Monday, February 1, 2010

Quotes and Links

Louis D. Brandeis
"Organization can never be a substitute for initiative and for judgment."

John Betjeman (1906-84).
Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,
Pouring their music through the branches bare,
From moon-white church-towers down the windy air
Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.
Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
Too many babies have been born in there,
Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
Carried the old their garden paths along.

I have a Vision of the Future, chum,
The workers' flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
"No Right! No Wrong! All's perfect, evermore."

GK Chesterton on Confucius
One of the great philosophers said that it would be well if philosophers were kings, or kings were philosophers. He spoke as of something too good to be true; but, as a matter of fact, it not infrequently was true. A certain type, perhaps too little noticed in history, may really be called the royal philosopher. To begin with, apart from actual royalty, it did occasionally become possible for the sage, though he was not what we call a religious founder, to be something like a political founder. And the great example of this, one of the very greatest in the world, will with the very thought of it carry us thousands of miles across the vast spaces of Asia to that very wonderful and in some ways that very wise world of ideas and institutions, which we dismiss somewhat cheaply when we talk of China. Men have served many very strange gods; and trusted themselves loyally to many ideals and even idols. China is a society that has really chosen to believe in intellect. It has taken intellect seriously; and it may be that it stands alone in the world. From a very early age it faced the dilemma of the king and the philosopher by actually appointing a philosopher to advise the king. It made a public institution out of a private individual, who had nothing in the world to do but to be intellectual. It bad and has, of course, many other things on the same pattern. It creates all ranks and privileges by public examination; it has nothing that we call an aristocracy; it is a democracy dominated by an intelligentsia.

But the point here is that it had philosophers to advise kings; and one of those philosophers must have been a great philosopher and a great statesman. Confucius was not a religious founder or even a religious teacher; possibly not even a religious man. He was not an atheist; he was apparently what we call an agnostic. But the really vital point is that it is utterly irrelevant to talk about his religion at all. It is like talking of theology as the first thing in the story of how Rowland Hill established the postal system or Baden-Powell organized the Boy Scouts. Confucius was not there to bring a message from heaven to humanity, but to organize China; and be must have organized it exceedingly well, It follows that he dealt much with morals; but he bound them up strictly with manners. The peculiarity of his scheme, and of his country, in which it contrasts with its great pendant the system of Christendom, is that he insisted on perpetuating an external life with all its forms, that outward continuity might preserve internal peace. Anyone who knows how much habit has to do with health, of mind as well as body, will see the truth in his idea. But he will also see that the ancestor worship and the reverence for the Sacred Emperor were habits and not creeds. It is unfair to the great Confucius to say he was a religious founder. It is even unfair to him to say be was not a religious founder. It is as unfair as going out of one's way to say that Jeremy Bentham was not a Christian martyr.

Blaise Pascal on China

93. History of China.--I believe only the histories, whose witnesses got themselves killed.

Which is the more credible of the two, Moses or China?

It is not a question of seeing this summarily. I tell you there is in it something to blind, and something to enlighten.

By this one word I destroy all your reasoning. "But China obscures," say you; and I answer, "China obscures, but there is clearness to be found; seek it."

Thus all that you say makes for one of the views and not at all against the other.

So this serves, and does no harm.

We must, then, see this in detail; we must put the papers on the table.

594. Against the history of China.--The historians of Mexico, the five suns, of which the last is only eight hundred years old.

The difference between a book accepted by a nation and one which makes a nation.

Israel and Haiti by Jay Nordlinger

As you may have read, Israel has played a big role in relieving Haiti, following the hugely destructive earthquake. Unfortunately, the Israelis have a lot of experience in digging people out of rubble, etc. They are a people who have faced bombings over and over. At the end of 2003, there was a major earthquake in Bam, Iran. (Yeah, I know: "Bam," an earthquake.) The Israelis were alacritous: They wanted to send rescue workers immediately. There was no time to waste, and Israel was very close, physically, to Iran. But Iran refused this aid and expertise. The government preferred that people die rather than suffer the ignominy of being rescued by Jews. This episode was a further indication of the psychosis prevalent in the Middle East. Fortunately, Haiti, for all of its sufferings, does not suffer from that.

I noticed an interesting piece by Marty Peretz of The New Republic — noticed it because it was cited in Commentary's Contentions. Peretz wrote,

I've just read the transcript of the president's remarks about Haiti, the ones he made on January 15. He noted that, in addition to assistance from the United States, significant aid had also come from "Brazil, Mexico, Canada, France, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, among others." Am I missing another country that truly weighed in with truly consequential assistance? Ah, yes. There it is. Right there "among others." Yes, the country to which I refer is "among others," that one.

The fact is that, next to our country, Israel sent the largest contingent of trained rescue workers, doctors, and other medical personnel. The Israeli field hospital was the only one on the ground that could perform real surgery, which it did literally hundreds of times, while delivering — as of last week — at least 16 babies, including one premature infant and three caesarians. . . .


It's not that Israeli participation in the Haiti horror was being kept secret. I myself saw it reported several times on television . . .


So didn't Obama notice? For God's sake, everybody noticed the deep Israeli involvement.

Tough Love

Though a Democrat, he rails against "far-to-the-left liberals who in my opinion are worse than the Ku Klux Klan. . . . They love for minorities to have the illusion that we can make choices, but when families are given the chance to choose a public charter school, like AIPCS, these 'saviors' always find a way to interfere."

"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile" - Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

In his attempt to emulate Clinton's success, President Obama resembles nothing so much a the New Guinea aboriginals who built model airfields complete with straw control towers and airplanes after the Second World War and the departure of the American army. The Americans had summoned cargo from the sky through such magical devices, so thought the aboriginals, and by building what looked like airfields, so might they. But Obama can no more conjure up an economic recovery by doing things that look like what Clinton did, than the natives of New Guinea could draw cargo from the sky with straw totems. Marx's crack about history repeating itself—the first time as tragedy and the second as farce—comes to mind.

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