From the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” files:
Knock yourself out.
So exactly how do the exporters of democracy explain this?
Among the various and sundry accoutrements of democracy with which Western liberators are re-making Arabia, polling and the data it produces will forevermore be an inescapable concomitant of social and political life in the New Middle East.
Much like the efficacy of reconstituted security forces, the accuracy of historic elections, and the heft of the very constitution by which Iraqis now purport to exercise their newfound sovereignty, this early polling data ought to be given a wide berth.
Sorry I lost my head. I forgot anything that doesn’t support the case is ‘junk science‘.
Well, yes, and reading about how people believed unquestioningly in the data purportedly collected by the EPA in the wake of 9/11 recalls the manner in which people accept uncritically all kinds of data trotted out by government agencies to bolster the administration’s narrative: tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs, the economy is growing at a healthy pace, record numbers of workers are employed, there is no inflation.
The water’s fine, come on in! How about a glass of Kool Aid?
“Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration–aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals–are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition.”
“Produce competing theories” is NOT the same as “suppress” – in fact, it’s just the opposite, and is the basis of a healthy science process.
…the economy is growing at a healthy pace, record numbers of workers are employed…
Yeah, plunging home prices and long lines at the unemployment offices and soup kitchens prove just the opposite…
You act as if we’ve never had high unemployment and stagnant growth before.
We know what that looks like, and this ain’t it. Ask someone you trust, who was an adult in the 70s.
Also, why isn’t Howard Dean all over this ?
If there really are tens of millions of people unemployed, and zero real GNP growth, why is he silent ?
Did Bush get to him, somehow, maybe sent in a ninja from Cheney’s secret Kung-Fu army to deliver a strong message ?
I believe we‚Äôve had several variations on this debate. Suffice it to say if its all rubbish there sure is a lot of it. In about 5 minutes I found 12 articles to support my assertion. I know it‚Äôs the liberal media BWHAAAHAA
Sorry, Michael, but I’ve yet to see any legitimate “competing theories” produced by either you or the Bush administration regarding even one of these environmental and scientific questions affecting the lives of all Americans, while, as Bubbles points out, there is a raft of evidence that BushCo has indeed, supressed, altered, and misrepresented the scientific evidence unearthed by both government and private scientists working in a number of areas.
I’ll grant it’s not 100% the fault of the Bush administration, because the media has been shamefully complicit in failing to either publicize malfeasant governance or report on the scientific truths of the befouling of our soil, air, and water.
As for your quibbling with my view of government reporting of economic data, why do things have to reach a nadir comparable to the 70s before you’ll admit there’s anything rotten in the state of Denmark? All I said was the government’s data ought to be given a wide berth. As it turns out, where I live, there ARE long lines at the unemployment office and in front of the soup kitchens; falling home prices are just around the corner if the increasing supply of homes for sale is any indication.
And WTF does Howard Dean have to do with anything? Where did I say anything about tens of millions of unemployed or zero percent real growth? I have long maintained the Democratic party is a flaccid pantywaist of a political force today, and Dean, as the head of the DNC, is among the least likely people to change that image or mount any kind of a viable challenge to the Republican dominated status quo.
I am increasingly of the dejected opinion that this one will have to be taken to the streets before the beat gets turned around.
Yes, there surely is a lot of rubbish.
My main point in the many debates that we’ve had is that you tend to take as ESTABLISHED FACT arguments made by some scientists, when they’re really THEORIES, (or even just hypotheses), and subject to revision or falsification at any time.
Take global warming.
I’m willing to accept that the phenomenon exists, (although that has yet to be proven), but we don’t know if humans are contributing significantly to it, if it will continue, what the extent will be, what the effects will be, or if humans can do anything about it.
Until we know the answers to those questions, all of our efforts ought to go into finding out how to answer the questions, NOT into reshaping human societies in ways that might turn out to have been unnecessary or even dead wrong, in a few decades.
My point is that “suppression” by the Bush admin is NOT the same as widespread oppression – the U.S. gov’t controls very little having to do with scientific research or publishing.
Even stem cell research is legal in the U.S., although the Bush admin doesn’t support it.
Unless you want to talk specifically about marijuana research, or panther habitats in Florida near urban areas, there just isn’t much “there” there.
Yes, it will take millions of citizens in the streets to change things, which is why things are likely to stay just as they are.
People are, in general, too content with the current situation to get very worked up about anything, which is the ultimate proof of how good things are.
Would that all this were only a tempest in a teapot — a mere cocktail party dispute between professorial types — but it is not.
This isn’t simply a question of scientists disagreeing — there are many confirmed instances of government scientists being forced to alter their findings to suit this adminstration’s politcial objectives or risk their careers. I won’t repeat my lengthy posts elsewhere on this blog, but it should be more than obvious that this administration has made a concerted effort to make the facts meet their philosophy — or more accurately, to make the facts meet their fraud. Call it WMD Syndrome.
This rejection of legitimate scientific conclusions for political purposes has dire consequences in and of itself. But even more chilling is that this administration and its most rabid supporters seem willing to return to the Dark Ages, to embrace ignorance and superstition. Then again, what else would you expect from a President who openly disdains reading? Sadly, anti-intellectual elements welcome all this as an opportunity to replace reason with rubbish.
Take Intelligent Design — please. Frankly, there isn’t even a debate here. Evolution says there is an incredibly simple explanation; Intelligent Design says it’s too incredibly complicated to explain. Evolution is a theory that postulates the cause of observable physical anomalies; Intelligent Design is an anomaly that insists on an inobservable metaphysical facts. Evolution is a widely-accepted explanation that is constantly tested and revised; Intelligent Design is a widely-ridiculed diversion that can’t be tested or revised.
As such, Intelligent Design has about as much validity as alchemy or phrenology. In fact, I would expect to see proof of either alchemy or phrenology before Intelligent Design. Until its proponents offer some proof beyond criticism of Evolution or throwing up their hands over a too-complicated eye, Intelligent Design will remain not a theory, but a repackaged ideology, Creationism made to sound scientific.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have a deep and abiding belief in a Creator, and that includes the belief that such a Creator would have sense enough not to try and explain nuclear physics or evolution to illiterate goatherds in Canaan 3,000 years ago. One can’t help but wonder about the intelligence of those who believe otherwise.
For True Believers, let me offer a test: Do you truly believe you can identify a fossil using Genesis more easily than with a biology textbook? Do you truly believe you can build a more seaworthy craft using Noah’s ark design rather than the design of a nautical engineer? Do you truly believe that if your child was desperately ill, you should consult Leviticus before a medical text? (If you chose the former rather than the latter in any of these instances, please reread the last sentence in the previous paragraph).
I have nothing against ideology, but I don’t see it leading to a cure for cancer or the next generation of computers. So I don’t want anyone’s ideology substituted for science. Ideology is what sent the Arabs, once scientific leaders of the world, down a Carollian rabbit-hole.
