Present Imperfect

When I was 14 or 15 and attending a magnet all-girls (sort of.  It was made co-ed in my year, but only two boys enrolled.  Same with the boys school across the street.  I understand they’re now both fully co-ed, but such things take time) high school, one of the boys in the all-boy school across the street committed suicide.

He left a note explaining that he was doing so because of the wars in the world, and racism and pollution and economic injustice.

I’ve now lived forty[Math before coffee is hard and also I can’t type.] thirty five years (give or take) longer than he did, (he was in my grade at the time) and the skeptic in me thinks “well, yes, but there must have been other reasons.  No healthy young man with no personal problems would kill himself for these vague ideas.”

And it’s probably right on the “healthy” and perhaps on the “no personal problems.” But at the time the letter he left seemed profound to me, and to most of the young people around me, too.

We passed it around from hand to hand like some sort of gospel, some revelation.  I can no longer remember it but I know that co-mingled with the complaints there was this great and bitter disappointment that men weren’t like onto angels, all perfect and caring nothing for themselves and only for others.

And if you’re saying “And yet, he hurt his parents horribly, didn’t he?”  Yes, of course.

But he probably thought they wouldn’t care, or if they did they would feel he was justified.  There is a good chance that his impression of how bad the world was had come from them talking about how horrible and depressing things were, after all.

I remember being young well enough to remember the wild emotions that come with it, and when people have a depressive disposition – and I suppose some number of the population always will naturally, regardless of how much they try to classify it as a disease and medicate it away – and are fed a constant diet of doom, gloom, everything is failing soon, the young, innocent and impressionable will buy into it.

They’re driven towards it by twin forces: first when you’re very young in our current western civilization happiness or at least joy comes naturally.  You really don’t know of any problems yet, and the world is a great untried adventure.  This is mingled with the fact that we no longer tell our kids scary or moral stories as little ones.  Instead we suffuse them in a disneyfied pink fluff version of reality, with picture books of happy dancing animals and fluffy bunnies (no, this wasn’t always like that) until they think this is the normal state of humanity.  Then when they become teenagers they become aware of troubles and disturbances in the world, and, being completely shocked by this, decide that that happy-fluff is the mark of childhood.  To be grown up and important, they MUST be serious and depressed.  (Rolls eyes.)

The other force is that our society even as it removed from childhood all strife, all work – children as young as three and four used to help in farms and households until very recently, in generational terms.  Heck, I was being guilted for being “lazy” by five (actually I just got bored and wondered off.  But I was constantly told that all the other little girls washed the family dishes and did other light work.  I know a lot of them did) – and all suspicion of suffering, death and darkness – let us not forget that childhood was the most common time of death throughout most of human history – including from the stories we tell kids – the modern (Disney) versions of Cinderella, Snow White and PARTICULARLY The Little Mermaid are abominations – we piled it all on adolescence.  The kid hits twelve or thirteen and, having been cajoled along to think the entire world is dancing animals and butterflies, suddenly finds himself forcefed doom, gloom, it’s all ending soon, from the school curriculum dictated by unshriven environmentalists, to the reading list driven by people who think kids need to read about death, suicide, incest, rape, and sexual torture to be “tolerant.”  (Tolerant of what is never immediately obvious.)

Is it any wonder the conjunction short circuits brains into believing they’re living in end times and that no one has ever been as unlucky as themselves?

I was lucky to be born closer-to-the-bone.  We were never in danger of starving, but given the state of health care at that time, in that place, death was always a possibility.  Also, I knew people who were in real, dire financial need, and people who had had horrible things happen to them.  And most people in the village had lost at least one child to some childhood disease.

This gave me a gage for “misfortune” that put my own into perspective.

And yet, even I, as I went to high school bought into the prophets of doom.  After all, all potable water would be gone by the eighties, and gasoline too, and we’d be so overpopulated we’d need the neighbor’s permission to draw a deep breath.

I was aware I had it good, but I always expected the world to go into hell and dissolution in my life time. Which is why that poor kid’s suicide note seemed so profound.

These are  twin currents in humanity, of course.  The people who think everything is getting worse have always been there, as have those who think that tomorrow the great disruption comes and we all die screaming.  The idea is particularly popular among Odds and other misfits who imagine they’d do better in a society in turmoil.  (I think our type of Odd largely knows we won’t, but those who’ve bought into the communitarian nature of man and into competitiveness and greed as unique capitalist sins without which men would be like angels imagine they will.  Shed a tear for them.  They’re usually the first against the execution walls their paradises always call forth.)

Then the other current is the one that affirms that yes, human life is worth living that, yes, flawed and all humanity is still admirable, that when the falling angel meets the rising ape something wonderful happens that neither ape nor angel could achieve – that in fact we live (as humans) at the uncomfortable point of knowing the ideal but being unable to achieve it, but this is a glory and a joy.  Not a bug, but a feature.  It gives us the drive – perhaps the need – to strive ever onwards.

The problem right now and the reason sometimes we seem to be a civilization of over-dramatizing kids, is that we have no sense of proportion.  We don’t know what true misery or true misfortune is.

Look, I’m not putting down those of you who have suffered personal losses – family members, your own health, sometimes most of your livelihood, particularly in this rotten economy – but still most of us are so far above the run of most of human history.  Most of us reading this (unless you’re in a far flung country) aren’t at danger of starving this week, or of having our home broken into by pillaging armed men, or of seeing all our children killed before their eyes.  Yes, I know that’s not off the books, any of that, but it’s also not in our experience, and it’s not in eminent danger of occurring right now.

Even looking as recently as world war I – I try to imagine what it must have felt like to live in a country that had lost that many young men, to be one of the families who had lost all their children – and the mind recoils from it.  It would seem like it would make people collapse and give up.  And yet, people went on living.  It was the young and the untried who went a little crazy after WWI resulting in the current culture of self-flagellation in western civ.  They went a little crazy not because what they’d seen and what had happened to them was so horrible, but because their life had been so soft up till then. Soft by comparison with historic norms, of course – and yet, much harder than the lives of kids today.  Today kids lack all purposeful comparison.

Think about it, the OWSers who for a while infested at least one street corner in a moderately large city, thought of themselves as hard-done-by not because they were starving – those who weren’t hired to be there, often had top of the line electronics – not because their friends had been killed, not because they faced the prospect of invasion by roving armies… No, because they can’t find a job commensurate with their education.  Because if they go out on their own they’ll have to take a step back in lifestyle and not live at the same level they do with their kids.  Not because they want work, any work, but because they can’t get the work they want.  (And right now, I’m not putting down the plight of the millenials.  I’m mother to two of them.  They are saddled with enormous debt – even those like mine who chose not to pile it on with student debt will have to pay for the national folly – and entering an economy that rejects them and assumes they’re stupid and spoiled.  Some are bracing and know that what comes is much worse.  And some are gritting their teeth and preparing to do what they have to do to restore the economy, knowing they’ll probably labor at it for the rest of their lives and might not see any results — BUT the subdivision of them that joined the OWSers were by far the most privileged, and yet utterly unaware of their condition and thinking themselves hard done by.)

When you’ve never suffered anything more serious than a hangnail, unrequited love will kill you.  Note that all our romantic stories of lover suicides involve noblemen (or more often noblewomen) people who were sheltered and pampered, not your common yeoman farmer.

We joke about commercials talking about the “Heartbreak of psoriasis” but lost in that is the very real fact that compared to us most of humanity was diseased and verminous, that by their twenties most people had accumulated injuries and health-problems that made their life painful by our standards.

