Saturday, September 23, 2006

Only the good die young

Harry Hutton puts things in perspective: (Hat tip: Tim Blair)

A friend of mine –he's a Colombian politician in a small town- receives frequent death threats. Last year he denounced the paramilitaries for skimming a percentage off public contracts, and there’s a strong chance that he'll now be murdered (they've already tried once). He thinks they might try to abduct him.

I'm going to order him a copy of On Becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington, in the hope that it will inspire him as much as it has inspired American women. It isn't easy being a multi-millionaire in California, and Arianna has shown real courage in standing up against the detentions and disappearances that go on in Beverly Hills, not to mention the gossip columnists, intimidated by the idea of a strong, independent woman.

This is not to say Ariana Huffington hasn't got any grit or that she hasn't achieved anything, but Hutton's rumination is a reminder that there are different degrees and even kinds of fearlessness. Sometimes a public can recognize only the virtues and vices that it knows, forgetting that others exist, and thereby losing its sense of perspective. Recently the words "genocide", "holocaust" and even "torture" have rolled too easily off the tongue. And while no one denies that the words are often applied to unpleasant and tragic events, their casual use somehow diminishes and denigrates the genuine massacre of millions, the actual extermination of a race, and the barbaric deaths of hostages at Jihadi slaughterhouses. Finally, we lose the name for what Hutton's Columbian small-town friend must daily show, what happened in Belsen long ago and what occurs today in the secret police basements of tyrannies. We lose the name, and finally, the memory. It is said that cowards die a thousand times and heroes but once; yet this is wrong. Cowards live a thousand times and the heroes but never when we have erased the distinction between them.

42 Comments:

Blogger Meme chose said...

It was a problem of the late Roman Empire that the aristocratic elites gave up participating in the military.

The primary difficulty wasn't that they no longer contributed to defeating Rome's enemies, or even that their lack of military experience atrophied their ability to recognize a military threat. Instead it was that their vanity then required that they disparage anyone who did serve in the military, and indeed the whole idea of military service. They just could not stand the idea that anyone could be earning a form of respect which was no longer available to them...

9/23/2006 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"On Becoming Shameless"

9/23/2006 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

By strange coincidence, we were browsing Marcus Aurelius before bringing up this post. In troublous times, his Stoic school has much to recommend it. He wrote before the moral rot so aptly depicted by Meme Chose (AD 170 - 180), but Stoic principles apply today as they did then.

Over millenia, the average major Chinese dynasty persisted some four hundred years. We are past that point already... this afternoon (Saturday, 23 September), my wife and I drove 125 miles for a tour of the John Jay House in Westchester, NY. Without rehearsing Jay's accomplishments, it struck me that his generation seems disembodied, selfless, to contemporary viewers. Jay learned and loved the Law; he was a family man of utmost honor and integrity-- wealthy indeed, in ways Marcus Aurelius describes. The absolute polar opposite of William Jefferson Clinton, a felonious vulgarian incapable of any meaningful introspection whatsoever.

Worlds pass, eras succeed each other, but human nature remains constant in potential. Jay and the Founders gave us a good run. But as Clinton reminds us, words reduce to convenient noise for such as him. When Gibbon's successor writes our epitaph, he will remember Hamilton, Madison, and Jay. Clinton, he will recall as kin to the horse that Commodus named Consul in the decadence.

9/23/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

amen, pyrthroes.

9/23/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"...a felonious vulgarian incapable of any meaningful introspection whatsoever." a/k/a "successful, party apparatchik"...our World is full of them.

9/23/2006 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

One of the first idiotic misuses of words was "underground", used by the counter-culture of the sixties. In their paranoia and narcissism they made claim to a term used by the French underground, an organization that if you were caught, you were shot. "Racist" as well as "facist" was thrown around to they were rendered meaningless. "Hero" has become synonomous with victim. Word games made for some humorous contradictions. I especially love the one where "colored people" became unacceptable but "people of color" became de rigueur. Makes you nostalgic for "people of common sense" who speak plain English.

9/23/2006 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

But the "underground" of the 60's were stoics when compared to the lefty moonbats of today.
Many were actually intelligent and educated, with some humor, and willingness to make some personal sacrifice for their cause.
Scheer might be seen as a predecessor to today's even more decadent "revolutionaries" and pretenders like Ariana.
Listening to Lawrence Wright again, he reminds us that AQ studied western history, and central to their masterplan is to lure us into Imperial Overreach.
Given the cost/effectiveness ratio of our efforts when we hobble ourselves with PC ROEs, that seems like a workable strategy. Wright warns us not to follow their playbook. His idea is less use of the military, as we seem to be doing. I would have us use the military effectively again, meaning a return to sane ROEs.

