Those are the themes of two books that I enthusiastically recommend to the readers of this fine blog. The first book, Nanny State: How Food Fascists, Teetotaling Do-Gooders, Priggish Moralists, and other Boneheaded Bureaucrats are Turning America into a Nation of Children, deals with exactly what the title states. Although I have not finished reading this book I am very impressed with what I have read so far. Nevertheless, the author, David Harsanyi, deals with a subject that has been a great concern of mine for some time, the rise of the therapeutic welfare state and the corresponding loss of individual freedom and the damage this development is doing to the American character. Additionally, Mr. Harsanyi touches on something that has never ceased to disturbingly amaze me when he observes:
“The fact that politicians, bureaucrats, and activists long to be our parents is not new. What is inexplicable, though, is the swiftness with which Americans have allowed these worrywarts to take on the job. It’s a dramatic about-face from our traditional attitudes toward overreaching government. Some Americans (still too few) are beginning to wonder: When exactly did we lose our right to be unhealthy, unsafe, immoral, and intolerably foolish?”
Hmmm. Over to you Mr. C.K. Chesterton:
“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man more than a dog.”
What do you think John Wayne?
“Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat - the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words.”
Read the book!
The other book is The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money. This book details how, contrary to public perception, big business loves big government and regulation and how both parties, Republican and Democrat, love big business. The book also illustrates how taxpayers are footing the bill for this love affair. If you think regulations on business are there for your protection think again. Warning, don’t read this book if you don’t want to get mad.
Oh, by the Way, Gene Simmons, the front man for KISS, is coming out with his own edition of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The only thing necessary to complete this circle of insanity would be for Gen Mattis to record a cover of Love Gun.
We've talked about the famous Zimbardo study before, where people were divided into prisoners and prisonkeepers, and immediately became bestial. If you remember the discussion, you will still find this article to be interesting -- just skip down to "the shocking events of the SPE..." and following.
The author concludes:
People, moreover, are not all alike. The research described by Zimbardo shows a surprising level of bad behaviour in the experimental situations, but nothing like uniformly bad behaviour. First, there are active perpetrators and fearful but humane collaborators. Both of these are morally defective, but in different ways. Finally, there are whistle-blowers who do have the strength to challenge the system, and Zimbardo devotes his final chapter to the characteristics of such people. So he himself knows that the individual does matter, and he is actually very interested in asking not only how situations can be better designed but also how people can be brought up to be good actors in bad situations.This is the whole point of virtue ethics: to create the kind of man who rises above his situation, who does what is right because it is right. Yet, as Aristotle noted, it takes "the proper upbringing" to create such a man. You must put him in the right kind of situation in order to train him to object to, and reform, the wrong kind.
This piece seems to agree, and suggests that the study is flawed in that it can't address the question ("the sort of self-report questionnaire used by psychologists before such experiments can tell us little about subtle differences in upbringing and education that contribute to [some people being virtuous]"). The study is still valuable, however, in that it shows that "normal" people are strongly predisposed to turning to viciousness in bad situations. That is not the mark of a flawed character. It is the mark of a normal character.
That creates an interesting problem. In order to be virtuous, you have to have as your goal to be a better person than is normal: you have, in other words, to have a personal commitment to being special, better, different. But the belief that you are any of those things is just the kind of belief that can give rise to the most serious sorts of abuses:
One particularly chilling example involves schoolchildren whose teacher informs them that children with blue eyes are superior to children with dark eyes. Hierarchical and vindictive behaviour ensues. The teacher then informs the children that a mistake has been made: it is actually the brown-eyed children who are superior, the blue-eyed inferior. The behavior simply reverses.All ethical systems have to either struggle with that problem, or ignore it; they have to endorse the idea that the great are good, as Maoism did, or else try to remind the great that they are also sinners, as Catholicism does. That is one sense in which Catholicism is categorically better than Maoism.
Even when the system is better, however, there is plenty of evidence of failure. It can happen because the system becomes broken, so that priests become pardoners. It can also happen because the great refuse to accept that they are not good:
"For my vow," said the Templar, "our Grand Master hath granted me a dispensation. And for my conscience, a man that has slain three hundred Saracens, need not reckon up every little failing, like a village girl at her first confession upon Good Friday eve."Then, of course, there is the problem of bad men: for just as the worst situation does not produce universal viciousness, so there are some men who will not turn to virtue even in the best of times and places. The world is what it is, and humanity is, and at last we can only do the best that we can.