George W. Bush certainly didn’t invent Intelligent Design, but he wasted no time embracing it — you might say he never gave it a moment’s thought. Which is exactly the problem with this administration and it’s most rabid followers. They are the embodiment of the old cliche:
My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with facts.
Let’s take global warming.
Mankind’s ability to discern the truth of earth’s environmental mojo is limited by the fact that our tenancy has been rather brief in geological time. Yes, we’ve been given the gift of reason, but, still.
The thing is, we don’t have to settle the question of global warming in order to know what to do about mankind’s influence on the environment, such as it is.
Try living in a closed garage with the car running. Try drinking the runoff from heavy metals mining operations with your next meal. Mankind is basically f*cking the sh*t up left and right and it’s only a matter of time before intelligent design kicks in and puts an end to our nonsense.
Unless, of course, Intelligent Design is correct.
So Tam‚ÄôO can surely produce eloquent prose that this brutish engineering type/psudo-scientist cannot. However, I feel compelled to take-up nomenclature for a moment. I object to the term ‚ÄòAnti-intellectual‚Äô as it is used in the context of our political times. The term is part and parcel of the assault, a weapon in the arsenal of the ‚ÄòRight‚Äô in that they use it to bolster the ‚Äòus and them‚Äô ideological camps of our times, where the plain speaking are contrasted against the elitist establishment. A far better term in my opinion would be ‚ÄòThe Dis-enlightenment‚Äô a term in my opinion that Tam‚ÄôO would do far better to wrap historical context around. In that, ‚ÄòDis‚Äô as in to disparage, distort, disavow and otherwise undo the great intellectual movement that founded our county and which our forefathers were the great standard bearers of – ‘The Enlightenment‘.
Ohh and Michael I beg you to return to for what me was the 7th grade in my public school education, where the scientific method was first impressed upon me. It seems both you and the Dis-enlightenment crowd you run with have severed the relationship between it and epistemology which has brought mankind from the Dark Ages to the Modern day.
Perhaps you should read the epistemology site that you linked to:
According to pragmatic epistemology, knowledge consists of models that attempt to represent the environment in such a way as to maximally simplify problem-solving. It is assumed that no model can ever hope to capture all relevant information, and even if such a complete model would exist, it would be too complicated to use in any practical way. Therefore we must accept the parallel existence of different models, even though they may seem contradictory. The model which is to be chosen depends on the problems that are to be solved. The basic criterion is that the model should produce correct (or approximate) predictions (which may be tested) or problem-solutions, and be as simple as possible.
Since no global warming environmental model has yet managed to predict actual events, we can state with confidence that nobody knows what’s going on with global warming – the what, when, and especially the why.
Given that global warming models fail the scientific test, belief in human-caused global warming is faith based, not science based, which makes such beliefs anti-rational, or disenlightened.
Since you, Bubbles, are decidedly Enlightened, you must immediately renounce any support for the concept of human-caused global warming, until and unless scientifically-based climate models are developed.
Or, you could simply embrace your inner disenlightenment.
You Sir are confusing predicting the weather with predicting change in the weather. Arguments like that have legs on the AM/talk radio dial. The fact is currrent models are predicting change quite well. That‚Äôs all beside the point. As usual you‚Äôd prefer a game of Three Card Monte -rhetorical sleight of hand- to self-awareness, intellectual honesty let alone a serious rebuttal.
No, I’m talking about climate-change models that can make accurate and precise predictions.
Simply predicting that “the climate will change” gets no points awarded.
Please point out an example of “current models predicting change quite well”. Increased numbers of hurricanes won’t cut it, since that was predicted long BEFORE any thoughts of global warming – hurricane frequency rises and falls on a long cycle.
As usual you‚Äôd prefer a game of Three Card Monte -rhetorical sleight of hand- to self-awareness, intellectual honesty let alone a serious rebuttal.
Is that your way of admitting that you cannot refute my claims about your religion ?
Because, as I stated before, “human-caused long-term global warming” is an article of FAITH, not science.
Once more into the flay….
Fellas, this global warming dispute was resolved long ago by the 20th Century American philosopher Robert Zimmerman who observed that “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” He also pointed out that “the answer is blowing in the wind”.
Science may not be able to measure exactly how much of the observed effect is cyclical and how much is man-made. But common sense dictates that dumping massive quantities of hydro-carbons into our atmosphere is likely to have a deleterious effect. That being said, I’m not sure how you convince people to give up modernity and mobility. “Back to the blanket” isn’t really all that popular even with Muslim fanatics.
Bubbles, I’m not sure, but I think you may have damned me with faint praise. In any case, if indeed ye be the brute you profess to be, I am surprised at your splitting of such semantic hairs as “anti-intellectual” and “disenlightenment”. And I suspect a brute would be far less circumspect in his critique.
I used the term “anti-intellectual” in full confidence that everyone in this forum would know what I meant by that term. But perhaps rather than what, your question relates to whom I was referring.
Well, I’m not suggesting there are no intellectuals or brilliant minds in this administration. Quite the contrary, Wolfowitz, et al, are the intellectual equal of anyone. But they have pursued wrong-headed policies in spite of their brilliance, and I believe their intellects have been co-opted by their ideology, and sorry to say, in the case of some, by their loyalty to a foreign nation.
Furthermore, Karl Rove is every bit as brilliant a political strategist as Machiavelli. Dick Cheney is obviously a master of duplicity and intrigue, though he is now being undone by his cupidity. I believe even George W. Bush is a bright boy, in a corporate-raider kind of way, though he strikes me as intellectually lazy as any President in U.S. history. Yes, Michael, I know there are many candidates for that dishonor. Let’s just say Bush is no Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt.
Still he weighs in on weighty matters regardless of his disdain for the rigors of intellectual pursuits. But for all his professed religion, I doubt W is any more dedicated to the cause of Intelligent Design than his daddy was to his Pro-Life posturing. In both cases, I suspect their “stands” are/were a political calculation far more than a reasoned evaluation of the evidence or a tortuous examination of the soul.
In fact, the anti-intellectuals to which I am referring are the large and lunatic fringe these men continually throw propaganda bones. Supreme Court Terrorists, Gay Bobs, and Baby-Killers — these are the sacrificial lambs offered up to appease the bloodthirsty mob, a crowd that doesn’t really care who we blame or punish for 9-11 as long as we blame or punish somebody.
These are the people who continue to clamor for the New Crusades, firm in the belief that we alone are possessed of The Right — which is why we’ve been given The Might. Ask them, and they will set you straight — Abu Gahrib is not an aberration brought on by subjecting immature young men to the horrors of war; no, it is our bounden duty to torture and maim to make the world safe for capitalist democracy and the second coming of Christ.