9/23/2006 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If you missed the interview with Lawrence Wright today, the two hour talk with the author of The Looming Tower is transcribed here .
- Hugh Hewitt

9/23/2006 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Book Reviews: Lewis H. Lapham and Sidney Blumenthal
---
(Lapham)
There’s one column that’s conspicuously absent from this collection, and that’s the one from September 2004, which included a brief account of the Republican National Convention.

Lapham wrote it as if the convention had already happened, ruefully reflecting on the content and sharing with readers a question that occurred to him as he listened; unfortunately, the magazine arrived on subscribers’ doorsteps before the convention had even taken place, forcing Lapham to admit that the scene was a fiction.
He apologized, but pointed out that political conventions are drearily scripted anyway — he basically knew what was going to be said.


By this logic, though, I could have chosen not to read “Pretensions to Empire” before reviewing it, since I already knew Lapham’s sensibility, just as he claims to know the Republicans’. But I dutifully read the whole book. And I discovered, with some ironic poignancy, that Lapham did have a point: some people never acquire any more nuance as they go.

9/23/2006 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Starling David Hunter said...

Wretchard wrote: "Recently the words "genocide", "holocaust" and even "torture" have rolled too easily off the tongue. And while no one denies that the words are often applied to unpleasant and tragic events, their casual use somehow diminishes and denigrates the genuine massacre of millions, ..."

Indeed it does. I noticed and have been following a similar corruption of the language in the management field of late. I refer to the tendency for anti-corporate types (especially anti-Wal-Mart crtics) to label as "human rights violations" what are often no more than garden variety violations of human resources management policies, labor laws, and workplace safety standards.


I wrote about this recently in a post entitled "Human Rights and Human Resources". The post was inspired by the decision of a major Swedish pension fund to divest it's Wal-Mart shares.

My conclusion is that the real and just cause of defending human rights is irreparably harmed by calling things like overtime without pay and gender discrimination "human rights" violations.

9/23/2006 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/23/2006 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat
A stark assessment has found that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks

9/23/2006 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger exguru said...

"...never taste of death but once," actually, according to the Bard.

9/24/2006 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"Many were actually intelligent and educated, with some humor, and willingness to make some personal sacrifice for their cause."

What I have read by David Horowitz on the question of the mythic '60's radical and my experiences in Boston in the early '70's says to me that the idea of "Many" is probably myth taking advantage of the fact that there were "Some" of the character you describe.

9/24/2006 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Discover Magazine Interview with Newt Gingrich
Oct 2006
subscriber only


Q: You have predicted a fourfold to sevenfold increase in scientific discovery in the next 25 years. What does that mean?

Gingrich: I began thinking of the fact that you have more scientists alive now than in all of previous human history. You have better instrumentation and computation. The scientists are connected by email and cell phone. And they are connected by lisencing to venture capital and royalties -- and to China and India as reserve centers of production. Put all that together and it leads to dramatically more science than we have ever seen before. And if you get a breakthrough in quantum computing then you're in a totally different world. My instinct as a historian is that four is probably right. I used that figure when I spoke to the National Academy of Sciences working group in computation and information, and afterwards the head of the group said to me, "That's too small a number." He said its got to be at least seven. What it means is that if you have a planning committee looking out to 2031, and you're going to have four times as much change, that puts you in position of someone in 1880 trying to imagine 2006. If you are going to have a seven times as much change, that puts you in 1660. And nobody understands that.

9/24/2006 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

3case,
Right:
I was comparing to the numbers of today:
Fakirs all, almost, and mostly ignorant soundbyte parrots.

9/24/2006 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Chicago 8 had more humor and Creativity than today's entire cadre, but like the moonbat left of today, 100% wrong.

9/24/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

Doug,

True. Don't forget their sense of the absurd, either.

9/24/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/24/2006 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

It was Street Theater, after all, in the Theater of the Absurd.
Now known as the mainstream left and mainstream media.

9/24/2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Recently the words "genocide", "holocaust" and even "torture" have rolled too easily off the tongue. And while no one denies that the words are often applied to unpleasant and tragic events, their casual use somehow diminishes and denigrates...

As with "hero".

And people that use the language of extremism, like a sailor realizing the power of his cuss words diminish with frequency, get frustrated their "gaining attention" power wanes, try using it more, and more. With more diminishment...

