We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead

I am, by nature, a depressive.  This means that left to its own devices, what passes for my mind (it’s not much of one, but it suits my simple purposes) automatically picks out the darker tones of a painting, the darker notes of a melody, the worst possible signs in the surroundings.

You could blame it on my infant sleep being rocked to Fados, G-d’s way of keeping Portuguese from being irrationally exuberant (He has Brazilians for that) but there are signs this is innate and hereditary.  Some studies have shown it, and besides depression seems to run in dad’s maternal side.

I am aware of this, though, and I compensate.  It’s like when your car’s alignment is slightly off, and “pulls” to one side and you know it, you can compensate and still drive fine.  However, like the car pulling, it still trends a bit to that side, and ends up having to be given a sharp pull now and then.  So, most of the time I trend pessimistic, with occasional corrections that come with the tone of a two by four to the back of the head.

But even in the corrections… well, let’s put it this way – I’m lucky if I reach “normal.”  I’m the person who starts worrying about being broke when the reserve account dips below two month’s wages.  I’m the person who worries about a potential job loss six months ahead of time (unfortunately this time probably right.)  I’m the person who worries about the potential laydown on a book the day I deliver it.  I worry about the kids’ finals the day they enroll (even for the kid who tests well, I become terrified he will have a bad day.  Even though in 21 years it’s only happened once.)  And I think this is the first time in my career – partly because I’ve cut back to Baen and Indie – that I don’t feel like I’m running scared and standing at the edge of an abyss, which – of course – makes me feel like everything is about to go wrong, and makes me run scared again.

Taking that into account I wanted to let you know that even I – and I “pull” depressive most of the time – don’t think that the USA is dead.  Or lost.  Or hopeless.  Hell, we aren’t even close.

I don’t remember which Republican it was during the campaign (it might very well have been Romney) who was pounded by the right for saying that the fundamentals of the country were all right.

I’m not sure what he (whoever he was) meant, and of course if by fundamentals he meant the structures, the regulations and the convoluted mess of payola by the government we got ourselves into, he was wrong.

But if he was talking about the fundamental fundamentals, he was okay.  The American people are all right.

Yes, I know – I can hear you – shouting “Sarah, how can you say that?”  And “Sarah, do you read what you wrote two days ago?  Can’t you see our school system is collapsing?  How can we survive that?  How can we survive massive voter fraud?  How can we survive regulations that keep us starved of energy?”

Sometimes… you need a collapse.  If you’re having a fever dream, sometimes you need to fall off the bed and wake up.

No, I’m not ADVOCATING for a collapse, certainly not in the sense that both communists and large L Libertarians want it because both believe their preferred form of government will arise “spontaneously” out of it.

Heck, I don’t even believe my preferred form of government will arise spontaneously under ANY circumstances.  Within that too, I don’t even believe in one form of government in all circumstances, or everywhere, or in every association of humans.  For instance, it might interest you to know that this household is a dictatorship.  My husband and I are joint dictators, each with absolute power over SOME areas of the household.  (Though in a conflict of power and by mutual agreement, he wins, since I – voluntarily – promised to obey him in our wedding ceremony.  I did this because I know myself, and that was the only thing that would make me knuckle under.  And as for the necessity of knuckling under, in an emergency or an extreme situation, having SOMEONE make a decision is better than having two people argue over it.  No matter how bad the decision.  That vow of obedience saved my life in the one circumstance it was called up.)

It might also interest you to know that in Portugal I voted Monarchist.  Now, look, I don’t need you to tell me: the chances of Portugal restoring monarchy are about as high as of the US going pure Libertarian.

It was a quixotic vote, partly motivated by the fact that at the time the “right wing” by which you should read “not explicitly militant socialist” parties managed to hit me wrong on both fronts, economic and social.  They wanted to legislate Catholic rules of conduct, and they wanted to … well… legislate liberation theology in the form of soft socialism, too.  It was in fact like very young people here voting Libertarian because they don’t want to sully themselves and/or because they think we’re doomed either way otherwise.

However, I wouldn’t vote monarchist HERE, not even as a protest vote.  That is because the scale of the country, the fractured cultural nature of the states (if you think CA and CO are the same, even with us being part Californicated, you’ve never lived in both; and I’ve experienced greater culture shock visiting my inlaws in Ohio than visiting my family in Portugal.) but also because the United States is not FUNDAMENTALLY monarchist.  (No more than humanity is fundamentally monarchist.)

Portugal is a very odd country, culturally, both more law abiding than the US in some things, and incredibly more lawless in others.  It comes in part from a fractured European identity.  Being a very small country, it develops crushes on bigger/more important ones, and it hasn’t yet decided if it wants to be France or Germany when it grows up.  (England seems to be somewhat out of style as a model.)  It swerves between a passion for order and the certainty it can’t obtain it.  In theory Portuguese police are respected, for instance.  In fact, you don’t call them to the scene of an accident, because whoever pays the most graft is considered the aggrieved party.  In the same way, Portuguese heartily back laws, but each individual has a serene certainty the laws and regulations don’t apply to them.  (Even small ones, like what direction you should drive on the highway.)  It was the first country in Europe to forbid child labor and most of my generation in the village was taken out of school at ten to work in the textile mills.

It was my understanding of the country when I lived there – and I still feel that way, but I’m now a foreigner so my opinion is not really valid – that the only type of authority Portuguese were likely to recognize was tribal/familial.  So, a king fit that slot and might at least get the police to be a little cleaner.

Culture, you see, is a … tricky thing.  You’re going to tell me the culture in the US has changed too much.  We have too many immigrants.  We’re not teaching the kids the fundamentals of what it is to be American we—

Respectfully: bullsh*t.  I know it’s bullsh*t at a gut level, because my depressive self agrees with you, and my depressive self has a 100% wrong record.  (Ask my husband how often my career has been going to “for sure going to end.”  Yes, I’ve been right about his losing a job sometimes, but not about living under the bridge, in a box.  Okay, we came close twice, but hey, didn’t hit it.)  Another reason I know it’s bullsh*t is the Times headline about Obama’s second inaugural “fundamentally transforming America forever.”  (Oh, yeah, you and whose army, bucko?)  Which given the Times Magazine record for being right, makes me fully assured.

But the real reason I know it’s right is that I live here.

Yes, our education is beyond screwed up.  BUT here’s the thing, fundamentally they’re not transforming anything.  Fundamentally, the US is descended from or populated by people who said “I can’t take this anymore” and moved.  That is a completely different stock from those who stayed.

Even the Mexican immigrants who are simply walking over the border, are different from the ones who stay.  (In fact, our economy has caused a wave of returning immigrants who ARE fundamentally transforming Mexico – and good for them.)

I don’t think most Americans – or most colonials in general – FULLY realize how different.  The tendency of humans is to clan: to stay near family and childhood friends.  It’s also territorial.  You cleave to familiar landscapes.  The only way to get masses of people to move, normally, is famine or war.

Most of us and most of our ancestors (with exceptions) moved long before it got to that point.  That it wasn’t to that point is attested to by the fact that most of our/our ancestors’ relatives stayed behind.

I come from a country of immigrants.  I know the difference.  My own family – grandma stayed, granddad spent his entire working life abroad and only came back because grandma refused to move – splits half and half into those who leave and those who stay.

Those who leave are the ones who are willing to take responsibility for their own well being, their own future.  They are naturally more of the striver type.  They “contrive.”  And they are less likely to obey rules (which in Portugal, means they’re frighteningly unhinged.  Yes, I’m one who left.  What of it?)  But when they break rules, it tends to be purposeful and in the service of improving their own and the conditions of those who depend on them.

That is where we come from and who we are, and this is why we are so often called “ungovernable.”  It is also the only thing that explains stuff like my colleagues who are to the left of Lenin everywhere BUT their private life, where they are entrepreneurs who minimize their taxes and strive to make the most possible money.  Or the fact that we are DIY capital of the world. (My parents are still very puzzled I can paint and refinish stuff and don’t call in “experts.”) Or that we’re still functioning despite our incredibly screwed up institutions.

I’ve said before and I’ll say again – NONE of our large institutions, public or private is working.  What is happening in the publishing industry is a mirror of everything else, from large corporations to the government, to our teaching.

Part of this is (probably) intentional in that all of the commanding heights of power were taken by the hard left over the last sixty years or so.  (Some were taken later.)  As was the culture which made hard left the “accepted opinions to have.”  That accounts for none of them functioning.  But what makes their failure more obvious is that the technology is “fundamentally transforming America” and the world, in ways they didn’t anticipate, and can’t figure out how to fight.

Look, I’ll be honest.  If they’d managed this complete a control of press, government and every cultural and financial institution thirty years ago, they’d have succeeded in holding it for fifty years or so (or forty, in their crowing after the election!)