I remember for instance how shocked the people examining the skull of the last Russian Tzar were to find that he lived with constant, festering teeth problems.  Even that, what we’d consider a minor thing, to them was a chronic condition.  The lack of antibiotics made teeth drawing serious and often fatal.

This is where we get again into “the time might come again.”  It might.  It’s possible all our antibiotics will lose efficacy.  We’re almost for sure going to go through a rough period there — but it won’t be as bad as advertised, either.  There is the fact that we do know about disinfection, and the fact we have materials in testing that will by themselves remain anti-sceptic.  Then there is great hope in the realm of bacterias that eat other bacteria, and other tech to combat viri.

And this is the important thing.  That poor young man who committed suicide because everything was getting worse and the world wasn’t wonderful and men weren’t perfect, missed the fact that we are getting more so all the time.

And the people who think that we must rain doom and gloom on adolescent heads to make them “serious” are caught in a form of adolescent self-aggrandizing where they want to show off how special they are, because they know about suffering… without realizing that the people who had indeed suffered didn’t by and large dwell on it, but prized cheerfulness and resilience. (It might not be a bad idea to prepare your children by making them acquainted with the darker versions of fairytales and children’s stories.  Lose Doctor Seuss, whose message I always found suspect, and substitute some of the older stuff with flesh and blood to it.  You could do worse than starting by reading them The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Pratchett. My kids also liked Bradbury, which will do.  Then when they encounter the sob-sisters of middle school they’ll shrug and go “yeah, and?”)

But most of all, strive to keep perspective within yourself.

Yes, we might go through some hard times.  In many ways this country is doing its best to ensure we’ll go through hard time.  The piper must, of course, be paid.  That’s the rule, and it hasn’t been revoked.

BUT we’re not going to lose all our tech.  We can slow its level of improvement is about it.  And while we have tech, we’re not going to starve to death.  Some of us might have to tighten our belts and of course I recommend laying by supplies for any disruptions.

Our world is not going to become a dystopian television show, which a self-important fantasy of unspanked babies who’ve never met adversity.

Things might become unpleasant for a little while, maybe for the rest of our lives for those of us crowding the mid century.

But after that?  Oh, come on.  I don’t know if Heinlein ever said this, though I’ve heard it attributed to him, but it is true and sounds like something he would say: the glass is not half full.  The glass is full and running over.

Our cup runneth over.  Which is what makes us acutely aware of all those spilled drops.

Keep perspective.  Humanity’s future is bright, even if we get stuck in one of those occasional ruts. And even if we do, stop groaning on how it sucks to be us.  Would you rather have lived through the black plague or the Spanish Influenza epidemic, or even been subjected to one of those wars too small to make it to history books, where a feudal Lord raided the other every summer and reduced the peasant’s harvests to nothing, guaranteeing famine in the coming winter?

No?  Me neither.

“Doom, gloom, the end is coming soon” notwithstanding, we live in a world of marvels and in extraordinary comfort.  And disgusting backsliding periods notwithstanding, humanity has moved towards greater comfort and individual freedom.

If there is a “tide” of future “progress” it doesn’t belong to those aficionados of state power and peasantification (totally a word, shut of) of the masses who call themselves “progressives” – it belongs to us, who want the state to largely live us alone to live our lives.  It belongs to us willing to roll up our sleeves and do the best we can every day, without moaning we’re not perfect and that no one is polishing the silver spoon that should have been in our mouths at birth.

The future belongs to the strivers, those who work towards it, those who don’t lose heart.

Be not afraid.  In the end we win, they lose.

Now, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

151 responses to “Present Imperfect

  1. One of the things my kids wanted when we were discussing the books I was giving them for Christmas were the unabridged versions of the Grimm Fairy Tales. Not, as one of them pointed out, the Disney versions. Coming from an 11yo and 13 yo girl (the 15 yo wanted Le Mis…) this was interesting. Kids know when they are fed twaddle and watered-down pap. I’m delighted that they are wanting to read the classics, not just the books in their school libraries, and I’m hoping that it will give them a glimpse of what-was, to compare to what-is.

    • Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books give you a good selection about the world.

      (And you get people pontificating nowadays about how fairy tales have the heroine helpless and to be rescued. The Victorians loved tales where she wandered the world to get to her husband and rescued him.)

      Also this gives a good selection of public domain collections

      • Yes, I put several of the Lang Fairy Tales in their kindle library – they each received a basic, used, cheap! LOL ereader – and they share a library which is approaching 200 titles without me spending much. I would have killed for a library like that at their age, so I wasn’t sure how they would react, and was overjoyed when they loved it.

  2. Thank you for writing this post. I sometimes worry about how bad things might get. After reading this I feel that things might be no worse than during the Great Depression, which my father lived through and told me about.

  3. I was raised on “The Population Bomb” and “Silent Spring”. My childhood was marked by dire prophecies and a Pagan form of original sin–unlike Christian original sin, which can be cleansed by the sacrifice of God, Pagan original sin requires human sacrifice without end, the Wicker Man must be built and victims chosen every year.

    Every human achievement must be paid for in blood, Have we conquered the heavens? Then Lockheed and Chance Vought are evil and must be punished. Created a cure for malaria? Not permitted, the fiction of bird’s eggshells being weakened takes precedence over the reality of human death. Tamed the fire of the sun and harnessed lightning? This must not be, better that we freeze to death than accept the gifts of Prometheus.

    When did loyalty to ones own species become a crime? The proper word for a human being who lives in harmony with the natural world is “prey”. We cannot live without changing the environment and those who believe otherwise have never seen the world in its natural state. Only by continual and rational labor does the human race avoid extinction.

    I support the survival of the human race against the entire cosmos, if necessary. If this makes me evil then I don the mantel of Lucifer without apology.

    • I remember The Population Bomb quite well. A horrible work, that, and Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! is not much better, although at least we got the immortally meme-encrusted phrase “Solent green” from it.

      I went through my teenage years believing that the apocalypse was imminent, consequently unable to enjoy much of anything. I distinctly remember the timbre of the apocalypse being exactly as you describe: retributive for the sins of humanity against some imagined Lorax-nature. It took me quite a while to realize that civilization is an *improvement* on nature, if for no other reason, then because it doesn’t involve eating each other alive.

      I’m very fortunate that the apocalyptic funk didn’t quite manage to pull me all the way under, and that I eventually discovered hope.

      • Remember acid rain? Well, as far as I know that is actually a real problem, or was, but not exactly the doomsday scenario it was build into back in the 70’s. I remember worrying that there might be no trees or living lakes left when I was an adult, and you could not go outside when it rains. I think I even had a few actual nightmares about that when I was twelve or so.

        Every time there is some sort of problem which affects, or may affect, our environment (or the wild parts of it, anyway) the environmental movement goes into hysterics and it’s immediate end of the world unless really drastic measures are taken RIGHT NOW! And that, in the long run, may do way more harm. They keep crying wolf when there is nothing, or there may be a mouse. What if the wolf actually comes one day?

        • Martin L. Shoemaker

          And somehow, no matter how different the crisis, the drastic measures are always the same: “You peasants stop breeding so much and consuming so much, and do what we elite tell you to do.”

        • And the worse of the acid rain in Europe came from behind the Iron Curtain, not the west. North America was a little different, but between stopping the use of soft coal and putting scrubbers in smoke stacks, hey presto, problem neutralized. Mine tailings and chat piles are a different story, at the moment, but if someone would come up with a way to encourage commercial mitigation of the problem, I suspect that would get solved in some way, too.