It's not just the Left. The Right loves to assign "hero" as a collective tribute to millions of Americans purely by virtue of job title, and independent of actual deed. So when you have an actual hero, a winner of the Navy Cross, how do you present him to an audience of hero-teachers, hero-cops, hero-soldiers? Aren't they all heroes? No, they know it, but show me a cop union that doesn't demand being pandered to, or a politican that won't go to a rear area base in Iraq and commend the technicians for their "heroism"...Leaving the Navy Cross winner diminished somewhat, but still leaving the unique "hero-hood" of surrendering to the enemy and made a POW thus a special victim worth money, celebrity, even a cherished resume item for jobs or political office...

On the Left, we see the diminishing power of accusations of "racism", "sexism", "homophobia". Once a show-stopper, leading a fearful person to grovel to his accuser to prove they weren't - it has morphed into almost a casual, "no I'm not, and you are using intemperate language".

At one point, we even got into "forbidden words" - where the power of a word or phrase was claimed to be so powerful that they must be banned. Much of Europe has bans on Nazi words or symbols. The phrase "Jewish Bolsheviks" has been rewritten in history books into Bolsheviks and Jews as Stalin's "greatest victims".

The most comical, or tragic ban, recently, depending on your view, was "nigger". Just hearing the word "Nigger" was claimed to be so awful by activists it would reduce any black person to an angry, humiliated blob of protoplasm, or compell blacks into criminal violence. So many well-meaning "nigger bans" started in the 70s. Along the way, it was completely turned on it's head by blacks using it routinely to describe a friend or a fellow black of bad habits, disparagingly. Denzel gets an Oscar for using it 34 times in a movie - frequently on white people, as was the case in pulp fiction, and in real life - rappers&kids calling kids of all races "mah niggah".

Just as with "hero, racist, genocide, homophobe" the power of "nigger" has diminished.

Good and bad come from overuse of a specific term or word. As another poster commented, the lack of humor by some activists makes it inevitable that their feigned outrage or overuse of a strong accusatory judgement contained in a single word will be flung back in their faces. Part because people sense their Shock! Outrage! is many times just feigned, insincere, political humor. But also because people tire of negative sourpusses like those in the feminist movement, Christian Right, and Far Left that confuse lack of humor with the appropriate persona of stridency and humorouslessness.

The Soviet Samdazit spread like wildfire in part because it was daring to be funny, humorous about matters affecting all Soviets in a way official Soviet media organs refused to be out of PC.



the genuine massacre of millions, the actual extermination of a race, and the barbaric deaths of hostages at Jihadi slaughterhouses.

9/24/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

The term "politically correct" is the shield we use to fend off the bludgeon of "racist!" or "sexist!" or any of the other outraged name-calling done by the moonbat left any more.

Increasingly if one is called "politically correct" in response to pseudo-outrage, that is seen to be a fatal defect in that an excellent argument can be made that over-the-top political correctness led to 9/11.

And perhaps even worse, continuing and deepening PC-ness since then has led to the deepening schism between Liberal and Conservative all over the world.

9/24/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

At the end of my last post, I accidently left a fragment of Wretchard's essay. Obviously it has meaning - just not in my post!
***********

pyrthroes - Clinton - "...a felonious vulgarian incapable of any meaningful introspection whatsoever."

Not convicted of any felony. No more than folks on the Left that use felon on Nixon, Reagan, or Kissinger have a conviction to show for it.

If Clinton was a vulgarian, he is in good company with Andrew Jackson, MLK, LBJ, JFK, FDR, Harry Truman, and the Original media-designated Vulgarian, Lincoln. All famous for their earthy tastes, mistresses, and earthy jokes. Give me a Vulgarian any day over a "sanctamonious, prissy more moral than thou" President like Carter, Woodrow Wilson.

As for being incapable of introspection, Clinton made an impressive turnaround after 1994 and realizing that Version 1.0 wasn't panning out and he needed to examine his blunders and change course. Which he did with his famous triangulation strategy and showing he learned in office with policy reversals and willingness to dump staff or nominees that foundered.

Contrasted with Bush II, who is famous as the "Decider" who has said he makes a decision and doesn't revisit it - and trusts his judgemnent and his advisors to reach the right decision and "stay the course" once the Decider has ultimately Decided. Bush's pig-headed loathing of admitting a mistake like Harriet Miers or reluctance to replace any poorly performing person he put in place is well-known.

9/24/2006 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger 2164th said...

I agree with most of what you wrote C-4. The word "hero" particularly galls me.It seems that after 911, everyone in the building was a hero. Some may have been, but certainly not all. A hero is a fireman who goes into the building knowing he may not come back.

