Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Man from the Machine

I came across this quote on the Distributist Review, and I thought it was particularly relevant to the topic of my blog: 
"Once you separate the man from the machine the man is useless, whereas the true craftsman can make things almost out of nothing. We want a population of people who can make things out of next to nothing, rather than a population of people who need an elaborate mechanical structure before they can start doing anything at all." - K.L. Kenrick

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Freedom

Freedom must be secured by men with guns. Can you imagine a bumper sticker that says, "Have You Hugged A Diplomat Today?" Where is the popular appeal in that? Besides, nobody counts the body-bags left vacant because of kind--or at least persuasive--words. We are not interested in people who remain free because they put their weapons away. We do not wish to buy our freedom too cheaply.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Recent Events

Jack Kevorkian died, without any help and in spite of his low-calorie diet.

I was reminded of this news as I sat in traffic school, a place where one may see and hear a number of shocking things. As a matter of fact, it was in traffic school where I learned the news of a girl who was thrown from her boyfriend's motorcycle during a somewhat recent traffic accident. The responding officers, as the story goes, had to call for a medical helicopter on account of the girl's traumatic and life-threatening injuries. As the paramedics lifted her onto the stretcher, it was noted that the girl's head had assumed the tactile properties of a water balloon.

Now, it turns out that the girl survived the accident. Lucky, isn't it? A happy ending. Yes, but we also learned that she is now obliged to perform most of her bodily functions through a series of tubes. This is because she has no use of her arms or legs, you see. As the traffic school officer so nicely put it, "she's done." Somehow that got me thinking of Dr. Kevorkian and his brand of medicine.

There is more news to report. Casey Anthony, a woman accused of murdering her young daughter, has been acquitted. I have no opinion on the matter, since I did not follow the case in the least. However, I note two things:

First, On account of the proceedings being rendered a national spectacle through the miracle of modern media, Ms. Anthony surely stood trial for all accused child killers in the court of public opinion, which generally has condemned her as guilty (if I am any judge of public sentiment).

Second, I note that some specialist commentators seem to accept that the actual verdict satisfies the rule of law.

I say this is interesting because it illustrates something about the rule of law. Now, "the rule of law" means just this: Everyone is treated equally under the law. The law is supposed to be applied exactly the same way to all, regardless of circumstances or any particular itch that the public may feel. Clearly this is not the same thing as justice, which means that we get exactly what we deserve. Of course, we try to employ the right amount of casuistry when crafting our laws, so that they can be equitable laws, but in the end everybody has to abide by what the law says even if it isn't fair. This is the rule of law, which is to say that the law may be satisfied without justice being done.

Since the rule of law is a manifestly venerated principle in some quarters of our political spectrum, this is something worth thinking about.

Is there any happy news to be told? Yes, there is.

North Korea's best researchers have determined that people who live in North Korea are among the happiest to be found anywhere. Now that this has been established as scientific fact, or at least as government truth in that part of the world, maybe it will become substantially true for the people who live there. Let us hope the best for them.

And are we happy in America? Alas, no. The North Koreans have also discovered that we are, in fact, the least happy of all people on the earth.

I protest this finding. They only say this because they watch our news, and perhaps attend our traffic schools. I contend that, in the United States, we already take our collective happiness for granted and have stopped inquiring after it. It is only if you doubt how happy you are that you must produce a study on it.

That, of course, is the cue for someone to cite a dozen studies that Americans have done about our own happiness (wouldn't it be ironic if someone pointed me to a certain cranky blog with the dubious title of "Surviving Phalaris?"). Nevertheless, I defy anyone to prove that we Americans are not, generally speaking, a happy people in spite of our multitude of complaints. Or perhaps even because of them. I confess that I believe we could be much happier, otherwise I wouldn't write many of the things that I do. We think we are pretty happy, however, and so we must be.

Anyway, we've had our own season of truth-telling, as we always do, during the weeks leading up to our Independence Day. This year's patriotic fare included some haranguing over the Civil War, characterized as always by a particular consternation over the fact that chattel slavery once existed in America.

Yes, this year marks the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the American Civil War. I meant to write about that in April, actually; I even read Bruce Catton to mark the occasion.

In any case, one of our political factions is freshly miffed by certain progressive interpretations of early American policies on slavery. Walter E. Williams wrote up a nice editorial that is simply brimming over with truth, while The Heritage Foundation's Dr. Spalding informed us, in his Independence Day essay, of a certain prominent slave owner's indignation at King George III for allowing the the barbarism of slavery to exist in the colonies. Another Facebook commentator exulted that an old political party--one with a name strikingly similar to that of the modern party to which he claims allegiance--ended slavery in America.

I reminded that particular commentator that we ended slavery in America in the same way that Dr. Kevorkian ended the lives of his terminal patients.

It's awfully important if things come into this world or if they leave it. Do you think it matters how or why? I think of the girl with the water-balloon head, dying on the pavement. Her life is saved for a little while, but for what? I think of another girl that died in a way that even Jack Kevorkian would have never endorsed, and will there be justice for her? I think of a dying institution murdered by a Civil War, but what else died with it?

No doubt you will answer those questions, if you care to do so, with truths. Maybe they will be the same kind of poetic truths, like the truth of happiness, that are true only because someone believes in them. Truth rarely stops disagreements, though; not the kind of disagreements that happen when competing truths collide.

One of our New Atheists recently explained to me that these poetic things we choose to put our faith in are all lies, and we should not base our lives on lies. Nonsense, I told him; whenever a materialist says anything is good or bad, he is telling a lie. Whenever he glimpses meaning in some precious fact, he only fools himself. If not the stories we tell ourselves, what else have we got to keep us going? Just look at the North Koreans.