"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Monday, February 28, 2005

That's Because It's Not

I see that Howard Dean is preaching the New Gospel again. The quote that's gotten a lot of pixels thus far is his little "we're good, they're evil" ditty. But here's what made me perk up (emphasis mine):
"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."
Well, of course we don't think tolerance is a virtue...because it's not!! Tolerance is an attitude, not a virtue. I wrote about the distinction in this post two months ago:
(2) Tolerance is not a virtue. Virtues are always proper whenever they're practiced regardless of the circumstances. It is always proper to act with love, compassion, and patience. Tolerance, however, is proper only if the action or idea being tolerated meets some minimal standard. Tolerance of slavery, for example, hardly recommends itself without some other qualifiers (and they better be damn good qualifiers, like trying to save a new country).

Whether tolerance is proper depends on the object of the attitude while virtues depend on the intention of the subject. Thus, to say that one is tolerant is not to say that one is automatically virtuous, nor does intolerance automatically mean that one is wrong about the topic in question.
Sheesh. And we're the ones who aren't supposed to understand nuance.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Keeping Your Head In Heady Times

Victor Davis Hanson has done it again.

His latest piece examines the recurrent myths from those who tend to deny American exceptionalism. Always, it seems, there's a contingent who insist the sky is falling only to come crawling around afterwards to say they knew all along everything was fine. Until, of course, the next time something "terrible" happens and they revert back to their instincts....

Case in point: Rob at Say Anything made an observation about Walid Jumblatt's comparison of the Iraqi elections to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said, "I am convinced that decades from now, despite the nay-sayers, the liberation of Iraq will be seen as a key moment, the point at which the tide turned and Islamo-facism fell back to make way for a move toward freedom and democracy." Immediately the naysayers and the see-no-good types jumped on him for saying such wildly optimistic things. It becomes tedious hearing from such people over and over again (who are, of course, never wrong.) Yet it is through such times that it is most important to remain vigiant and confident because to do so is to shape the future instead of being broken by it.

And, in an excellently timed observation, Varifrank said this...last night!
I also wonder what they will say in 10 years time about the events of 2004. Today, we all, left and right think of the events of 1989 as “a good thing”, but at the time the socialists around the world were pretty dour about the whole thing. I suspect in 10 years we will all look back at 2004 and think of it was a turning point and a “good thing” the left will agree, and go so far as to say it was their idea all along and Bush was really being bi-partisan by following their ideals but that he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into being a “liberator”.

But I know better.
That's right in line with VDH's closing line:
A final prediction: By the end of this year, formerly critical liberal pundits, backsliding conservative columnists, once-fiery politicians, Arab "moderates," ex-statesmen and generals emeriti, smug stand-up comedians, recently strident Euros — perhaps even Hillary herself — will quietly come to a consensus that what we are witnessing from Afghanistan and the West Bank to Iraq and beyond, with its growing tremors in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, and the Gulf, is a moral awakening, a radical break with an ugly past that threatens a corrupt, entrenched, and autocratic elite and is just the sort of thing that they were sort of for, sort of all along — sort of...
You're in good company, Varifrank.

(minor disclosure: in that Say Anything thread, I briefly mentioned the confluence of Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall in 1989. That's the topic of Varifrank's piece which has this excellent observation: "Today, some people think the Iraqi insurgents are like the guy in front of the Chinese tanks. I think they are wrong, I think the insurgents are like the people driving the Chinese tanks in 1989." That's exactly right and, though it doesn't fit with the rest of my little bit here, I just had to include it.)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Value of Productive Bickering

This took longer to get to than I'd hoped, but such is life.

President Bush has made it his mantra to talk about the power of freedom and democracy around the world. Indeed, it has a great number of positive effects that are better described elsewhere. But one of its most potent benefits is one that we usually identify as a great flaw: the power to complain.

I formulated this thought and waited for a newspaper piece to hang it on. Lo and behold, the International Herald Tribune picked up the baton. In a piece entitled "Their Votes Cast, Iraqis are Shifting The Blame", there was this quote:
"We have no electricity here, no water and there's no gasoline in the pumps," said Salim Muhammad Ali, a tire repairman who voted in the Jan. 30 election. "Who do I blame? The Iraqi government, of course. They can't do anything."
What a beautiful expression of human nature! Just a few days after his first real election in which the election didn't actually have anything to do with the current government, this Iraqi man is already blaming his government for the problems.