          • Heh. We also have this fierce resistance against new nuclear power plants (but at least we are still occasionally building them in this country) here, while at the same time Finland buys electricity generated by the old Chernobyl type plants right on the other side of the border. One might think it would make more sense to get a few more of the new, way safer plant types here, and maybe then even start selling electricity instead of buying, and who knows, perhaps one or two of those older plants over there might even finally get closed… well, one can dream.

            • I would like to point out that after Chernobyl the RBMK-1000 plants were redesigned to be much safer. I believe they’re all in proper containment buildings, and the control rods have had their aluminum leaders removed (“Boris! Boris! I have a great idea! Let’s have the control rods that shut down the reactor cause power to increase for the first few milliseconds of rod movement!” “That’s BRILLIANT!”). I think they’ve even managed to give them a proper negative temperature coefficient.

              And nobody has to ask the question “What happens when you cut power to the pumps on an RBMK-1000?”

              • My main point was mostly trying to be about how illogical this behavior is. Building new, safer and more efficient versions of power plants of any of the old, proven types, nuclear, coal, whatever, can be somewhere between hard and impossible, which of course means the older plants are kept working way longer than the original plans for them were since we need to get that power from somewhere. Of course the people who oppose the new plants are hoping that this will force the development of new, ‘environmentally safe’ power plants and then get rid of all the old ones, but that seems to be not happening. 🙂 So the older ones are kept going, and kept going, and kept going, even if they can’t possibly be made to be as, well, either environmentally friendly or safe as completely new plants could be. And then if something happens, yay! One more chance to start demonstrating against all these horrible ways to generate power.

                • “And then if something happens, yay! One more chance to start demonstrating against all these horrible ways to generate power.”

                  Yep, many of them don’t really want us to generate power, period. They can’t come right out and say that they believe most of us peons should go back to living in mud and dung huts, and leave the niceties of such things as table saws and electric lights (and of course blenders to properly mix your margarita) to our betters. So they advocate ‘environmentally friendly’ power generation such as wind and solar. Of course these don’t work, which is the whole point. This is amply proven by their rabid hatred for hydroelectric power generation, which not only works but is MUCH more ‘environmentally friendly’ than the so called green power of wind and solar.

                  • There are those people. Then there seems also to be lots of these useful idiots who have swallowed the propaganda since it seems to be the consensus and it does sound plausible enough when they read about it in their daily paper, and never bother to look past that, but might actually change their minds if they did.

                • Hence my repeated refrain: If they were smart they wouldn’t be liberals.

            • I seem to recall that P. J. O’Rourke wrote that there was a hydroelectric damn just up the valley from the Chernobyl plant. Made of Soviet concrete, it was visibly crumbling, and would obviously kill hundreds of times more people than Chernobyl did when it let go. I believe he called it the “Super-Soaker of Damocles”.

    • “better that we freeze to death than accept the gifts of Prometheus”

      Given the price paid by Prometheus, this seems like the ultimate expression of ingratitude.

    • Prometheus suffered eternal punishment for that gift from those who would have kept humanity simplistic and childlike, yet so many want to deny the gift and eat the lotos.

    • Two of the most evil, most wrong books ever written. What I still find amazing after reading them, as much as I could stomach was how empty they were. Neither book actually had any evidence that the horrible things in them had actually happened or any citations to actual studies demonstrating what they said. Yet they were influential in creating much of the mess we are in and Ehrlich at least still has friends in high places.

    • Rachel Carson’s horse manure probably has resulted in tens of millions of unnecessary deaths.

      The lying SOB Andrew Wakefield and his obscene fraud will have to work hard to catch up … but he and his cultists are working hard.

      • Rachel Carson and all of her disciples are at least as worthy of being put on trial for genocide and hung as anyone who was put into the dock at Nuremberg.

    • ” The proper word for a human being who lives in harmony with the natural world is “prey”.”

      This is why I’m working to bring back the saber-tooth: I want evolution to be a working proposition again! 😎

      Semi-seriously: It used to be that idjits went out and got eaten by saber-tooths, or dropped off cliffs, or froze to death in winter when they hadn’t prepared for it, and got edited from the gene pool. We’ve lost that, and desperately need to regain it.

  4. Heinlein was by education and, I’m morally certain, aptitude a consumate engineer. As such he was fully aware that absent hard vacuum the cup is always full.
    Sorry, old joke I know, but I could not resist.
    I was a child at the very tail end of the polio era. I still remember our entire town lining up to receive the Sabin oral sugar cubes, even after getting the Salk shots the year before. I also still have a very faint diamond shaped scar from my smallpox vaccination. Those required multiple piercings so many doctors gave vent to their artistic natures and did patterns or geometric shapes.
    Back in the day smallpox happened to world travelers, at least in our small community, but every mother lived in fear of polio. You could almost sense the relief when that burden was lifted.

    • When I was a teenager, I remember my younger siblings getting their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines. I commented to my mom that I’d never had any of the those illness nor had I ever seen any siblings or friends suffer from them. My mom said that she’d had all those illness and rheumatic fever as well. It was an eye opening conversation.

      • I have a number of anti-vaxx types in my FB friendslist (for other reasons, of course—anti-vaxx rhetoric drives me BONKERS), so I make a point of posting scientific debunkings of anti-vaxx claims. Of course, the anti-vaxx movement doesn’t rely on science, so that may not be doing much good… but I did post an article from a woman who was raised without vaccines, and who writes very eloquently *why* she uses vaccines. I think most of the people freaking out about vaccines are living more than one generation away from people who actually got these diseases, because I can tell you, you hear about firsthand accounts and a shot doesn’t seem like a big problem anymore.

        Mismanaged risk assessment. Oy. I know people MY AGE who got pertussis—”oh, then vaccines don’t work,” these idiots claim, and all the talk of percentage success and what herd immunity really means goes right over their heads. My asthmatic husband’s breathing was NOT helped by people who chose not to vaccinate, exposing him when his own vaccination didn’t take… stupid, selfish gits.

        As my husband says, “Why do we vaccinate? Ever toured an iron lung ward? No? YOU’RE WELCOME.”

        • Oh, I’m not anti vaccination at all. I’ve had all my shots.

        • I got pertussis as an adult (from a 6-yo brat). It was very un-fun, but not fatal because 1) I am an adult and 2) I was in otherwise good health aside from cracked ribs (accident). If I’d infected a younger, un-vaccinated child it could have been fatal. And let’s see, it was 2009 IIRC that mumps swept through several college campi because of the un-vaccinated. And polio showed up in MN two summers ago in a local outbreak because someone brought it back from the Third World. Yeah, those little invisible things are still trying to kill us! Do some states and physicians get a little happy with loading people up with a few too many shots at a young age? Probably. Do some people have reactions? Yup. Is the disease worse than the cure? Oh helk yeah.

          • I spent something like six weeks out of fifth grade with a serial whammy of intestinal flu – measles – chicken pox, missing the local mumpsathon that year (1961), just ahead of the introduction of MMR/P vaccines. I’m glad for Salk and later Sabin vaccines, given that I had classmates in elementary and high school who had gotten off relatively easily from cases of polio; they weren’t in an iron-lung ward. I did end up somehow with mumps in college @ 1971, which was no picnic, although they did let my girlfriend (now wife) visit me in my dorm room, since she’d had it as a child.

            Except for chicken pox, none of our kids caught any of the normally vaccinated for maladies, for which they’re all quite satisfied.

            We had all heard the stories of an older friend of ours who was a young girl in Arizona during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1919. She lost her older brother and several cousins to that virus. We’ve no interest in suffering through avoidable trials of that sort.

