Archive for April, 2011

Egalit’e

April 24, 2011

When the noble ideal of egalit’e among men leads to state-enforced egalitarianism it degenerates to tyranny. This historical truth is seen in the bitter collateral damage of the French revolution and the Russian revolution.

The proper function of government in regard to equality is to protect equal opportunity, not to impose an institutional egalitarianism. Where Marxism went wrong, and degenerated utimately to Stalinism, was in force-feeding societal equality to all citizens. Likewise, among the Chinese, the reign of Maoism following their 1949 revolution degenerated to oppressive governmental structures from which the people are still striving to free themselves. The Russians too.

The earlier revolution, the one that happened here in America, presented equality as a God-given attribute of the human race. That has made quite a difference in the playing-out of it.  Jefferson, Franklin, and the many leaders who followed them were breaking new ground on an undeveloped contintent. That has also made quite a difference in the flowering of American equal opportunity among men and women.

The French revolutionary model, established soon after the American one, was encumbered from its inception with the weight of millenia of societal baggage, heaped upon the people mostly by the Church in Rome. When French republicans succeeded in freeing themselves from the bondage of the ancien regime, their progress was quite different from the wild and wooly American experience.

About a century later, Marx took a remnant of that French egalite principle and ran with it; it later developed as historical Marxism. Under the brutally communist hands of Josef Stalin, it enslaved and murdered millions of Russians and east Europeans.

Thus the revolutionary ideal in old Europe developed quite differently than the American experiment.  Our working out of it emphasized equal opportunity instead of enforced equality. That had a lot to do with our continent-wide abundance of undeveloped land. This is the heart of American exceptionalism; Such swift and wide incubation of democratic conditions will never happen again in the history of this world.

But these days, the old Western debate of democratic republicanism vs. authoritarianism is being rendered irrelevant due to the forceful power of Islam.

What was previously a philosphical debate, then a multi-faceted political division and military wars, has now retrograded to a more fundamental debate among homo sapiens: a religious struggle.

The Protestan Reformation, and the humanistic Enlightenment that accompanied it, eclipsed a millenial Roman Catholic domination of European culture and its institutions.  One result was a vast power vacuum. The revolutionary ideals that bloomed as political movements thereaftere drifted further and further from their religious moorings, and back toward archival Greek philosophic underpinnings.

Now western revolutionary zeal, having wrested itself from authoritarian Catholicism, has bankrupted itself of spiritual stamina. Its wantonly amoral end now renders us culturally weak as compared to the  heavy legalistic hand of Islamic fundamentalism.

So we in the post-European world will be playing catch-up ball to recover a principled spiritual heritage. This is a situation analagous to that in which Churchill and the British were struggling to prepare their defense against the onslaught of Nazism and Fascism in the late 1930s.

Oh what a dear price the people of Britain and their Allies paid. Never had so few sacrificed so much for so many, said Mr. Churchill, about the hardly-won defeat over authoritarian tyrrany in Europe.

Our generations probably face  similar upheavals in the years ahead.

I know not what course others may take. I take my refuge, and my inspiration in the One who, having decided not to participate in the prolonged skirmish, chose instead to spread his arms and allow the powers of this world to crucify his body so that spiritual rebirth could begin for all mankind.

Resurrection is better than insurrection.

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On the limitations of humannness

April 23, 2011

Law built his kingdom upon a foundation of strength,
hefting beams of order upon discipline length
while
Progress made her society of perfectible members
teaching reason and freedom among liberty timbers.
Then
Love set up a clinic of hope and of healing
upon sacrifice and sweat and their warmfuzzy feeling
till
Truth tore it down, and sent all of them reeling
‘neath a sky that is falling and a chicken in every debt ceiling.

Cluck cluck Selah
whadya think about that
Thanks for the doughnut hole, so long.

Glass half-Full

communally or individually

April 17, 2011

If man was made to live in community,
with society to be the greater entity,
then help me Lord to do and be
productive one of that totality.

But if each is rugged individual here to be,
and self-expression is ultimate uniquity,
then help me Lord to be that specialty
that you have called me here to be.

It takes all kinds to make a world, you see.
We need to live in peace, not enmity.
Please help me, you, who stand here next to me
to be that one that I was meant to be.

Glass half-Full

Reasonable

April 14, 2011

Democrats should be as reasonable as our President; Republicans should be as reasonable as our House Speaker.