This is delightful for two reasons. First, there are soooo many factors that must be in place before someone can make a statement like this, factors that most of us in the blogging world take for granted (because of the circumstances that let us blog.) That includes things like: a free press, enough confidence in free speech without fear of reprisal, some expectation of accountability from those with the power of the sword, and the unconscious expectation that it is a citizen's right to demand certain things from his government. These factors were absent from Iraqi society just two years ago, and the speed with which they've taken root is phenomenal.

The second reason is because bickering has an impact on consensual, accountable governments that it does NOT have on nonconsensual, nonaccountable governments. What we tend to call "bickering" is really political argumentation in a venue in which it can make a difference. We get it in America all the time at all kinds of levels. People sometimes forget and identify the "government" only as the federal one or maybe their own state government. But there are hundreds of thousands of American governments. Each municipiality has its own self-directed governing structure accountable to its citizens. Indeed, the number increases when we consider the number of clubs in which the leaders and rules are determined according to democratic, parliamentary processes.

As a result, Americans argue and fight and bicker about everything. Lots of it is petty, juvenile carping, the kind that embarrasses people and makes us wish that somebody's mother would step in and clean it up. But this constant political fighting leads to three results. First, it's a symptom of the kind of participation that leads to better results, as Orson Scott Card argues this week in The Ornery American.
Historically, the political parties have thrived best when they "broadened the tent," making strong efforts to include people who are not "ideologically pure..."

You get a party of labor unions, blacks, Jews, immigrants, liberals, and the diehard Confederates of the solid South, and you will really have diversity.

And it's from diversity, not unity, that large groups of people make wise collective decisions.
Again, read "diversity" here as "difference" as in "disagreement"--bickering.

The second result that comes from this kind of bickering is that it leads to attention focused on aspects the participants can actually affect. Sure, even in democracies with free institutions there's a lot of pointless babble about issues those involved can't actually change. But when the only things you can bicker about are things you can't affect, it leads to scapegoating and easy manipulation of your emotions for others' gain. That's been the problem of the Middle East for some time now; when complaining about your government can get you killed, that impulse gets channeled into a lot of nonsense about the Great and Little Satans.

That leads to the third result: when the target of your bickering really can be the government minister who lives two miles away or the governor you can kick out of office next election day, the focus tends to stay local instead of getting too ambitious. The reason we'd love a democratic Middle East is because the people in the various countries would be too busy fighting with their fellow citizens to cause trouble for their neighbors, let alone us. That's part of the reason the U.S. has been historically "isolationist"; we've usually got our hands full bickering with each other over who said what and who wants to do what to whom in our own backyard to pay too much attention to what the French and Belgians think of us. (Conversely, when your political life is tepid and bickering gets you nowhere in terms of local effectiveness, once again the tendency is to focus on far-away "threats." Thus European criticism of us is often based on their own democratic impotence, not any lofty position they hold.)

So it's great news to see that the Iraqis now feel confident enough to blame their own governments! Join the club of freedom-loving grumblers!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Thing Called Wantin' And Havin' It All

Newsweek has an article about the perils of perfectionist motherhood called Mommy Madness. As is my wont these days, I read first the commentary (from Lileks) and the satire (from iowahawk) on the article before I read the article. Perhaps that has prejudiced me somewhat against the article's author. If so, then so be it. I'm still not sympathetic.

I read Lileks' point as this: choices have consequences, and adults bear them. This is strikingly obvious to most of us, but it seems these mothers in this article genuinely don't understand this point. Lileks goes on to point out that once one has accepted this reality, there's a joy and a peace that goes with it:
But I’ve given up great acres of work time to be here with Gnat, and the amount of free time I used to have – time I spent recharging the daily batteries – has dwindled to zip. But it’s all a trade-off. So it’ll be a couple more years until I can wander downtown again; so it’ll be a while until she’s in school and my day is my own. So what. Nothing beats the time we spend together, the look on her face when she shows me a magic trick, the hug and kiss I get when I leave her at school. Today she beat me at UNO again and I explained how Barbie glitter cards are made and we looked at a website about the solar system and ooohed and ahhed at Saturn. And that matters more than anything because she is mine and I’m her Dad, and qualifying those definitions just seems petty.
What these women "suffer" from isn't a lack of support from society or men (just another attempt to make it someone else's problem). What they suffer from is a type of self-centeredness in which they appear to be looking for accolades for their performance instead of the rewards that come with deep sacrifice. It's about self-actualization, not selflessness. As Lileks says, "[r]aising Gnat is the most important thing I do." It doesn't seem like the author of this article gets it, deep down.