I happen to come from a family that serves in the military. Besides myself, I have a brother that was an AIr Force Officer, another an Army Officer and a third a Marine. One cousin , a green beret, was killed in Viet Nam. That broke his mother's heart because his older brother was also killed in Viet Nam. I had two other cousins that served in the Navy. My father flew B24's. I had three uncles in the Navy and another in the army. I lost a great uncle in WWI and another served with the British in the Boer War. Most of us were not heroes and out of respect for the few that were, I resent the misuse of the word. It diminishes those that deserve the accolade.

9/24/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I'm a heroic Crusader for the Children tm,
I support the NEA!

9/24/2006 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

As I'd posted over at Blair's at the time (and many posters here have noted), words like ‘bravery’ and ‘dissent’ have been thoroughly cheapened, I would add, largely by over-validated, self-important hothouse flowers who’ve never confronted a mortal threat or severe hardship

This guy goes home to face down death squads while Michael Moore is feted in Hollywood. And some folks insist Bush is the one running a police state.

These are the same people who confuse vandalism with free speech expression and think ‘resistance’ involves risking a televised arrest in plastic handcuffs by police officers reading Miranda rights, followed by a press conference featuring activist lawyers bleating on about ‘abuse’ and ‘oppression,’ and a slap on the wrist while they smirk and clown before a judge.

Which is why those faux-anarchist punks at Black Bloc never seem to show up to cause trouble at APEC Summits in Shanghai.

World upsidedown. Sometimes I despair that the only thing that would make many of us realize what we have would be losing it. I hope I’m wrong.

9/24/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger redaktør said...

What's the mistake, Cedarford? Not nuking Mecca Karachi and Baghdad on the afternoon of 9/11? We are learning to understand the enemy. That understanding will serve us well when we finally do nuke those places.

9/24/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger redaktør said...

Sorry. Left out Tehran, and I'm sure many others.

9/24/2006 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

redaktor -

We are far from the point where we wish to join Stalin, Hitler, Mao as the greatest perpetrators of Democide.

The loose talk of nuking this or that city of many millions to minimize any danger to us or or "Special Friend" is wrong juvenile and counterproductive. Nuking Muslim cities is the absolute last, only in the gravest extreme action.

It is especially hard to justify doing such a slaughter when we refuse to contemplate ending tax cuts for the wealthy without rage, squeal like pigs on how "wrong and inconvenient" a Draft would be, and lack the guts as a nation to define the enemy or agree on measures we can take against the enemy in battle or in or custody.

If Israel and the Zionist cause wishes to nuke Iran or Mecca - go for it! Just don't expect to manipulate America into being a blood-drenched proxy.

***********************
2164th - I am ex-military, I serve as a volunteer firefighter, and I reject the label of hero though I did encounter danger in both endeavors. My cousin is a cop, my brother a teacher and a volunter EMT, my 1st wife a teacher. My Dad and many relatives military going back 7 generations, with dead great-somethings uncles, cousins, etc. Most if not all are or were no heroes. Perhaps one who died in the Civil War was, got an unusual bracvery citation then died three battles later in another brave action. The dead Indian fighter appears to have been, . We regard the two twin great-uncles who died in WWII as heroes. Because one went into Okinawa knowing the extreme danger, the other died as a bomber co-pilot over Germany where it was common knowledge that most would be dead or captured by the 25th mission.

9/24/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger redaktør said...

What can I tell you, Cedarford. I'm looking forward to Chavez and Chirac and Putin and Coffee Annan iraq war is illegal, smell Amerika fart, while their Jihadi boys are flushed down the toilet.

9/24/2006 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gene Felder said...

Words have meaning, or should be if we are to communicate.

Torture:
Is torture defined by a clause in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment"? I would be humiliated if I was incarcerated. So should this be considered torture?

The FBI at Waco in the Clinton administration used sleep deprivation techniques. Was that torture?

The US Constitution’s 8th amendment has a much better definition of torture forbidding “cruel and unusual punishment”. Harsh interrogation and even “water boarding” is not torture. “Water boarding” does give a person the sensation of drowning (it is obviously “humiliating and degrading”), but it does not physically injure, maim, or kill a person. It is not unusual as a significant number of United States military personnel are subjected to this technique as a part of their training.

By the way, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions also forbids the “taking of hostages”.

Hero:
I have a high regard for former Senator Bob Dole, but a person in the Army for a short period of time who then gets seriously injures is not a hero. A person who is courageous and kills the enemy, helping us achieve victory is a hero. We need more heros.

9/24/2006 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

At the risk of oversimplifying, it seems that much of what we once considered the natural duties and responsibilities of citizenship are now seen to be up and beyond.

Probably a lot of nostalgi kicking in, and of course, there's also some complexity. The military was widely detested in 1973 - now we celebrate its members unselectively. I'll take the second over the first, especially when we need people to volunteer.

