1/27/2017

American Patriotism is Exceptional

You can find this quote all over the internet (e.g., brainyquote):
Pervading nationalism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery.
Pope St. John Paul II never said that, as far as I can tell.

This is one of those cases where being an old guy is actually an advantage.  I remember the speech. The quote above is somebody's mangled re-telling of part of the homily in Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland, on 29 September 1979.  Here's the original:

Pervading materialism imposes its dominion on man today in many different forms and with an aggressiveness that spares no one. The most sacred principles, which were the sure guides for the behaviour of individuals and society, are being hollowed out by false pretences concerning freedom, the sacredness of life, the indissolubility of marriage, the true sense of human sexuality, the right attitude towards the material goods that progress has to offer. Many people now are tempted to self-indulgence and consumerism, and human identity is often defined by what one owns. Prosperity and affluence, even when they are only beginning to be available to larger strata of society, tend to make people assume that they have a right to all that prosperity can bring, and thus they can become more selfish in their demands. Everybody wants a full freedom in all the areas of human behaviour and new models of morality are being proposed in the name of would-be freedom. When the moral fibre of a nation is weakened, when the sense of personal responsibility is diminished, then the door is open for the justification of injustices, for violence in all its forms, and for the manipulation of the many by the few. The challenge that is already with us is the temptation to accept as true freedom what in reality is only a new form of slavery. [emphasis added, and note I maintained the Vatican's British spellings -- that proves crowndot is not an evil nationalist!]
I seem to recall that at times our beloved late St. JPII spoke out against a mistaken patriotism or nationalism that excludes Christian charity.  But that's outside the scope of what I want to say today.

I have been bumping into right-hearted wrong-minded people since the selection of President Trump as the Republican nominee in 2016, whom I must present today only in straw form because of time (laziness), who denigrate all nationalism and all patriotism, even in America.

There are people all over the world who really do have a my-country-can-do-no-wrong mentality. I say that because it is clear from the bloody trail it has left through history that for radical Mohammedanism, every day is my-religion-can-do-no-wrong, plus for them "my country" equals "my religion" ergo my-country-can-do-no-wrong. If that is patriotism, then patriotism is nothing good. But that's not patriotism.

Patriotism seems to be the belief that other things being equal, the land of my birth or adoption gets a bye on close scrutiny in matters of economic advantage. So patriotism might be a bit intellectually lazy, but is morally ambiguous at worst. Say we're in France.  It's probably okay to talk and act like we have the best cheese, the best meat sauce, the best soccer team, the best climate.  But taking that to absolutes doesn't make sense.  For instance, take the French legal system. Monsieur, you are guilty until proven innocent -- how can you prove you are innocent?! Take communist China. Comrade, you live at the discretion of your political elite -- you can't even have a second child without incurring the wrath of your overlords!

What about the United States of America?  I'm not about to try to justify the Code of Federal Regulations, the IRS, or legal abortion.  But the American system makes possible the actualization of each person's potential as God intended, more than any other system ever devised.
1878 All men are called to the same end: God himself. There is a certain resemblance between the union of the divine persons and the fraternity that men are to establish among themselves in truth and love. Love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God. 1879 The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Human beings develop their potential in the environment of maximum liberty.

America is still the shining city on the hill, the best place of most freedom. Is it the ideal? Of course not. Each of us is developing our potential. That's our vocation, the end of which is God Himself. As a nation we are supposed to be developing too. Something about promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty. God writes straight with crooked lines.  Hint: we are the crooked lines. What God hath writ in America, nice and straight, is, "The land of the free."

Material prosperity in America is a byproduct of the system of liberty. What is offered to the world is freedom; what the immigrant (legal and otherwise) seeks is unfortunately material prosperity. But that's a start, if they adopt the culture of liberty. If not, all they have taken on is the imposing dominion of materialism. (Side point: materialism is what Islam says it hates about us; what it actually hates is freedom. Discuss.)

As an American, it his hard to go wrong if you are a bit nationalistic and patriotic. That is natural in the land of the free. President Trump noted in his inaugural address, "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice." He was talking about AMERICAN patriotism.





12/06/2016

Mental processes

When I was about seven years old (1964) the world, including my parents, was completely okay with little kids riding their bikes a couple of miles across the town to visit the variety store.

No helmets, no sunscreen, no hydration in the 110°F desert heat. And we left the bikes outside unlocked without a second thought.

To buy candy. Root beer barrels. Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum at five cents a pack.

But I polygress.

The bike ride was on streets except for one place where you could save about half a mile by cutting across an undeveloped lot.  There was a beaten path along a minimum-length diagonal from the one boulevard to the back of the drugstore parking lot.

All was well until some construction-type asshat needed to get rid of about three yards of sand.  He went out into the middle of the path in the middle of the lot and dumped a mound of dry sand.

So there I am biking along and thinking of the money in my pocket and its value with regard to things like Brach's cinnamon hard candies vs. green army men vs. plastic model glue (and yes any kid could buy it in those days).  Turning across the vacant lot and up the path, I see the lump of sand.  No problem.  But...

There is a reason you don't see too many bicycles at the beach.  The pounds per square inch on bicycle tires make you sink into dry sand way deeper than a footprint.  I ended up slogging down to a complete stop about one and a half bicycle lengths in.  Hm. Time to get off and walk it back to the beaten path.

