Monday, October 25, 2004
Instapundit points to this story on problems in the History profession.
From what I've seen lately, the biggest problem with this profession is that it has wrapped itself up in a personalities cult. Historians want to pick out a single person and write about him as the prime mover of this, that, or the other great historical event or trend. The problem is, in this country, the primum mobile is the people itself, and only rarely will a great historical event or trend not bear too many fingerprints to catalogue.
Take, as an example, David McCullough's very successful biography of John Adams. McCullough's readers may be forgiven if they conclude, from his writing, that Adams singlehandedly touched off the American Revolution. Other authors as relentlessly tout their own favored candidates for that same honor. The trouble is, it belongs to none of them. The people itself was so thoroughly fed up with the Crown, that, when it came to revolution, only about a third of the populace cared to stand against it. The great men of the day, great as they were, were not an avant garde; more often than not, they lagged the trend in public opinion, and took up the Revolution only when it had become the only practical course remaining to them. It is well known, for example, that the members of the New York delegation to the convention in Philadelphia in 1776 had firm instructions from their Legislature, prohibiting them from agreeing to a course that would establish American independence. Why should this be, unless independence were already on everyone's mind? Our independence was the people's vision, not the Founding Fathers'; it is sufficient honor to them that they achieved it, without trying to scrape up every particle of its imagining and dump it upon the head of one man. But this is an inconvenient fact for a historian caught up in personality-worship.
It's not so much that they can't see the forest for the trees, as that the forest is already well mapped, and they want to draw something new. While there are many, many trees, though, that are well worth describing, none of them caused the forest.
Saturday, October 23, 2004
The funniest piece of viciousness I've come across so far this election cycle.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Roger Simon on Andrew Sullivan (by way of Wretchard). I have the feeling he hasn't been watching Sullivan too closely, or he wouldn't have written this:
What's behind a lot of Andrew's assertions seems to be a belief that the occupation of Iraq was botched.
The fact of the matter is, Andrew Sullivan went off the deep end when the Massachusetts Supreme Court plumped for gay marriage, and he hasn't come up for air since. Everything Andrew does, now, is directed toward that one end. He was staunchly for the President, and the conduct of the war, right up until the FMA proposal made its appearance, and he's been throwing a snit ever since. All the facts on the ground -- especially the war in Iraq -- were instantly reappraised, all the inferences just as quickly reversed, a replacement sheaf of premises derived in haste from the all-important conclusion, for no better reason than, "I'll make you soooo sorry." It would be funny if it weren't so grotesque, especially given that, before the meltdown, he was eminently worth reading.
Don't take my word for it, though. Have a go through the archives over at Daily Dish, and pay attention to the timeline.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Hugh Hewitt on Kerry romping all over Mary Cheney. I read this differently. This wasn't aimed at costing Bush some of the Christian vote, or, if it was, that was only gravy.
There are, especially among, shall we say, the more vociferously liberal part of our society, an increasing number of persons who just like to cause unredressable anguish. They adopt positions, and make statements, and do things, not because some system of belief drives them in that direction, but because those positions, statements, and acts offer the best chance that someone, somewhere, will be hurt thereby and unable to do anything about it. Kerry is one of them.
UPDATE: I suppose, having said that, and having shamelessly sent a link to Hewitt for his symposium, I ought to take a stab at the question he asked. So:
This gaffe hasn't dug Kerry much of a hole, for the simple reason that he has already dug an enormous pit, which this latest shovelful doesn't enlarge much, and the only ones who don't know this already are those for whom everything between the coasts is "flyover country."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Having reviewed the symposium entries so far posted, now, I note that only one of them agrees even halfway with what I wrote. "One Destination" wrote that Kerry's remark (and Edwards') was the result of "pathological narcissis[m]": "He is completely unconscious of the pain he inflicts on other people." No, he's not. He knows exactly how much pain he inflicts, and cherishes each and every wince.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Hey, I made the symposium! So, welcome, Hewitt readers!
ENOUGH WITH THE UPDATES, ALREADY: Paging through the new additions, I came across "Caring for the USA." His position is, Kerry is a pathological liar, and the thrill for such persons lies in making people jump. One can say the same thing of sadists, as well, but it leaves something out.
The voting, though, is heavily in favor of the "driving a wedge between Bush/Cheney and the Christians" line of thought. To my mind, this confuses the reason why someone does something he knows he shouldn't, with the justification he concocts to push him over the hump.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Here's a post that's been kicking around for a while, now, waiting to be written. Thanks to Wretchard for providing the context on which to hang it.
Here's the fundamental contradiction at the core of human nature:
All the things that go to make what we call human nature are reducible, one way or another, to approximate solutions aimed at this insoluble problem.
- Other persons can be dangerous.
- The dangerousness of another person depends upon what he is thinking.
- Therefore, it is crucial to know what other persons are thinking.
- But it is impossible to know what other persons are thinking.
Most persons take this a bit further:
This is why, in all the societies of the world, the most dangerous thing anyone can do is to give his neighbors to understand, "I don't think the same way you do" on some touchous point or other. This is also why, in all those same societies, there are any number of tests for smoking out heresy, which challenges may be offered at any time, and the failure to provide immediate satisfaction is also extremely dangerous.
- It is important, not only to know what other persons are thinking, but to understand those thoughts.
- The easiest thoughts to understand are one's own.
- Therefore, the easiest way out of this whole mess is to require that everyone think the same things.
The first point I want to make is, all societies work this way, differing only in the specific points on which orthodoxy is required. Even those who fondly imagine themselves anarchists, supposing they could realize their dream, would still eject from their society one way or another, as unfit to live, anyone who voiced doubts about "live and let live."
These are the points on which I measure societies: Is orthodoxy required of all things? or only some? Is only one answer acceptable? or is it only that some answers are unacceptable? Are those points, on which orthodoxy is required, actually related to the problem of living together without bloodshed? or not? And do the required answers actually contribute to the solution of that problem? or not?
My second point is a response to Wretchard: This is not, like perception, something passive. And it is the result of learning, not evolution.
My last point: This gives an indication of what it is that those who style themselves professional dissidents are doing wrong. Every act they undertake is deliberately directed toward frustrating the basic requirements of the society in which they live. It is amusing, though, to note that, among themselves, they have erected a rival orthodoxy more stringent and obnoxious than anything their parent society has devised, and they enforce it upon each other with far more relish in their own vindictiveness than they would ever face from the society whose demands they flaunt.
(I have a number of these posts piled up, and some vague notion of building them together in a more-or-less orderly and coherent scheme, but I must work on them in the little time I can steal away from work and family, both of which are voracious. This is the post I had picked out for the starting point, though, so the thing is off to a decent start. Thanks, Wretchard!)
For the more forensically inclined