A brief post today... just some random notes and some interesting linkage.
Random Note #1
If you don't know historian and commentator Victor Davis Hanson, read some excerpts from his latest book, A War Like No Other : How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. Hanson is one of the few intelligent, rational, and thoughtful commentators on current military operations and the war on terror. His commentary can be found in papers such as the Wall Street Journal and also on National Review Online. NRO has been publishing excerpts from the book this week: here be the first, and a section on the sidebar will allow you to link to the others. If you think this may be boring stuff- Hanson's comments and insights on today's world benefit greatly from his work as a historian. Just read the excerpts (it's free!) and judge for yourself. His work is excellent and its relevance for today makes a case for a return to classic elements in education.
Being a burgeoning historian myself, many people have commented to me that there is nothing to learn from the Romans or the Greeks, much less from our own Founding Generation. There is much excellent work being done by historians that point to lessons learned, mistakes made, and victories hard-won from the past by all peoples. Too much work for us to ignore. There are things we can learn and there are too many mistakes that we are making in the world, as a human race, to discard the past as useless and irrelevant. A person who has forgotten or failed to learn of the past, is like a person suffering from amnesia: disjointed, scared, lost, and adrift in a world they don't remember. It is vital for all to learn from the past. History is suffering an assault from all sides: left wingers with agendas, right wingers with agendas, radical political groups, lazy parents, teachers, and students and - worst of all - narrow-minded fringe groups who argue that history does not speak enough about them or their culture and therefore has no relevance.
History is what it is: history. It is the story of life and the interaction of life on this planet. It is failure and achievement, it is hate and love, it is action and rhetoric, it is belief and disbelief. It is what it is. The storytellers of history are those who choose to reflect and expound upon certain parts of the story. Thus you pick up a book about the ruling dynasties of China and do not expect to read too much about French painters. Warning: those who condemn history as passe, more often than not do not want anyone to learn from history, thereby covering their own fallacies and shortcomings. It is the Wizard of Oz syndrome all over again: Do not pay attention to the man behind the curtain. In other words, if we don't let others to study the past, they won't discover that we have said these things before and failed in the past. Charlatans do not want history to be studied. It exposes them for who they are. And if they cannot keep it from being read, they will manipulate it, truncate it, and regurgitate their own version to you. You have been warned. The Shelf mantra, again me hearties: "Think for yourself".
Random Note #2
Usually, these groups lack a sense of humor. Evidence: Barney Frank's reaction to being on a political satire show: The Colbert Report. Frank found nothing funny about the interview. He said "This wouldn't be funny in Junior High." He's right- most junior high kids wouldn't get it. It's difficult for them to grasp political satire. It was darn funny to the older crowd. Not so funny when the "Kick Me" sign is on your back, is it Barney? By the way- why do these so-called politically savvy people go on The Daily Show, et al? Have they been under a rock and have no idea who these people are? Apparently so. That's alright - it makes for the funny occasionally. Just a reminder to Jon Stewart: heavy-handed political bias isn't always funny to everyone. You criticize and lampoon the press for the same bias that you demonstrate sometimes. Your defense that it's an entertainment show doesn't make it any less hypocritical. As for the politicians: an 18-year old kid just got elected mayor. After he installs a private Mountain Dew Soda Fountain in his office and establishes a Taco Bell counter at City Hall, I wonder what his first move will be? Actually- this one bears watching - sometimes kids are willing to try and solve problems without a lot of political posturing and defeatist attitudes weighing them down. That is, until they get to college. Better look out Senators- he'll be after your job one of these days.
It also seems that Paris is fully capable of burning without any outside help. Should we continue to look towards the French and Europe in general as the zenith of culture, progressive government and the model of an enlightened society? I think not. Lest we forget, Europe was the birth place of many of the World's worst wars, political blunders, genocides, and some the worst "isms" (fascism, communism, socialism) the world has seen. Doesn't exactly inspire a Disneyland ride, does it? Don't get me wrong: no one society has or ever will be perfect. And European history and culture has many wonderful contributions to history: it just doesn't come without its baggage. Of course the press is reporting this as: "Move along, nothing to see here." Since when has a headline like "Less killing, rioting, and car burning" ever bespoke confidence?
If you remember the hurricane coverage criticism we unleashed here at the Shelf, you may be interested by Al Roker's reaction to everyone else's reaction to his windswept coverage during Wilma. Ooohhh- Better watch out, Al is a mite testy! Mediabistro has it covered!
Looks like grandpa's not so much of a luddite after all.
It seems as if other parts of the world are starting to understand that Al Queda and the war on terror has nothing to do with culture, nationality, religion, or race. The war Al Queda started and is waging has to do with ideology, power, and control. Just like all other wars. Hopefully, others in the world and in this country will wake up before its too late.
If you are interested in what history has to say about freedom and society, politics and the welfare state, do yourself a favor and pick up last week's Shelf pick, Rubicon. The last few centuries of Romans society can teach us much. Wow, all the way back to history. Who said I couldn't bring it full circle.
New post tomorrow; 'til then- be good.
A good body with a dull brain is as cheap as life itself...