But it’s not thirty years ago.  When I tell us to build under, I’m only telling us to continue what tech and the American spirit has already started.  When the news got to the point that people were fleeing it in droves, blogs were there.  (No.  This is not universal.  I have yet to find a Portuguese equivalent to Instapundit.  The respect for credentials, you know?)

In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, the people are demonstrating for more benes.  Here we’re demonstrating to be left alone.  (For those abroad, the tea parties were not racist – they were economic.  In fact, in my local ones the majority race was Hispanic, as should be, given the composition of the electorate.  In the same way the Occupy Wall Street movement was not grassroots.  To the extent it wasn’t paid for – wanna bet? – it was formed by the children of the upper class.)

When the publishing industry got THAT bad, people found ways to escape.  Yes, the means were at hand, but the impetus came from how closed shop and ideologically driven the industry had gotten, and how it served neither writers nor readers anymore.  Because logically, yeah, writers would prefer not to have to worry about all that icky marketing stuff.  BUT once they were doing it because their traditional publishers weren’t, well… the step was small.

I told you before and I tell you again, education is on the way there.  I sympathize with my friend Dave Freer’s statements about how a country should guarantee education for all and provide it free or easy or…

However, right now our country isn’t doing that.  Saying that to end the Federal Education programs is to make sure some kids go without adequate education simply means you don’t know that schools in America have become.  Even if you consider sort-of-reading and reciting shibboleths by rote adequate education, places like Chicago, Detroit, and most other big cities are failing spectacularly at that PARTICULARLY for those kids at risk.  Right now, abolishing national education might result in a net gain. Oh, sure the kids with completely DISCONNECTED parents might never learn to read or write enough to survive in the world, but the truth is they’re not learning that now either.

AT LEAST it would release the kids (mostly minority, mostly poor) whose parents are desperately trying to put them in private/charter/other programs and who are being held captive in the horrible schools.

Yes, to an extent I agree with Dave that we should have something available and at least strong encouragement for the kids from the least promising backgrounds to learn the basics.  We don’t have that now.  And we’ll never have it in the sense Dave sees it – I know what he’s seeing, because I know about the Great British Education project that extended halfway across the world and is responsible for India’s current flourishing.

It’s impossible in the US due to the NATURE of the people in the US.  It might seem odd to say that the States are more different than Great Britain and India in the nineteenth century.  It would also be wrong.  We have a common language and a lot of similar ways of living, and our citizens move between states (even if some of us would like a moratorium on Californians.  Any minute now, please?) BUT we’re more different where it counts – in how we view the future and the aims of education.  And in holding on rather stubbornly to our differences.

My husband studied history in Maryland (his family having moved there from Connecticut when he was two) through fourth grade.  When his family moved to Ohio he had to re-study history, because he’d learned it in “the south” and their version was different, Ohio said.

We don’t all believe alike, so having a system that molds everyone to a common ground (beyond reading, writing and arithmetic) isn’t going to happen.  It just isn’t.  It’s not happening now.

Yes, if you throw education to local control and a patchwork of charters, religious schools, homeschooling, charity schools and what have you, you will have kids who don’t learn at all.  And?  This is different from what is now happening, why?

But can we provide a system-of-last resort the kids are supposed to attend if they don’t attend anything else?  Probably.  It will be unholy expensive, (but think of what we’ll save on the other kids) not very efficient and something to be avoided at all costs, but probably better than what we have now.

However – however – even with our utterly failing system, I’m not despairing of our youth.  For the same reason that even with our failing news, I’m not despairing of knowing what’s going on.

Americans are strivers.  We contrive.

I’ve already seen this – particularly with boys – with friends’ kids.  They come out of school appallingly educated.  And then they learn.  Now, they might learn only in their area of interest or they might learn strange stuff, but once the kids realize they need to know something to get somewhere, they set about to learn it.

It’s probably a shock to you but our system of libraries was unique to the US.  I went nuts on it, when I was first here: not just the free books, but SERIOUS books on the shelves.  Why, you could learn anything! NOWHERE else in the world was it thought necessary to provide specialized history books for public consumption, free of charge AND without having to prove you could understand it/had the prerequisites to understand it.  The last is the most telling.

Yes, I know of the state of the libraries.  But part of the reason for that now, is that the net has taken over.  People CAN use the net to surf for porn and watch videos of kittens.  All of us do some of the later.  (Hey, keep your hands off my videos of surprised kittens!) But what is amazing is how often most people – even kids – use it to learn.

I’ve seen even functionally illiterate kids improve over time.

What we are losing, of course, is the bottom of the economic range.  In that vein — How broken are our schools?  Dan and I, in a moment of quixotic spirit, called our local inner city school and offered to provide their “disadvantaged” students with computers. At the time Dan’s employer was getting rid of something like a hundred computers about two years old, fully functional because they were upgrading.  Giving them to students who didn’t otherwise have access would give the kids access to at least learning to use a computer and eventually to the net.  The school wouldn’t let us.  Why not?  The computers were PCs and NOT brand new.

That is diminishing, though, as computers becomes old tech that trickles down.  You can find computers on craigs for under fifty dollars. (We, ourselves, are downstream buyers, though not that far.)

We’re also losing the top range.  The people who go to elite colleges and are thoroughly indoctrinated to the point of being unable to think.  They are probably never going to be able to make up their educational deficiencies.  And that’s too bad.

HOWEVER the vast majority of people, once the “collapse” – by which I mean the system getting so bad that its not being there would be better – starts, start working on alternatives for themselves and for others.

We’re American.  We do for ourselves.

It’s already happened in news and in books.  It’s underway in cinema, though it’s the very early rumblings of change.  It’s underway in a big way in education.

Yes, I do believe our voting system is also broken and rigged – it’s the way the politicians act that gives THAT game away – but once that becomes obvious, something will be done about it too.

I’m not so sanguine on national defense.  I do think we need a federal government for that, and its not being there is going to cost us a city or maybe two.  But I also know that our country has the largest available army of combat-ready veterans and volunteers, practiced with guns that (possibly) the world has ever seen. And we’re Americans.  We’ll contrive.  Maybe not well enough not to lose anything, but well enough to survive.  And to come back.

This is the thing: the people now in control are very confident in the truth of the stuff they were taught – even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

They will careen forward bringing the new tech and the old “progressive” ways into conflict more and more.

The old “progressive” ways never worked anywhere.  But the new tech makes their failure more obvious.  They can’t say “this is the best we have and it still doesn’t work.”  We all know it’s not the best we have, and a cat high on catnip could do better.  (And yes, I do mean in all positions of power.)

It’s possible our leaders are so desperately bad, because that’s NOT where power is anymore.

We’re Americans.  We’ll manage it.

The Titanic of the blue state might have crashed, and yep, the Europeans (bless their hearts) are floating atop the grand piano and acting all superior.

But we are Americans, fergadssake.  The grand piano isn’t good enough, and those d*mn bureaucrats provided two few lifeboats.

Which is why, in the time left, a few of us are building a paddle boat out of the deck chairs, the bandstand, the chimney stack and the dining room chandelier.

Come on and lend a hand, or at least get out of the way.

We’re Americans.  We’ll survive this.  And what’s more, we’ll do it big and splashy.  American style.

Rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.

UPDATE: for writers, I put a post up about diagramming novels, at Mad Genius Club.

203 thoughts on “We Aren’t (Even) Mostly Dead

  1. I’m going to bow out of this here discussion — though I reserve my right to jump in on any of the inevitable tangents this gang always seems to go off on — because I am convinced that we are indeed headed for a collapse.

    My certainty comes from my study of Christian eschatology (the study of the End Times), and the fact that in the Bible, you can find easily identifiable language talking about Russia and China, but nothing about America. Given that America is Israel’s strongest ally most of the time (Chuckie Hagel notwithstanding), that absence tells me that America simply doesn’t exist, at least not as a world power, in the End Times.

    Our national debt is now more than our GDP, and anyone who’s ever balanced a checkbook (which takes out most of our elected leaders, apparently) knows that’s a sure sign of financial ruin.

    1. Bah. The interpretations of the “end times” are mostly the bad dreams of crazy Scottsmen.

      Remember no man knows the day nor the hour. The hour is not yet. Yes, we’re in DEEP trouble, but did you miss the part where we’re Americans?

      The sons of… babies ain’t been born who can hold us down, yet.

      1. No man knows the day or the hour, but we are also commanded to watch for the season.

        Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it[a] is near—at the doors!

        (Matthew 24:32-33)

      2. Which maybe means that we will fall to internal factors. Yeah, we aren’t psychologically prepared for that now. All things change, and I expect that this also, shall change, eventually.

        1. Periodically the Scottish blood a branch of my family picked up on the way from France to Portugal kicks up and those dreams seem all too convincing, so I need to remind myself of this.

      3. HEY! I’m a crazy Scotsman!

        I plan on postponing the End Times as long as I can.