In fact, this crowd will balk at the very notion that Christ preached pacifism. Never happened, they say. I say, Jesus wept at Abu Gahrib.
In the personal and world view of these anti-intellectuals, words and ideas are merely weapons of the weak, and inquiry, doubt and apology are unacceptable and cowardly. This is why they voted again for a man who proved utterly inadequate to the task during his first four years — because they see him as someone who “thinks” like them. And maybe they’re right.
If you want to indentify these people, here’s a clue: They can never say “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry.”
[C]ommon sense dictates that dumping massive quantities of hydro-carbons into our atmosphere is likely to have a deleterious effect. That being said, I‚Äôm not sure how you convince people to give up modernity and mobility. ‚ÄúBack to the blanket‚Äù isn‚Äôt really all that popular even with Muslim fanatics.
Even if global warming turns out to be a long-term trend, and eventually is proven to be largely caused by humans, (and not just transportation, either; agriculture and especially raising cattle contribute a lot of greenhouse gasses), we STILL might decide that it’s a price worth paying, to preserve our quality of life.
But, we’re not even near the point where we can rationally make a decision about whether the price is worth the benefit, since no one yet knows the price.
And, the fix might be as simple as planting millions of acres of trees, which would be dirt cheap, as these things go.
I believe their intellects have been co-opted by their ideology, and sorry to say, in the case of some, by their loyalty to a foreign nation.
The U.S. went to war to advantage Israel ?
It’s as simple as that their interests are the same as America’s, and thus what’s good for us is good for them. This time they get a free ride, but their good fortune isn’t the point of American foreign policy.
In fact, a good case can be made that since ’48 America has exploited Israel far more than the other way around. In any case, for cultural and strategic reasons we’re bound at the hip, at least as far as the Middle East goes.
Israel has also carried water for the U.S., as when the Iraqi Osirak reactor & nuclear bomb programme was destroyed.
[T]he bloodthirsty mob, a crowd that doesn‚Äôt really care who we blame or punish for 9-11 as long as we blame or punish somebody.
Bush was barely able to muster support for the Iraqi pacification, and Iraq was a nation that we’d actually fought a war against twelve years previously, and with whom we had been continually involved in low-level military conflict since.
There’s no way he could have gotten support from the “bloodthirsty, uncaring mob”, i.e. the American public, to punish France or Russia for 9/11 – or even Nigeria or Zimbabwe.
Everyone knows that we’re in the right part of the world, to extract our revenge for 9/11, and to prevent another.
Especially since 9/11 was about the House of Sa’ud, not America qua the Global Hegemon.
Al Qaeda’s ultimate goal isn’t to destroy America – it’s to control Mecca.
They just believe (rightly) that they have to go through the U.S. to get there.
[W]e alone are possessed of The Right ‚Äî which is why we‚Äôve been given The Might.
Yes, that’s so.
It’s due to America following the best, most efficient ways to run an economy and society that we’ve ended up as the most powerful nation and culture in the history of humanity.
However, Americans feel that it’s not a unique birthright, that anyone can get where we’ve gotten – all they have to do is follow the path that we’ve blazed.
We practically beg the rest of the world to get with the programme, and stop suffering and dying needlessly. It’s not like we keep the “American Prosperity Secret Formula” locked up in a hidden vault at Fort Knox, guarded day and night by Cheney’s secret Kung-Fu ninja army.
On the contrary, we spend billions of hard-earned American taxpayer dollars to send forth thousands of American emissaries to teach the world about best practices, as we know them.
In the personal and world view of these anti-intellectuals, words and ideas are merely weapons of the weak…
Except that Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Admiral Poindexter, Condeleezza Rice, Rumsfeld, et al., use WORDS and IDEAS to attempt to change American society for what they perceive to be the better.
ALL OF THEM have spent years, and in some cased DECADES, honing, refining, and preaching their viewpoints and arguments.
What they’re doing now isn’t the result of ideas that they’ve been persuaded to buy into over the past four years, it’s the culmination of a lifetime of work, and they are quite willing to be judged by history for the results.
It appears you’ve caught the hubris bug that’s going around.
Bush was barely able to muster support for the Iraqi pacification:
As you might say, Rubbish. Or is it, Nonsense.
Bush had virtually the entire punditocracy branding anyone who questioned going to war in Iraq a traitor. He got damn near unanimous authorization to exercise carte blanche war powers from Congress. Oh, sure, millions of people throughout the world turned out peaceably in the streets to protest against going to war, but they were roundly ignored.
Nice Orwellian term there, too, Iraqi pacification.
It‚Äôs due to America following the best, most efficient ways to run an economy and society that we‚Äôve ended up as the most powerful nation and culture in the history of humanity.
I wasn’t aware that such is the point of human existence. Why do you take it as a given that being the most powerful nation and culture is a good thing?
We practically beg the rest of the world to get with the programme, and stop suffering and dying needlessly.
Uh, look around, citizen. There is plenty of needless suffering and dying right here in the good ol’ USA.
Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Admiral Poindexter, Condeleezza Rice, Rumsfeld, et al. … are quite willing to be judged by history for the results.
Good thing, since they don’t have a choice in the matter.
I just hope they are willing to be judged by their own countrymen, and that we get a chance to make them pay for their crimes against humanity.
At the risk of repeating myself — I did not accuse the Bush adminstration of being anti-intellectual, though I’m less certain about the attitude of the headman himself. I accused them of pandering to those who are anti-intellectual.
There is no question the Bush Boys know how to use ideas and words to their advantage. Then again, so did Hitler and Himmler.
The test is whether those words and ideas are used with good cause and with good result. The evidence cleary tells me they don’t.
As for the NeanderCons, my point is that although we may be joined to Israel at the hip, our objectives do not always coincide. Unfortunately, there are those in this administration (as in previous administrations) who choose the Israeli cause ahead of our own. If you want proof, consult the relevant court dockets.
By the way, I’m glad the Israelis bombed Iraqi nuclear facilities, but I don’t think they did so only at our behest.
As for the American economic example, it certainly helps when you start off with a New World full of assets taken by force from its native peoples and use slave labor, red and black, to compound those assets. There is no question the greatest transfer of wealth in history came as a result of the conquest of the New World. Spain and France plundered the Indians and the British plundered Spanish and French assets. Then America took it from the British by force and went on to steal the rest from Mexico and the Indians of the West. Always, of course, in the name of God and Manifest Denisty.
Perhaps history could not have been otherwise, and certainly Americans have many reasons to be proud of our past. But we should take no great honor in our rapaciousness, and we should never forget our good fortune came at the expense of many others.
But instead, like the rich and well-born of all ages, we believe our good fortune is all the result of our superiority.
Why do you take it as a given that being the most powerful nation and culture is a good thing?
It’s better than being weak, as Tam O’Tellico implicitly points out.
