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December 12, 2009

Quotes of the Day

Peggy Noonan, on Obama:

If he's going to bow to something, it might as well be reality.

And in other news,

"You know what coffee means in Hollywood, right? . . . Don't screw this up."

*sigh*

Finally
,

... those claims about the living conditions in China are absolute nonsense. It's middle class grows, yes -- on the east coast, while the vast majority of China is one of the poorest countries on earth. "All its citizens" certainly do not have housing: I saw people living in utter rubble. "All its citizens" certainly do not get health care in any fashion we in the West would recognize as such. Food and education are available (today! Remember the Great Leap Forward and the Hundred Flowers Period, respectively), but education is strictly rationed by an examination system or connection to powerful families.

Furthermore, it's not really proper to describe Chinese nationals as "citizens." They are subjects, with very limited freedom of movement even within China, and the requirement to petition their government for lawful changes of address, let alone to visit other nations.

I'm beginning to think that actual knowledge of that elusive thing called "reality" is an absolute bar to becoming a member of the Reality Based Community.

If only the U.S. could be just like China.... without, actually, being anything like China.

Posted by Cassandra at December 12, 2009 09:14 AM

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Comments

Noting Grim's comments, I can only echo what I have seen in China. It is a bone-crushingly poor country outside of some of the big cities. Imagine the poorest parts of Appalachia you have seen, then make it more arid, trashier, tackier, dirtier with lots more air pollution. Then make it a poorer still. And they live in places and locations in the country where they have no business being; there seems little to sustain them.
Still, they are trying to build up their country. More power to them.

The Chinese can be incredibly nice people, and as individuals and a culture there are many admirable qualities to be seen. But I sure would not wish to emulate them in the least, or copy any of their political practices. Every Chinese political "era", meaning the various dynasties, etc. always ended in a violent revolution.

I don't think the present era will be any different. Someday.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at December 12, 2009 02:10 PM

China will be free when the "subjects" throw off the shackles placed on them by the "ruling class" which pretends it is the protector of the people.

The problem will be that the new Chinese revolution will upset our consumption-driven society, and the USA will (probably) align itself with the establishment in China ... the way it has repeatedly done with other indigenous revolutions in Asia, South America, the Middle East. The USA is supposed to be the "land of the brave and the home of the free" but it too often in the past has supported the "ruling classes" in foreign lands who suppress domestic striving for freedom from despots in order to be able to continue supplying the American economy with the riches of those countries, and lining their own despotic pockets with the proceeds of that nation's riches.

Posted by: I Call BS at December 12, 2009 06:34 PM

clarification:

"... but it too often in the past has supported the 'ruling classes' in foreign lands who suppress domestic striving for freedom from despots [ruling classes] in order to be able to continue supplying the American economy with the riches of those countries, and lining the [foreign ruling classes'] own despotic pockets with the proceeds of that nation's riches."

Posted by: I Call BS at December 12, 2009 06:36 PM

If we were to support the peasants against the government, ICBS, we would be accused of trying to overthrow her government out of an imperialist desire to avoid having even a near-rival on the world stage.

If we supported the government of China, we'd be accused -- as you have sketched -- of supporting an oppressive government in order to continue stealing the wealth of the people of China.

Never mind that we might wish to pursue the freedom of the peasants in the one case; or that China's profit from our trade relationship is likewise highly beneficial to its people. For some, America is always wrong.

Any stick, for some, is good enough to beat her with.

Posted by: Grim at December 12, 2009 09:08 PM

China will be free when the "subjects" throw off the shackles placed on them by the "ruling class" which pretends it is the protector of the people.

Good luck with that. The "ruling class" won't let the "subjects" own firearms...

Posted by: BillT at December 13, 2009 01:29 AM

Did anyone manage to figure out what coffee means in Hollywood means? I read it and still can't figure it out. :P

Posted by: FbL at December 13, 2009 09:58 AM

I understood the meaning to be that if someone in Hollywood invites another for a coffee date, the invitee must calculate the relative position and power within the hierarchy of make believe land of said inviter.

Failing to accept the invitation or executing a faux pas mid-cup, such as refusing to kowtow to the whims of said inviter-mover/shaker, could result in a petty and vindictive event to occur on your person, your property, your livelihood, etc.