      • I’m old enough that I has rubella and only missed mumps by happenstance. Then we were lined up at the neighborhood school for mass vax-ing in the 60’s. My mom’s “best” cautionary tales (she grew up on a dirt farm without indoor plumbing) are about the whooping cough going through her family. Scary stuff. Her brother had polio, but was the only one in the family. But whooping cough just about wiped them out. Firmly indoctrinating stuff … pro-vax.

        • I have not been vaccinated for mumps, but I had it in my early teens. Very mild version. No idea if I’m resistant now. I also had chicken pox as a child, and then got it a second time in the middle of last decade after I visited my younger godson’s family when he had it, so I’m a bit worried about mumps.

          My mother got tuberculosis during the war, just before they started to treat it with antibiotics (she got off easy, though) which kind of made me curious about the ways to treat that in the old days, and that seems to not have been something one would like to experience. Since the resistant form is not uncommon across the border, and Finland can get quite a few Russian tourists at times that is also something I occasionally worry about.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Chicken Pox is a strange thing – it appears to me (no scientific study, though) that it has, by far, the highest number of cases of people contracting it multiple times, or contracting it in spite of having been vaccinated. Mumps, AFAIK, are not so likely to recur.

            • The chicken pox vaccine is relatively new (and not extremely necessary, IMHO) and from what I have heard not nearly as reliable as most vaccines. I had chicken pox as a kid, as did everybody else my age that I knew, no big deal. Most kids find it kind of a treat, they get to stay home from school for a week or two, just my luck I got it over summer break. I had shingles a couple years ago though (and according to the doctor I went to, though they have a shingles vaccine she didn’t recommend it, according to her between the low contagion factor of shingles, the unreliability of the vaccine, and the number of people that actually contract shingles due to the vaccine, you were better off to not have it) that is something I recommend everybody avoid getting if at all possible. It is rather painful, in the entire time I have lived in this house, up until then (7-8 years) I had never stocked it with painkillers, because I simply don’t take them. When I got shingles I went through over 200 ibuprofen in a week.

          • My mom had a positive TB test a few years ago. She was shocked at my lack of concern. I had to explain to her that a positive tine test was not an indication of having TB. She was remembering her own youth and the horrors of the disease.

            • I had a positive TB test forever — because of having had TB — then I had viral pneumonia and stopped testing positive. G-d knows why.

              • My brother tested positive for TB when he was a little boy. They gave him X-rays and everything, and he had to go back for X-rays every year (this was back before they down-powered the X-ray machines), until he turned 17, when his doctor looked at his X-Ray and told him that he had never had TB because he had no scar tissue on his lungs. He was happy to hear that, but wasn’t happy that he had had to have all those X-Rays before someone figured it out.

                • I had scar tissue. Masses. Until I had viral pneumonia and almost died. Then the scar tissue SLOWLY disappeared. We’re still trying to understand that one. I read of a study where people had the same thing happen, but I can never track it down again.

                  • My lungs were so scarred as a kid that the doctor told my mom that I would probably never be able to run or play like a normal kid. Obviously he had not seen me outside the doctors office, because it never affected me noticeably.

    • mikeweatherford

      Like Uncle Lar, I grew up on the tail end of the polio era. I was in 2nd Grade when the first polio shots became available, and my parents signed me up. One of my classmates wasn’t lucky enough to live long enough to get the shots: he developed polio when he was three. He wore a heavy metal brace on his right leg all through school, and beyond. He died two years ago — his life cut short by the disease.

      I had smallpox when I was 13 months old. My mother was sure I was going to die, but the truth was, I had a mild case and recovered fully (I’ve had multiple smallpox vaccinations that have never taken, but the military never did learn.). I also had all the “normal” childhood diseases of my time period: whooping cough, chicken pox, mumps, measles (three or four different kinds), etc. I lost two schoolmates — one to drowning, and one to snakebite. Both of those happened in elementary school, and I can’t even remember their names now. We didn’t lose anyone else until ten years after graduation.

      My dad supported my grandmother, and helped support my grandfather before he died. My dad’s dad had broken his back three times: once while logging, once when a plow horse ran away with him, and once when their house was destroyed by a tornado. The tornado also cost my dad a brother and a sister — the only two of Grandma’s eleven children to not grow to maturity. I was 18 months old when that happened. Dad was working in Torrance, California (where I was born), but immediately came back to Louisiana to help out. Dad’s youngest two sisters were born in 1938 and 1940, respectively — I was born in 1946. Made going to school (we all went to the same school from beginning to graduation) “interesting” — especially since at one time I had two aunts and eleven cousins in the same school at the same time.

      My daughter pestered me to buy her the complete works of Hans Christian Anderson when she was about thirteen. I warned her that the stories were NOT like the movies. She read them all, and agreed with me that the stories were ‘different’. She said she still liked the written stories better.

  5. “we live (as humans) at the uncomfortable point of knowing the ideal but being unable to achieve it, but this is a glory and a joy. Not a bug, but a feature. It gives us the drive – perhaps the need – to strive ever onwards.”
    There’s a passage in Robert Silverberg’s book “Across a Billion Years” where the group of archaeologists have found their way to the homeworld of a billion-year-old civilization. Their robot guide declared its masters had achieved perfection and stopped. “Your kind,” it declared, “would not recognize perfection, and would attempt to improve upon it.” (Not an exact quote — I read it in high school and don’t have a copy at hand to refer to.)
    Given what passed for “perfection” — the last surviving member of the race essentially brain dead and maintained on machines — I think our kind would be entirely correct in its attempts.

  6. I suppose it’s reasonable for societies to lack objectivity, useful even. Believing in what’s beyond the hill and striving for it might require a bit of subjective understanding of our ‘dire plight’ in the social conscience.

    It’s still incredibly frustrating. Leaving aside the historical record, we have contemporary examples of how it could be so. much. worse.

    Despite what I said about dire plight above, I really wish people would grab a bottle of perspective and chug it. Not so we can sit around in our superior position and blather about ‘first world problems’ (I really hate the shaming practice in that asinine mantra). But so we can get an idea of where humanity’s been, and where it’s going, and know that our individual works are moving us forward! A little backsliding here and there, sure, but the march of progress is not a retrograde movement.

    I dunno, the miracle of the society we live in (and despite it’s dark tones, the miracle of the world we live in) catches me at odd moments and fills me with joy. And then the occasional Hopeless Harrys bum me out.

    • All humans enter this world devoid of perspective. Once upon a time we had a reasonably effective treatment for that lack (there is no cure.) It was known as education. Sadly, we have now abandoned education as an ameliorative for lacking perspective, turning instead to indoctrination, a therapy which over-corrects for lack of perspective, exacerbating the condition in the opposite direction.

      • From C.S. Lewis – Learning in Wartime

        Most of all, perhaps we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village: the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune form the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

        Would that this were actually true today. I’ve just finished reading Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning“, and I’m feeling more than a little inadequate in my own education.

        • I have had in mind a different C.S. Lewis essay, one about the virtues of reading old books, which makes pretty much that same point. I now no longer feel quite so compelled to search it out, so thanks for that.)

          One attribute of contemporary Progressives is the degree of provincialism (under a veneer of sophistication) they so often express. This was tolerable when they stayed in their enclaves, but as they have despoiled their own environments they have dispersed to other sections of the nation where they have advocated the same policies which made their prior residential areas uninhabitable.

          • Oh, for a lefty-proof fence. (Might be more important and more efficacious than one on the Southern border).