    2. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

      Matthew 24:36

      Seriously, we have been living in the End Times since the crucifixion and people have been predicting the end for centuries. The point is to live as if Jesus is coming back tomorrow, not try to say when it’s coming.

          1. As I understand the theology, your efforts are useless. It is all a matter of who you know (and whether He knows you.)

            1. I’ve only been at this for a little over a year. I have no idea if I’m doing it right. Yes, my efforts are useless, but they might bring me to a place where I can meet Him. My actions prior to a year ago weren’t likely to do that.

            2. I don’t think I’m in talking terms, at least I don’t knowingly talk to him and hear nothing which sounds that much like he is supposed to, so unless he is in the habit of disguising himself as other spirits… so if we presume that Christianity is exactly right I’m headed for the warmer section too. Well, I’m a Finn. I like sauna. And shouldn’t there be a part where you can ice skate too? Hey, almost sounds like home…

              But since I’m not a Christian I don’t believe in the end of times. What I do believe in is cycles. Renaissance will always come. However, how good it will be and how soon it will happen, and how long it can last, those will depend on how many people will work for it.

          2. Being of Scottish descent, and the child of a long line of Methodist ministers (none the last four generations, though, thankyouverymuch), I STILL believe I’ll get to Heaven. Not that what I believe has any relation to reality, however. As for the End Times, they come every day to many, all around this Earth. I don’t think we’ve fulfilled even a third of the prophesies yet. Most of the ones I’ve read (and I’ve studied this extensively, both in the King James Bible and others, plus from a few other religions) that hark to the “latter days” have already happened a dozen times, just not everywhere at once, which from what I’ve read is what is supposed to happen. I seriously doubt my great-grandson will experience the Second Coming, but if he does, that’s HIS problem.

        1. Conservative Wanderer, email me and I’ll be sending you a copy of St. Beatus of Liebana… seriously, you need some historical perspective on this. (And yeah, China and Russia are clearly trouble, but they’re not Biblical proportions of trouble.)

          The Kingdom of Moab, now, that’s of Biblical proportions. If you’re not a tiny country or city-state, or an angel vast and terrible, or a single human family, or the God of all things, you’re not of Biblical proportions.

  2. I have for years held the position that this was an indeterminate thing, for the case of the present. Partly because it involves reading the hearts of others, which I am poor at, and which I don’t trust. Partly because of statistical issues. Partly because the standard I am chasing is conclusive evidence, suitable for convincing someone with an opposing opinion.

    There is also the matter of us apparently having some few, maybe trivial differences in our estimates of failure modes, and other factors.

    I am wondering if I have a pessimistic bias myself. I think I may have an anxious bias.

    I think it was obvious from the start that Obama’s policies would eventually have a cost in blood.

    1. There WILL be a butcher’s bill. That I guarantee. I pray it doesn’t include either of my sons, and I’m scared it will take them both. I have an anxious bias, myself.

        1. Yeah. Anxious. I’m starting to see a whole lot of almost empty restaurants and such. Like even here in Texas, people are saving their money, circling their wagons and staying home. I feel jumpier _now_ when my husband is raking in the dough than I did six years ago when his employer was missing every other payday and we had two kids in college (One of Murphy’s Law’s subclauses is “and financial crises will happen when you’ve got the most obligations and have already drained the savings account.”)

          1. Yep– I had to drain the piggy bank this last year because of infections and teeth troubles. Plus it also made it hard to get any writing done in the last few months. Ugh–

    2. Partly because the standard I am chasing is conclusive evidence, suitable for convincing someone with an opposing opinion.

      If the evidence that exists hasn’t already convinced them, they’re not going to accept any evidence. This describes most modern leftists. The fact that the government now owes more debt than the annual GDP has no effect on them, they still think everything’s going to be just fine as long as we keep following Marx, Stalin, and the rest of the socialists.

      This is because they endow The State and History with divine powers, and they are convinced that History ends with them on top.

      It’s a religious belief, not something you can argue against with facts.

      In point of fact, I sometimes ask leftist trolls if there is any specific piece of evidence I can show them that will convince them that they are wrong. They rarely answer (generally they go off on a rant about how bad I am), and when they do their answer is something so outrageous that it’s all but impossible to provide. Hence, they are not interested in the facts, and no fact in the universe will convince them.

      1. I have part of a scientific education. This has left me an appreciation for the difference between ‘maybe if we glue this together this way it will hold’ and ‘we’ve glued up and tested 1000 samples under such and such loadings’. Me trying to use that mindset where it is less applicable is my problem.

        I have fairly substantial disagreements with conservatives, centrists, and essentially everyone worth discussing things with.

        I also like to keep an eye on the quality of my arguments when I am only trying to convince myself.

        Also, what makes you think I’m not a leftist?

  3. Where else but in the US would states be passing laws left, right, and center telling the federal government that it is run by idiots and that the states will ignore unconstitutional federal laws? Where else do you have local law enforcement telling people that Congress is wrong and that individuals have the right and duty to defend themselves?

    I’ve been reading a great deal about mules (the equine type). Mules, unlike horses, are reluctant to put themselves in danger. Mules will refuse to do stupid (to them) things, to work overloaded, or to follow stupid (to them) commands. There are a lot of mules in the US, both the two-footed and four footed kinds. 🙂

    1. The main difference being that the two-footed mules are not sterile, in fact they are at least as fertile as the two footed horses, and more fertile than the two-footed asses. Which is one of the bright shining lights of the future.

    2. We’re beginning to see LOCAL government telling the STATE they’re being idiots (gun laws, anyone?), and they won’t enforce the illegal laws being passed by the state legislature. I still think 2/3 of Colorado should secede and join Wyoming. It’s not QUITE as bad up there.

    1. For the longest time, I had a Puddelglum quote as a sig– it was when he’s talking to the evil queen, and says that her claim that the world above is false may be true… but he’s for Aslan, even if there is no Aslan.

      I think Puddleglum is more a good model for what those of us who are negatively inclined should do– expect the worst, fear the worst, prepare for the worst, but do not believe that the worst is the end.

  4. Conservatives, in America, are prone to pessimism and depression. That is part of why we’re conservatives. We remain Eeyore to the Liberals* Pooh.

    *Liberal used here as the broadest possible term, including progs and those who merely were taught that Liberalism is good manners.

    1. I prefer to think of it as being a realist, myself.

      Or optimistic pessimism – the optimist is continually disappointed, the pessimist receives many happy surprises, but, if the worst happens, is prepared.

  5. This, too, shall pass. The lesson of history is a lesson of people starting over, sometimes in other places. This can be either terribly saddening or positively cheering – depending on your blood sugar.
    “Look upon me and despair!” said Ozymandias. He isn’t there, as we can plainly see. But we CAN see his hubris. Whether we learn from it – well, we will, But there’s no guarantee any particular nation can.
    Meanwhile, it might be worthwhile learning Mandarin – that might be the language of space, even as English is the language of aviation.

    1. Bullsh*t. China will collapse under its own demographic nonsense long before then. Also, and btw, if we collapse they go.

      All is not as sound as it looks out there.

      1. I just saw something about the problems being caused by the builders of those empty cities in China going out of business because no one is buying the properties.

      2. India is also having problems, between their equally bad sex ratios and the implosion of their socialist-caste-corruption mess.

        We humans never seem to learn that bad idea + bad idea = worse idea.

      3. This is true. China will not (cannot, I argue) adapt. It hasn’t, but for superficial trapping for the last five thousand years. FIVE. THOUSAND. YEARS. Mandarin heavy with words that are purely literary forms. News articles read like poetry because – and I quote my Chinese teachers of Mandarin – “nobody actually talks like that.” Spoken Mandarin relies heavily on aphorisms with deeply rooted cultural meanings. Often there is no way to translate these into English. Ideograms, bah. I spent two years sobbing for lack of a phonetic alphabet. Arabic is more flexible than Chinese. China is still an agrarian society. Despite the heavy industrialization. Despite the disastrous One Child Policy and its horrific consequences. Do not fear China.

        1. “Spoken Mandarin relies heavily on aphorisms with deeply rooted cultural meanings.”

          Real-world inspiration for “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra”?

      4. Well, I *have* been known to be slightly wrong – on rare occasions, mind you! But I will stand by the surmise that the language of space won’t necessarily be English

        1. Don’t count us out yet. Younger child is going into aerospace and, well… he can’t speak any other language. (Though he thinks Math is a language — sigh.)

        2. The Chinese won’t stay in space very long. Not any opportunities for Party gangsters to shake out any graft.

        3. Something to bear in mind is that English is the #1 second language on the planet. That means if two random multilingual humans meet, on Earth on in space, they’ll probably be using English to communicate. At worst the language of space will probably be an English-based pidgin.

  6. After learning to read in grade school, the courses that did me the most good were Logic 101 in college and a night-school course for a computer tech’s certification. Pretty much everything else I had to teach myself.