But that's just a WAG on my part, having watched children act the same way, while they were going through their pint-sized tyrant phase.

Posted by: bt_of-the-dragged-knuckles-clan_hun at December 13, 2009 10:24 AM

Whoops! I was yapping on the modus operandi, not the actual, underling act of <sotto voce> subliminal man, "drive-by sex..."</sotto voce> dating.

I figured I'd better clear that up a bit since I compared the behavior to that of pint-sized tyrants...

Posted by: bt_of-the-dragged-knuckles-clan_hun at December 13, 2009 11:10 AM

I loathe it when my mother gets drunk and stupid: she is wrong when she does this, and I try to discourage her. That does not mean she's not still my mother, or that I love her any less.

[forgive me, mom - I'm speaking figuratively and not about you; I'm trying to make a point to people who would suggest that any criticism of someone we love is disloyal]

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 02:54 PM

I think we're bumping up against the tension here between authoritarian attitudes and authoritative attitudes.

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 03:02 PM

Please see my December 13, 2009 post in “Ezra Klein Ensmartens Us All” at 03:13 PM, for my definitions of "authoritative" and "authoritarian".

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 03:16 PM

Let's compromise, ICBS. I agree to be both at the same time.

Posted by: Grim at December 13, 2009 04:29 PM

I'll pick "authoritative" every time, but am able to be "authoritarian" when necessary (noblesse oblige).

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 05:18 PM

Pigs get fed; hogs get slaughtered.

Authoritatives get respect; authoritarians get overthrown.

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 05:21 PM

Do they? Castro, Mao, Stalin... they served out their lives, grinding between them tens of millions of people into the dirt.

Now, I can think of a couple of tyrants who were overthrown: Hitler and Saddam. There's a common theme in how it happened, too. Just a quirk of fate, probably, a pure coincidence, but the Third Infantry Division was there both times.

Posted by: Grim at December 13, 2009 05:37 PM

So your point is that it's better to be an authoritarian?

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 05:57 PM

No, my point was that it's better to be both. I love a vigorous debate on philosophy, and I never mind if people hold different opinions so long as they are courteous and polite in their manner of expression. I admire a number of traditions other than my own, and I admire a number of individuals even though they belong to traditions I don't happen to admire -- but nevertheless show that they are searching for the best expression of those traditions.

On the other hand, there are a number of fields of activity in life in which a moment's delay can lead to injury or death. There are also certain duties which must be performed without regard to the opinions or feelings of others; and certain liberties that must not be surrendered, but defended inflexibly against encroachment.

The authoritarian, if indeed that is the right term, mans the walls. Within those walls can be a playground. But without the walls is a desert. A man ought to be able to man the walls when on duty, and yet descend into the playground when at rest.

Consider Socrates. He was famous among his fellows both for his tirelessness in armor on the watch, and for his wisdom and play at the symposium. He was the most authoritarian, ready to give up his life when the laws of Athens called for it rather than to follow his friends' plan for escape. Yet he was also the most authoritative, ready to question the foundations of everything anyone thought they knew. No foundation of knowledge was safe from his attempts to undermine it.

To emulate that model, it is necessary to know when you are defending the walls, and when you are within the walls. It is also necessary to make defense of the walls a primary duty, to understand as Socrates did that all the good things in life are possible only because the walls exist.

Posted by: Grim at December 13, 2009 07:48 PM

I agree with most of what you have said. I define "authoritarian" in such a way, however, to include Castro, Mao, Stalin, Che, Hugo Chavez and their ilk ... and do not think it "better" to be or become one of them - it is a slow process, but authoritarians such as they are the enemies of humankind.

Posted by: I Call BS at December 13, 2009 08:42 PM

Hi!
Nice clean site and hot posts. I was wondering if you'd like to trade links. My website is http://sompost.com/

I've already added you to my blogroll. Let me know and thanks!

THanks you
Warmest hug
sompost

Posted by: sompost at December 13, 2009 09:18 PM

"the way it has repeatedly done with other indigenous revolutions in Asia, South America, the Middle East. "

Well, in some of those cases, it was because those "indigenous" revolutions were really just KGB fronts, e.g., the Sandinistas. (And yes, naming that album after them was the moment at which The Clash jumped the shark.)

