Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chinese Efficiency

Why Can’t We Be More Like China?

Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’”

NYT’s Thomas Friedman: "I have fantasized–don't get me wrong–but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Subversion of History

        John Stuart Mill wrote, “A portion of mankind may be said to constitute a Nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others.”  These common sympathies induce people to cooperate with each other more willingly than with foreigners.  He gave several possible causes for this affinity.  Among them are race, decent, common language or religion and geographical limits. He stated that the strongest of all these causes is the possession of a national history.  A knowledge of a national history should result in a common sense of community, common “recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past.”
         A basic understanding of the history of one’s nation is essential for the continuation of a society.   It is what binds a people together.  Our knowledge of the past forms a large part of our identity.  This knowledge provides a framework for interpreting events that take place in the present.  A knowledge of past mistakes or successes can be an invaluable tool for planning for the future.  Bertrand Russell described the importance of the study of the past in his essay On History:

Of all the studies by which men acquire citizenship of the intellectual commonwealth, no single one is so indispensable as the study of the past.  A knowledge of history is capable of giving to statesmanship, and our daily thoughts, a breadth and scope unattainable by those whose view is limited to the present.

         The importance of history has been commented on since ancient times.   The Roman orator Cicero remarked, "He who is ignorant of what happens before his birth is always a child."  A more modern comment on the importance of a knowledge of the past was provided by columnist Ann Coulter who stated, "If history always begins this morning, the world holds exciting surprises around every corner."  Jeffrey Hart explained that, "History is to a civilization what personal memory is to an individual: an essential part of identity and a source of meaning."  C.S. Lewis commented, "men without a past are forever children, easily manipulated and enslaved."
         Yet the commitment to the study of history is weak in our institutions of higher learning.  Harvard historian David Donald provided an example in a 1977 article in the New York Times entitled, "Our Irrelevant History."  Donald claimed,  "The ‘lessons’ taught by the American past are today not merely irrelevant but dangerous. . . . perhaps my most useful function would be to disenthrall (students) from the spell of history, to help them see the irrelevance of the past, . . .  (To) remind them to what a limited extent humans control their own destiny." Donald’s view of history is not unique.  It appears to be shared by a large section of the academic community. Worse than the neglect of history is the emphasis placed on the negative aspects of the nation’s history.
         Richard Bernstein described in his book, Dictatorship of Virtue, what he learned at the 1987 convention of the American Historical Association.  "The unvarying underlying themes were the repressiveness inherent in American life and the sufferings of groups claiming to be victims of that repressiveness.  ... The history of the United States was the history of suffering for all but the white establishment."
Commentator Tammy Bruce has remarked that, "the purging of history courses is no accident." The animus toward the teaching of history goes back at least as far as the Enlightenment.  Bertrand Barere, a member of the French revolutionary Committee of Public Safety, commented, "All memories of history, all prejudices resulting from community of interest and of origin, all must be renewed in France; we wish only to date from to-day."  A knowledge of history fosters prejudices that stand in the way of the universal community desired by the progressives.  Author Milans Kundera wrote in his novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, "You begin to liquidate a people by taking away its memory.  You destroy its books, its culture, its history.  And then others write other books for it, give another culture to it, invent another history for it.  Then the people slowly begins to forget what it is and what it was."  Alexander Solzhenitzyn has stated, "To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots."  Tammy Bruce asserted, "The first step for the Intellectual Elite is to unmake and then remake history itself.  Smear the Founding Fathers, cast patriotism as jingoistic, and classify the United States as a genocidal nation bent on terrorism."  This is also the conclusion of Jim Nelson Black who has asserted, "The game plan of the deconstructionists in the universities has been to eradicate the past and indoctrinate the young men and women of this nation with a new view of society and a radical political ideology.  They know a great deal more about Madonna, Ice-T, and the 2 Live Crew than Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms." 
         This has resulted in a reduced emphasis on history and the near elimination of what might be described as traditional history.  One example is the New Jersey Department of Education omitting America’s founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, from the revised version of the state’s history standards.    One justification for this omission is that the founding fathers, were "racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, Eurocentric bigots."   
         What are the consequences of this new interpretation of history?  The appalling ignorance of what might be called traditional history has been amply documented by several commentators.  A study by Prof. Judith Remy Leder of 100 students at California State University at Fullerton revealed that fewer than half could identify either Geoffrey Chaucer or Dante Alighieri, and 90 per cent could not identify Alexander Hamilton.  A study sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities of a representative national sample of 7,812 17-year-olds found that less than a third could place the Civil War in its correct half-century and that more than a fifth thought the radio and telephone had been invented since 1950.  This caused the study’s co-author, Chester E. Finn Jr., to remark, "We're raising a generation of historical and literary incompetents."  A 2001 Colonial Williamsburg Foundation study found that a quarter of American teenagers didn't know what Independence Day is supposed to celebrate.19  A National Assessment of Educational Progress in History survey found that 57 percent of our high school seniors lack a basic understanding of American history.         
According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni: "As we move forward into the 21st century, our future leaders are graduating with an alarming ignorance of their heritage - a kind of collective amnesia - and a profound historical illiteracy which bodes ill for the future of the republic."  

