enough to realize the “elites” weren’t going to war. It was the graduates from VMA and other similar places, and smaller colleges that were the predominant members of the “battle class”. I believe only one other guy from my college class went to the Marines, and I’m not sure there were any significant numbers of guys that went to other services - at least from the graduates. Still, my class from TBS is rather unusual. We were not very easy to discipline, always going off on our own. We didn’t solve problems by the book, driving the umpires crazy. We also had some of the lowest casualty rates of contemporary classes. We lost 7 guys, one to an accident. Companies immediately before and after us lost over 40 each (this out of approximately 165 guys). Interestingly 2 of our 7 were ECP’s (enlisted commissioning program).

Our class has gone on to produce an amazing number of highly successful men - doctors, lawyers, businessmen, CEO’s, millionaires (all of whom had a poor background).

?So why did we fight. Well, there was a variety of reasons, but high in the listings was the thought you were going to be drafted anyway, so why not be among the best. We DID fight harder and maybe more dangerously, but we also fought SMARTER - despite what you hear “reported” here and there. We fought for each other. The reasons people joined varied, but once in,there was a levelling that happened to all. Half my first platoon was Southern boys who the. judge gave the option of going to jail or joining the Marine Corps (SPECIFICALLY - not just going into the Service, but into the Marine Corps).

As for me, I joined in part because I’m a warrior at heart. My mother raised me to be a warrior (and then was. shocked I actually became one!), My family didn’t know I was in combat. I told them I was on a Float Battalion to account for my APO address. Not until I came home did they find out (among other things, I was freezing to death in the air conditioned 72 degree rooms!). When I was a junior in college, a good friend dropped out and was drafted. He ended up being a radio man in an Army unit and was killed in an ambush trying to maintain radio contact with higher command. I never thought he should have gone to war - he was not a warrior. And so he died. I. could not in good conscience NOT go. I WAS a warrior and should therefore take the same risks. Didn’t want to die, but in truth I didn’t ever think I would. It’s only now that I’m old that mortality comes to me - and it still doesn’t scare me.

This is kind of a jumbled mess of an explanation, in part because things don’t sit cleanly and neatly in my head. I have thought back about what made me do it. There was certainly a sense of obligation, but not just a little bit of pride that I could too. Being a Marine has been a big part of my life. It shows in much of what I do and who I am. It was obvious in my work environment, and in how friends of my kids treated me differently (their rule was, in their homes they could do as they pleased, but in my home they would behave to MY standards - or they could go home and not come back). My kids could probably regale you for hours with stories about me. I personally never saw them as that exceptional; I just had a code that I expected ALL to follow when I was involved or around.


I’d give you a hundred :heart:s if I could, Dev!


And à propos of CW’s assertion that free speech is one thing, property damage and assault is another:

Yes, exactly.
I was appalled when the idea of punishing “hate speech” arose on the Left, and criminalization of flag-burning arose on the Right.

Assault, murder and vandalism are ALREADY punishable offenses. When you add additional punishment for whatever the person was yelling, or thinking: you are punishing pure speech.

And the flag is a symbol. In the dark if you can’t see the graphic, you wouldn’t know the flag from your bedspread. Whatever you do to it, from saluting to burning, is symbolic speech. So: if you wanna buy your own flag and desecrate it, you are an asshole but not a criminal. If you destroy somebody else’s flag, which they bought and paid for you, are a criminal AND an asshole; see above.

Thats all we need to concentrate on, as far as legislation goes: actions.

In a criminal trial, contrary to popular belief, the prosecution does not have to prove motive. And that’s as it should be.

Yes, yes, oh GOLLY YES we should be combatting antisemitism. But NOT by criminalizing pure speech or thought! We don’t wanna go down the road Ireland has taken. We need to bring about cultural change—just like the Left has done so venemously effectively over the past half-century.


Totally agree Hypatia. “Hate speech “ is nothing more than punishing THOUGHT. It makes it impossible to have an independent concept - all must be officially sanctioned.

I am a bit more ambivalent about the flag. It IS the symbol of the nation. I believe there are many aspects of the you can object to, but *the whole nation * is kinda out of bounds. If you really don’t like it that much, leave. It’s a bit like saying it’s alright to shit in your bed. It’s NOT! Other than that, think away. Bad ideas should be countered with good ideas.