  7. Sarah, I agree that there are a lot of great people in our country, people who want to strive and push through any boundary. There are people here who still have within them that “I’m not gonna take it anymore” mentality that forged this nation from a bunch of folks who no longer wanted to be constrained in the old world.

    Where I part ways from you is that I no longer think we’re in the majority.

    Yes, that’s exceptionally pessimistic. However, I see a generation of young adults who not only live at home with their parents, but are happy to do so. I see whole swaths of people who are not only functionally illiterate, but don’t care to get better. I look at people who see no shame in staying on unemployment and won’t take jobs that pay less than what they can get on the dole because, hey, why not? I see people who gripe and complain about an economy that is so complex that almost no one can understand it, so they grasp for the easiest solution, not understanding or caring that the “solutions” they propose make things worse(and when you point out the second, third, and fourth order effects of what they want, they get mad at you, as if you’re questioning their very character). I watch as so many who complain about rotten kids will let their own children go wild and then get indignant when another adult has the temerity to ask them to control their offspring(“Don’t talk to my child that way!”).

    True, this is not all people, but I think we’ve reached a tipping point where it is most of them, whether that be 51% or 75%. And I think that permeates society. Those of us who see the insanity are overwhelmed by the dolts who have eschewed that philosophy and embraced being taken care of instead of striking out on their own and reaching for greatness. I would like nothing more than to discover I’m wrong, but the evidence is not in my favor on that one.

      1. All of them. PLEASE guys — the supreme court, if all branches were doing their business is supposed to be JUST the checkers of the law and imposers of the last backstop.

        I know this sounds crazy to you, but people we don’t vote on, why should we know their names? Do we get to do anything about them if they do wrong? No? They’re in there for life? Then why BOTHER?

        You guys are confusing the government with the nation.

        1. I didn’t say the names of the Justices… 63% — nearly two out of three Americans — don’t even realize there are nine justices!

          That sort of stuff should be covered in high school, but apparently it’s not.

          1. It was covered for me over and over and depending on when you catch me I’m as likely to say six or twelve. I bet my kids are the same.

            Again, I ask, what difference does this make to the man on the street? Can he increase or decrease the judges?

            IF he can’t, why bother. Just knowing there’s a supreme court, it has mumble justices and they decide things if a suit is brought that involves a violation of rights is ALL the man on the street needs to know. Knowing which court is federal and which state helps too.

            BUT SERIOUSLY why would not knowing that (or being nebulous on it, and having to check it) WHY that particular bit of trivia mean the end of the republic?

            1. Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, of the people; and if the cause, the interest, and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute other and better agents, attorneys and trustees.

              John Adams explains it.

              If the people do not know the government, the trustees of the people, how can they possibly keep watch and revoke the authority from those in government who do not deserve it?

              1. A general knowledge. They KNOW there are supreme court justices. Why do they need to know the NUMBER? You don’t vote on them directly and you CAN’T punish them. And what on Earth does knowing their number have to do with whether the government is doing their job or not?

                1. It’s ignorance of all facets of government. As I point out below, 70% don’t even know what the Constitution is.

                  More than two out of three Americans don’t comprehend what the founding document of our nation is.

                  I call that a problem. You don’t. Fine.

                  1. It is a problem, but it is one that will be resolved in other ways. It’s also a symptom of people having disconnected from the governing structures because they view them as unfair or impossible to affect.

                  2. When it comes to the government, voters behave like a teacher dealing with a troublesome class. It’s usually most prudent to leave the empty shells, or the “filler people”, be, and only pay attention to the terminally innovative (good or bad), and the surprisingly high-achieving.

                    1. It’s more important that people know their own senators, and representatives. State level too (Hey, Zerwas, what the bloody heck were you smoking?) But I think it’s more important to understand the roles of the various federal departments, and why it matters whether there’s a liberal or a conservative heading them.

                      Or, as Sarah says, it’s importatnt to understand the function of the body. And I’d add, so you can tell when it’s wobbled off it’s foundations and is non-functional at best and more likely destructive. See Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency for examples.

                    2. Again, where we differ, is that I see that the people have become the troublesome class, paying no attention beyond a shallow understanding and doing only the minimum to get by.

                    3. It was always like that. Three percent of people fought in the revolution. The presidents (ALL OF THEM) got/get letters addressed to “your majesty.” See, I think you lack historical perspective. We are political wonks and obsess. Most people just want to live their lives.

                    4. Political wonks? We’re tedious bores. Just because we’re talking politics doesn’t make us any better than the guy at the party declaiming at length about NASCAR or the NHL. Most people just smile at us uneasily, try to nod knowingly at appropriate points and start formulating strategies to revisit the bar table or make eye contact with that hottie by the window.

                      This is a good thing, a mark of healthy social priorities.

            2. What worries me more than “not knowing how many Supremes there are” is people not knowing what the Supremes can or can not do.

              It’s worrisome when somebody thinks that the Supreme Court can *re-write* the laws if it doesn’t like the laws. Not ruling that a given law violates the Constitution but actually changing the law.

              1. That too. And from the same article I linked earlier, “70 per cent of Americans do not know what the Constitution is,”

                That’s a big problem. If you don’t know how the Constitution restricts the powers of the government, you probably think they can do anything they darned well want, and that leads down a very bad path.

                1. Knowing the Constitution has little to do with designing and marketing a smart phone app (to name one example) that can monitor a sleeping premie’s heartbeat without touching him.

                  Knowing the Constitution merely lets you know when our Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches are screwing you by rewriting it on the fly, leaving you frustrated and impotently raging.

                  I know how the Constitution restricts the powers of the government, but do they? And if they do, do you think they care?

                    1. If the goal is an efficient society, all we need is a few good men — Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman come to mind — ordering things.

                      I see no evidence the Founder’s goal was establishment of an efficient society.

                    2. This country was created to maximize liberty, not efficiency. The problem with liberty is that (like virtue) it is very difficult for others to defend yours if you won’t.

                      You’ve got to walk
                      that lonesome valley
                      you’ve got to walk
                      it by yourself
                      Nobody else
                      can walk it for you
                      you’ve got to walk
                      it by yourself

                    3. Note who is pushing those voter drives, the information they are providing and the goads they are employing. Draw your own conclusions. Start by eliminating the likelihood they seek an informed, intelligent decision based on enlightened self-interest (self-interest of the “enlightened”, maybe.)

                      These are not the droids you are looking for.

              2. Yes. That is far more worrisome, including people — and the president! — thinking the president can legislate at will.

                Another thing that worries me? THinking “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need is in the constitution.” or that we’re supposed to be equal, instead of equal under the law.

                But eliminate the very stupid, the deliberately misinformed and the very young (the three groups have some overlap) and people still kind of sort of understand our form of government. Yes, it could be better. So we have work to do.

                But I suspect the coming trouble will also provide lessons…

              3. What’s worrisome is that our Supreme Court thinks thinks that the Supreme Court can *re-write* the laws if it doesn’t like the laws.

                And that our restraining institutions — Executive, Legislature, State governments and 4th Estate — apparently agree.

              4. The only real restraint on the Supreme Court’s rewriting laws is whether anyone brings a suit that they can pretend has something to do with what they want. Take the time when a convict appealed his sentencing on the grounds that the mandatory sentencing guidelines were based on information that had not been proven to the jury.

                Did the Supreme Court say that the judge uses a different standard for sentencing? No. Did it say that all facts used in sentencing must be proven to the jury? No. It said that the guidelines must be optional — that, in fact, you are not entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment when it comes to the judge’s whim of how severely you will be sentenced.

            3. That bit of trivia in and of itself isn’t important. However, it’s indicative of a larger problem within the fabric of the republic. For that republic to survive, it requires an educated and engaged citizenry, something that only exists now at the edges.

      2. It’s really not the end of the world. Yes, people SHOULD know this stuff. But the list of things I was taught in high school that I SHOULD remember but forgot five minutes after graduation is probably long enough to wrap around the planet.

        “Name me one nation that has survived more than a generation or two with that level of civic ignorance.”


        Keep in mind too, that what SCOTUS does is intensely important, however, for most people, it’s also arcane and very much “don’t look at the man behind the curtain.”

        I’m a SCOTUS junkie. I read SCOTUS decisions for fun. Most people can’t get past “Comes now the honorable …”

        Most people have more important things to worry about in their lives than how many old folks are on SCOTUS. When the economy is in the shape it’s in, people are worried about paying the rent (I hear it’s too damn high) and eating. Not what the latest SCOTUS decision is. And most of the decisions won’t affect them directly anyway.

        1. “people are worried about paying the rent (I hear it’s too damn high)”

          Wasn’t that a political party in New York or some place last election?

      3. ….Why are you believing more doom-and-gloom from a Newsweek survey? These are the same “geniuses” that would do surveys of my classmates where the questions were so insultingly dumb that a significant number chose the dumbest possible option. (“Who was Christopher Columbus”? “The kid in Whinnie the Pooh.”)