However, it is true that once a certain level of prosperity and defensive strength is reached, it’s not always a benefit to strive for more.
North Korea is a perfect example of needless sacrifice for NO gain – the average NoKo lives like a medieval peasant, and half of the country’s production goes towards supporting their military.
Unfortunately, the NoKo military, nukes and all, COULD NOT win a war of invasion against any of their neighbors, and their military is far, FAR too large for defensive purposes only.
Thus, they should cut the size of their army by two-thirds, and use those boys to produce something useful – like food. NoKo would not substantially change their strategic military situation if they did so, and they’d reap large diplomatic gains.
But, although we can look at modern, prosperous nations that have very low military spending, we should not forget that they’re all free-riding on the military might of a benevolent U.S.
If America were militarily like New Zealand, or if the European and Pacific nations were convinced that the U.S. would NOT help them if they were attacked, then they’d all have to spend more on their own militaries.
Being THE STRONGEST isn’t necessarily beneficial, but neither can any nation afford to be substantially weaker than its neighbors.
That was what got Arabia and Kuwait in trouble vis-a-vis Iraq, in 1990.
If the U.S. hadn’t been so strong, and willing to help, then Kuwait and Arabia would be part of Greater Iraq right now.
Uh, look around, citizen. There is plenty of needless suffering and dying right here in the good ol‚Äô USA.
Sure, but in America, that’s largely due to individual factors.
In many other nations, it’s due to structural factors. Their cultures or societies are such that IT DOESN’T MATTER how smart, hard-working, or talented individuals are – they don’t have any opportunity to apply those human assets to better their situations.
As for the American economic example, it certainly helps when you start off with a New World full of assets taken by force from its native peoples and use slave labor, red and black, to compound those assets. …we should never forget our good fortune came at the expense of many others. …like the rich and well-born of all ages, we believe our good fortune is all the result of our superiority.
If we were living in the 19th century, then you might have a point.
However, the regions of the U.S. that used slave labor to compound their assets got SOUNDLY whipped by the regions that didn’t use slave labor – so having a lot of slaves obviously isn’t any more than a slight benefit.
The basis of America’s superiority is indeed the land and natural resources that we took by force, but it’s ONLY the foundation. What we’ve built from it cannot be explained as “inevitable”, something that would have happened to any peoples fortunate enough to live in North America.
Argentina and Brazil have very European cultures, (they aren’t at all “Latino”, more like France, Spain, and Germany), and they were carved from land taken by force from the natives, and slaves were used in Brazil, but they aren’t world-beating nations.
Clearly, “free” labor and natural resources only get you into the game, they don’t decide the game.
Singapore and Japan have little in the way of natural resources or “free” labor, only human capital, and yet they’re both very prosperous nations, with Japan having the second-largest economy on Earth.
America and the EU are comparable. They’re both democratic and capitalistic in organization, and their populations and economies are roughly similar in size.
They’re both descended from peoples that made fortunes by conquering and enslaving.
So why does America have a bright future, while the EU is facing ruin ?
America is superior due to CULTURE, not due to the circumstances of her founding.
We are, in fact, better.
If the population of Africa, and the population of America, were to magically change places, with us stuck with their property and infrastructure, and them acquiring all of the trappings of the wealthiest society that humanity has ever known, I can guarantee that by 2050 Africa would be outproducing North America. (And probably by 2025).
As usual there are elements of your argument I accept, but I am troubled but what I perceive to be a bit of xenophobia with a bitter taste of white supremacy. Please believe me when I say I’m not into name-calling here — my point is not about you personally so much as it is about cultural attitudes that have infected most of the “civilized” west.
It is useful to remember that at the time of the Terrorist Invasions of the 1500s, there were cities and civilizations in South and Central America to rival any in Europe. It is useful to remember that despite the Black Robes who accompanied them, the Conquistadores were not there to enlighten those who might well have been their “betters”, except to enlighten them of their gold. It is useful to remember that it was not gold alone that Europeans returned from the New World with, but lumber to build the ships that led to further conquest and seed stocks that led to a population explosion in Europe that further fueled the British crown policy of plantation.
It is useful to remember that even in the most “primitive” of Indian tribes, there were no widows or orphans, and no one starved unless they all did.It is useful to remember that many of our Founding Fathers marveled at the government of the Five Civilized Tribes and very likely adopted large portions of it to establish our consitutional democracy (see John Adams). And all that from savages who could neither read nor write nor invent the wheel.
I would also point out that the philosophy which undergirds the whole notion of Manifest Destiny (see John Quincy Adams for one of the worst of these justifications) could just as easily be used today to allow someone to claim the three acres of my little spread here in Tennessee that has been left in its natural state.
As I’ve said before, if this were only a four-hundred year-old history lesson, one might be justified in giving it a wave of the hand. Fact is, this behavior continues to this day. Ask the U.S. Department of Interior about it’s contemptible behavior. Ask the third-world countries who are now “benefitting” from the doctored tobacco cigarette companies can’t sell here in the States. (The Indians certainly have taken a substantial revenge on that score).
I have dealt with all these issues in my own book The Disappearing Cemetery. But don’t take my word for it — I wholeheartedly recommend Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. And if you’re of a poetic mind, reread Kipling.
White man’s burden, indeed.
“If the population of Africa, and the population of America, were to magically change places, with us stuck with their property and infrastructure, and them acquiring all of the trappings of the wealthiest society that humanity has ever known, I can guarantee that by 2050 Africa would be outproducing North America. (And probably by 2025).”
I am reminded of rich folk who are fond of saying that if you took all the money and divided it up equally, within ten years the same people would end up with it all. So far, I haven’t found any rich folk willing to put that theory to the test.
I am reminded of rich folk who are fond of saying that if you took all the money and divided it up equally, within ten years the same people would end up with it all.
Was that just to set up the joke, or do you truly not believe that such would occur ?
If not, why not ?
If everyone were more or less equal in their ability to produce and retain, shouldn’t there be a huge bulge in the middle of the wealth distribution bell curve, as people became rich or poor only through chance or misfortune ?
I know four families quite well that I can guarantee will never substantially improve their lot in life without winning the lottery, and in at least two instances, they’d be broke again within five years.
I am troubled by what I perceive to be a bit of xenophobia with a bitter taste of white supremacy.
I’m not a racist, I’m a culturalist.
I’m also not xenophobic, if you meant that in a literal way.
I have a little bit of experience with other cultures, societies, and races:
I have visited all 50 American states, and have lived in 14 of them.
I have visited 9 foreign countries, on 4 continents, and have lived in 3 of them.
I have lived with, worked with, and worked for blacks, asians, Persians, and Latinos of all different stripes.
While speaking of race, it’s an undeniable fact that today whites rule the Earth, and have done so for centuries, if we define “white” in the modern way, i.e., anyone from Europe, including Slavs and Mediterraneans, and their descendants.