Defunding H2 from H20

April 8, 2011

I learn a lot about what’s on the cutting edge of scientific research by listening to Ira Flatow on ScienceFriday, NPR. The segment I heard today (8 April 2011) was downright inspiring as the program presented some good possibilities for  generating energy from sunlight by  experimental technology that could separate of hydrogen and oxygen from water.They call it artificial leaf; its something like synthesized photosynthesis. This ScienceFriday edition is worth a listen.

http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201104081

Dr. Daniel Nocera of MIT talks with Ira about this very promising technology of using silicon to  function in energy-gathering ways simulating what photosynthesis does in natural leaves, only better. Nocera’s rap goes like this:
What does a leaf do? It turns photons into electrical current, stores the solar energy while splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. In this new tech, silicon replaces the leaf. Stored hydrogen produced thereby runs a fuel cell. This silicon system catches the sun as much as a hundred times more efficiently than a leaf.
The real breakthrough is that these researchers are using earth-abundant materials: silicon, cobalt, phosphate and cheap metal.  Hence, some practical applications for energy generation are realized; they’re building prototypes at MIT, with the experimental apparatus going for days  with no drop in productivity. This water-breaking work has propelled progress well beyond the science; now its in the engineering phase.

Ira asks: whats next for commercial viability? Dr. Nocera says they’re working toward the apparatus being the workable size of two doors and thus operating effectively. Passing water over silicon and producing energy, but without wires–that’s the breakthrough– making the necessary gases  over surface of silicon. Next  challenge is engineering a gas collection system, and now they’re using regular water instead of something rarer, so that’s the real  promise of significant improvement.

Dr. Nocera also mentions in the closing comments that people in developing world are less dependent on old technologies  than we are; that is something to be aware of. Folks in the developing world are more open to new techs, being less dependent on the old (fossil-fuel) ones.

This is cutting edge; you won’t hear about it on fox or hln. That’s why I appreciate ScienceFriday, and that’s why I appreciate NPR.
Although I do not subscribe to the exclusively materialistic hypotheses through which Ira interprets our cosmological origins, I do appreciate the excellent coverage that he and his staff regularly provide on scientic frontiers.

And my appreciation extends beyond the ScienceFriday crew, to NPR generally, which is an informative aural venue through which we Americans can garner fuller understanding of our life on this finite planet as it exists today. National Public Radio is a place in broadcast space where we can hear, and participate in, real disscussions about relevant, timely issues. A little “liberal” perhaps, but its more productive, I think, than listening to some self-made mouthpiece who pontificates through a microphone and insults callers who disagree.

As a supporter of public radio, I hope to see ScienceFriday and all the other NPR programs continue. If the Repubs, of which I am one, succeed in cutting the funds for public broadcasting, I do not see that as an insurmountable obstacle for its continuance. I plan to continue my financial support. I truly believe that the excellence in journalism and educative programming supplied therein will find adequate means to prosper in the competitive world of commercial media–and without compromising their high journalistic and first-amendment standards.

If our Congress is inclined to consider cutting NPR out of the federal funding trough, I suggest that they defund Planned Parenthood instead, and then appropriate that money that would have otherwise aborted feti to promote growth–growth in public comprehension of the issues that define our existence in 21st-century America.

There’s no sense in aborting feti when we will have dire need, in the future, for young working citizens to support our expanding Medicare demands and our waning energies.

Glass Chimera

Faithful Presence

April 4, 2011

To change the world– a noble challenge to which we Christians have always aspired– now becomes a new call to service issued by James Davison Hunter, in his book by the same name: To Change the World.

Dr. Hunter’s clarion call is preceded in the book by an analysis of historical and contemporary manifestations, among the people who call themselves servants of God, of that God-inspired inclination to make the world a better place. Hunter’s analysis identifies three strategic camps within  American Christianity today:
~Christians whose dominant cultural identity is found in defending themselves and their institutions (especially the family) from encroaching secularism; (the “defensive against” camp, as defined by Prof. Hunter)
~Christians whose motivation for divine fulfillment is centered on working toward justice, and toward institutional and individual benevolence to help poor and oppressed people; (the “relevance to” camp as defined by Prof. Hunter)
~Christians whose purpose is to maintain and advocate a pure manifestation of Christ’s work and teachings, with emphasis on peace and non-violence; (the “purity from” camp, as defined by Prof. Hunter)

After a cogent description of each, and consideration of their various impacts upon society as a whole, James David Hunter concludes his book’s message with a new (although its as old as the prophet Jeremiah!) paradigm for Christian involvement in our secularized world. “Faithful presence” is the strategy by which we authenticate God’s love for all people by adopting societal well-being as our own. This requires us to accept worldly responsibilities for the welfare of the communities and nation in which we live. Rather than despising worldly society we take our places, prepared and enabled by God, within it.