            • In fairness it ought be acknowledged that Lefties were right in denouncing the South’s “Peculiar Institution” of racial discrimination* both in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

              That recognized, right once does not mean right always, and … Velikovsky … stopped clocks … blind pigs … so on and so forth.

              *”Discrimination” being an appallingly mild term for that institution’s [ermutations.

              • Permutations, not [ermutations, dangit.

              • Christopher M. Chupik

                To be fair, the Left *sometimes* identifies the problem correctly. It’s their solutions that leave much to be desired.

              • “In fairness it ought be acknowledged that Lefties were right in denouncing the South’s “Peculiar Institution” of racial discrimination* both in the 19th and 20th Centuries.”

                When they were doing it. The reason why segregation came in in the 1920s was because from the Reconstruction onward, the feds would slap down the Jim Crow laws, but when the great Progressive Woodrow Wilson came to the presidency, the Southern states, rejoicing, implemented the laws secure in the knowledge that Wilson would be segregating the federal workforce, not going after them.

                And it was not for nothing that the NRA was known as the “Negro Run-Around”, “Negro Removal Act,” and “Negroes robbed again.” It was openly admitted on the floor of Congress that the pro-union laws were to keep blacks out of jobs.

                As for the 19th century, were they really Lefties in that time? What do they have in common with the modern-day varieties that makes applying the term retroactively correct?

                • I should have written more clearly:
                  Mid-20th Century Lefties were right in denouncing the South’s “Peculiar Institution” of racial discrimination in both its 19th and 20th Century forms, Slavery & Jim Crow.

                  Their role in implementing and maintaining both forms is irrelevant (to them) and what counts (in their version of History) is that they swiped asserted the moral authority of ending the invidious practice of discrimination as soon as it was politically practical. Their passage of Civil Rights legislation (with a greater percentage of Republican than Democrat support and which they had previously opposed and blocked through the filibuster) is irrefutable (if you try to introduce actual facts it is proof of your racism) proof of their rectitude.

                  Besides, all those yokels were an unfashionable embarrassment to the party’s sophisticated supporters and, except for the discrimination issue, were more inclined to agree with Republicans on issues like national defense, fiscal sanity policy and opposition to the country being run by the nation’s “best & brightest.”

                  Special lack of notice should be accorded the NRA (National Rifle Association) for its role in providing weapons and training to Southern Civil Rights activists. Without such assistance it is doubtful Southern racists would have ceased their peculiar entertainment of driving by the homes of such activists and playfully discharging their weapons into those houses.

                  Certainly the 19th Century Democrats shared with their Progressive inheritors the idea that they were best suited to divvy up the national pie. As once adultery was a sin for women but not for men, so now is hypocrisy a sin of Republicans but not of Democrats.

          • Californication.

            • We here in NC have our own version of that problem. Cary, the bedroom community serving the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill/Research Triangle area is rumoured to be an acronym of Corral Area for Relocated Yankees.

              • We refer to Austin as “Berkeley on the Brazos” for good reason….

                • “Keep Austin Weird” so the weird doesn’t seep out too much farther and afflict, ‘scuze me, affect the rest of the Hill Country.

                • I’ve been assured by online friends and acquaintances that the real Berkeley is actually *much* weirder than Austin. One more reason to be glad my mom moved us to Oklahoma before I could form more than two solid memories of my birth state:-).

  7. Ahem… Sarah, I think you have unintentionally and unfairly aged yourself. If he was 14 or 15, and you have lived 45 years longer than he did, you are 59 or 60. I know that’s not correct.

  8. The condition of the WORLD versus the condition of the United States is an interesting dichotomy. Things have been improving at the extreme low end for a little bit now, mainly because of dirty capitalist things like sweatshops providing jobs to those on the bottom. Oddly enough, and to the surprise of all and sundry, the best way to help someone is to provide them with the means of helping themselves. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all needed help with SOMETHING in the past, but apparentlyn foreign aid works best in the SHORT term as help to get things started/clean up after a disaster.

    Of course, life in the US is not what it used to be. There are many reasons for this, one of which is third world sweatshops. When the poor people of Bangladesh do a job for ten cents an hour (or whatever) that some American used to do for twenty-five dollars an hour (or whatever) the Bangladeshi gets the job. Some people don’t seem to get the reason for that, but I took a math class once and learned what the symbols mean.

    This is where things get complicated. Many Americans seem to think that taking the jobs away from the Bangladeshis (Feel free to insert another poor nation of your choice here if you’re tired of me picking on them.) and giving them to someone in the US without ever thinking of whether anyone here could afford (insert product here) if it was made with labor that cost twenty-five dollars an hour. I’m guessing the answer to that is no.

    The only way for things to work out in the long term (speaking from a first-world point of view) is for the Bangladeshis of the world to demand better wages. I’m guessing that this will happen, but I’m also guessing it won’t be soon. Things took a long time to correct themselves in the first-world and there is no reason to expect that they’ll go faster in the third-world. For a person that has known starvation, just being able to afford a meal every day looks good. You can’t expect them to demand filet-mignon right out of the gate. Currency exchanges are also a problem from the buyer side.

    Think about it this way: When you hear about someone in Mexico making $1.30 an hour, as famously shown in some damn Michael Moore movie, you’re not talking about what that person can buy with their hourly wage. You’re talking about however many pesos equals $1.30. That same sweatshop employee, if he buys things purchased locally or in other countries that have low-value (as compared to the US Dollar) currency, he may be able to feed his family on one or two hours of work. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot but to a guy who was starving and sick a year or two it is.

    Right now, we’re in a transition period and life is going to suck for awhile. The picture of the US as a decadent democracy may not be all that exaggerated. I hate to say it, but the future doesn’t belong to us anymore. It belongs to the “developing nations” that actually ARE developing. They may not take our wealth from us but, given time, they WILL build their own. That’s the value of a capitalist society and it’s what they’re embracing. Many Americans are working to kill capitalism. We’re doing this to ourselves.

    • When comparing differential wage rates it is important to do two things:

      1) Normalize for standards of living and purchasing power

      2) Make sure you do not simply compare hourly wages without factoring for productivity. In many industries the American (or Japanese or German) hourly wage — when adjusted for productivity output — is actually a lower cost to manufacturers. Too many factors affect this calculation (capital costs, management costs, quality of product) to discuss here, but there are reasons manufacturing is returning to the First World nations.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      I understand that India has already had to improve their wages enough for things like their call centers that they have started losing some of their business to other countries who have not yet had to raise their wages.

      • I would imagine that has more to do with the absolutely HORRENDOUS first call resolution rates at outsourced call centers than it does anything else. If your call center services cost Acme Software half as much as a center in the States would, but it averages 3 calls to fix an issue, you either pay more for competent workers (which drives up your price) or you lose the contract when Acme decides it can’t afford all it’s customers being pissed off whenever they have an issue.

    • “the bangladeshes of the world to stand up for themselves” … what do you mean by stand up, in ways that haven’t already happened, and are continuing to do so?

      Do you remember the phrase “japanese transistor radio”? If so, you’ll remember when Japan produced really cheap cr*p, for very little money, and still we howled about our good American jobs going over to people who were rebuilding a heavily-agricultural dirt-poor culture and shattered cities into a first-world economy.

