Posted by: bkivey | 1 March 2010

Words from the wise?

The Sunday edition of the local paper has a section called “Short Takes” in the Opinion section that feature reader opinions of 35 words or less. The contributions for 28 February are here. A couple examples from people who can presumably vote:

If the Democratic Party is known as the progressive party, that must mean the Republican Party is the regressive party.
Char Eldien, Carlton

Apparently Char (don’t know the gender, so I’ll go with their first name) thinks that the political spectrum is binary, thereby leading to zero-sum results: Given a set p and q, p q =0; if not p then q; if not q then p. The conclusion is incorrect because the premise is flawed. Where is the ‘ grasp of nuance’ and ‘intellectual subtlety’ that Democrats pride themselves on?

And one that the paper didn’t see fit to include on the website but appears in the print edition:

Many citizens in Congress as well as at the bus stop say that we should maintain a “strong national defense.” What if the best defense is not fighting? Think about it.

Joanna Klick, Damascus

My handy-dandy Webster’s New World dictionary lists the primary meaning of ‘defense’ as ‘a defending against attack.’ If you are attacked and don’t defend through action, or don’t take credible measures to prevent attack, that’s not defense, that’s submission.

Ms. Klick’s reasoning displays a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. Anyone who has children, or has been a child, knows that humans are fundamentally selfish, greedy, and not especially considerate of their fellows. Rare is the parent who has had to tell their children ‘stop being so generous’ or ‘ you really should be less selfless’. More likely parental admonitions are along the lines of “stop hitting’ and ‘be nice.’ A friend of mine once called raising children ‘civilizing savages.’ And that’s what it is, really.

I was in elementary school at a time when, besides actually being expected to learn, kids were let out onto the playground every day for an hour of unsupervised activity. Robert Fulgham was wrong. Everything you need to know about human nature can be learned on a school playground. Now, of courses, kids are supervised to within an inch of sanity (sometimes beyond) and so never learn what the realities of human nature are.

Ms. Klick is welcome to practice her philosophy of submission in her personal life, but as for me, I will respect people to the extent that they honor the social contract and deal with people as they are, not as I magically wish them to be. If an individual chooses not to honor the contract, then I am not bound to do so, either.



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