The thing is, most of the women I know have to work hard at being a mom plus an earner plus whatever else they have to do. Yet they don't crumble under the kinds of pressures described in this article. Maybe that's because they have real problems and challenges. They can't afford designer issues and so do pretty well with what they've got. That's why Iowahawk's satire is so great. Can you imagine how the women described in this article would react if the redneck girls from the South and mothers from Ethopia showed up at their doorstep to "help"? Hopefully many of them would be shamed into better behavior, but you know some of them would just be horrified at the notion that that type would show up trying to help. I mean, it's one thing to hire that sort of person, but to be morally indebted--why, that would just be too gauche.

Like the Sawyer Brown song that I use as this title says, there's a danger in wantin' and havin' it all because it can turn you into someone who, although rich, always feels entitled to more. But in doing so, there's a large risk in tickin' off the support and watching it go elsewhere. If the author of this piece really tries to get some political traction out of this phenomenon, look for this bit of Tim Allen wisdom to make the rounds once more:
Because we live in the modern age, women now have choices that are just killing them.

They can have a job, not have a job. They can be married or unmarried, married with children, unmarried with children, married with children and a job, unmarried with children and a job, unmarried with children and no job, unmarried with children who themselves have jobs, have a job and an au pair who has children, marry the au pair, have the au pair have their children, etc...

Men, unfortunately, have the same choice we've always had: we can work or we can go to jail.

This Is A Man

Posting has been slow but shall pick up now that I've cleared some of the dross out of the way.

I've been collecting things to talk about in the interim, though. Here's one: a Q & A with Captain David Rozelle at NRO. This is a man.
NRO: You've done your service, man, why would you ever want to go back?

Captain Rozelle: It is my duty. By accepting command, I knew that I would eventually return to Iraq. I am smarter, stronger, and more ready to help create freedom for the Iraqi people.

NRO: Deployment is hard on a marriage — as it is on your whole family. And for you as a young father. Why is it worth it nonetheless?

Captain Rozelle: I am a warrior. It is a mindset that allows you to leave your family. Those that are afraid to leave their family to accomplish something great will never achieve anything.
NRO: If there was only one thing Americans could know about the enemy, what would you like it to be?

Captain Rozelle: They are cowards that hide behind women and children. We will destroy them.
There's all kinds of nonsense from the Left about the costs of Iraq and the so-called missteps of the Bush administration and the hand-wringing about the power of the alleged "insurgency." Captain Rozelle shows us (and the Left) why we will win. Our enemies simply cannot breed men like him.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Some Quick Hits

Not much blogging lately, although I have kept busy on a couple of other sites and a private bulletin board. In the meantime, though, I've run across the following things I found interesting:
  • Once you dig down to the bottom of the James Dobson/Spongebob thing, it's really not that big a deal. Dobson is quite right to note that others are trying to get certain beliefs into kids' heads through association with the most nonthreatening characters. I am certain the campaign is deliberate and that there's a good bit of cynicism thrown in with the diversity drive. But with all that said, this still seems a tempest in a teapot.
  • Robear at MissionMind has interesting take on reaction of Democrats and the MSM to the rise of conservative talk-radio and the right side of the blogosphere. I admit bias, but I certainly don't see my guys reacting toward Air America and Daily Kos with the same sense of threatened self-image.
  • Wretchard at the Belmont Club gives another example of the power of the blogosphere in which one blogger not only beats two reporters (with the power of a major magazine behind them) to the punch but also does a better job of analysis when he gets there.
  • A very good Troll definition. I must be wary about feeding these guys.
  • Mary Katharine Ham compares blogging to local sports reporting. It's one of the best analogies I've seen, both in terms of the role of the writer and the nature of the surrounding community. It gives an interesting angle: the problem with the MSM is that it's too big so that it defines the mainstream without ever swimming in it. This doesn't even play to the red-blue state thing; it's just noting that big-time "journalists" aren't close to their story anymore. Bloggers are. A must-read.
  • Oh, I have had such fun with The Case of the Ransomed Action Figure. I think the best roundup comes from Instapundit. But I also love Scrappleface's take and the Toy Soldiers piece on TechCentralStation. Best line: "After taking several crash language courses at the Army facility in Monterrey, I could speak all the major tongues. Monchichi. Teddy Bear. Cabbage Patch. Smurf." What a beautiful thing. But the most important observation may come from Powerline (no surprise there.) It reminds me of a line from Mark Twain: "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand."
Coming tomorrow (hopefully): some thoughts on the delightfully disruptive power of democracy (subtitled, "Why Bickering Is Good For The World.")