      These days, “Japanese cars” and “Japanese electronics” are simultaneous with expensive and high-quality – on par with American-produced, or higher. So where are all the jobs making toys for the carnival games, and cheap dolls, mugs, stamped-tin decorative boxes, and so on? Ah, well, there’s India, but India has become so developed in the parts that the manufacturers moved to first that they’re demanding higher wages for higher quality, and they’re producing for local demand instead of solely for export, so the cheapest export manufacturers must colonize further out to compete. So now there’s China, and Bangladesh… and the money that floods in, at $1.30 an hour, brings with it improved ports for export, and roads, and electricity, and cell phones, and internet. It also bring medicines, and fertilizer that hasn’t come out of the back end of a human or water-ox with its parasites intact, and an end to endemic malnutrition for most folks, a sharp decline in childhood mortality, and an increasingly educated workforce that offers more skills, more services, and expects a higher standard of living.

      Yes, human beings are natural colonizers – and so is western culture, in its own way. You’re not going to see many marches and demonstrations for $25/hr wages when the alternative is watching the south end of a northbound water ox, and your kids dying in the next drought. You’re also not going to see the wages stay static for long, and you’ll see the standard of living rise unevenly, patchily, but generally headed upward all the time.

      • The only labor practice I condemn is slavery. If a company is offering “low” wages or “poor” working conditions, but isn’t rounding workers up or keeping them at work at gunpoint then whatever conditions offered must be better than the alternatives available to those workers. I’m not arrogant enough to claim to “help” them by eliminating options *I* find objectionable.

    • Another important factor to consider is opportunity costs. Back in the late Eighties / Early Nineties when Whassername (former original Charlies Angel? Regis co-host? Some things do not merit memory storage) was catching flack for having her branded apparel made in Latin-American sweatshops, the NY Times (yes, Virginia, the NYT once was a newspaper) had a front page (albeit below the fold) article explaining that a) Eucadorian sweatshops were much preferable to alternate forms of employment for those kids (complete with stats on farm-related injuries) and b) advanced education was a useless luxury in that society as few jobs required even High School level education, meaning that those kids wouldn’t have been in school if only those horrid factories were shut down.

      Even then the NYT’s biases were so pronounced that the appearance of such an article was seared, seared, into my memory, but the important points remained the opportunity cost of those sweatshops was far less than the alternatives for those kids.

  9. It’s all of a piece with the radical self-hatred I’ve been observing in the leadership classes in this country and others for all my life. I’ve really got no idea where the hell it comes from, either.

    I’m also unable to identify anywhere else in history where this destructive self-hatred and loss of confidence has any parallels. I’ve never seen anything like the maudlin self-hatred you hear so often from our academic classes anywhere in the writings I’ve been able to read from the Roman Empire, and no equivalents from the Chinese, either. Both cultures possessed an overweening self-confidence and assuredness that ours lacks, even into the eras when it was no longer justified on their count.

    Somehow, we’ve managed to institutionalize a modern, culture-wide equivalent of that old Roman tradition, where the triumphal leader had a slave whispering in his ear as he enjoyed his triumph that he was but mortal…

    I’d love to lay it off on some vast, left-over Soviet-era disinformation campaign waged by the KGB and COMINTERN, but the fact is that it’s too widespread and pervasive for that to be possible. It also goes back a lot further, back to the immediate post-WWI era, when all the intellectuals flocked to Paris, and decried the “bushwah Babbittry” of middle-class middle America. The Soviets may have had their campaigns of disinformation, but the fertile ground they sowed was already there. What, I wonder, is the true source of this vast, inchaote dissatisfaction and lack of confidence in our culture?

    • It is an aspect of the guilt that accompanies unearned wealth. The blessed Blessed of the First World are profoundly aware that they have not earned the comforts, privileges and benefits they enjoy. Rather than giving thanks or giving up their received wealth they use their prominence to denounce such emoluments in general while indulging in them in their specific instances.

      See: The Walrus and the Carpenter.

      “It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
      “To play them such a trick,
      After we’ve brought them out so far,
      And made them trot so quick!”
      The Carpenter said nothing but
      “The butter’s spread too thick!”

      “I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
      “I deeply sympathize.”
      With sobs and tears he sorted out
      Those of the largest size,
      Holding his pocket-handkerchief
      Before his streaming eyes.

    • It’s often radical hatred of your fellow countrymen hidden under the guise of self-hatred — by blaming “us” the person numbs his conscience to the viciousness of his slander.

    • I’ve recently heard it stated (and I think it’s almost spot on) that we are horribly arrogant, and at the same time also self-loathing.
      The lack of confidence in our culture – well, if you’re talking about the current culture, with all that implies, then lack of confidence is perhaps rightly justified. If we’re still talking about twerking in a hundred years, then heaven help us all.

      But the lack of confidence in our historical culture comes from people who hate…

      well, that’s interesting. You know how you sometimes don’t know what you think until you write it out, and then you discover what you think as you’re writing? The thing that feels right to say here is this: It comes from people who hate God and hate themselves. They hate God because they lack a correct understanding of Him, and they hate themselves because they are in the image of God.

      The problem with saying that is that at first glance it kind of throws atheists and people who don’t share my own (decidedly odd) ideas of theology sort of under the bus, and that’s not my intent. There are definitely good people who aren’t Christian, who aren’t religious, and who look at the whole exercise as a waste of time. I think the difference is that those people are not actively hostile to the idea of God, they simply either do not believe in one, or they believe differently about whatever God is. It’s that hostility to God, to tradition, to human beings that separates them.

      Hmmm… I’m going to have to think some more about this.

      But to bring it back around, I have a lot of confidence in those traditional principles – liberty, duty, personal responsibility, virtue, the need to work, the need to serve others, the pursuit of truth in all its forms, the recognition of something that is greater than yourself to which I shall be held accountable. (Insert obligatory Gods of the Copybook Headings reference HERE) Those things have stood the test of time in all kinds of different cultures, and I have every expectation that they will continue to do so. As will any culture that chooses to align itself with them.

      • One can be atheist without hating G-D — one has trouble imagining why an atheist would hate G-D — and those atheists who condemn G-D typically do so on the basis of what humans do in His Name, things they would be undoubtedly be doing if they had no belief in a deity. Hatred of G-D (and of religion) is probably a projection of self-hatred.

        Coincidentally (serendipitously?) I had just finished reading this Powerline post (Democrats: A Concise History) with this quote from a review of the History of the Democrat Party, the pertinence of which I leave to Readers to divine:

        Wilentz is correct in at least one respect: the Democracy was consistent in its commitment to some form of equality. The difficulty is that this notion of equality was an equality of restraint and suspicion, the conviction that no one deserves to have more than I do; and if they do have more, it can only be because of unjustifiable luck or illegitimate scheming. Despite Wilentz’s struggle to dissociate the racism of the “bad” Democrats from the shining virtues of his “good” Democrats, an idea of equality based on restraint means narrowing the field of those whom equality can afford to admit to its ranks—which is why Wilentz’s workingmen were so strangely indifferent to slavery. In a world of limited resources, lines had to be drawn defining who would be allowed to exploit those resources, and the racial line was a convenient one for white slaveholders and white workingmen alike. The Whigs, on the other hand, were not so much the critics of democracy as they were the partisans of an entirely different concept of democracy, built on the openness of a competitive economic society but also accepting the up-and-down risks of open markets. What Jackson’s Democrats thought of as the ideal political economy was a pyramid in which everyone was guaranteed a fixed place, so that the justly rich were secure and the poor were subsidized (and in the South, literally subsidized through slaveholding and appropriations of Indian land).

        That may, in the end, show how very little has changed in the fundamental ideology of the Democratic Party since Jackson’s day. And this, in turn, may explain the anxiety of Democratic apologists to distance themselves from the ugly remembrance of slavery. For them, The Rise of American Democracy will deliver a very usable past; but it will be a mythic past, and in support of a mythic politics.