        1. Because in this case the results match my own experience.

          I live in one of the reddest states in the nation… and I don’t mean “red” as in “Communist,” and I am still astounded by the absolute idiocy about our history and government that I encounter, say, in casual conversation at the barber shop… and I go to Supercuts, so the barber in question is usually a youngish lady, not an old grouchy gentleman (we do have such a barber in town, but he is rather rough with one’s head while cutting one’s hair, so I stay away).

          Our wonderful leftist education indoctrination system has taught kids for decades that they are all Special Little Snowflakes, that they deserve to have everything handed to them lest their Valuable Self-Esteem get ruined, that history is just a bunch of Old Dead White Guys Who Don’t Matter Anymore, and that Government Exists To Give Them Things. This is exactly what the leftist vision demands, because the less-informed the electorate the more likely they’ll believe that leftist policies actually work, as opposed to the more educated among us who know that every time leftist policies have been implemented, they’ve failed.

          Our young adults look at Life of Julia and think that looks pretty good to them, with government giving them everything they need. Hence, we are on our way to another leftist totalitarian experiment, and those never end well. Just ask the North Koreans.

          1. The question isn’t whether they leave school believing in the great God government. The question is whether they stay that way or do they have the ability to see, by the time they hit their mid twenties, that it doesn’t work and can’t work.

            1. Exactly. I hate to say this, because I know CW is around my age, but maybe he was lucky. The school was as bad in my time, in most of the US. Dan and I got married in our early twenties (yes, lucky) and it was a time of GREAT adaptation. We were adjusting our world view together, so we spent a great deal of time discussing the Bible, the Constitution and other “foundational documents” because ONE thing we’d figured out. What we had been taught was either wrong or incomplete.

              Part of the precipitating factor in that was finding that the Carter age was less than enthusing…

              1. The catch is, Sarah, you are an exceptionally intelligent person, and I suspect so is Dan (or you’d probably not still be together).

                The exceptional can always figure out the flaws in what they were taught. The problem is, there are — by definition — a lot more average people than exceptional ones, and if they are not taught the fundamentals of critical thought at an age where they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it’s much harder for them to do it later, and most of them don’t bother (because it’s hard and they want life to be easy, so they ask Uncle Sugar to give them everything, like contraceptives).

              2. We can live with people voting stupidly twice between the ages of 18 and 26, if they then vote better ten times between 26 and 86.

            2. And they don’t.

              Critical thinking, or what you might call logical thinking, is not taught in school any more, at least not in elementary or high school. It might be in some colleges.

              I was involved for a while in training new employees for an outsourced customer service firm I worked for. The students I saw — from all age groups, races, genders/sexual orientations, religions, and parts of town — were pretty uniformly uneducated about basic logic, such as the principle of non-contradiction (i.e. that something cannot be both A and not-A, such as a person being both dead and not-dead at the same time — fantastic notions of undeath notwithstanding).

              I daily thanked God Almighty for those few students who did grasp logic, and in talking to some of them, I discovered that in every case they’d learned it on their own, not at school.

              1. Michael Barone, who made his own journey from Left to Right when confronted by reality, wrote a book on this topic, Hard America, Soft America:
                Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation’s Future

                A peculiar feature of our country today, says Michael Barone, is that we seem to produce incompetent eighteen-year-olds but remarkably competent thirty-year-olds. Indeed, American students lag behind their peers in other nations, but America remains on the leading edge economically, scientifically, technologically, and militarily.

                The reason for this paradox, explains Barone in this brilliant essay, is that “from ages six to eighteen Americans live mostly in what I call Soft America—the parts of our country where there is little competition and accountability. But from ages eighteen to thirty Americans live mostly in Hard America—the parts of American life subject to competition and accountability.” While Soft America coddles, Hard America plays for keeps.

                Educators, for example, protect children from the rigors of testing, ban dodgeball, and promote just about any student who shows up. But most adults quickly figure out that how they do depends on what they produce.

                Barone sweeps readers along, showing how we came to the current divide—for things weren’t always this way. In fact, no part of our society is all Hard or all Soft, and the boundary between Hard America and Soft America often moves back and forth. Barone also shows where America is headed—or should be headed. We don’t want to subject kindergartners to the rigors of the Marine Corps or leave old people uncared for. But Soft America lives off the productivity, creativity, and competence of Hard America, and we have the luxury of keeping part of our society Soft only if we keep most of it Hard.
                [MORE: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1135058.Hard_America_Soft_America ]

                or just [SEARCH ENGINE] Hard America, Soft America

                1. And the Obamacrats are determined to make as much of America Soft as they can. Hence, Obamacare, 99+ weeks of unemployment benefits, etc.

                  Hence, doomed. Too many are becoming too dependent on Uncle Sugar, and they’ll vote to continue the benefits without being able to reason out (due to lack of critical thinking skills) that the money has to come from somewhere other than a pot at the end of the rainbow. TANSTAAFL is a completely foreign concept to them. Thus, the dependent class will vote in those that promise to give them things from the government pot until and unless the entire thing collapses.

                  And if you think people raised on government assistance can somehow become self-sufficient in short order after the crash, I beg to differ. They’ll follow the first strongman who promises them food and shelter.

                  1. CW, you’re missing a VERY important step. If you go over a certain percentage of SOFT the whole thing collapses and becomes VERY VERY hard. And the Obama admin is very bad at … understanding stuff. Like, the real world.

                    So our soft darlings are on route to crash into HARD head first.

                    Trust me, they’ll wake up. (Or die. I did say there will be a butcher’s bill, right? And not all from foreign elements. A lot of it will be people who simply don’t know what to do or how to survive when systems disappear.)

                    1. I wish I had your optimism, I really do. However, I’ve seen nothing in the last six to eight years that gives me any hope that they’ll wake up.

                      And I think the problem is that it’s not just them that’ll hit hard. Now that such people are, in my opinion, in the majority, it’s society as a whole that’ll hit hard.

                    2. Well of course we’ll all hit hard, those that are prepared though will tuck a shoulder and roll with the fall. I’m not saying it’s not going to hurt, it is and it might hurt bad. But we’ve been through tough times as a country before and survived, gave more power to the federal government than we should have, but we survived. If it’s not any worse than the War of Northern Aggression, we’ll survive this too.

                    3. You mean the “Slave Owners War”. [Very Big Evil Grin]

                      I’ve thought of using *that* name in a story. [Wink]

                  2. How many people from the dependent class (not “bad luck, and we need government assistance until we can improve things”, but actual “I am too incompetent to run my own life, please help me”) are any good at fighting? Because strongman rule happens when it stops being about votes or dollars and starts being about bullets on target.

                    1. The inner city drug gangs will be on both the dealing out and receiving ends of the bloodbath parts. And the OWS and other feel-good clueless types who are in the wrong place when the gangs get hungry.

              2. I guess I am leading a sheltered life in high tech. The people I interact with mostly understand logic, there is no other way to understand technology.

                But I wonder if being exposed to arguments via the Internet helps.

                1. Kids from “excellent schools” tm in the US will have trouble ever stepping down. The problem is they THINK they’re thinking. As I said, we might lose some of those. But most of the middle will learn to think… round about 28. They have to or they don’t survive.

                2. High tech and low tech (manual labor) have some interesting parallels, they both do an amazing job of smashing fuzzy logic down flat until all that is left is hard logic. They have to deal with realities and make things work in the real world, not just believe they work because they say they do.

              3. I would suggest that those who are temperamentally suited to self-teach at a young adult age are very unlikely to go into anything customer service related, and if they do they’ll often have a “mask.”

                I KNOW my sister isn’t the idiot she acts at work and on various topics near various people, but she will appear to believe whatever will cause the fewest waves around them. (About the only thing that makes me think what she says around me is accurate to what she believes is because it doesn’t change based on how much she’s been drinking, and sometimes it is something that she knows will upset me greatly; neither fits with the various subjects and people I’ve observed her Masking around.)

                To savagely mangle the old lyric— things aren’t always what they seem, cream masquerades as skim milk.

                Especially when cream is singled out for special abuse as Evil Fatty Food.

              4. “””Critical thinking, or what you might call logical thinking, is not taught in school any more, at least not in elementary or high school.”””

                I see no evidence that the general public (a.k.a the masses) *ever* were taught to think critically, nor is there any evidence for a general understanding of either formal logic or the informal fallacies among the hoi polloi.

                This notion of some idealized time in the past when the masses were intelligent, logical and involved is nonsense.

                85% +/- of the people in the world are peasants. Their highest aspirations in life are to be able to stop staring at the south end of a north bound cow and spend all day fishin or watching day time TV. Always have been, always will be.