However, they rule not due to any innate superiority, but due to having constructed superior cultures. (See Jared Diamond’s Collapse).
As I previously posted, inferior peoples can adopt Western cultural values, and become as successful as the current rulers of the Earth.
Japan has done so, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Indonesia, the Philippines…
China is taking baby steps in that direction…
Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan are at least experimenting with doing so…
The difference between that viewpoint and “white supremacy” is that blacks and asians (and presumably Latinos and Jews) cannot become “white”.
Here is an interesting discussion about Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel.
As to all of your other points:
I (mostly) agree.
My assertion is not that whites, Americans, or Europeans thought of everything that is or was good in the world, merely that modern American society is the MOST USEFUL of those that remain, and has much to teach those in less useful cultures. (Including some American sub-cultures).
It is useful to remember that [...] there were cities and civilizations in South and Central America to rival any in Europe, [and that] it was not gold alone that Europeans returned from the New World with, but lumber to build the ships that led to further conquest and seed stocks that led to a population explosion in Europe that further fueled the British crown policy of plantation.
Yes, there were SOME cities in S. & C. America that were as populous as those in Europe, and the civilizations that in most cases rose and fell before the Europeans arrived left behind architectural wonders that, at the time, surpassed almost everything in Europe.
However, there were a lot fewer of those cities, than there were in Europe.
Also, by the time that the Europeans arrived in the “New World”, they were already vastly technologically superior to those whom they encountered.
There’s a reason that raw materials were taken from the Americas to Europe, and not the other way around, and a reason that the Europeans were able to leverage the resources provided to achieve world domination – but that the Amerindians were not able to do so.
– Back to the 21st century -
In thinking further about lonbud’s question about the value of being the world’s dominant society, and borrowing from the “2000″ post:
America has not always done what was most moral, nor what was wisest, and even when we were acting with the highest motives, mistakes have been made.
However, things could be a lot worse.
Between 1950 and 1990, the bottom-line choices were to line up with the U.S., or with the USSR. Even with racism and sexism being strongly expressed in American society throughout most of that period, we were CLEARLY the better choice.
Even now, people risk their lives to flee one of the last remaining Communist dictatorships, Cuba. (And it’s a big risk; one in four die trying).
America’s strong opposition to Soviet Communism may have served our interests well, but it also well-served the world.
No nation that cast their lot with the Soviets now appreciates that decision.
The Cold War, and American containment of the USSR, was not without cost or effort for America and her peoples. We may not be perfect, but we were the world’s sword and shield during that trying time, and we shed sweat, blood, and tears in those roles.
Many anti-American people alive and free to criticize today are only such due to American efforts on their behalf. What if the Soviet Union were the world’s dominant society ?
Would we then question what the benefits of power and influence are ?
Or even be allowed to ?
Differentiating and choosing between material benefits and spiritual benefits is only possible among free and prosperous people, and it’s American might that has allowed such over the last half of the 20th century, just as it was British might that allowed it in the 19th and early 20th century.
There is a tautological strain to your argument, and as such, it isn’t open to argument. If the only measure of our cultural superiority is economic success, then obviously “white” (substitute western European if you find that term more palatable) culture is presently superior. The same goes for our military superiority — by virtue of winning, the point is made inarguable. And YBYA, I’m glad we won instead of Hitler.
In fact, our finest hour was World War II and the Marshall Plan. Never had a conquering nation been so generous. But I find it impossible to recognize that legacy in our present policies.
But economic and military success are not the only measure of a culture — a point made brilliantly, eloquently and tellingly by the First Century Jewish philosopher Jesus of Nazareth. By his reckoning, the measure of a culture is the way it treats the “least of these”. Well, if that’s the measure, I’d say we’ve got a very long way to go.
Of course, none of us are required (so far) to accept Christian philosophy — though it appears profession has become a requirement for public office. But if we accept, as most Americans do, that this is a Christian nation (and culture), we have fallen far short of the mark.
So how do we judge this culture and its masses who claim the faith but not the burden that goes with it, a culture that now requires its leaders to pass the Christian litmus test in order to be elected, a culture that holds riches above honor? I judge it the economic and military envy of the world, but something far less in our greed, our arrogance, our pursuit of wretched excess and our celebration of the banal.
In short, we suffer from cultural schizophrenia because we value economic success above all else in a culture that claims Christian values.
The Christian/Capitalist Divide reveals us to much of the rest of the world as First Class Hypocrites. This divide enables the Tom DeLays among us to hold the Bible and the Bribe in equal esteem. This divide enriches corporate criminals while it impoverishes those who work with their hands. This divide embraces role models like Donald Trump and Michael Milken, while it demeans preachers, teachers and nurses.
I know this probably sounds too much like a Jermiad, and I’m sorry to rain on your Fourth of July parade. But our present state of affairs — the Rove/Libby/Miller, DeLay/Frist/Miers, Katrina/Rita/FEMA fiascoes, the Halliburton/Cheney greedmill, the suspect Iraq War, and the 2000 dead of the Lost Brigade — well, lets just say I’m not very cheery this morning, and I’m not feeling particularly proud of our culture at this moment.
Without economic and military superiority, few cultures live to achieve moral superiority. There is a social hierarchy of needs, as well as an individual one.
Jesus is a great example, because off the top of my head, that’s the only case I can think of where the culture of a conquered people spread and overwhelmed the conquering culture.
Take the Amerindian achievements that you mentioned earlier.
They were not examples of what can be done with peace, cooperation, and harmony – the Amerindians fought among themselves as savagely as did the European nations, and many Amerindian tribes were wiped out or absorbed well before Columbus rediscovered America.
(The fourth time that humans had done so).
So, any moral lessons that Amerindians could teach us wouldn’t come from peoples that were economically or militarily inferior.
Going back to Jesus, America provides her poor and disadvantaged with everything that Jesus would have demanded: Food, shelter, medical care, and education.
Jesus didn’t say “Everyone should be equal”. In fact, most of what he preached had to do with personal responsibility, and making the right choices.
Further, what of sustainability ?
Should we provide so much support to the least among us that our entire society founders ?
What then of the future needy ?
France, Germany, Sweden, and other European nations are famous for the generosity of their benefits to their needy – but they’ve made promises that they can’t keep.
The current generation of needy has consumed all of the surplus that would have kept future generations.
America is less generous, but by no means parsimonious, and by doing so, we WILL be able to support future generations of the least among us.
Why is that less worthy, to think of the future, instead of allowing the current population to eat our seed stock ?
Rove/Libby/Miller, DeLay/Frist/Miers, Katrina/Rita/FEMA fiascoes, the Halliburton/Cheney greedmill, the suspect Iraq War, and the 2000 dead of the Lost Brigade…
This too shall pass.