        Emphasis added.

        • Atheists can’t hate G-d, you can’t hate something that doesn’t exist. At the same time Atheists don’t have a problem with prayers or religious imagery around them, at least up to the point that it becomes annoying.

          The problem is that there are far to many people who call themselves Atheists, but who are actually Christians (most of them, I’m sure there are a few Jews, Muslims, and assorted other theists in this group) who are angry at – and afraid of – G-d.

        • “That may, in the end, show how very little has changed in the fundamental ideology of the Democratic Party since Jackson’s day. ”

          As I’ve said, repeatedly, the Democrats have never forgiven Republicans for taking away their slaves, and have been working to get them back ever since.

          • They’ve pretty successfully recreated the plantation system. The only real difference is that instead of using force to take the fruits of the labor of the people they house and feed, they steal from a different population than the one they support.

  10. This is why, in retrospect, my parents let me do anything short of maiming or killing myself I have scars, some deep, some visible, some only I know they’re there.

    I hope I have allowed my own child enough painful learning experiences that the first heartbreak doesn’t do her in. That which does not kill us can still hurt like a mother.

  11. It helped to have grandparents around who walked ten miles uphill both ways to school. 😉 Just listening to the greatgrandma and other older folks talk about childhood in the 1880s helped a child understand that this modern world is a real miracle.

    • Not only is the modern world a real miracle, I’m one of those people that thinks it is a miracle we should bring to the rest of the world.

      By-the by, on a sci-fi thread here: the average nickel-iron asteroid has enough iron in it to raise the entire world to our standard of living for decades. Just *one* of them. Next time someone starts quoting resource scarcity to you, tell them to put that in their pipe and smoke it.

      • You do realize that this was a major part of Ringo’s Troy Rising series? The other part was getting strong enough to not be hurt again and be able to anybody else’s butt.

        Have you read the piece on China’s space program? He who holds the orbitals holds the ground. He may not have troops on the ground, but a KEW can ruin your whole day..

        • Yes, I know, but it bears repeating outside of ‘military SF’

        • Should never have translated The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress into Mandarin. It’s never the wolves in your face, always turns out to be the quiet beast over in the corner that winds up biting your privates.

      • “By-the by, on a sci-fi thread here: the average nickel-iron asteroid has enough iron in it to raise the entire world to our standard of living for decades. Just *one* of them. Next time someone starts quoting resource scarcity to you, tell them to put that in their pipe and smoke it.”

        In the early 90’s, I pointed this out in a discussion at college. One of the responses was “How horrible! Imagine what that will do to the environment!”

        I pointed out that we wouldn’t be powdering it and spreading it across the soil, but that didn’t seem to make a difference.

        • What would it do? give them clean water, clean air, abundant food, freedom from disease… yes, that would be horrible for the environment.

        • “How horrible! Imagine what that will do to the environment!”???

          Oh Noes!!! What would happen if the whole world had First World level sewage and sanitation facilities, could afford to employ smoke-stack scrubbers instead of enjoying China-style air pollution, and heat their homes with natural gas instead of wood fires?

          I don’t suppose that critic was advocating returning college dorms to pre-computer age technology, much less reducing their own standard of living to a Third World level? (Of course not — they wouldn’t be attending college if they supported such views.)

          • Want to solve Overpopulation? Bring everyone up to 1st-World status.

            Look at your own house — ho wmany different means of entertaing do you have? Books; TV; Computer; Film; the list goes on and on.

            Poor People — *Properly* Poor; eating-peanuts-from-elephant-shit Poor — have exactly one means of entertainment open to them: Unprotected Fucking. (Condoms, IUDs, and such cost Money.) So, every time two of them have five minutes to spare, nine months later, another unit is produced.

            Coupled [ahem 🙂 ] to this: Medicine costs Money — so they never know how many units will survive; thus, they have to pump one out every nine months like clockwork. If more than two survive, Population increases.

            One need look no further than birth rates in the 1st World as compared to the 3rd — Rich people, few kids; Poor people, many kids.

          • “How horrible! Imagine what that will do to the environment!”???

            The Paul Ehrlich answer is that it would elevate everyone on the planet to the wasteful, polluting level of the First World. Either he or Al Gore likened giving cheap, abundant resources to the First World to giving whiskey and cars to teenage boys.

        • BTW – anybody have ready to hand the increase in Earth’s mass that would result from “powdering it and spreading it across the soil”? Would the surface of the Earth be even one micron deeper?

          • If I did the math right, a 1/16th inch layer over the entire Earth’s surface adds up to about 198 cubic miles, which would be equivalent to a solid mass of iron just under 7 1/2 miles in diameter. Given that the “average” asteroid would be somewhat smaller than that, and likely less than 5% iron, the actual thickness would tend to be about 1/1000th of an inch (or about 25 microns, for those who use metric).

            • Current papers say that M-type asteroids are as much as 70% iron, and as much as 1% platinum-group metals. That much platinum group metals has a value at current prices of about 25 billion dollars (given an average asteroid), though of course the platinum market would nosedive as soon as we started mining one.

          • My concern would be how to get it down and pulverized. A chicxulub-type event would, demonstrably by the K-T boundry, spread a fairly thick layer around the planet. It wouldn’t raise the mass of the Earth much much but it would make a very nice sea that we hadn’t seen the need for before.

            • Why down and pulverized? Smelt it in orbit, using all that free solar energy! If you don’t want to deal with microgravity’s complications, fine, smelt it on Luna, still using all that free solar energy (even if you have a down cycle during the lunar night), and while we’re moving organics and support supplies up the chain to orbit and Luna City, they’ll be bringing the ingots of the pre-made alloys (or finished products; given weight is an issue, why not go ahead and bulk out the volume by manufacturing in orbit/Luna?) back down until we finally build the beanstalk – I mean, the space elevator.

              • That was a universe I was plotting, where factories in long-ecliptic orbits would pick up ore at the asteroids and come inside the orbit of Venus to smelt and cast, and drop off finished castings at Luna, and pick up finished products and consumables Iike O2 and H for delivery at the Asteroids again.

        • Sounds to me, though of course I wasn’t there to know for sure, that they were probably thinking of the amount of pollution produced by smelting it to produce usable metal, not realizing that that would be done in orbit.

        • I’m not real concerned with the asteroids environment… and as far as I can see it would only improve earth’s.

        • Rob, I once had the misfortune to encounter a discussion on lunar mining where a number of people were against it “because if we remove material from the moon it will move in its’ orbit and the tides will drown us all”. Seriously.

  12. My mother was just old enough to remember how filthy a city heated by coal furnaces got. She had scant patience with the “The air has never been dirtier” line of the environmentalists of the ’70’s.

    My father spent WWII at Oak Ridge, Tenn., refining uranium. HE had no patience whatsoever with anti-nuclear hysteria (“Radioactive material has EITHER strong radioactivity OR a long half-life. NOT BOTH!” and that’s a quote).

    I grew up deeply skeptical of Environmental alarums. With two history teachers for parents, I also harbor serious doubts of the idyllic nature of the primitive past.

    I have to say, how successful are we really at shielding kids? My (male) schoolmates in Roxboro Elementary were fascinated by WWII, with emphasis on German and Japanese atrocities. Why? Hell if I know. But they were, and had no trouble finding books and television shows about every grotty aspect of it. Time-Life Books! The World At War!

    Do little girls read books about torture? About such historic luminaries as Elizabeth Bathory? Little boys do, or at least did.

    • “Do little girls read books about torture? About such historic luminaries as Elizabeth Bathory?”