I feel the same way about flag burning, and about shitting the bed. But neither should be criminalized, IMHO.
(in fact, if you are an American, burning an American flag IS “shitting the bed”! )


As to flag burning and free speech – saying “Joe Biden” is a corrupt fool who is allowing the nation to go to Hell on his watch is free speech, and should be defended; it is an acknowledgement that there are problems which the citizens of the nation should face. Burning the nation’s flag is something else altogether – it is a physical rejection of the entire concept of the nation.

The simple approach to flag burners is to accept that they don’t see themselves as part of the nation, and remind them they are free to leave. In fact, they should be encouraged by whatever means necessary to leave. You prefer Palestine to the country you were born in, go to Palestine.

This lets me beat the drum one more time – birthright citizenship has failed. To become a citizen, the individual should have to make a conscious decision – a free choice – and then earn that citizenship through a variety of means.


And one wonders why the country is going in the toilet. IF America ever “reinvents itself”, it may well do so without California.


It’s a lot more than California:
Screenshot 2024-05-02 at 7.48.37 AM
Screenshot 2024-05-02 at 7.50.00 AM


True, but California often leads with STUPID. The Massholes aren’t far behind, though. Indeed, one can wonder just where the whole Founding sense disappeared from New England. They were, after all, the primary instigators of the Revolution. Massachusetts in particular led the colonies in resistance to the Crown. Now they’ve become the crown. Guess it’s true one often becomes just what one fights hardest against.


Here is yet another circumstance where the word “irony” is insufficient to its task. To wit: the very people “demonstrating” for “Palestinian freedom” (is “oxymoron” strong enough?) would be the first in line for beheading if they set foot in Hamas-controlled territory and regaled their hosts with their worldview.


“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (1886), Chapter IV. Apophthegms and Interludes, §146).

Some commentary:

It’s also important to remember that Nietzche’s father was an ultra religious Christian and he would have no doubt been well familiar with Jesus’ words from Matthew 26:52 "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him. "For all who draw the sword will die by the sword. “Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Or simply, “You are what you eat” in the more modern phrasing.

And thus, the abyss, the nothingness is analogous. When one looks long into nothingness, one becomes nothing, empty. And the monsters here are (from his work Beyond Good and Evil) the result of a false morality. Nietzche would have pointed out modern priests and pastors of which there are so many examples that “fell from grace” in their fighting of monsters (e.g. the pastor who preaches against homosexuality only to find that he’s been paying for male prostitutes for years).

It’s poetic if anything so not reducible like previous modern philosophers, but when viewed as the precursor to existentialism, that existence preceeds essence, it’s the core of the uber-mensche philosophy.

That is, to form your own essence and meaning, you must first empty yourself of the idea that you were born with an essence, meaning or purpose given to you from elsewhere. When emptied you are free to create your own meaning and purpose.

You could draw from this ideas like crossing a tightrope it is not helpful to look down. Or dwelling to deeply on what seems uncrossable, makes it more of an obstacle. But Nietzsche is also clearly exhilarated by the danger, the great challenge is necessary for the new more ‘angelic’ being. The depth of the abyss, the size of the challenge, defines the scope for greatness, which Nietzsche values above all else. A thirst for danger, towards down-going, is necessary for over-going, to prefer death in the attempt than never to try.

The abyss also gazes back twists the previous metaphor, it is not just seeing emptiness and becoming more empty, it also personifies the emptiness. I would identify that with what Nietzsche saw as being all of our greatest opponent, nihilism (which Nietzsche consistently sought to oppose, and is a philosopher of nihilism, never one advocating it), manifested in ‘L’Appel du Vide’, the ‘call of the void’, the irrational urge to do dangerous things like jump off high places even though otherwise happy. Without values we risk losing our grip on meaning, on social cohesion. But, by truly acknowledging this great enemy, and it’s power, by refusing to believe tinkering with the old system will work, only then is real transcendence possible, creating new systems of values, ascending the tightrope - fighting monsters without become monsters, or nihilistic, but instead, angels, creating new values.


Re : these protesters would be first in line for beheading:
Yeah….there’s aleays a bright side….:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:!