9/24/2006 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Charles,
Be sure to tell Newt that when Microsoft Vista comes out, the clock will be set BACK, as this resource-hog bogs hardware down for years.
...I'm thinking of getting an Apple for the first time so I can get stuff done as a new Apple Native, in XP, or even boot up 98SE, the high point of cludged together software.

9/25/2006 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Rune said...

Heros are more likely to be football players.

And of course there is Nazi this and Nazi that and Nazi everything. BushHitler and “digital brownshirts”. There was actually a leading Danish politician who last week said there was no problem at all having Nazis in his party as the term “Nazi” had been rendered completely meaningless and useless.

My recent favourite “Gulag of our time” - when I lost all respect for Amnesty International for all time (and they lost all possibilities of future contributions from me).

Then there is the Israeli genocide of Palestinians. When one points out that the population has something like quadrupled, they quickly shift to it being a moral or cultural genocide. I'm sure someone would refer to WalMart as a “corporate genocide” on its competitors.

- The ironic thing is of course, that the misuse and watering down of these terms is only going to lead to the more likely recurrence of the actual horrific crimes they originally meant. You call everybody and his uncle Bob a Nazi, you'll have no words to single out or identify the actual Nazis. “Nazi? Oh you mean like that high legged gal Ann Coulter? Well that's not so bad.” It's a boy cries wolf scenario. One could speculate weather the relatively mild response to the actual Gulag-like camps in North Korea, is a consequence of there no longer exists words to convey the meaning of such camps. “Genocide Gulag camps in North Korea? Oh you mean like Gitmo where they watch nekkid girls and play loud rock music? Hey I want one of them!”

9/25/2006 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hey!
Uncle Bob WAS a Nazi!
Even tho he called himself a Methodist.

9/25/2006 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger slimslowslider said...

Cedarford has an impressive history but his willingness to project blame in the face of a Clear and Present danger, "Just don't expect to manipulate America into being a blood-drenched proxy", is not. I think our differences transcend time and generations. My grandpa, father, father in-law, me: WWII, Korean War, Vietnam and Desert Storm (I got a Bronze Star driving a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle).

9/25/2006 04:59:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

slimslowslider said...

Cedarford has an impressive history but his willingness to project blame in the face of a Clear and Present danger, "Just don't expect to manipulate America into being a blood-drenched proxy", is not. I think our differences transcend time and generations. My grandpa, father, father in-law, me: WWII, Korean War, Vietnam and Desert Storm (I got a Bronze Star driving a Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle).
9/25/2006 04:59:44 AM
//////////////////////////
all the happy talk aside -- the trouble with bombing the iranian nuke facilities is that it would double the price of oil overnight and within weeks/months they'd have picked up enough extra cash to have the facilities rebuilt.

So to do the deed the US would need the complicity of the Russia & China not to help the Iranians rebuild their nuclear facilities. So far it doesn't look like the US has that assent.

Meanwhile, back in US labs the rate of technological development is feverish. Its only a couple of years in the future that the USA will have made all alternate energy sources cheaper than gas.

doug
I notice that windows slows down over time too.

9/25/2006 05:28:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

I disagree with the posters who who analogize the current era to that of the late roman empire.

rather the correct comparison is to 1500.

9/25/2006 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger slimslowslider said...

charles said:

Reverse Pottery Barn. We helped to create it, we need to fix it one way or the other. I don't want my children growing up in a darkness that we could have prevented (some people have already lived their lives to the fullest). It's their chess versus our poker. They're planning 38 moves ahead.

9/25/2006 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Spa King said...

"It isn't easy being a multi-millionaire in California, and Arianna has shown real courage in standing up against the detentions and disappearances that go on in Beverly Hills, not to mention the gossip columnists, intimidated by the idea of a strong, independent woman."

You're a loon.

9/25/2006 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

slimslowslider said...

charles said:

Reverse Pottery Barn. We helped to create it, we need to fix it one way or the other. I don't want my children growing up in a darkness that we could have prevented (some people have already lived their lives to the fullest). It's their chess versus our poker. They're planning 38 moves ahead.
9/25/2006 06:31:03 AM
////////////////////////
you understand the problem.

the meaning of falling oil prices is that no one expects anything to happen before the november elections.

I don't know what will happen after that.

9/25/2006 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger slimslowslider said...

Charles said:

"I don't know what will happen after that."

Continual moves of "Check" until Checkmate, move 38. (maybe sooner if they get who they want voted in). I wonder if they have Bobby Fischer playing/working for them? would make sense.

9/25/2006 09:19:00 AM  

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