      I don’t know about the general class “little girls” but can assure you that the Daughtorial Unit did. A favorite topic which Beloved Spouse & I encouraged her to not share with her primary school instructors, teachers, administrators nor therapists. Bought her any books on the topic for which she conceived a desire, but suggested it was not a suitable topic for any of the various papers which they required her to write.

      We had sufficient difficulty explaining to her 3rd Grade teacher why she could not write an essay on Elvis but could write one on Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht.

    • I read the Little House Books . . . and the Old Testament, and all the military history I could get my hands on, which led to medieval history, which led to an understanding that people have never been especially nice. (Then Jr. High and High School proved it). I would posit that as kids now have to read all kinds of Holocaust stuff in grade school and on through college, it’s hard to escape at least references to torture and other miseries.

      • I read the incredibly gruesome (and likely accurate) adventures of Captain Morgan, with color plates showing EVERY drop of blood int he gory beheadings and guttings.
        To quote Billy Joel: My sweet, Romantic Teenage Nights.
        BUT it’s not the same as living even a little of hardship. No, trust me.

        • I trust you, I do! But I also think you’re right – having the example of how to cope with adversity gives an alternative when actual adversity comes crashing out of the blue, but there’s still going to be that theory -> practice application gap. Actual adversity, and the dealing thereof, leaves no application gap when more actual adversity comes later.

          I have known several people who are/were “cutters” – who cut and scarred themselves on purpose, and not for decoration. And it struck me at the time, and even more so now, that they were people who were in overwhelming emotional pain because they had no coping skills to deal with the pain/anger/frustration before it became overwhelming. So they found that particular outlet as a brutal, but effective endorphin-rush release and distraction from emotional pressure.

          Now the rest of us have lots of coping mechanisms, and as the folks I knew grew older, they learned other ways, too, and had the world rub their face in the fact that their was a lot more pain out there than what their teenage selves were going through. (Perspective is a wonderful thing. I’ve been known to go up to one of our vets on a day that I’m pulling out my hair and they look about ready to throttle one of their coworkers, and mutter “It’s still a good day. No one’s shooting at us.” The high, surprised laughter it gets out of ’em does both of us a world of good.)

          But these kids were, overwhelmingly, from affluent parents who hovered over them, regimented their time, demanded they act “properly” and perform to high expectations but never gave them support or a clear path to get there, and would not admit failure exists. They were not well-read, any activity that they didn’t show signs of immediate excellence was perfunctorily banned, and other activities were banned at first failure. (One had no driver’s license in their mid-twenties, because ‘ you couldn’t drive well the one time we tried.’)

          The rest of us, whose childhood included bumps, bruises, a broken bone or two, running through the fields by the full moon, hitting and getting hit with mud and sticks, going down the slide backwards, falling off the log into the creek, carving sticks and a finger with our first knife… Never had a kid like that wide-eyed in my kitchen and tentatively saying “But I can’t cook. I’m not any good at it, so I can’t do it.” I have had men who grew up with adversity deciding to borrow my oven to remove the cosmoline from some guns… and I insisted very strongly that they clean the oven thoroughly afterwards, because the smell sticks around and nobody wants cosmoline-flavored bread… but not so much on the stunted mental growth, fear of the different, and lack of coping skills.

          • … falling off the log into the creek…

            Heh. Or like me – going down the awesome toboggan-like course my cousins built in their backyard (STEEP hill, too), hitting the end with enough speed that I flew out over the frozen creek, and busted my buns on the ice because the inner tube went flying instead of staying under me. Good times.

            But you’re right. You have to deal with some hard knocks as you grow up, or you’ll never know how to react to the real world when it decides you’ve had enough play time. I’m still suffering from that, because, being a WAY late child, with my parents far more affluent than they were with the first two, they spoiled me rotten. At least I did get to go out and make my own mistakes, but my mother was still pretty protective of me (she never did hear ALL the things I did while hanging out at the YMCA camp where my father worked).

          • Um… my parents subscribed to the “if you can’t do it well the first time, you’re not meant to do it.” Which is largely why I suck at most sports, can’t ride a bike and can’t jump rope. The conviction I was really bad at it was already in the back of my mind when I realized this was nonsense. Mom never let me cook, because she was sure I would “set fire to the house” This was good because when I had to learn to cook, I could.
            My parents GENUINELY were heart broken I couldn’t play a piano the first time I SAW one, because “Mozart could.”
            I don’t know how much of this are helicopter parents or stupid movies about “genius” and parents wanting their kids to be geniuses.
            I’m actually one of those people who, first time out, does things at the bottom of the curve, but who, after intensive learning performs at the top. (I learn by making EVERY possible mistake.)
            Part of what I tell the boys over and over is “you don’t know you can’t” till you’ve made every mistake.

          • “It’s still a good day. No one’s shooting at us.”

            If they are, they’re *really* bad shots. *grin* Miss is as good as a mile, ya know…

          • A bucket of gas is an excellent remover of cosmoline, just be warned that is also a remover of some wood finishes, so I recommend removing the stock first.

            • Baby wipes work pretty good, especially the cheap harsh kind. You can add alcohol or mineral spirits as you see fit.
              I always thought there was a market for CLP impregnated baby-wipes: “it cleans, it lubricates, it protects, it acts as kindling!”

            • I don’t actually mind the cosomoline removal via oven. After all, it means that someone else will be thoroughly scrubbing away all my overflowed pie filling, splatter from cast-iron-broiled steaks, and the one drip from tuna melt sandwiches that always escapes the foil below along with the cosmoline.

              I acknowledge ruefully that twelve year old boys have more upper body strength than I do, and graciously accept the cosmoline-removal-trade in order to get help cleaning the oven. Win-win scenario, eh?

              • This is why I don’t make cherry pies – oven cleaning. Didn’t make any with meringues, either, ’till I got an electric mixer. No matter how loudly The-Mechanic-Who-shall-Not-Be-Named ordered me to.

                • Cherry pies just require a pan under the pie pan. I use a pizza pan, which is just the right amount larger to catch the overflow. I line it with aluminum foil, then just throw it out after whatever I’m cooking that might overflow is done.

            • Kerosene will do it and is a little less dangerous.

              I had a buddy who used to store his handguns (sans grips) in a bucket of kerosene – which is the main ingredient in Hoppe’s No. 9 – and just wipe them down and put the grips on before a shooting session. It would probably discourage thieves as well.

              • Line bottom of oven (well, the shelf) with foil or build a cosmoline baking oven- a section of duct with two clamp lights in it. Green brake cleaner sprayed on the action. Small parts boiled in a pot procured at a thrift store for just such a purpose with a few drops of Dawn.

                • Guys, you’re gonna scare the newbs. If someone doesn’t know better, reading discussions about everyone’s preferred method of cosmoline removal, will cause them to think some of the Huns have actually handled a gun before.

                  • Huns? Firearms? Huh? Nope, this is all from those “writers’ guides” books and back issues of Field and Stream from the dentist’s office and beauty parlor. You know, like the issue with the great articles about how the ongoing conflict in Korea is affecting civilian ammunition supplies, and the current issue that reports what President Eisenhower has to say about hunting.

                  • GASP! Some of you have handled guns? How did you resist their evil mind control rays and keep from becoming evil murderdeathkillers? Why, guns take over the minds of eleven million people every year in this country, and force them to go on killterrorshooting sprees with an average of 437 dead! What’s your secret? Tin-foil hats? Faraday underwear? Magnetic therapy bracelets? You should let the world know how to resist these evil murder machines!

                  • its ok, I haven’t handled *a* gun 😛