Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Politicians Should Know History

A friend of mine recently mentioned that she graduated magna cum laude. In English, this translates to "with great praise". "Summa Cum Laude" translates to "With Greatest Praise".
Where I went to high school they taught us Latin. This, of course has been very useful over the years because you can figure out a lot of English words by their Latin roots. It's too bad they don't teach that here nowadays. Also, we learned Shakespeare, and that gave us a an understanding of the human condition that spans the centuries. The millenia, even. Some things about people never change. Also, we knew the geography and the history of the world. And in knowing the mistakes of history, we can avoid them in the future. You ignore history at your peril!

If I ask a person what number comes after 1,964,565, and they answer 1,964,566, it's not because they have memorized all the numbers. It's because they understand how the system works - so they can see the pattern and guess the next step. It's the same with history. If you learn enough history, you see the patterns emerge and you begin to recognize them when they form again, so you will know what to expect and how to respond at the appropriate time.

For instance, understanding that the Roman Empire fell because the weaknesses brought on by arrogance and self-indulgence which left them vulnerable to the Visigoths, insurrection, power struggles from within the body politic, and a host of barbarians from without, would help us understand that we should not fall back into complacency, and self-indulgence, and similar feelings of superiority and arrogance. Otherwise.... we become.... weak.... like they did. And then we..... lose..... our ... premium position in the world.... and are overtaken by other countries. Hmmmm

It seems that we have cut out some essential lessons of history here, wouldn't you say?? This should be required reading for all our political leaders. Other civilizations have traveled these roads before. They found the potholes. They wrote it down and called it 'history'. All we have to do is read it, and learn from their lessons, right?

Hey - it's a good thing our current leader is an avid student of world history to understand what mistakes of the past to avoid.
For instance, I'm sure President Bush would have read Sun Tzu's "The Art of War". After all, it's a classic! That's why he knows not to try to fight a war too far from home, where his support and supply lines are stretched too thin and too vulnerable. And where it costs too much to support a lengthy campaign because it drains the resources from his homeland, and makes his homeland vulnerable to attack from other directions. It costs far more to wage a war in a far distant land.
And he knows enough NOT to force an enemy to the point where they are desperate, so they will fight to the death, which makes it near impossible to win a war against them.
And I'm sure, because he understands military strategy and world politics so well, he would never go to war with a sovereign nation that had not attacked his country first, without first testing the international consensus on the issue. Surely he would never make us the global renegade that starts wars with insufficient provocation, and little support from other nations.

And I'm sure he understands the difference between trying to wage a war with a country vs trying to wage war on an "IDEA" or a tactic. An idea or tactic like "terrorism". You can send troops to a country. You can bomb a country. You can cutoff the supply lines to a country until they give up. A country can surrender. But you can't bomb a concept. You cannot shoot an idea. In a grass roots movement of concepts and ideas, there is a flow of opinion across the world - but there is no one to "surrender". So who exactly would you fight? And how would you know when it's over? How would you know when to send the troops home? When the bad idea is gone and everybody loves you now?

And it's also a good thing he is also a student of Shakespeare to understand the dynamics of human interaction, so he could predict the repercussions if he were to say, insult the religion and culture of another large group of people. Especially a group absolutely committed to their religion and culture. And I'm sure his studies of human nature through Shakespeare taught him to know the effects of interfering in the affairs of other people and telling them what to do, and plotting a regime change in someone else's country. Or of dignifying criminal activity as an ideological difference, thus allowing the criminals to coalesce under a flag of ideology and attempt to legitimize their cause on the world stage and draw support from the enemies of their enemy(us). So he knows enough not to do that. Also, reading Shakespeare would teach him the difference between strength and mere stubbornness. The difference between true leadership and merely leveraging advantage over others to grab power.

I'm SURE he must know all this. Because he went to Yale. And Yale is an excellent school! One of the very best America has to offer. I'm sure they teach all their best students all these important lessons. And surely the president was one of the very best students at Yale, correct? After all, he was asked to join the powerful Skull & Bones secret society, as his father did, and other powerful people before him for the past 170 years, So he must have been one of the very best students.

And that's why we voted for him, right? Of course! Because he is smart enough to know all these things. Because he went to one of the best schools in the land.

I mean... we wouldn't vote for somebody to be the leader of our country who DIDN'T know these basic lessons of leadership, would we? A good education is very important. And it is important to have a leader that has one.

You know what? I started out this train of thought just feeling a little sarcastic, but now I think I've actually scared myself.

In the illustrious words of Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of Rome when he saw the end approaching...... "oh crap."


At 10/17/2006 3:52 PM, Blogger Igor said...


Val, you got me !!! I didn't realized it's sarcasm until Shakespeare !


Ah, well, we cannot help it.

What I noticed throughtout my life is that a homo sapiens is sapiens only sometimes. Looking back at a day (or a week!) I more often than not realize that I was sapiens may be for a couple of minutes, at best.

As for people - the more individuals are in a group - the less sapiens the group is. A big group, like a country, never demonstrate a sapiens behavior, imho... then what would we expect of its alfa-males (ie democratically elected leaders)?

No, during the last years I slowly come to conclusion that humans have NO future as civilization/society as a whole - exactly because the society is ... rather dumb. Hopelessly so. Even current status of our development seems to be well beyond the society's ability to manage it.

So, I think, the only hope is that the science/technology can be pushed to the level that would allow an individual (or a small group of individuals - small enough to still be sapiens) to exist and develope itself/themselves without a society, on their own, in this Universe. Different groups/individuals can select different paths - there is enough space and resources in the Universe for every body.

At 10/18/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Val Serrie said...

Interesting point, Igor.
People only seem to find commonalities to connect to each other on the most base levels.
Hmmmm. Maybe music is an exception, perhaps? Maybe this is a wavelength of culture that allows people to commune on a higher level?

But other than that, when the concert is over, people still have to eat. There are only so many resources to consume in the world, and as people begin to compete more and more for those resources, the competition will force increasingly aggressive behavior.


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