            3. But that’s the problem – by their 20s, they still don’t get it. They’ve bought the garbage hook, line, and sinker. Why be independent when you can live off mom and dad? And mom and dad will allow it! Jobs that they didn’t study for in school are beneath them, so they’re happy to collect a government check until something “in their field” comes along. And why should they control their children when letting them run off energy by annoying everyone at a mall or a movie theater gives them a break?

              Again, I get that it isn’t everybody, but that segment is growing and, I believe, is now the majority of our country. I would love to find a way to reverse it, but such a solution has got to go beyond optimistic words.

          2. I can’t remember who said it, but the ancient philosopher did point out that the turning point of knowledge is where you realize how little you know/understand.

            Here and now, that means that the folks who will spout off on impolite topics in a painfully ignorant way are going to usually fall into: useful idiot spun up, or innocently ignorant of how little they “know.” (The second was usually taught by the first, who was taught by the much rarer “actively malicious” person– who will avoid the topics if they think someone might challenge them.)

            1. See above. I’ve had the painful experience of trying to teach some of these Special Little Snowflakes that the leftist education indoctrination system grinds out.

              Logic is, in my experience, a foreign concept to the vast majority of them.

              1. I have personally found that “Special Little Snowflakes” tend to melt pretty quickly with a simple “Shutup, sitdown and pay attention” in a loud firm voice. Once they melt a little most of them can learn

            2. Socrates, though it’s usually formulated as, “the more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” The Socratic Method, for which he ended up drinking hemlock, was his process of going to those considered wise and asking questions. Things like, “what is true?” and “what is good?” And then extrapolating: if X is true, then Y must be true as well. The trouble was – at least according to Plato – he usually ended up making fools of the “wise,” hence the ultimate charge of corrupting the youth and the hemlocky consequences. This brief History of Philosophy lesson brought to you by Dr. Baird and the Tenet X.

              1. One of my family doctors when I was a child was named Baird. One of his associates was ironically named Poore.

              2. My slightly preferred formulation is a bit different.

                Socrates liked arguing with people, more than many other activities. Much like Tom Kratman.

                Socrates thought differently from many of his peers, and liked to use unusual methods of arguing. Much like Tom Kratman.

                Socrates had people, some of them young, who enjoyed watching him argue, and hence often had a better grasp of what he was trying to pull than his current partner, who may have been a complete novice. Much like Tom Kratman.

                Some of those that didn’t follow Socrates, and hence couldn’t really catch everything he was saying, just thought he was a jerk that was always starting stuff, and never really making any real sense. Much like Tom Kratman. Remember, Socrates has permeated our culture to a degree, giving us insight that many of his contemporaries lacked.

                One of these Socrates watchers was essentially a marginally competent ancient Athenian cognate to Obama, Alcibiades. The Athenians ended up having huge reservations about Alcibiades, after the fact, and blamed Socrates. The also wanted him to shut up.

                The trial essentially amounts to shut up, grovel, or leave, lest we kill you. He picked death, perhaps because he was maybe a little nuts.

                  1. Socrates actually was a good Athenian soldier, dependable and even heroic. He served in combat. That’s part of why the other Athenians put up with him so long, and it’s also apparently the basis for some of the grudges against him.

      4. Actually, I ultimately doubt that kind of civic ignorance is going to matter – or for that matter there being a majority who have been successfully indoctrinated – because I suspect that things will hit a point where the most important thing is possession of a functioning backbone.

        Those with one will manage and eventually figure things out. The rest will crumble. It won’t be pleasant, and I fear there will be a lot of blood, but the stubborn core is still there under the layers of fat and gray goo. It just won’t show until there’s no other choice.

        1. And the crumbling will be the end of America. The dependents outnumber the self-sufficient in sufficient (no pun intended) numbers to keep voting themselves largesse out of the mythical pot of government money at the end of the rainbow.

          Those self-sufficient people that are left will hardly be able to recreate what we have now in less than a century or so, given the drag of the dependent class.

          1. eh gads. when I get like that, I go for a walk outside. Seriously. You are picking the worst possible alternatives, believing liberal surveys from newsweek to do so, etc.

            The reason I remain unmedicated is that I KNOW when I’m doing this and self-correct.

          2. Dude. Look at what happens in any kind of crisis. The steel underneath starts to show. You don’t get that anywhere except the colony countries, and you don’t get it in all of them. I’ve seen it in Australia, and it’s so normal here it’s news when it DOESN’T happen (New Orleans, for instance).

            When it comes to a crisis Americans forget about government money and help each other. That is what will survive and rebuild. Most of the people who’ll do it don’t know they can. Yet. You can’t know the temper of a warrior until he sees war.

          3. If it crumbles hard enough those self-sufficient people will simply refuse to support the dependent class. THAT is the end of the dependent class. It is a binary solution, if no one will support them they will either become self-supporting* or die.

            *This is not to say they will choose ways of being self-supporting that are good or lawful, some will, some won’t, after all a successful thief is self-supporting.

            1. That is a big part of why the self-sufficient have been buying guns and ammo. Nothing encourages respect for property rights quite so much as observing the property includes guns, ammunition and the willingness to spend the latter.

              1. There’s another reason for the rush on guns and ammo — the opening of a Pandora’s Box of political tactics like surrounding a person’s private home with a mob, stalking, mobbing a business until the owner backs off their support for something “controversial”, and, of course, repeated calls for violence. The Zimmerman case — and the open calls for his blood — doesn’t help.

                And, yeah, I’m sure you could find examples of all of the above in American history — but at least until now it was denounced by responsible politicians.

                1. It depends on your definition of responsible politicians:

                  Wilmington Race Riot of 1898
                  A politically motivated attack by whites against the city’s leading African American citizens, the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 documents the lengths to which Southern White Democrats went to regain political domination of the South after Reconstruction. The violence began on Thursday, November 10th in the predominately African American city of Wilmington, North Carolina, at that time the state’s largest metropolis. Statewide election returns had recently signaled a shift in power with Democrats taking over the North Carolina State Legislature. The city of Wilmington, however, remained in Republican hands primarily because of its solid base of African American voters. On November 10th, Alfred Moore Waddell, a former Confederate officer and a white supremacist, led a group of townsmen to force the ouster of Wilmington’s city officials.

                  Waddell relied on an editorial printed in the African American-owned Wilmington Daily Record, as the catalyst for the riot. Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, had published an editorial in early November arguing that “poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting their women.” Paraphrasing articles by Ida B. Wells on the subject of lynching, Manly opined that “our experiences among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.” Manly’s public discussion of the taboo subject of interracial sex exposed the reality of sexual exploitation of black women by white men and challenged the myth of pure-white womanhood.

                  Forty-eight hours after Manly’s editorial ran Waddell led 500 white men to the headquarters of the Daily Record on 7th Street. The mob broke out windows and set the building on fire. Manly and other high profile African Americans fled the city; however, at least fourteen African Americans were slain that day. An eye witness later wrote that African Americans fled to the swamps, or hid in the African American cemetery at the edge of town. When their criminal behavior resulted in neither Federal sanctions nor condemnation from the state, Waddell and his men formalized their control of Wilmington. The posse forced the Republican members of the city council and the mayor to resign and Waddell assumed the mayoral seat. Over the next two years North Carolina passed the “grandfather clause,” as one in a series of laws designed to limit the voting rights of American Americans.

          1. Exactly. They’ll do what they have to when they have to, and then they’ll look back and wonder how they could ever have thought they were weak.

    1. After last November, I happened to reread Kornbluth’s The Marching Morons. For the first time that story stuck me as optimistic. I grit my teeth and remind myself that despair, in addition to being a sin, is precisely what the Aristos would want from me.

      1. It’s actually how the aristos see us.

        Don’t despair. Note where the vote was massively fraudulent and they barely squeaked a win. Take a deep breath. Fundamentally America is still America.

    2. Well, that will change soon. They will either change– or die first. When the collapse comes, they will starve, throw rocks and cause trouble. We have the impetus to survive, and the guns to defend ourselves. It will take time, but the problem will solve itself.

  8. Thanks, I needed this.

    I would add that any Libertarian who thinks that his/her sort of government would arise from a collapse needs to read “Road to Serfdom.” I wish it were so, but history says the opposite.

    1. Government arises because societies need the functions that goverment brings.
      One of the most begnin examples is the creation of the provisional government of the Oregon Territory. It arose out of Ewing Young dying intestate and went on to decisions on a court system and single house legislature. But it came about because a) it was needed and b) it was created in the image of the people who showed up to make it happen.
      Somalia’s three plus governments have come about the same way. So, the lesson to take away here is make sure that people who believe in liberty like you show up to direct the government in your image.
      Every November.

  9. Serious public libraries are an American thing? I didn’t know that. Israel has always had them, AFAIK, and in traditional Jewish communities the Beit Midrash did a similar job.

    Then again, both are also essentially immigrant communities.

