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aries1988 : americas   10

How the Inkas governed, thrived and fell without alphabetic writing

Instead of writing, the Inkas’ principal bureaucratic tool was the khipu. A khipu consists of a number of strings or cords, either cotton or wool, systematically punctuated with knots, hanging from a master cord or length of wood; pendant cords might also have subsidiary cords. The basis of khipu accounting practice was the decimal system, achieved by tying knots with between one and nine loops to represent single numerals, then adding elaborations to designate 10s, 100s or 1,000s. By varying the length, width, colour and number of the pendant cords, and tying knots of differing size and type to differentiate data, the Inkas turned the khipu into a remarkably versatile device for recording, checking and preserving information.

It is hard to see how alphabetic writing would have helped the Inkas to administer Tahuantinsuyu more efficiently: this was not an intensively governed empire but a federation of tribute-paying and politically allegiant provinces. In other spheres of government, such as law, writing would doubtless have made more of a difference, leading perhaps to the development of written law-codes, arguably even a ‘constitution’. But since writing was never developed, imperial rule remained weakly institutionalised, leading to a concentration of power and office, which meant that when the Sapa Inka was removed, there was little to fall back on.

Inka religion, which was broadly speaking animistic, acknowledged many gods, ranging from heavenly bodies (Sun, Moon, stars) to topographical features (mountains, rivers, springs) to ancestors, whose earthly remains were venerated to a degree that baffled Europeans – although most of them made little attempt to understand such practices, disparaging them as heathen, folk-magic or simply childish.
americas  civ  opinion  writing  religion  fail  espagna 
january 2019 by aries1988
All by Itself, the Humble Sweet Potato Colonized the World
Many botanists argued that humans must have carried the valuable staple to the Pacific from South America. Not so, according to a new study.
agriculture  story  biology  americas  pacific  ocean 
april 2018 by aries1988
Le Brésil a besoin d’une autre diplomatie
Brasilia devrait réviser sa géopolitique régionale, et se rendre compte que la Colombie a dépassé l’Argentine dans tous les domaines et que le véritable partenaire latino-américain à la hauteur des espérances brésiliennes est le Mexique. Le jour où les deux chancelleries mettront de côté leurs préséances et rivalités, le duo Brésil-Mexique pourra enfin jouer un rôle équivalent au moteur franco-allemand de l’UE. Si tant est, bien sûr, que l’intégration régionale de l’Amérique latine soit autre chose qu’une rhétorique pour les toasts de repas officiels. L’idéologie a déjà fait suffisamment de dégâts.
americas  diplomacy 
november 2014 by aries1988
Moving Argentina’s Capital From Buenos Aires Could Make Things Worse - NYTimes.com
To be sure, there may be mitigating factors. Take Argentina’s neighbor Brazil. Until the 1960s, the two countries had parallel histories of political instability, but their paths diverged when the Brazilian government relocated to faraway Brasília, where it has since enjoyed a more stable political system. (Whether the move was part of the reason for the stability, or merely a coincidence, is hard to say, of course.)
opinion  capital  americas  state  comparison 
september 2014 by aries1988
Government: The parable of Argentina | The Economist
Commodities, Argentina’s great strength in 1914, became a curse. A century ago the country was an early adopter of new technology—refrigeration of meat exports was the killer app of its day—but it never tried to add value to its food (even today, its cooking is based on taking the world’s best meat and burning it). The Peróns built a closed economy that protected its inefficient industries; Chile’s generals opened up in the 1970s and pulled ahead. Argentina’s protectionism has undermined Mercosur, the local trade pact. Ms Fernández’s government does not just impose tariffs on imports; it taxes farm exports.

Argentina did not build the institutions needed to protect its young democracy from its army, so the country became prone to coups. Unlike Australia, another commodity-rich country, Argentina did not develop strong political parties determined to build and share wealth: its politics was captured by the Peróns and focused on personalities and influence. Its Supreme Court has been repeatedly tampered with. Political interference has destroyed the credibility of its statistical office. Graft is endemic: the country ranks a shoddy 106th in Transparency International’s corruption index. Building institutions is a dull, slow business. Argentine leaders prefer the quick fix—of charismatic leaders, miracle tariffs and currency pegs, rather than, say, a thorough reform of the country’s schools.
americas  history  comparison 
february 2014 by aries1988
What Our Telescopes Couldn't See - NYTimes.com
I left the world of professional astronomy some time ago. In the years since, I have often thought of how astronomy is seen as a benign, unbiased science. Its sole function is to increase our understanding of how the universe works: astronomers receive and record, but they do not experiment or perturb. They are not tainted by any application to, say, energy development or military technologies. Astronomy is, essentially, a passive science.

I remember realizing when I was a student that I could make a measurement of an object in the sky, and how extraordinary that felt to me, as if it were a way of reaching out and connecting with something so far away. But maybe I found distant galaxies easier to understand than the people around me, and I wonder if my work became a substitute for any true connection. I still look to the edge of the universe, but I try to remember always to keep one eye focused here on earth.
essay  astro  human  science  society  politics  telescope  astronomy  life  americas 
september 2013 by aries1988
The Stubborn Past
Thirty-five years after the "Dirty War," a trial in Argentina is still struggling to shed light on a bloody legacy.
americas  story 
august 2012 by aries1988

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