It’s not rain on a parade.
America has NEVER been perfect – just often the best.
This is all pretty run-of-the-mill political, cultural, and social infighting.
The 60s were much, MUCH worse, just to give one example.
This divide embraces role models like Donald Trump and Michael Milken, while it demeans preachers, teachers and nurses.
Could you expand on that “demeaning” point ?
I haven’t seen that to be true.
As an aside, it was the Soviet Union that beat Hitler, with assistance from the Allies.
America beat Japan.
“As an aside, it was the Soviet Union that beat Hitler”
This is going to come as a shock to my Uncle Ferrel who died along with more than 800 other Americans when the troop-ship Leopoldville was torpedoed in the English Channel on Christmas Eve, 1944. They were on the way to reinforce troops at the Battle of the Bulge which wasn’t fought agains the Japanese. It would also surprise my Uncle Earl who lost a leg in the European theater, and my Uncle Harvey and Uncle Lindy who all fought the Germans, not the Japanese.
It would probably not sit too well with Patton or Montgomery or anyone else who fought in the African campaign where, as far as I’m aware, the Russians never set foot. Churchill and the British Navy might disagree as well, since the Russian Navy would have likely needed help to defeat the Confederate Navy. And it’s for damned sure, the Russians had nothing to do with the Marshall Plan.
“Jesus is a great example, because off the top of my head, that‚Äôs the only case I can think of where the culture of a conquered people spread and overwhelmed the conquering culture.”
While you may be right about the overwhelming nature of this example, there are those who argue Jesus would have been nothing without Constantine. I don’t agree, and point to the example of the Norse, who adopted Christianity (or at least a version of it) while they were the dominant culture.
In any case, I think you’re missing the point. The lesson of history is that conquered cultures almost always influence the culture of the conquerors, sometimes substantially. Ask Alexander. Kipling has a remarkable poem about a Roman soldier who was reduced to tears for having been made to leave Britain and return to Rome.
This is the point I was trying to make about Amerinds and their example being followed by the Founding Fathers. I believe the American culture is different from that of our British cousins in countless ways that can be clearly traced to the influence of Amerinds. In fact, our most abiding icon, the cowboy, is as Indian as it gets — the strong silent type who never starts trouble, but never runs from it. By the way, a real cowboy never engages in a pre-emptive war.
Certainly, as you point out, Amerinds engaged in warfare before the arrival of white men, though it was often ceremonial warfare. I think you’ll find that common among “primitive” cultures where low birthrates place a high-value on individual lives. Generally, it is only “civilized” societies that can afford the massive casualties that accompany total warfare.
One example of ceremonial warfare was the practice of “counting coup”. Contrary to what most people have been told, this was not scalping — that practice was adopted from white men who paid a death-bounty for Indian scalps. Counting coup required a warrior to merely touch a very live enemy — this was considered the utlimate mark of bravery since it demonstrated utter fearlessness.
In fact, writings from Columbus time on often express shock at how peacefully the Amerinds lived, how little quarreling there seemed to be, and to the utter amazement of the Spanish, how they managed to organize and govern themselves without a true hierarchy. These are lessons our “superior” culture was shown but has yet been able to put into practice.
As for the demeaning of preachers, teacher and nurses, if as you say one important measure of a culture is economic success, than the sub-culture of service occupations is demeaned by its very lack of economic success. My wife is an RN, and while I’m not suggesting that it is a thankless job, the gratitude is seldom expressed in a paycheck. And believe me, if you end up in CCU, your life is as much in your nurse’s hands as it is in your doctors.
By demeaned, I mean these are occupations our culture considers fit for wimpy men and marginal women, but not for the ablest among us. Yes, I know, there are glaring exceptions — but how many phi beta kappa Harvard grads become high school teachers or nurses?
If you want to know what this culture values instead of what it says it values, do like the lawyers do — follow the money.
I doff my ‘shanter to your erudition and your ability to retain a clear-eyed perspective on matters both current and historical. Thanks for elevating the conversation here.
A culture of aquisitiveness and waste, no matter how well-protected by military might, is nothing to be proud of.
There are, of course, many aspects of American culture of which we ought to be rightly proud, but those currently in power pay mere lip service to those ideals while exercising their power fueled by greed, fear, and a very misguided reading of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I believe we are living through an era even more shameful than that of the robber barons because, at this stage, we ought to know better.
As I said, “it was the Soviet Union that beat Hitler, with assistance from the Allies.”
If British and American naval power had been weaker, the war would have lasted a lot longer, and it can be argued that American Lend/Lease aid to the USSR was vital in shortening that campaign by years, but the bottom line is that by the time America invaded Italy, the Russians had already turned the tide on Germany’s eastern front, and never after were the Germans fighting an offensive war – although, as you point out, they mounted several offensive campaigns, such as the Battle of the Bulge, as part of their defense.
Let us speculate that America never sent ground troops to Europe, or even that we didn’t send aircraft and crews.
Under those conditions, could Hitler have defeated the USSR ?
However, the European campaign of WW II probably would have lasted until the 50s, or maybe America would have developed atomic weapons anyway, and supplied some to England, and German cities would have gotten nuked.
The best case scenario for Germany would have been some kind of peace agreement with Stalin, in which Hitler gave up Eastern Europe, and France and the Lowlands would have remained in German hands – at least for awhile.
But don’t take my word for it – look it up.
When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler by David M. Glantz, Jonathan M. House
REVIEW: So many Americans, even those who are avid readers of military history, are very uninformed about the Russian Front. Anti-Soviet attitudes and the preponderance of books written from the German point of view have combined to present an often false and distorted version of history. In the minds of many, the Red Army was completely dependent on American military aid and survived only because of its “inexhaustable” manpower. The Soviets could only win by throwing more men into battle than the Germans had bullets to shoot them with, and were just barely holding their own prior to D-Day. According to popular imagination, the Russian winter is what really stopped the Nazis. As bad as these misperceptions are, even worse are the schools of thought which suggest that the Soviet Union was as guilty as Germany for the start of the war or that Hitler’s invasion was a defensive move against an impending Soviet attack on Germany.
Tenacious Soviet resistance, combined with overextended German supply lines, halted the Blitzkrieg at Moscow and Leningrad. Long before D-Day, the Red Army had made Hitler’s defeat inevitable by gutting the Wehrmacht in the decisive battles of Stalingrad and Kursk. During the same time as the Normandy fighting, the Soviets’ “Bagration” offensive inflicted 500,000 casualties on the Axis and drove the last of the invaders from their territory. From 1941 until mid-1943, the Red Army confronted 80-90% of Germany’s total armed forces. At no time in the whole war did it ever face less than 60%, not even during the heaviest fighting on the Western Front (Normandy, Arnhem, or the “Battle of the Bulge”). Germany’s Axis partners on the Russian Front included not only the Italians but the whole armed forces of Romania, Hungary, and Finland, as well as contingents of pro-fascist volunteers from all over Europe.