    1. well, I was comparing to European countries. Portugal has a ‘Library” but it’s more like our library of congress. It’s not… everything including fiction.

      1. Israel was started by a bunch of East European Socialists. Yet their Histadrut (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histadrut), the AFL-CIO-build under government(1) provided libraries and affordable books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Am_Oved). I always thought taking over the intellectual discourse was a normal part of Socialism.

        Then again, Israeli history sometimes feels like what the US would look like had it been started by East European Socialists instead of Englishmen. Stupid ideas competing with mostly sound practices.

        (1) To a large extent that is what they did, built a government under the British system, so that when the British withdrew they had most things in place. That is one of the reasons 600,000 Jews managed to defeat and deport 1,200,000 Arabs, as well as the Arab militaries.

        1. “Stupid ideas competing with mostly sound practices.”

          This is different than the US, how?

          1. Backwards, mostly. Our ideas are rock-solid. Inalienable rights, power deriving from the people (rather than farcical aquatic ceremonies) and notions like TANSTAAFL and “Go west, young man.” These ideas work. Our methods, on the other hand, seem more a matter of blind trial and error.

            1. Methods, it looks like trial and error because it is trial and error. The ideas are more or less built into our culture, our defining national insanity. The great writings of our people are probably as much caused by ideas understood at an instinctual level as they are the cause of said instincts. Frankly, despite being a bibliophile, very introvert and bookish, I learned a significant amount from trustworthy adults and oral tradition.

              Our methods come from us being independent minded, stubborn, and various other things well established. We will do anything we perceive as for the cause of freedom. Thus Jim Crow, which took the Europeans holding a mirror up to us to convince /all/ of us that it was not in the cause of freedom.

            2. Exactly. For my parents’ generation, the idea that some people are rich because they earned it was revolutionary. But they were still productive.

              1. Ori, I was blown away at first by reading short stories by Ephraim Kishon (look back Mrs. Lot), since his stories didn’t have a lot to do with my impression of Israel today, besides geography. I asked some people I knew had some knowledge about things there about this and they said, “yeah, they mostly got over their socialist roots, they didn’t work.”

                1. Yep. And I think the same will happen here. Part of my characterization of the Usaians in the books (which Ori caught) was sparked by my realization that the US and Israel (ancient and modern, actually) resemble each other more than any other nation.

                  And now I’ll have to find the shorts.

                    1. there is a movie based on the story, “The Blaumilch Canal”, on Youtube, but I don’t speak Hebrew.
                      A crazy man gets a jackhammer and rips up one of the busiest intersections in the country, and everyone stands around and watches him, because they think it is official, and no-one thinks they have any say in the matter. Including the public works people and the mayor.
                      A lot of Kishon’s stories are like that: someone goes off at a tangent, and no-one thinks there is anything to be done, and in may cases they decide to pile on and push since it is either good manners or at least there is movement, and everyone is tired of things being mired down.
                      I think there is a message in that.

            3. I guess I was looking at this from a different perspective, as in stupid ideas spouted by and voted on by politicians, while individuals are practicing mostly sound practices.

    2. Not just an American thing, but mostly the result of “robber barons” being real people and not Marxist caricatures.

        1. Annnnnd, here is the article:
          The Robber Barons: Neither Robbers nor Barons
          David R. Henderson
          One of the most prevalent myths about economic freedom is that it inevitably leads to monopolies. Ask people why they believe that, and the odds are high that they will point to the “trusts” of the late 19th century that gained large market shares in their particular industries. These trusts are Exhibit A for most people who hold this view. Ask them for specific names of the villains who ran these trusts, and they are likely to point to such people as Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller. They even have a label for Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and others: robber barons.

          But a careful reading of the economic research on the “robber barons” leads to a diametrically opposite conclusion: the so-called robber barons were neither robbers nor barons. They didn’t rob. Instead, they got their money the old-fashioned way: they earned it. Nor were they barons. The word “baron” is a title of nobility, one typically granted by a king or established by force. But Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and many of the others referred to as robber barons started their businesses from scratch and were granted no special privileges. Moreover, not only did they earn their money and not only were they not granted privileges, but they also helped consumers and, in one famous case, destroyed a monopoly.

          1. And here is where the term “Robber Baron” probably originated. They were low status people, often first or second generation in the US, who displaced “the right people” in the power structure.

            Such people tend to be reviled by “the right people”.

  10. Anyone who thinks that #OWS was ‘grass roots’ and not bought and paid for, obviously wasn’t looking for jobs on Craigslist during the while #OWS thing. In *every* job category there was postings for ‘political demonstrators’ in every major city that pretty much said you were going to be paid $25 or so a day to go to OWS rallies. Sponsored by the ‘Working Families Party”.

    The ‘Working Families Party” gets its money from ACORN and the SEIU.

    Grassroots my a**.

    1. The funny thing is how obviously phony Occupy was and how quickly it went nowhwere in spite of all the obvious efforts of the lefty rich. I honestly think that they thought that all they had to do was strike a spark and the country would rise up in a leftist frenzy and initiate a revolution of flowers or something. Instead they got the same mushy crowd doing the usual mushy stuff. followed by the usual fizzle. At least it had some enterainment value while it lasted. The las thing I saw of Occupy was a small table in Union Square with some people showing how determined they were by sleeping in the park, as if that was any different from all the other leftist protests in Union Square that have entertained me over the years.

      1. I think they fail to grasp how basically acceptable most people’s lives still are, and how little actual anger there is. Sure, we talk nasty, but that is more blowing steam than blowing stuff up, on both sides.

      2. I can’t remember how it came up, but someone was claiming that the TEA Party was the same as Occupy. (with the goal being getting conservatives to support Occupy)

        I explained: No, one is people who never protest organizing into peaceful demonstrations, for a clear goal, at appointed times and doing so with a minimum of damage to others. The other is people who always protest doing so in unlawful manners, for a wide range of ’causes,’ while aiming to be obnoxious and wallowing in the filth they can’t manage to control.

      3. I honestly think that they thought that all they had to do was strike a spark and the country would rise up in a leftist frenzy and initiate a revolution of flowers or something.

        They had listened to their own captive media for so long that they swallowed their own kool-aid. They thought that there really was a “downtrodden mass” who would see them as their saviors.

        1. I have it on good authority (a friend who works in Manhattan, NY) that if you wave a soap-on-a-rope, they can’t get close to you. Even better than garlic for vampires.

          1. The thing is, when they see me, they are likely to assume I’m a ‘fellow traveler’ and not the enemy. See, I have a very carefully developed disguise….

        2. Union Square in New York City. For decades the lower end has been a hangout for Communists/Progressives, at least during the summer. There’s usually a protst about soemthing going on.

  11. I’m less optimistic about the USA. The problem is that the average person hates to think. They say it’s too much work, and sometimes I get it wrong. So, because they won’t think, they do stupid things like follow the crowd, believe politicians and hucksters, engage in magical thinking (angels are real, UFOs are alien ships, Obama will save the country), and vote based on their parents’ party affiliations. Either we need less lazy people or pre-tests for voting.

    1. Thinking isn’t what makes the difference. Those same people could well be the ones who save your tail when everything goes to hell – I’ve seen this happen in a small way.

      Where-ever people dig in and do what has to happen in any kind of crisis (at least until the bloody government asses step in and force them away), that’s where America will survive. You don’t GET that in the Old World or in Asian cultures. Hell, it doesn’t happen in a lot of the colony cultures either. Australia, it does. But America is where that attitude is so ingrained there are people out helping clean up within minutes of the danger passing.

    2. Exactly.

      Twenty-five percent of respondents to a survey in the British magazine Engineering & Technology said they do not believe humans landed on the moon.

      (that’s as of 2009, but it’s the most recent one I could find on a quick search)

      The leftist indoctrination system has raised a generation (or more) of people who don’t know how to think critically, so you get wacko theories like these.

      1. No. 25% seems to be the rock bottom for “stupid crazies” in modern (stable) societies. It’s the same number who believe Stalinism is a great idea.

        Hey, I have friends who believe in UFOs but are perfectly rational about everything else. Trying to class people based on anything like this is … Aspergers.

        1. Trying to class people based on anything like this is … Aspergers.

          How nice. Psychiatric/medical diagnosis via internet.

          I’ll be going now. My rubber room is probably waiting for me.

          1. Think of it as your personal bouncy castle, and put on some good lively music.

            What? I always wanted my own bouncy castle.

          2. I’m NOT diagnosing you. Aspergers is not a medical condition — look in the recent compendium — but it is a set of behaviors, habits. It is, moreover one to which SF people are prone. You’re showing this characteristic of it, but I’d say you’re more depressed than aspergers and have been running into people quoting this stuff all over, until you no longer think it’s strange. I’ve been running into this all over the blogs. People don’t WORK like that. They’re not all rational or all irrational. I said in the post that some people are Stalinist in politics and perfectly sane on everything else. People can believe we never landed on the moon, and yet be perfectly rational about … oh, how to treat a wounded man.