Something I wish I'd understood earlier in life is how much my parents loved me. It's something you don't comprehend until you are a parent yourself; there just is not a comparable experience in life. Even romantic love, which can send a man into the greatest heights or make him long for death, is not of the same quality as the love of a parent.
As a result, I was as this young man is, always headed out the door. I'm sorry for that.
The second part of that series is now up. As I noted at BlackFive, the MILF and the AFP held a joint medical operation this week. What Colonel Maxwell wanted to create, is happening just as he wanted it to happen.
It's interesting to watch a COIN operation that is hitting on all cylinders. We're starting to see the early formations of this kind of potential in Iraq with the Anbar Awakening and -- even more -- with the Concerned Citizens' Program outside Anbar. It's still at a much earlier phase, but then, we don't have the investment in Iraq that we have in the RP. We've been there, in one form or another, for a hundred years.
I'm sorry I haven't had time to do the usual analysis and thought pieces. I'd like to do more of that, but they keep me quite busy over here.
On the other hand, I do have a good piece to offer you. The Joint BlackFive-PMI Embed to the Philippines series has begun, and will run in three parts this week at the Long War Journal. The other great journal of COIN theory, Small Wars Journal, put it at the top of their midweek reading list.
Part II should be up soon, and Part III on Friday.
Will the filthy, intolerant Swift Boating Haters of Hate never stop?
Elliott claimed the alleged attack took place near the corner of 39th Street and Park Avenue. He said that Rhodes was wearing a jogging suit and had neither a purse nor jewelry, leading to his speculation that "this does not appear to me to be a standard grab the money and run mugging."
"Is this an attempt by the right wing hate machine to silence one of our own?" he asked. "Are we threatening them? Are they afraid that we're winning? Are they trying to silence intimidate us?"
What I cannot fathom is the following logic:
"When Sharon Keller barred the courthouse doors to lawyers for Michael Richard, she killed Mr. Richard as surely as if she had put a bullet into his head on the courthouse steps. There can be very little doubt that, had Keller not acted as she had, Mr. Richard would be alive today."
Huh? Last I checked the case... Michael Richard invaded a home, raped a 53year old woman, shot her in the head with a pistol, then proceeded to make off with her stuff. When caught and facing the material evidence... he confessed. Icing on the cake is how it's "Sharon Keller" instead of Judge Keller and "Mr. Richard" instead of scumbag Michael Richard.
Grits for Breakfast, generally smarter than your average bear, can't seem to understand who the victim is. Have fun reading the comments... maybe someone else can explain to me how the Judge is at fault for this scumbags premature death.
Congratulations to Uncle Jimbo of BLACKFIVE for his first starring role in a feature film.
Speaking of unnecessary force, there is a good post today on the Knights Templar at the Volokh Conspiracy. It treats a new book that shows how the legal process used to destroy the Order was known to be based on false charges.
Greyhawk notices that unnecessary force can hurt you. Just ask the Madhi Army. Bonus situational awareness: guess which unit's AO this news is from?
Cold Steel has a new Bowie knife design, the "Natchez." I'm trying to decide if it represents an improvement over its older Bowie design, the "Laredo." I think the blade shape looks more efficient, but the overall length may push it past the point at which the blade is managable for most people. (You can ignore the absurd prices listed at the bottoms of those pages; the Laredo will run you around a hundred bucks if you buy one off eBay, and the Natchez, though brand new, you can have for not much more than half what they suggest.)
Unnecessary force? Could be. If I had one, I'd test it out properly and let you know. Since I don't, I'll open the floor for comments.
Red sky at night,Which, by the way, is connected in a way that might not be immediately obvious with this article on dieting. The point is -- how much is "scientific consensus" actually worth in the short term?
Red sky at morning?
It's global warming.
Cassandra will like this quite a bit. For what it's worth, I transported an iron all the way to Iraq in my sea bag, so I could press my pants and shirts in the mornings. I seem to be the only one in Iraq who did, though mostly that's because the ACUs are wash-and-wear. Otherwise, we'd all have irons (excepting certain lazy civilian contractors).
Speaking of Iraq, are we winning? The UK's Prospect thinks so.