Proper credit is finally given to the Soviet military leadership, as well. Red Army commanders often displayed outstanding generalship after the harsh lessons of ’41 and ’42, mastering the art of strategic deception and mechanized warfare on a level matching, even exceeding, that of their best German or Allied counterparts. Names like Zhukov, Vasilievsky, Rokossovsky, Konev, and Vatutin deserve a place alongside Rommel, Guderian, von Manstein, and Patton.
Glantz does not claim that the Soviet Union defeated Germany on its own. American Lend-Lease supplies and the Allied bombing campaign were important, though not decisively so, to the Soviet war effort and are given their just due here. However, 80% of Germany’s combat losses were sustained on the Russian front, inflicted by Soviet forces equipped almost entirely with Soviet-made weapons. Had Germany honored the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact, or had the Red Army been defeated, the Anglo-American forces would have faced an enemy that was 4 times, that is 400%, stronger than it was historically. How many more Americans would have died under these circumstances? How many atomic bombs would need to be dropped on Hitler’s Europe in order bring about victory. As we honor our own veterans with movies and memorials, let us not forget the 11 million Soviet soldiers and the at least 15 million Soviet civilians that died in World War II.
The lesson of history is that conquered cultures almost always influence the culture of the conquerors, sometimes substantially. [...] This is the point I was trying to make about Amerinds and their example being followed by the Founding Fathers. I believe the American culture is different from that of our British cousins in countless ways that can be clearly traced to the influence of Amerinds.
Yes, there is always considerable cultural exchange between conquering and conquered peoples, (like the popularity of curried dishes in the UK, to this day), but often the conquered peoples get a “cultural makeover”, (like the Amerinds), while the conquering people cherry-pick what they like best about the culture of those whom they’ve conquered. (Which isn’t necessarily what’s “best” about the cultures, just most-liked).
Not that military conflict is the only route for cultural exchange, far from it. But it does tend to expose people who otherwise NEVER would have left their local areas to other peoples – Greeks in Persia, Romans in Britain, WW I Doughboys in Paris, WW II farmboys interacting with Pacific Islanders…
America is indeed different from Britain, but despite a thousand different influences on modern American culture, from around the globe, American culture is still mostly composed of white people (75%+), [non-Hispanic whites, ~68%], and mostly Christians (although many are “cultural Christians”, not devout), and the biggest ethnic block in America is of people descended from the peoples of the British Isles (English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh) at ~15% of the entire population.
Hispanics make up slightly over 13%, Blacks slightly under 13%, and people of Germanic descent make up about 10% of the entire American population.
The largest cultural influences on modern American culture are Semitic, Greek, Roman, Scottish, and English – not Amerind or even French or Spanish.
That’s true of Canada as well – even though they had, and have, a much stronger French influence, it’s not a primary influence on what they’ve become.
(Interestingly, most Americans of French descent came to America via Canada. Very few French have come directly to America).
In fact, our most abiding icon, the cowboy, is as Indian as it gets ‚Äî the strong silent type who never starts trouble, but never runs from it. By the way, a real cowboy never engages in a pre-emptive war.
That’s Hollywood history.
Both Indians and cowboys started PLENTY of pre-emptive trouble, both with each other and within their own ethnic groups and cultures.
Certainly, as you point out, Amerinds engaged in warfare before the arrival of white men, though it was often ceremonial warfare.
That’s not what I’ve read about the Apache, the Aztecs, the Comanche, or the Sioux.
I well believe that a lot of Amerind conflict involved relatively few fighters, and a lot of symbolic gestures, but since some tribes were decimated, wiped out, or absorbed over the millenia, it’s clear that SOME total warfare was practiced.
Generally, it is only ‚Äúcivilized‚Äù societies that can afford the massive casualties that accompany total warfare.
That, in the end, was what did in the Amerinds – there weren’t enough of them to fight a war of attrition, and since they were were 1,000 years behind on the technology front, an attrition strategy was all they had.
In fact, writings from Columbus time on often express shock at how peacefully the Amerinds lived, how little quarreling there seemed to be, and to the utter amazement of the Spanish, how they managed to organize and govern themselves without a true hierarchy. These are lessons our ‚Äúsuperior‚Äù culture was shown but has yet been able to put into practice.
Since the Civil War, Americans have lived in relative peace, as well.
Our intercine wrangling tend to be over words and ideas, not blood and violence.
Our most contentious struggle was over race, and between the end of the Civil War and now, 140 years, fewer than five thousand Blacks and activists have been lynched, murdered, assassinated, or otherwise deprived of life.
And yet, now Blacks participate fully in every facet and aspect of American life and society. The struggle was won with moral arguments and distinguished examples of intellectual and courageous parity, not via the sword.
As for a “true hierarchy”, America is run by self-made people and elected officials, not hereditary nobles.
Although being from the right socioeconomic sphere is an asset, and having the right name is a leg up, there are no barriers to talented and hardworking people rising as far as they want to.
Lincoln and Clinton, for instance, were born to peasant families.
Lincoln, Buchanan, Grant, Reagan, Carter, JFK and Clinton are but a few good examples of how ANYONE can become President of the U.S., which is now the most powerful position in the entire world – and it’s open to anyone who meets a few arbitrary but simple Constitutional tests.
Then you’ve got Rice, Powell, Albright, W. Buffet, O. Winfrey, Cosby, Gates, Brin & Page, Jobs & Wozniak, Hewlett & Packer, Walton, Kroc, Disney, Edison, Tesla, Ford…
The list could go on for days.
None born to important, rich, or connected families, some with little formal education, some minorities or female…
Yet they all became extremely VIP, by dint of pluck & luck, and some changed American society forever.
America is a meritocracy, the most pure one, at a national level, on the planet.
[T]he sub-culture of service occupations is demeaned by its very lack of economic success…
By demeaned, I mean these are occupations our culture considers fit for wimpy men and marginal women, but not for the ablest among us…
If you want to know what this culture values instead of what it says it values, do like the lawyers do ‚Äî follow the money.
You’ve got the right formula, but you’re mistaken about the values that you’re plugging in.
In the first place, OF COURSE the ablest among us do extraordinary things – otherwise, they’d be average people, no ?
Why be a nurse or high school teacher if you’re capable of being a doctor or university professor ?
(Yes, I agree that there are many reasons other than academic ability that prevent people from reaching the pinnacle professions of their career fields).
While nurses, teachers and preachers aren’t held in the highest respect, they are all accorded respect – more than they deserve, in the case of teachers, who are basically semi-skilled workers protected by stringent licensing laws.
Teachers used to be people with the equivalent of associate degrees, and although they now must attend school longer, they don’t impart any more knowledge to the average high school grad than they did before WW II.
