9-7-13 Hodgepodge

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Altruism on Steroids

A reader sent me a link to an article by a product of our culture's default moral philosophy and our government schools, aptly calling it "altruism on steroids". Here's an excerpt:

I went K-12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn't offer AP classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn't even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone's read? I haven't. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don't quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I'm not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I'm doing fine. I'm not saying it's a good thing that I got a lame education. I'm saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all. [link in original]
The author is condemning parents who send their children to non-government schools and seems to feel that everyone going "all in" will somehow improve our government education system (while also minimizing the need for improvement as she does above). It is interesting that she sees parents as somehow becoming more invested in improving schools that their own children attend, and yet does not seem to have any inkling of an alternative or why it might not improve everyone's lot. She regards "public schools" as "essential institutions", but does not offer a reason for this assertion any more than she does her condemnation of parents seeking what is best for their own children.

Weekend Reading

"Many of my clients find relief from their problems when they realize that we all have the right -- indeed, the duty -- to challenge our feelings and make sure they correspond to the facts." -- Michael Hurd, in "Are Feelings Hazardous to Your Health?" at The Delaware Coast Press

"There are tens of thousands of books and interviews premised on the opinion of 'experts' peddling countless years of analyzing the past - but nobody has yet to explain why." -- Michael Hurd, in "Pop-Psychology vs. Real Life" at The Delaware Wave

"More centralized control of health spending will inevitably mean more centralized control of health care." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Your Future Under Obamacare: Big Medicine Getting Bigger" at PJ Media

My Two Cents

In the first piece linked above, Michael Hurd observes of rude drivers that:
[P]eople who do things like that usually don't have much power in their lives, and don't feel like they're in charge of much anyway.
Years ago, I came to a similar conclusion and noticed right away that I became far less annoyed by such behavior than I had been before. In fact, but for safety concerns, such "power trips" can sometimes be quite amusing.

The Present as the Distant Future

Isaac Asimov's 1964 article, "Visit to the World's Fair of 2014", is available online.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

In Dr. Hurd's article, he writes;

In fact, people who do things like that usually don’t have much power in their lives, and don’t feel like they’re in charge of much anyway. So they desperately clutch at whatever moment of false competence that they can. And, for a fleeting instant, it makes them feel good.

This reminds me of a political acquaintance of mine who was among a group of people smuggling apple computer parts into Poland during Solidarity. They would break down the computers, bring the parts in separately and arrange to meet up and re-assemble them for use by the samizdat underground press.

She said that petty abuses of power were rampant in the totalitarian state. For instance, she tried to buy a ticket at a railway station and the ticket seller - a gov't functionary - refused to sell to her because it was in his power to do so. Arguably, that was probably the only power he felt he had in his life - at least that was my friend's thinking on the topic - and he was bound and determined to exercise that control, even if it was only control over others and obnoxious to boot.

The problem was resolved when a group of regular Poles - folks not in positions of power - realized what was going on and came over and stared at this guy until he was essentially shamed into doing his job. My friend asked the people that helped her if this happened often or was it just to something the petty apparatchiks did to foreigners.

"No, it happens all the time. And we deal with the same way we just did," one woman told her.

I think that this desire to control something is what lies behind a lot of vicious behavior in societies moving toward increased totalitarianism, even among those who don't come to the situation with a lust for power. People feel helpless and they find that exerting power over others assuages their feelings of impotence.

Isaac Asimov's piece is interesting, but what tickled me was his closing line;

Indeed, the most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!

I remarked to Paul Hsieh that this bit of "prophecy" by Asimov was particularly prescient, but not for the reasons he was thinking.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

Your comment on the end of the Asimov article is quite similar to what I thought, and came quite close to including in this post.