We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Thursday, July 5. 2007
It's a trite old slogan now. You all know where it's from. But like most things that are truly useful, they fade into the background until they are essentially invisible, a plain sort of wallpaper perhaps; and people only point out whatever shortcomings such things have. Only Europeans are bigger ingrates than Americans. We seldom appreciate anything we have; they don't appreciate the things they have, and don't appreciate us, either.
An example: I could search the internet for half a second and come up with millions of documents, scholarly and rant-like alike, telling us all how bad the Interstate Highway System is. All the evils it generates. Try finding out the sum total of what it's added to the betterment of our country, and by proxy, the world. I submit to you that no one bothers to even attempt it, because the benefits of the thing are so enormous and so far-reaching that you couldn't even begin to quantify it. So everyone just takes the benefits of it for granted and rails about a swamp that got filled in, or pollution - a little real, mostly imaginary. But then, it's much easier to complain about your cable bill than to turn the TV off, ain't it?
I want you to read an entire blog. You heard me, the whole thing.
I'd like to think that guy is just like me. But it would be presumptuous of me to claim it. But I'd be proud if someone said it about me, that's for sure.
I'm going to head a lot of people off at the pass right now. His accomplishments have nothing to do with Gaia-love windpower one-world eco-blathering World Bank recumbent bicycle Earth Day carbon footprint nonsense. A man, aided by friends and family, is able to use his active mind and his efforts to improve the quality of his family's life through his own exertions. That, and he is able -- and allowed-- in a small way to lay his hands on the things he needs to do it. It boggles the mind what that man could do with access to a library and a Home Depot.
Please take heed: I said library and not university. A university is now generally simply an intellectual bootcamp, where you are taught that no one needs what William, and many like him, desperately and manifestly do need; things that you take for granted because you have the dough for a 600 dollar phone toy with no inkling of how it, or anything else for that matter, gets to you. They talk a good game about helping people like William in the abstract, as part of a faceless horde. Reality intrudes quickly, though, and they don't do much of anything that helps any individual like William, and generally do a great deal to harm or hamstring him. I fear many might be sanguine about returning such as me to the local equivalent of where William is now -- reading a dogeared book in the dark, slapping at the malarial mosquitoes -- as long as they can call it "progress" on the trust-fund circuit.
Also take heed: I said Home Depot and not an Al Gore celebrity self-congratulation extravaganza. They fly over people like William and me, look out the private plane's window and say: No one needs what they want. Please have my concubine feed me another lotos blossom.
Blogging from Malawi:
William Kamkwamba's Malawi Windmill Blog describes the blogger's efforts to provide sustainable energy in his country. (ht: Maggie's Farm)...
Weblog: Pajamas Media
Tracked: Jul 06, 12:52
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What a story. A great blog he has there.
The world is full of intelligent, creative, and entrepreneurial people. In addition to the stifling effects of corruption and the slanted, statist perspective of the NGOs and governmental agencies, there is the fact that rules governing private property, especially clear titles to land, are often the exception instead of the rule. Tough to get capital for a new business if you have nothing to borrow against. The classic works explaining this predicament and ways out of it are those of the Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto -
"The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else"
" The Other Path: The Economic Answer to Terrorism"
"Realizing Property Rights."
Yes, this is the sort of human effort story that warms my heart...
"The wires wait for the lightswitch."
"At the end of the day I am very excited."
I am weeping.
(Thank you for this, Roger.)
Lula gov't in Brazil is trying to germinate De Soto ideas--and it's working. I'll try to find a link--
Buddy, we have already talked about our times overseas over at Flares, but I can't resist telling this one for the folks reading Maggie's. I once did a brief mine feasibility study on the Guyana - Surinam border, where I spent a few days in a very isolated part of the country. Dugout canoes, houses on stilts, poverty. Just my presence there was enough to make them hope - to have the certainty - that the mine would someday be built.
"I can drive a bulldozer!"
"Will we learn to use computers?"
Westerners like to think of the developing world through the lens of their Rousseauist noble savage fantasies. As a kind of leftist Disneyland. Trouble is, every person who lives there only wants to escape it.
So true. Heck, you & me back in the age of carburetors and three tv channels, we couldn't WAIT to progress the hell forward.
If it's "quaint" and "colorful", you're "just visiting".
And where's my anti-gravity spaceship, anyway, like the kind that Diet Smith had in Dick Tracy?
My favorite was in Guatemala, in an impoverished village, where I met a tourist American couple who resolutely ignored the squalor and only could comment on the "wonderful native textiles." So "the wonderful native textiles" has become a kind of code phrase around here. :-)
ha ha--bet it stands for "shrunken heads that don't know it".
Anyway, that anti-gravity stuff was all "magnetism-powered" --just around the corner!
remember Fearless Fosdick?
Re squalor - have these people ever known anything else? Is it just normal life for them?