In fact, a compelling argument can be made that the average high school grad is LESS educated than before WW II, although that gets into the changing nature of American society and American students, and isn’t just a phenomenon related to teachers.
In any case, teachers make solid, middle class salaries, and many get several months off per year.
Median annual earnings of kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers ranged from $39,810 to $44,340 in 2002; median earnings for preschool teachers were $19,270.
According to the American Federation of Teachers, beginning teachers with a bachelor‚Äôs degree earned an average of $30,719 in the 2001‚Äì02 school year. The estimated average salary of all public elementary and secondary school teachers in the 2001‚Äì02 school year was $44,367.
As for nurses, the median annual earnings of registered nurses were $48,090 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,140 and $57,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,670.
That compares to the median $ 34,000 that all members of the American workforce averaged in 2004, or the median $ 46,000 that those with Bachelor’s degrees earned in 2004.
So, registered nurses are clearly being paid respectable middle class salaries, wages which are higher than those of the average worker with a Bachelor’s degree, which is hardly “demeaning”.
While the earnings of religious leaders vary wildly, being a priest, rabbi, minister, or other religious leader is a very high status career, and one that often doesn’t require any formal training or educational distinction.
Both Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton ran for President based on nothing more than the status and experience that came from being a community leader and minister.
When all is said and done, I don’t think that you’re correct when you claim that nurses, teachers, and preachers are less valued than they should be, and I’ll throw in police officers and fire fighters, two more vital occupations that are sometimes said to garner less respect and money than they should.
Sure, we pay illiterate thugs millions to toss around various kinds of balls, or sing and dance, but how many people actually make a living as a professional athlete or entertainer ?
Counting everyone making $ 100,000/yr or more in tennis, golf, hockey, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, auto racing, or the Olympic sports, and throwing in everyone making that much or more as a model, actor, or musician, we get fewer than 100,000 people, out of a nation of 300 million, and a labor force of 150 million.
Those folks are literally one in a thousand, and closer to one in every two thousand workers.
Meanwhile, we pay 12 million teachers, nurses, fire fighters, and police officers, (not to mention 2 million members of the American military), solid middle class wages, which allow them to enjoy nice homes, reliable vehicles, plenty of food and entertainment, and which let them educate their children and afford retirement in a timely manner.
A culture of acquisitiveness and waste, no matter how well-protected by military might, is nothing to be proud of.
You choose to accent the negative.
Sure, that’s part of American culture, and it’s a factor that keeps the underclass down, since trying to acquire the trappings of the middle class when you’re poor is counterproductive, but it’s by no means all of what it means to be American, nor is it considered to be a virtue by anyone who doesn’t want to be like Paris Hilton, which is to say almost all adult Americans.
America built the Panama Canal, which at the time was a “wonder of the world”.
Americans were the first to discover how to successfully control and operate heavier-than-air craft.
Americans designed, built and flew the first airplane to break the sound barrier, as well as the fastest airplanes ever produced, the U-2 and SR-71, and the fastest non-rocket uncrewed aircraft ever operated, the X-47 scramjet.
Americans designed, produced, and deployed stealth aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor, which is FOUR TIMES as good as the next-best combat airframe in the world.
Americans invented television, telephones, motion pictures, phonographs, and personal computers, including the GUI and mouse.
Americans also discovered the cure for malaria and the vaccine for polio, and cures for specific types of breast and cervical cancer, and the American drug companies produce two out of three new drugs introduced worldwide.
America landed people on the Moon, and built the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Palomar Observatory (which was the WW II era Hubble), and Americans designed, built, launched, and have been operating the Earth’s first Mars surface exploration rovers – which have so far lasted well over 1,000% longer than anticipated.
Americans also designed, built, launched, and operated the world’s first privately owned spacecraft.
America built and operates the Internet.
America researched & designed (with a little help from our friends), built, and operates the world’s first Ballistic Missile Defense System.
Again, the list could go on for hours, but it’s representative of the inventiveness, dynamicism, and creativity of the American people.
America isn’t just an exploitative and voracious nation that uses global resources at a rate 500% greater than her per-capita share, America is also the most productive and problem-solving nation on Earth, at least currently.
America produces 25% of the entire global economy, despite having only 5% of the Earth’s population, and hundreds of millions of people outside of America’s borders owe their living, directly or indirectly, to demand from American markets.
We will likely split hairs until we’re both bald, but I can’t accept your claim that the Russians defeated the Germans. While the Russians may have had little help on the Eastern front, the war in the west kept the Germans from concentrating their forces in the East.
It is certainly arguable that the Germans could have won the war on either front — but not both at once. But there is little to be gained from debating the hypocthetical.
The fact is, the Germans lost because they were fool enough to get caught in the most elementary of military manouvers — the pincer. It still astounds me that they didn’t learn from the lesson of Napoleon a little more than a century earlier. So it always goes with hubris.
The story is told of the German farmer brought in to see Himmler. After receiving propaganda intended to increase his productivity, he noticed the globe on Himmler’s desk. An unschooled man, he asked to be shown Germany and then America and Russia on the globe. Taken aback by the obvious disparity, he turned to Himmler and asked with great consternation, “Does the Furher know this?”
Funny, but also tragic: The Furher didn’t know it – as you point out.
Thanks again for the kudos, and most everyone in this little world should take a bow as well. We may disagree here about many things, but we do so agreeably, and I like to think we respect the other’s views even when we disagree. And as I said before. I suspect our views are at bottom closer than we might admit.
Pro or con, you are restoring my faith in the process and in our Grand Experiment in representative democracy. I may have mentioned a favorite quote from Mencken which I paraphrase: “The problem with representative democracy is that it will eventually produce leaders who are truly representative of the public.”
After our last election, I adopted the attitude expressed in the headline in the Guardian “How Can 58 Million Americans Be So Stupid?”. In my despair, I abandoned hope and promised myself I would avoid discussions like this and anything else that seemed to be a futile attempt to reason with Bush devotees.
I confess that Michael has helped restore my faith and is giving me at least faint hope that true conservatives will one day awaken from this Orwellian nightmare, this aberrant shanghaing of traditional conservative values by a radical wing of the Republican Party bent on establishing an imperial theocracy that reeks of the worst of Rome.
It is my fervent hope that liberals and conservatives will put aside their differences long enough to find a way out of the morass we have created in Iraq. It is also my hope that Democrats and Republicans will unite in a truly patriotic effort to expose and punish those responsible for deceiving us about the reasons for this war. And if that should include our President, so be it.
To hope otherwise is to suggest we are too immature as citizens to deal with such a turn of events. But those who so believe will discover just as Jack Nicholson’s character did in A Few Good Men that we can handle the truth. We can handle outrageous fortune, but not outrageous lies.
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