         As if to emphasize this point, in 1995 vice-president Al Gore commented that the national motto of the United States, "E pluribus Unum," was translated as "Out of one, many" in a speech praising multiculturalism.    Vice President Joe Biden claimed, When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed.”  Senator Chuck Schumer, a member of the Judiciary Committee stated, "you know, we have three branches of government: we have a House, the Senate, we have a President, and all three of us are going to have to come together and give some.”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Where They Stand -by Oolong

To be a true conservative, you must wear a sweater vest, believe that women belong in the kitchen, and taxes are allowed to run rampant so says Rick Santorum. Is this the man you voted for Iowa?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Obamadias with apologies to Percy Shelley

I met a traveller from a modern land,

Who said--"Two vast and trunkless legs of styrofoam

Stand in the desert….Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose upturned nostrils,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Obamadias, Leader of Leaders,

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and get wee weed up!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Intelligence Test

People have pointed out that the Tea Party protesters and the Occupy Wall Street protesters have much in common. President Obama claimed, “In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party." "Comedian" Jon Stewart asked, "these protesters, how are they not like the Tea Party?" This is a perfect opportunity for an intelligence test.

Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street?

Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street?

Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street?

Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren: "I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why Can’t We Be More Like China?

Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’”

NYT’s Thomas Friedman: "I have fantasized–don't get me wrong–but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions.”

Merry Christmas

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rubashov's Lament

Rubashov's Lament

In Arthur Koester's novel Darkness at Noon the character N.S. Rubashov expressed his misgivings about the party he had dedicated his life to. He declared that, "all our principles were right, but our results were wrong." He asserted that, "this is a diseased century," and that, "we diagnosed the disease and its causes with microscopic exactness, but wherever we applied the healing knife a new sore appeared." He continued, "Our will was hard and pure, we should have been loved by the people. But they hate us." He asked himself, "Why are we so odious and detested?" He concluded, "We brought you truth, and in our mouth it sounded a lie. We brought you freedom, and it looks in our hands like a whip. We brought you the living life, and where our voice is heard the trees whither and there is a rustling of dry leaves. We brought you the promise of the future, but our tongue stammered and barked. . .

This was the lament of a compassionate man who believed in an elite's ability to regulate every aspect of human existence for the betterment of mankind. It is also the lament of the current administration. They have only the best interests of the American people at heart. Why are they not loved? Apparently the people do not understand their beneficent proposals. Yet the more they explain their plans the greater the opposition becomes. Perhaps this opposition is the result of the failure of their fundamental beliefs: the failure of Modernism. Rule by expert; this is the essence of modernism. Modernism was defined by Vaclav Havel, the former President of Czechoslovakia, as the belief that the world is "a wholly knowable system governed by a finite number of universal laws that man can grasp and rationally direct for his own benefit." It asserted that, “Man . . . was capable of objectively describing, explaining and controlling everything that exists."

In his speech before the World Economic Forum in Davos, Havel dated the end of the modern age at the fall of the Soviet Empire. Architect Charles Jencks placed it much earlier: at exactly 3:32 P.M. on July 15, 1972. This was the moment that the Pruitt-Igoe housing development in St. Louis, was demolished. Like the East Falls Housing Project is Philadelphia, demolished in 2000, and the Cabrini-Green public housing project in Chicago, the Pruitt-Igoe housing development was an example of the thousands of housing projects constructed throughout the industrial world. Their functional design made them perfect "machines for living in." Unfortunately they shortly became uninhabitable. These housing projects were representative of the failure of the modernist concept that experts could design a system to improve human existence on a massive scale. The physical wreckage of these well intention schemes is easy to observe. The psychological wreckage is more difficult to discern.

These housing projects were inspired by the work of architects like Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier worked for years to promote a plan to demolish a large part of Paris and replace it with a logically designed layout. He was the man with a plan. He wrote that, "The despot is not a man. It is the . . . correct, realistic, exact plan . . . that will provide your solution once the problem has been posed clearly. . . . This plan has been drawn up well away from . . . the cries of the electorate or the laments of society's victims. It has been drawn up by serene and lucid minds." These "serene and lucid minds" are the same people described by Edmund Burke: "Nothing can be conceived more hard than the heart of a thorough-bred metaphysician ... It is like that of the principle of evil himself, incorporeal, pure, unmixed, dephlegmated, defecated evil."

Modernist plans always entail sacrifice. "You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs." The novelist Upton Sinclair defended Soviet collectivization by saying, "They drove rich peasants off the land - and sent them wholesale to work in lumber camps and on railroads. Maybe it cost a million lives - maybe it cost five million - but you cannot think intelligently about it unless you ask yourself how many millions it might have cost if the changes had not been made." But as the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin pointed out, "The eggs are broken, and the habit of breaking them grows, but the omelette remains invisible." In the 1980s sociologist Eva Etzione-Halevy pointed out what is becoming increasingly obvious: “the years in which the influence of the social scientists on policy has been growing have also been the years in which policy failures have been rife and in which a variety of formidable social problems have been multiplying." Malcolm Muggeridge sarcastically remarked< As more and more money is spent on education, illiteracy is increasing. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it didn’t end up with virtually the whole revenue of the western countries being spend on education, and a condition of almost total illiteracy resulting therefrom.”

What is the alternative to rule by “serene and lucid minds?” It is a system that has proved successful for over two hundred years. It is rule by practical people untainted by the theories of the metaphysicians. Irving Kristol has pointed out that, “The common people . . .are not uncommonly wise, but their experience tends to make them uncommonly sensible. They learn their economics by taking out a mortgage, they learn their politics by watching the local school board in action, and they learn the impossibility of ‘social engineering’ by trying to raise their children to be decent human beings.” They are busy taking care of their small section of the world. And for the most part, they do it responsibly. As Thomas Hobbes wrote, “A plain husband-man is more Prudent in the affaires of his own house, than a Privy Counselor in the affaires of other men.”