How do they view it? (I have no idea.)
They have enough insight into how the other classes live to know that their squalor is not universal. I don't know about India, but certainly in Latin America and most of Africa, people are well aware of the success of other political and economic systems.
That's how it was before the communications revolution, BD. Cheap transistors and plain old ever-greater mobility changed all that tho. Think of Madison Avenue piped into mud huts.
Sometimes an unrealistic view of the riches of America and other developed nations. But Buddy is right - today everybody knows about the rest of the world. And today kids in Malawi can blog about their home electrification projects.
There is also a growing awareness that the prescriptions of government aid agencies and NGOs working hand in glove with corrupt local governments don't offer a way forward. To paraphrase the African guy at a Q&A session with Bono - where is the African's place in this, as a thinker, as a doer?
Movies--Hollywood reaches almost everywhere. Lots of USA movies do far more overseas biz than domestic--esp in DVD. Images are almost always either 5th Avenue or Watts. Flyover country is a big secret. Volume counts, in images.
Very true. US flyover country is a big secret. That is another handicap for many officials in the developing world. Their US contacts are limited to Beltway foreign aid and development types. They never meet a real farmer or a miner or a small businessman. That is one of the great unheralded benefits of the multinational private sector. If you are a supervisor at a copper mine in Chuquicamata, Chile, you may be sent to Arizona or Australia to see how it is done in the US - you have much more contact with a broad cross section of developed society. The kind of contact that a bureaucrat in the developing world may never have.
And the fact that as Buddy says - images are almost always either 5th Avenue or Watts - is a great missed opportunity. They know that others have it better, but know little about who we really are.
Actually, Chuquicamata may not now be the best example, since it has been nationalized. But my point is that individuals in industry, which is usually private or quasi-private, have more exposure to the way that foreign economies work and often more exposure to US and other middle class people and their way of life.
Related, one great asset we have in the jihadi war is that everyday mideasterners come in contact with American soldiers--kids of the sort they don't see thru the media channels.
I have worked with US NGO types and consultants who love to trash America in front of foreign bureaucrats. I think they do it for two reasons - because they believe it, and because they think they will ingratiate themselves with the locals. I once ended such a meeting with a quick private conversation with the bureaucrat who chaired it. I looked him in the eye and said - "too bad you folks always meet with the wrong people." I think he knew exactly what I meant.
Buddy: Ah, Fearless Fosdick. And I liked Moon Maid. Kind of a Brenda Starr with snail antennae.
This blew me away!
"To paraphrase the African guy at a Q&A session with Bono - where is the African's place in this, as a thinker, as a doer?"
That African guy - smarter than Bono.
One of Manchester's 'beneath-the-radar leitmotifs is how the war and its take-over of the islands did no good for the indigenous people. At one point early on when he's thinking out loud, he says something about how exposure to the modern world did the natives no favors. He said it made them want. Now, almost at the end, he speaks with sorrow of how 'trashily' some of the islands have picked up some western habits.
"The experience of combat diminishes a man's soul. Permanently."
But whoever thinks that it permanently affects the lives of those the sidelines, as well. Not their souls, but their view of the world at the expense of the view they had. Collateral damage to their purity of heritage, I guess, is what I'm trying to say.
Ok, stumper here, the fat guy who always had a button popping off his shirt--every panel he was in--and there was always a chicken down at the bottom of the panel with its beak open to catch the button.
if uyou can't remember his name, we're screwed, because I can't either.
Lest you think i crazee
(scroll a long inch)
Google is Heaven on Earth
Wow. Not in a million years. Though I recall him now.
Google it is...
So were Heelsaplenty ever patented?
Phoenix, what glared out from those passages, to me, was that the kids who died, not the abstract numbers but the faces Manchester knew, seemed to the old soldier to have died to enable all those fast food joints, strip clubs, gin joints, and the general garish tourist trappiness of the old battlefield islands (as they were in the late 70s during his goodby darkness journey). Pretty painful. Sad in the 'there ain't no way to fix it' way.
To the western sensibility, yes, there is some reason to mourn what the South Pacific has become. It is not a Matson travel poster. But the question should be posed to the inhabitants and not to us. Would you rather be taking on an imaginary radio calling in the cargo planes, or live in a world where you have the things you have?
"But the question should be posed to the inhabitants and not to us"
Excellent. The EOJ was none to gentle, either. But manchester was on a different sort of trip--not the right and wrong, but something else. I don't have a world for it. A stand-off with melancholy, a deal.
I know what you mean.
And I should really start collecting Pacific travel posters, by the way. Stuff like this:
reminds me of those Gauguin south sea paintings--
Manchester is sewing up his heart.
I'm at the part, near the end, where he is wondering why it had to break in the first place.