            1. A very good man I served with on our ship honestly believes that Jews control all the media.

              It’s not some kind of “I hate Jews” thing– just like the same kind of folks who think the Pope is the antichrist, or the Masons are a satanic cult/control the world’s gov’ts, they think it’s a group inside of that category and that normal Jews/Catholics/Masons are no more part of it than, oh, every American is the President because all the Presidents are American.

            2. People [are] not all rational …

              Speak for yourself. I am all rational, in every way and at all times. Mr Flibble told me so.

        2. Actually lol UFO just means Unidentified Flying Object so it could be a plane, a balloon, or if you are so inclined a green alien. I have seen UFO’s, but I do not know what they are– thus UFO 😉

            1. Sorry– I just like to be precise. Considering some Stealth airplanes have gone around NV and people here were sure they saw UFOs. Well they did– except not those super beings. and so forth. We had the LV valley shake one summer. The gov. first denied they had anything to do with it (tried to tell us it was an earthquake). A few weeks later they did tell us that they had exploded an underground bomb (could have been nuclear). This was between 96-98 (don’t remember the exact date.

              1. Heh. I hate the ‘do you believe in UFOs’ types of questions. Sure as hell I believe in UFOs. And I believe there are probably several different things which get bundled under that label, there probably still is a lot of stuff which are perfectly natural but rare enough to have eluded proper study so far. We still don’t even understand ball lighting, now do we? But most acknowledge they exist, so what if there are more than just the smaller ones which sometimes seem to do stuff like wander inside buildings? (Yep, family story about one being seen in my father’s childhood home, sometime during the late 40’s if I recall it correctly).

                I am, however, highly doubtful of the ‘alien spacecrafts’ idea, which is what most people seem to mean when they ask if you believe in UFOs. I don’t completely dismiss it, but if they do get proven as being that in my lifetime I will be very, very surprised (unless we are talking about something like self replicating machines sent from very far and very long time ago and now with badly degraded programming…).

                1. Heh. I hate the ‘do you believe in UFOs’ types of questions. Sure as hell I believe in UFOs. And I believe there are probably several different things which get bundled under that label, there probably still is a lot of stuff which are perfectly natural but rare enough to have eluded proper study so far.

                  I can’t even remember who did the survey, but the one that was touted as having huge numbers of folks believe in “young earth creationism” made me want to break things. They asked something to the effect of “do you believe God made man in his current form at some point in the last ten thousand years?”
                  That ain’t YEC. It may disagree with various theories about when “modern” humans showed up–which, even as someone vaguely interested in the subject, I still don’t know off the top of my head– but when the other questions are explicitly anti-God-could-be-involved or “I dunno”…. Ugh.

                  It’s like that idiot violin player that went into the subway in the morning rush and they made a big deal that very few folks stopped to hear him play.

                  Well, duh, you design your test to get a specific result and you’re pretty likely to get that result– people aren’t going to risk being fired because they were late for a pretty song, and “God wasn’t involved in any way in how humans were made” isn’t that popular of a theory.
                  (Note: ten thousand, not the famous six thousand that everyone associates with YEC.)

                  1. The whole UFO thing kind of reminds me of discussion about ‘Liberals’ on th other thread. UFO means: unidentified flying object, but has come to mean: alien spaceship, through common usage.

                    We will never know exactly what a UFO is, because if we can identify it, it won’t be… unidentified.

                    1. True– but I guess I like words a lot that I sometimes really hate the bastardization of some words. Say what you mean instead of cloaking it. Metaphors I can handle… I am a poet after all.

                    2. Yeah, I finally gave up trying to point out to people the fact that UFO does not actually mean alien spaceship, because it’s just futile.

                2. Sounds good– I read a novel about replicating machines. The title escapes my memory, but the hubby really enjoyed that book and kept a copy for a long time until we had to leave it on one of our moves. In the 80s I think (can’t remember the date) the French came up with a small machine that looked like a UFO and floated over the ground except it was really small.

                  Plus it is hard sometimes to judge how large something in the sky due to perspective. So who knows how large the UFOs are that have been seen. Since there is a lot of natural phenomenon that hasn’t been studied (I can’t think of it off the top of my head again– too early) it could be anything or something from beyond.

            2. Well– I think there are other civilizations and other aliens out there. Except I have no proof, just the realization that it would be awful if we were the only ones.

              1. Oh, I have tons of theories, but I don’t think I talk to “spirit beings” from UFOs who tell me to take care of the Earth and stuff.
                And while those might be true (!) they are certainly illogical, in the sense of no proof, no logical reason, etc. BUT people are rational on EVERYTHING ELSE.

        3. There are UFOs.

          The question is whether they are piloted by not-from-this-earth Aliens, Top Secret Government Programs, or LSD.

    3. “(angels are real, UFOs are alien ships, Obama will save the country)”

      On the other hand, a majority believe they’ll never see a penny of their Social Security, so they’re not completely blinkered.

  12. By the way, this discussion has gotten rather hot and heavy today, so as an apology for whatever part I played in that (great or small, you make the call), I hereby offer this little bit of cuteness that should calm everyone down… except perhaps the doggie who wants the ball!

    1. Very cute! I have a cat who fetches, sometimes. She acts a bit like that too, except without the jumping, her style is more the crouch and wait to pounce. But the looks she gives me if the waiting gets too long to her taste are pretty much the same. “Come on, will you throw it or not!”

  13. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. All day long, my job is to talk to the widest possible variety of Americans (probably including some illegal aliens). And things are tough out there, but the people are mostly okay. Even the people who are full of BS and lies, or the people who are out to defraud the system, seem fairly competent and resilient — and they’re not at all numerous compared to the rest. I don’t tend to run into people who aren’t fit to cross the street by themselves without Mommy and Daddy Government holding their hands.

    Furthermore, I find that people in the lowest social and intellectual strata are generally the savviest about their technology, except for the absolute techie nerds. Take that as you will. (And yes, my work deals with “cool” tech stuff, but still, it’s really obvious that this is so.)

    1. Also, you’d be surprised how many people who qualified for the “free” “Obamaphone” programs have gotten off those programs as fast as they can, because good phones and for-pay plans are a lot more attractive and useful.

      1. A surprisingly large number of recipients have reportedly kept their Obamaphones. The single most notable common factor identifying that subset appears to be that all of them are deceased.

        They may well have voted for Obama all the same.

        1. For a note to those that don’t realize it, ‘Obamaphones’ are just the Medicaid phones that have been available for years…. now they just fit in your pocket.

  14. Oh, yeah, you and whose army, bucko?” you write of the Great Ozbama’s ability to “win” control of all here….
    Well, for one, he’s got the drones now. Agencies in his admin. have 1.6 billion you-know-whats and enough tanks to bring-a-war here, or make-a-war against, who? They’ve got the smart grid to remote control everyone’s energy. And now fed. agencies will all have access to everyone’;s finanacial accounts. And they have permission to killAmericanswithdrones on our own soil if the term terrorist is attached to a person’s name. Or suspected. (but they promised they wouldn’t do it over lunch at an outdoors cafe. I think.)
    These little things add up. But you are right. The American people are what we’ve got. No matter what happens. The heart, mind and soul of the freedom-loving, generous, tough everyday folks are what we have got. And maybe it’s enough…

    1. There is one small thing — most of this stuff they have is smoke and mirrors. Like you know, knowing everything about everyone. They’re not THAT smart. Even if they collect all this data, they can’t figure it out. How do I know? Organizing for America would not leave me alone, and my politics are NOT a secret.
      Also, too much data leads to nothing useable. Watch the movie The Lives of Others, if you don’t believe me.
      As for the smart grid, etc… all of this has controls at local level and they don’t have NEARLY a majority of the people. They certainly don’t have the army. They push too hard too fast (they will. They’re in a panic) and they’re gonna lose.

      1. Hmm… collecting large amounts of data and the ability to do anything with it. Sounds like a job for a Kim du Toit piece to me.

      2. Additional point:
        What your information says is 100% accurate isn’t always all that accurate, even if it’s been used for years. My husband was nearly electrocuted because they had an inspection where he had to demonstrate proper procedure for turning off a machine built into the wall, do all the safety points and then perform regular maintenance… the diagrams were wrong. It was over a decade since anything had been changed in that, but “somehow” he was the “first one” to find that the diagram was dangerously wrong, and the only reason it wasn’t fatal was that he’s the kind of guy who looks both ways on a one way street.

        Now, consider that a much less rigorous collection process is going on looking for probabilities, and… yeah. There’s a reason I keep getting spam aimed at “dating” services for young, black, homosexual men. (seriously)

  15. I wish I could remember the reference, but several years ago I saw an article stating that the overall literacy rate in the state of Maryland had dropped by several (double digits) with the introduction of public schools.

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