Saturday, July 2, 2016

Turns Out Magic Was a Natural Resource That Ran Out at the End of the Middle Ages, Triggering the Rise of Science -- Colonel Carries On #38

By Sam O’Var and Marcia Dimes

Epigraph: “You can wear mismatched socks, mismatched shoes, or both every day and no one will notice because they are always too captivated by themselves and their own concerns to notice.” --Roy Marshrigger

Brexit: If Scotland secedes from the U.K. and joins the EU (both easier said than done), it will be an impoverished country for decades.

Ewan Maccoll’s 1949 song “Dirty Old Town” begins “I found my love/ by the gas works croft/ Dreamed a dream/ by the old canal/ I kissed my love/ by the fact’ry wall/ dirty old town/ dirty old town.” An earworm of purest Velcro.

A “croft” is a piece of waste land. In some places, it’s an enclosed small farm that gives a living to a “crofter.”

“Every minute we sit here our chances of survival go down,” Harvath said. “We’ve go to make our move, get off the X.”

"Help Me, Rhonda" is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for their American rock band The Beach Boys. The single peaked at number one in the United States in 1965, their second U.S. number one single after "I Get Around."

The single reached #1 in Canada (on the RPM national chart), #5 in Sweden, #10 in Germany and Australia, #2 in Singapore, #3 in The Philippines, #5 in Hong Kong, and #9 in Ireland.

But it peaked at only #27 in the United Kingdom. This explains the Brexit vote, I think. The Brits don’t like cries for help, not to Rhonda, not to Europe, not to anyone. They want to be independent. Honk if you agree and if you're reading this while driving.

A country ruled by its bourgeoisie is a “boozhwarchy,” where the “zh” is pronounced like the “s” in “measure.” If you can think of a better spelling for the word than “boozhwarchy,” I’d like to know it.

You can put your suggestion in the comments, but don’t feel that the comments must be related to the post. They just need to be comments, which is a pretty broad category.

“Touch pitch and be defiled” is one, and another is “The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides.” Fine comments both, like “What is reality?”

“I just bought a new used car, and although it’s everything I need and a bargain to boot, I still feel buyer’s remorse,” a friend said. “I’m prepared to make fiery sacrifice of chickens, goats, lambs, and turkeys to persuade the god of remorse to lift the feeling. Which is the appropriate god, though?” I couldn’t help him. Third world solution to first world problem.

It being the Independence Day weekend, some thoughts on patriotism, but it’s too hot to make them into a coherent discourse (anyway that’s my excuse). Herewith some shards.

Stephen Decatur is usually credited with “My country right or wrong.” Whether he said that or not, it’s bosh.

As Chesterton said, no reasonable person would ever say it, because it’s like saying “my mother drunk or sober.”

What Decatur may actually have said (in a toast) was: “Our country: in her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!”

Seen in that light, even Chesterton was off target. We don’t disavow our  mothers because they get drunk.

Carl Schurz put it well: “My country: when right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be set right.”

To get the whole picture in one aphorism, put Decatur’s coda onto Schurz’s version: “But right or wrong, my country.”

After all, if you don’t love mother when she’s drunk, why bother getting her home safely to sleep it off?

There are many more sayings against patriotism than for it, because Frenchmen don’t sing songs about patriotism but about France.

Shaw’s dismissive definition is perhaps the best known: “Patriotism is a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.”

Fools wear motley; during the bloody battles of World War I, Churchill verbally rebuked Shaw as a clown dancing among the wounded: “The motley goes ill amid the bandages.”

Shaw’s other inkwell had even more acid: “Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.”

Nor was his the only such inkwell: “Patriotism is a religion, the egg from which wars are hatched” (Guy de Maupassant).

Tolstoy: “Patriotism is a survival from barbarous times which must  be not only evoked and educated but eradicated by all means -- by preaching, persuasion, contempt, and ridicule.”

Wilde: “Patriotism -- the virtue of the vicious.”

Sometimes the sentiment goes completely off the rails, as in “The highest form of patriotism is dissent.” Really? Dissent is the highest form of pernicious, psychopathic idiocy?

Even -- angels and ministers of grace defend us! -- Stephen Decatur: “Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!”

How can I put this delicately? The anti-patriots are all wrong. Would that every human alive were a dedicated patriot. Every true patriot wishes that all foreigners were true, enlightened patriots of their own countries. Then wars would stop and bread flow.

In other words, one needn’t claim that one’s mother is the best of all mothers to love her unconditionally, to protect, support, and defend her, to behave well so as never to shame her, and to be grateful to her to the end.

Who are the greatest of patriots? How about: mothers. In fact, maybe the virtue should be called “matriotism” and those who live it “matriots.”

The gospel of Luke depicts the pregnant mother of Jesus as singing to her cousin Elizabeth of her joy in patriotic terms:

He has come  to the help of his servant Israel
For he has remembered his promise of mercy
The promise he made to our fathers
To Abraham and his children forever.

It takes only a moment to die, but a lifetime to live, so if dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, then how much more sweet and fitting it is to live for one’s country, as mothers do in raising children.

As for the United States of America, its patriots need not claim that she is the best country now or ever, but only that they love her and will spend themselves trying to make her a blessing to the nations.

Happy Independence Day.

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