Posted by: Cousin Dave at December 14, 2009 03:50 PM

[I'm trying to make a point to people who would suggest that any criticism of someone we love is disloyal]

You have it backwards, it's not that any criticism is disloyal, it certainly is not. There is loyal criticism and disloyal criticism.

*But* there is a segment that *is* disloyal and will always criticize.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 14, 2009 04:58 PM

I agree with most of what you have said. I define "authoritarian" in such a way, however, to include Castro, Mao, Stalin, Che, Hugo Chavez and their ilk ... and do not think it "better" to be or become one of them

The problem being that under your rubric Lincoln would also be considered Authoritarian. He did after all use violence to impose his will on a resisting population. But that he *freed* millions of people from tyranny instead of subjecting them to it makes no difference to your rubric.

The problem is that authoritarianism is not, in and of itself, a good or bad thing. One cannot punish murder, for instance, in absense of an authority to define what is and is not murder and to enforce it. Without recognition of such authority you devolve into the Hatfields and McCoys always "punishing" the other. There can be no protection of rights without it.

On the other end, you have obedience to Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, and others enabling the outright murder of millions of people.

So on the scale of authoritariansim we have at 0 a complete loss of rights and freedoms as there is no one to protect them and at 100 we have a complete loss of rights and freedoms as those who could protect them don't want you to have them to start with.

Somewhere in the middle maximizes freedom. And depending on where you are on the curve freedom can be increased by either more or less authoritarianism.

Add in that it's not a single axis, but there can be social and economic axes and one could maximize freedom by raising authoritariamism on one and lowering it on another. Realize that there could be 3,4,5, 10, 15, 25 different axes and it get's rather messy.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 14, 2009 05:27 PM

On the other end, you have obedience to Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, and others enabling the outright murder of millions of people.

The "obedience" of which you speak was compelled by terror, the threat of death and torture. In my definition of "authoritarianism" (which I am always open to revisiting as circumstances suggest may be warranted), the "authoritarian" imposes her will [so as not to discriminate against the ladies] by force of violence rather than by logic, reason, fairness - perhaps this "approach" to "governance" might better be identified as "despotism" rather than "mere" authoritarianism, which YAG suggests is in effect a term neutral of value judgment.

[I admit to not knowing much beyond the general about Lincoln's "violence", by which I presume YAG means "the war between the states" ...]

Posted by: I Call BS at December 14, 2009 09:39 PM

I think people (especially Americans) are often in danger of forgetting that their rights require defending from their fellow citizens as well as from government.

"Authoritarianism" isn't just a function of government. Where there is weak government - or no government - the weak and kind are ruled by the strong and ruthless.

That's why we voluntarily cede some of our freedoms to government. The social compact gives us the strength and safety of numbers. The trick is not to allow government to grow so strong it becomes a vehicle for the very thing it was formed to prevent.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 14, 2009 09:57 PM

The "obedience" of which you speak was compelled by terror, the threat of death and torture.

Some of it was, but there was a sizable segment that was "just following orders" (i.e. they obeyed the authority simply because it *was* the authority).

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 15, 2009 10:09 AM

... but there was a sizable segment that was "just following orders" (i.e. they obeyed the authority simply because it *was* the authority).

These are the people we need to be wary of ... obedience to authority simply because it is the authority is what sheeple do.

Posted by: I Call BS at December 15, 2009 09:07 PM

These are the people we need to be wary of...

Yes, and no. I get what you're saying. I just want to make it clear, that obeying the authority because it is the authority is not, in and of itself, bad so long as the authority is legitimate.

Which is not to say that you necessarily agree.

By way of analogy, a baseball umpire is the legitimate authority to make judgement calls on safe vs. out. I may disagree with a call, but ultimately I accept that I must accept that ruling. I can argue, but even then I may get ejected. I also accept that I must accept that ruling as well.

The beligerent dad that runs off the umpires by being obnoxious and "takes over", however, may be *an* authority, he might even be *authoritative*, but he is *not* the legitimate authority, and I am under no obligation to accept his rulings whatsoever.

Obedience to authority because it is the authority in the former is fine, but in the latter is obscene.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 16, 2009 10:13 AM

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