I can hardly bear it. :( I will never be the same. I'm like a tourist who made two trips to the islands sixty-three years apart and who doesn't want to touch anything. I have the book to touch. And knowledge that will haunt me until I die.
Please read the endnotes because I still don't know how much was real and how much was made up. Of course the 70's trip was real and his wounds were certainly real but he admits no Marine could have gone to all of the places he mentions in the book. I still think it is an excellent work. I only wish he could have finished the Churchill bio.
Being as we're here. Done. Mixed feelings too follow.
Though I must say, books are treasures, in and of themselves. I was once asked why I kept all those 'old' books. I replied, because they are friends. I walk by the bookshelf and notice a title, and am suddenly and unwittingly transported into the point, at least as I understood it, when finished, of that author's view. The paper, the text, the font, all important. But words overcome the marketers mark. Print on paper is still magical for me. No matter the intrusion of pixels. I can't bequeath pixels. That is a false world, ultimately. It is something one can hold in one's hand, even in death, that makes a difference. This digital world will not do that, with certainty.
Phoenix--it's an elegy, isn't it. Reading it opens up a lot of emotions. "Haunt" is a good word.
Grant, right, he covered several battles--visited the islands--that he didn't fight in. He was writing about the Corp, too, not only his own combat experiences.
"Men," a sergeant told his people aboard ship before our invasion of the island, "Saipan is covered with dense jungle, quicksand, steep hills and cliffs hiding batteries of huge coastal guns, and strongholds pf reinforced concrete. Insects bear lethal poisons. Crocodiles and snakes infest the streams. The waters around it are thick with sharks. The population will be hostile toward us." There was a long silence. Then a corporal said, "Sarge, why don't we just let the Japs keep it?"
"Sarge, why don't we just let the Japs keep it?"
God. How many times have I thought that while reading? It is excrutiating looking back!
I'll finish it tonight. As I mentioned, I want you and Luther to read something I wrote as a comment on my blog. My partner turned it into a post....it was written this past Memorial Day. What a child I was when I wrote it! :(
(I'll email Bird Dog with the address of the blog and ask him to send it to you.)
Luther - I sure am glad you are here to say the things I want to say. I think about moving often. Big house, kids gone..... then I look at my books and almost weep at the thought of picking out which ones to let go in order to downsize. I think my blood is made up of the words and phrases of writers so it may be I live here so I can house my books. :) That gave me a little frizzle of relief just writing that.
Thank gooness they is other slightly-insane book nuts out there. A pile of books is my fav-o-reet decor! You could always just forget convention--should you downsize to a smaller place--and keep the whole liberry just stacked against the walls if need be. That's what I'd do--what the hell anyway.
Weatherproofing--they would need to be vacuum-sealed in a good heavy UV-resistant polyethelene film. "Multi-Vac" makes a good one.
Looking forward to getting Phoenix' website addy--my name at gee mail will work--
Me too. Name with an underscore in the middle with yahoo following. Sorry so cryptic but get enough junk mail as is.
I'm gonna let "Darkness" sink in a bit before writing.
You know that hurt me BD :-(
Look, I'm at work, millions of distractions, everyone wants an answer NOW. Just so much too do.....
Or, I'm an injit.
Actually my prefilled was unfilled and I, injit, did not check.
Little House of Books on the Prairie. by Phoenix Wilder
For Whom the Book Tolls. by Ernest Phoenix
I sent Bird Dog my address last night with a request to send it to you and Luther.
Bird Dog, did you get the email? I used your same address as I have before - the one listed on the blog.
I figured you would be BL :-) And its idjit, not...that other thing.
P. Unless BD makes it down here again it may take awhile, I don't think he checks every day. Great titles! And I loved "my blood is made up of the words and phrases of writers". Hell we're all virgin sponges at birth.
"Exhausted as I am, I feel a surge of fury. To commit brave men to a needless struggle was criminal; to consign them to oblivion is profane. Is this the apotheosis of our mourning?"
(Pg. 322. If fits in with my Memorial Day comment - which is now more poignant than ever.)
Speaking of words and phrases of writers..... I will have to knock something off my Top Ten List to fit this book on. But I'm thinking I might make two Top Ten Lists as four currently on that list are books of war. "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara tops the list; "A Soldier of the Great War" by Mark Halperin, another; and "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque; and "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier.
I don't know what it is about books of war, but they humble me. When I was little I used to lie on my back and stare up into the heavens of stars and feel small. Looking out over the ocean makes me feel the same way. It's not bad - feeling small - because it's right. It's a universal truth that does for the soul what the words of writers who know war do for the heart and mind.
Just watched Ollie North's "War Stories" and saw Bud Mahurin (WWII & Korea fighter ace), an old man now, tell Ollie "I made a contribution. A damn small contribution, but I did make a contribution". Need to get his book. Did pick up "Killer Angels" on P's rec but haven't opened it yet. Soon tho.