Where was I going with this?  No, not the drugstore.  I mean, yes, the seven year old me was going to the drugstore.  I think a squirt gun claimed my money that day.  Shaped like a Colt 1911, fit my had perfectly, never leaked -- you could fill it up and keep it in your pocket for emergencies.

I meant where was the present me going.  Only this: some days, some times, my whole mental/verbal ability is down to about the level of trying to bicycle through dry sand.  Your mileage may vary, and it probably depends some on the width of your tires.


12/02/2016

Ever notice

Every competitor in a new field simultaneously tries to maintain complete start-to-finish and top-to-bottom control of their niftiestness, and tries to become the standard to which all other competitors will have to comply.

VHS vs. Betamax?  19th century railroad gauge conflicts? Phillips vs. Pozidrive deck screws? JIC vs. SAE vs. DIN?  Apple vs. Microsoft?

The plum to be plucked in some of these conflicts is government contracts. "MIL Spec" can be a golden ticket for a company, such as when Break-Free CLP met the "Un-meetable Spec" for a Pentagon-approved firearms lubricant.

Competition is a good thing. Open Sources is also a good thing -- giving rise to even more competition and creativity for after-products such as Androd apps.

But the .gov influence can get in the way of development, don't you think?  I'm thinking of, say, how MIL-Spec ECWCS polar fleece stays expensive and crowds out development once it's THE spec.








12/01/2016

Welcome to politics as devised theater

When the United States was just a gleam in the Founding Fathers' eyes, there had already been a generation or so of discussion about the way the then-colonies should be governed. A lot of discussion but little agreement. What they more-or-less agreed on was not what they were FOR but what they were AGAINST.  Look at the Declaration of Independence.  It is mostly a litany of the harms inflicted by the king and his agents. The debate of the time (see Federalist Papers) centers on how to avoid the significant harms visible through history and in their own time.

Here's the question: how do you constitute a way of government that avoids the harms (see Declaration) while making sure that you "... establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty ..." ?

Well, at some point you have to stop arguing and start making. I know they call it Political Science at our failing universities, but it ain't Science. It's Art. In fact it's Theater.  Specifically, it's Devised Theater.

Wikipedia says: "It is very hard to pin down exact methods for devising, as every group of collaborators will have different ways of approaching the creative process. One very common method is to begin by focusing on form, and then extract thematic ideas and work with them retrospectively." (emphasis added)

Well hot Wiki damn, whaddya think the original Americans did?  They got all focused on the form of the government.  What the Constitution constitutes is the form.  Aside:  What was the world before God spoke in Genesis chapter 1?  Anybody?  That's right, a formless void.  Anarchy of potential.  The world came into being as God spoke and set limits.  Earth, meet Sky.  And it was good.  Back downstage: America came into being as the words of the Constitution attempted to set limits on government.  The Founders believed in freedom.  (God does too, by the way, He even risks losing you to wrong application of your freedom.)  The American experiment devised a system by which the governed also do the governing: limited self-government!

Devised Theater came about because some theatrical experimenters believed that the actor (Wikipedia again) is "...  a creative artist in their own right, as opposed to a functional worker there to carry out the wishes of the writer and director ..."  See what I'm thinking?  In America, a free person is an agent of his own destiny, working with others, within limits.  We're living Devised Theater. America.  The biggest show on or off Broadway since the 18th Century, and it's not top-down, it's Devised.


11/10/2016

Happy Birthday, USMC

In 1775, Congress (whatever passed for a Congress in the not-yet-declared-independent portion of the British empire in what is now the New England States) voted to raise two battalions of Continental Marines.  Thus, 10 November 2016 is the 241st birthday of the military body that is now the United States Marine Corps.  That's, like, old.


9/26/2016

Chomsky Out, Plato Back

Noam Chomsky's theories about the genetic epistemology of language may end up in the dustbin of history even during my lifetime.

A long and detailed article at Scientific American includes this:
In the new usage-based approach (which includes ideas from functional linguistics, cognitive linguistics and construction grammar), children are not born with a universal, dedicated tool for learning grammar. Instead they inherit the mental equivalent of a Swiss Army knife: a set of general-purpose tools—such as categorization, the reading of communicative intentions, and analogy making, with which children build grammatical categories and rules from the language they hear around them.

(Emphasis added.)

Ah, I knew it would come back to analogy some time.

Plato's Theaetetus, please call your office.

Of course if rational discourse is "ratio-nal" it must be analogical.  How else can you explain the verbing of nouns (all the Greats do it!). And how else could children understand the nonsense of If I Ran the Circus? -- I mean, "The Flummox will carry a Lurch in a pail / And a Fibbel will carry the Flummox's tail"?  The soul of man is deeply analogical, and I don't think it's a genetic mutation either.

Plus I never liked Chomsky:  I got the impression he was singularly invested in reducing the human mind to strictly binary operations.

9/12/2016

Now I'm Archie Bunker

The "All in the Family" Archie Bunker.

All of a sudden, as I approach the mark of completing three decades on this planet, I find out that I am the anachronism in the room.

I'm an Archie in a Meathead world.