Skip to comments.The Classics in the Slums (The Value of Literature)
Posted on 12/23/2004 11:44:26 PM PST by nickcarraway
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It's on the list.
Excellent article. And that is very true, GVgirl.
When we finally build our dream-home (someday, when we stop galavanting around the world), it will be designed around a magnificent library. The last time the army moved us, we were a ton (literally: 2000 lbs) over our alloted weight, due to our enormous collection of books.
This is pulled from some of my unpublished writings, but further descriptions of the building this room is ostensibly in may be found in "the Undead Thread."
We call it "The Castle", and it even has a moat!
That lofty vision, by the way, is somewhat deflated by the paragraph that follows it:
"None of that would be happening soon. Right now there were tables, all right, but not library tables. Fabric and paper patterns covered sewing tables adjoining buzzing sewing machines. Already three ladies were industriously fashioning garments to be presented to the judges in the costume and wardrobe department."
Oh and vote Democrat, too!
Quickly? Seventy-five years of communism was a long time for many people. Sometimes a lot of pain and bloodshed happen before defective ideas are discarded.
I'm not against reading, learning, and thinking. But it does look like today's TV and computer games kids may end up doing less damage than the intellectuals and enthusiasts of a century ago.
Today's short-interest spans may repel many, but don't underestimate just how persistent an earlier generation was in clinging to ideas and illusions that were wrong and destructive. In totalitarian states, for every person who learns the truth through print there's at least one who's kept from the truth by the reading material that's available. I don't know that one can draw any sort of general lesson from comparisons, but it's at least plausible to me that newer media did more to bring down tyrannies than print could.
Cool, this article contains a family ancestor and my last name.
They basically started the civil war.
Certainly I agree with Cecil more than I would with Blackmore. One can simply reject certain thoughts, by a process similar to innoculation. "Get thee behind me, Satan!"
Unfortunately, other ideas or memes may be perniciously attractive, causing the mind to return to them over and over, like the tongue toying with a painful tooth. One wonders where the depraved maniacs who prey on children get their ideas originally, but clearly there is something in them which seeks the perverse attraction.
I am one of few who contend that ideas can be dealt with in a Skinnerian manner of avoidance therapy, but it would be costly. In my opinion less costly than allowing evildoers to molest unhindered, but costly in a number of ways.
Not only this danger, but others as well, may be so demonically appealing that they spell the end of civilisation, and there may be little that can be done to combat them. It could well be that for this reason, people tend to combine the forces of their ideas into defensible religious structures, similar to physical fortifications.
We are indeed, stronger together than we are on our own. Those of staunchly independent thinking should consider this occasionally.
While you praise the short attention span you are actually praising the very thing that leads to groups like ELF and ALF which are doing and will do greater future harm. Their ideas are packaged in short sound bite that require no attention or thought. If they do not think about them then they are never questioned and become ingrained.
Because they never think their brilliant sound bite philosophies through and are not encouraged to do so by either their leaders and the medium in which the philosophy is presented and lack the attention span to listen to reasoned arguments against them they are a lot more dangerous and will result in far more damage then anything in the past. Prior generational philosophy were looking towards the future with man. This current one is looking toward a future with out humans.
I had to look those up (Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front). So far it doesn't look like they've done anywhere near as much harm as Rose's novel-reading Socialists or poetry-loving Communists. They may not be responsible for so much evil in Britain, but they have a lot to answer for in other parts of the world. And I doubt that the ideas of today's animal rights activists will be more permanent or harder to dislodge than those of 20th century totalitarians who tried to support their tyrannies with all the cultural prestige they could.
I'm not arguing in favor of illiteracy or ignorance, and I don't suggest that we burn all the books. Nor am I saying that we should never learn anything. I'm just pointing out that it would be wrong to idealize the generations Rose is referring to and malign people today out of hand for not sharing their tastes. Tied up with that fervor for education, there was also a passion to remake the world, to get it to conform to ideological notions that did much ill. There is something to be said for not seeing life through such idealistic glasses.
Maybe our only advantage is that we came later after the mistakes had been made, but still, there's something to be said for mistrusting the some of the notions people have had about art or culture or science. If reading really gave and gives these people a better understanding of the world and our rightful place in it that's all to the good, I'm just saying that one can be naive about the hopes one places in culture or education, as the history of Europe during the period Rose studied indicates.
Perhaps you should tell that to the two million people a year in Africa who die of malaria thanks to DDT being banned at the instigation of environmental groups. Stalin only managed to kill a half a million a year at the hight of his killing spree.
Tied up with that fervor for education, there was also a passion to remake the world, to get it to conform to ideological notions that did much ill.
And even more good. Is the world more free now or was is more free before? The answer is that it is more free now. Your argument of maybe they did not do much harm in Britain but they did elsewhere is invalid because it is because it was there that the reading occurred and there that the damage was less. In parts of the world where reading and studying for the common man was not promoted (China, Russia and so forth) the damage was greater.
There is something to be said for not seeing life through such idealistic glasses.
Except for the fact that it is human nature especially young human nature to do so. You might as well as us to quit breathing. You throw out idealism and you throw out all desire to advance. We go back to scraping under logs for grubs.
And of course there is reason to mistrust what is commonly taught. Not reading, learning and questioning leads to great social ills. The difference is today that it is being taught in such a way that reading learning and questioning are discouraged. George Orwell had it right in Animal Farm. The Sheep knew only one thing and that one thing was the wrong thing. Because they never read thought or questioned they became a force for great destruction.
Now days in the Environmental movement you find the same sheep and they are spouting the same unthinking line. "Four legs good, two legs bad." It is present in video games, movies and TV shows. It is swallowed with little or no thought because of the medium in which it is presented. Far more destruction has come of it and it has the potential to be far more deadly then anything we have faced in the past because it is a suicidal philosophy.
In Islam you find much the same destructive force and much of the same lack of thought, studying and questioning. It is also a suicidal philosophy. For all of it's deadliness communism never was suicidal.
You appear to assume that I am against the diffusion of information. I don't think I am. But I point out that a society with widely dispersed information or access to learning may not approach culture and education with the kind of passion or veneration that Rose applauds.
Once people have access to something they don't crave it and exaggerate its value as they once did. That's only human nature. The world of learning and ideas is a part of our life -- or it isn't -- but it doesn't become such a focus as it was for some in the last century or two. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.
It may be that we do owe something to nineteenth century workers who wanted greater access to learning and culture. And there is something to be said for young people who seek such things passionately.
But I can't help noticing a darker side to some of the phenomena Rose applauds -- a dangerous utopianism, an impatient or uncompromising expectation of perfection in human affairs. He doesn't prove to me that that loss of that passion was a wholly bad thing.
Intellectualism among the elites is not the same as intelectiosm among the working class. The elite tend to be silly and romantic in their view of the world and tend to thing of poverty as something appealing. "Let us all become the prolate." The working class intellectual looked around his cold little room and said, "Silly sods, let's all become bourgeoisie instead." And that was exactly what happened.
As to the Germans they were hungry. Hunger tends to strip away culture and learning until you are ready to say, "I will do anything, just give me food." The downfall of civilization soon follows. And yet even then they were less dangerous then the new breed of Environmentalist that are our current enemy because they wanted, above all, to live. They still viewed humans, (albeit they had interesting ideas on what a human was) as part of the natural order of things.
I apologize for the word mangling.
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