Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene Hype Analysis

Myrhaf, at The New Clarion, analyzes hurricane Irene hype in a post titled Metaphysics On Display.  Why the hype?

The reason is much deeper that any of that; it goes to our culture’s fundamental idea of man’s nature. Widespread disaster represents the metaphysical essence of altruism. Catastrophe is not the accidental to altruists, it’s the way things should be...

Remember back in the ’90s when Al Gore in a convention speech called healthy people “temporarily able”? That’s the altruist vision of man: we’re all victims or potential victims. The essence of life, the really important thing, is helping victims. Morality is not about happiness and how to live well; it’s the duty to sacrifice for others.

So media and politicians cannot help themselves at the prospect of disaster. They want it. The routine of daily life — people going about their business, pursuing happiness, achieving goals — this is as false to the altruist as the world of facts is to the Platonist. But potential disaster brings them to life, for they see it as the chance to escape the illusions of happiness and success and find true morality in sacrifice.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 03:05 PM
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“King Rat” and “Atlas Shrugged” Comparisons

Last week I re-read James Clavell’s King Rat.  I’ve read this novel at least once every two years since I was first introduced to it in the late ‘70s.  It’s a good read.

I was struck, once again, while re-reading it by the similarities between Clavell’s first novel, King Rat, and Rand’s last novel, Atlas Shrugged, and not simply the comparsion noted by Marsha Enright at The Fountainhead Institute.

What’s even more surprising in this day and age, his heroes were often businessmen.

In searching around the internet for comparisons between these two works, I was surprised to note the shallowness of the understanding individuals displayed.  For example, Random House’s synopsis of King Rat.

The time is World War II. The place is a brutal prison camp deep in Japanese-occupied territory. Here, within the seething mass of humanity, one man, an American corporal, seeks dominance over both captives and captors alike. His weapons are human courage, unblinking understanding of human weaknesses, and total willingness to exploit every opportunity to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy anyone who stands in his path.

Note Random House’s misunderstanding of The King’s reasons for trading with their utilization of descriptives such as “seeks dominance,” “total willingness to exploit,”  and “to enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy.”  It makes me wonder if the Random House writer who wrote that synopsis ever even read the book.  Did The King dominate trading within the Changi camp?  Indeed he did.  But did The King dominate the camp trade because he sought dominance?  Hardly.  The King dominated trading because he was the best trader.  A fact which was acknowledged throughout the camp and which resulted in The King being approached by the lowliest of the low and the highest of the high within the camp hierarchy.  Did The King exploit?  If he did, I wish someone would point out a specific example for me.  Did The King enlarge his power and corrupt or destroy?  If so, I’d also like specific examples of this in Clavell’s work.

One review I read, at Bakerstone Broadcast, comes a bit closer to understanding that there are similarities between King Rat and Atlas Shrugged deeper than just heroic businessmen.

In the words of ‘the King’ (one of the 2 main characters), how do you look after “Number one?” So this book is all about survival – what are the steps, what are the levels we are willing to go to in order to protect number one? The variety of characters Clavell puts into the book present various types of ways of responding to the obstacle. In way the King could be viewed as a proactive man who is willing to risk a lot for his survival whereas others are more comfortable with knowing what little they have is safe, even if it is so little. It seems Clavell asks what kind of person would you be? Everyone, over the course of their years in the POW camp developed into their roles, some more mentally fragile others more assertive, but all based on their fundamental need to survive and how they each choose to achieve survival.

But even this review of King Rat veers off course towards the end when the writer states the following.

But I think Clavell finishes the book with a very interesting thought. As the rats beneath the camp break free and fight for supremacy, one always comes out on top – an all rounder of strength and cunning but most importantly the one most adaptive to his environment. What is the fall of the King in this book is that his position of power is usurped as the war finishes and people no longer need him, and he can no longer use them to his advantage. He could not adapt his skills or his ideas to the new environment. It is difficult to presume how his life turns out later, but he himself is resigned to a state of loss – he can no longer be the King.

Though one could interpret Clavell’s ending in the manner described above, I think The King’s marginalization is the result of the failings of those who abandoned him after he had taken the larger risks in actively trading for their benefit.  There are far worse characters than The King in King Rat.

You could say that Clavell’s King Rat depicts the end result which could occur if society followed the path Rand so clearly lays out and denounces in Atlas Shrugged, but I think Rand clearly states the ultimate comparison between King Rat and Atlas Shrugged in this comment about her famous work.

Rand said she “set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers and how viciously it treats them” and to portray “what happens to a world without them.”

Clavell’s King Rat shows what Rand articulates.

Last Rand quote taken from this article.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 01:32 PM
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“Dude, Where’s My Country?”

Tam in a post titled National Hair Shirt.

Ten years after Pearl Harbor, we had reduced Japan to a glowing pile of radioactive cinders and then rebuilt it and were buying cheap Japanese consumer goods by the shipload. Ten years after New York City was attacked by foreign enemies, all I see as evidence around Indy are a maudlin memorial being erected downtown, TSA probulators and porn-O-scans at the airport, and the occasional young man with an empty sleeve or trouser leg.

LauraB, The Trooper’s Girl, voices somewhat similar wondering in a post titled SOP Will Now Be SBD?!

All this pussification of war has me fed up. It is supposed to offend the opponent! It is supposed to be so damned offensive that he gives up and walks away!

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 10:59 AM
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Jeb Corliss “Grinding the Crack”

Theo Spark says, regarding the video linked below, “It is simply awesome and is a must see.”  He’s right.  Wow!

Video: Jeb Corliss “Grinding the Crack.” (3:30)

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 10:00 AM
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Cutoff the ‘Federal Family’

The State is not your friend, and it sure isn’t my family, but if it were, I’d cut it off immediately, like my folks did to me when I would not abide by the family rules.

Shove off FEMA.

Out: ‘US Government’ — In: ‘Federal Family’

Via Andrew McCarthy at The Corner.

Posted by John Venlet on 08/31 at 09:35 AM
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