Our biblical example and precedent for this collaboration is found in the exhortation that Jeremiah issued to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, two and a half millenia ago. The prophet told them:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile form Jerusalem to Babylon: build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer. 29:4-7)

I emphasize that last sentence because I think it summarizes well the essence of Professor Hunter’s point. Even more importantly, though– it is a biblically sound, potent call to service for our generation of Christians and all those who follow us–“faithful presence” in the community and nation in which we each live. Responsible presence, caring presence, contributing presence, and hey–presents! at Christmas and other appropriate times.

The “welfare” of which Jeremiah speaks above is not the governmental dole system which in some cases enables laziness and lethargy to overtake people who are down and out. Nevertheless, our welfare system–woefully deficient as it is– is not beyond the capacity of our great God, through his son Jesus, to redeem and sanctify those unfortunate citizens (Christian and otherwise) who partake of it.
So do not judge those who find themselves stuck in that dolish “welfare” predicament. But rather, work as God’s productive people, saved by the blood of the Lamb, to lift the levels of living water in God’s sea of humanity so that all boats will rise within it.

Glass half-Full

the Wallris note

April 3, 2011

A snippet from chapter 2 of the new novel in progress, Smoke:

The policeman asked Nathan if there was anything else he had noticed about the deceased.
“He handed this to me,” said Nathan, “even as he was falling to the ground.”  It was a  folded white paper, with this handwritten message largely scrawled in black ink:

Wallris–
John Bull’s ransom will smoke out the black shirts tomorrow. If not, your bridge could burn.  Chapman

Mr. Baldwin is us.

April 1, 2011

In the mid-1930s, when Adolf Hitler began his big push to re-arm Germany, nobody in the world really knew or understand what the mad dictator had in mind. The once-and-future enemies of Germany–England, France, and Russia, were somewhat alarmed at the initial stages of Hitler’s expanding wehrmacht.

He got their attention when he sent German soldiers to re-occupy the Rhineland in 1936. Third Reich belligerence became even more apparent when Hitler ordered the anschluss of Austria in 1938 and then the military occupation of the Sudenland in Czechoslavakia in March 1939. But when, on September  1 of 1939,  Adolf Hitler cranked up his war machine to invade Poland, the Allies knew that they would surely have to put a stop to German aggression, and so they declared war.

And those Allied nations, especially Britain, were really scrambling to equip their fighting men with military equipment and weapons. They were playing catch-up ball. Nazi aggression was taking them by surpise.  But not really, because a few vigilant leaders, most notably Winston Churchill, had recognized the signs of war to come before everyone else did, and had advised their governments accordingly.

So its not like the British didn’t see it coming; its more like they didn’t want to see it coming, and so they had failed to make adequate preparations. When the necessity for defense of Europe and of Britain itself became woefully obvious, politicians began to accuse each other of dropping the ball on military readiness.

We can never really do enough in this life to prepare ouselves, individually or collectively, for the storms and roadblocks to come. Most times, governments and folk are caught unawares, blindsided, by the catastrophes on planet earth. You know the ones I’m talking about–floods, earthquakes, nuclear accidents, wars, climate change, depressions, etc.  And even if people are not totally clueless about the imminent dangers, their institutions are generally underfunded and overextended when the  card houses begin to crumble.

Mr. Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister 1935-37, was a primary target of those who, in 1939 and thereafter, were looking for scapegoats. Although he had advocated for military rearmamant during his time of leadership, he had not, it seemed, done enough to get the job of military preparedness done adequately to meet the real needs when push later came to shove.

In his 1975  book The Past Masters,  Mr. Harold MacMillan, who later served as Prime Minister 1957-63, wrote this about Stanley Baldwin:

“The truth is that, like many other people, he could not believe that there could be a man in the world so wicked and so lacking in any kind of moral feeling as Hitler. Baldwin’s life had been cast on the whole in pleasant places. He had had to deal with a lot  of people in varying degrees of good and evil in their character…(but) He had never believed that there could be a living devil.  So although the full development of Hitler’s career came after his (Baldwin’s) resignation, he was unable to attune his mind to the thought that in this century of ‘progress’ the world might be hurled for a second time into the abyss of destructive war.”

Nevertheless, the worst happened anyway.  And I think most of us are like Mr. Stanley Baldwin.

Smoke