Voulez-Vous Danser Avec Moi Ce Soir

As someone who has read more than my fair share of books by Theonomists, especially at an earlier period of life before starting this blog, I am struck by how they deal with Genesis 4.  When God confronted Cain about murdering Abel, Cain rather contemptuously replied with a question about whether he was his brother’s keeper, since Abel was himself a keeper of sheep.  And Theonomists get a great deal of mileage out of claiming that Abel didn’t need a keeper at all, as it is all too common for people to ask if we are our brother’s keeper.  Yet those who ask the question are wiser after a fashion than the Theonomists, since while it is is true that Abel didn’t need a keeper, those who ask themselves the question are not really wishing to view others like sheep that need to be kept, but whether our brethren need our encouragement, need our prayers, need our help if we can provide it.  And that is precisely the right question, even if it is the wrong term.  It is more important to get our hearts and behaviors right than it is always know the right expression to use to describe it, after all.

As might be expected given previous experiences [1], today was a fairly busy day for me.  I arrived at the Bible Study this morning just in time to hear the prayer and then find a seat in the front row as is my fashion.  The Bible Study itself, from a former ABC instructor of mine, was quite well done, and it dealt with being in the world and not of it.  The two split sermons were well done and complementary in content and approach, as the first speaker (the gentleman who gave the Bible Study) went deep on a single passage, namely the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and the second speaker decided to draw encouragement from some of the prophecies about the world to come and the adventures that would come from being a child that survived into the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.  Every child needs a good adventure after all.  What is to keep life interesting in the face of boredom and frustration?

Part of what kept me busy was the music.  Although I was not one of the two Nathans who performed during the talent show portions of the dance, I did play in the hymn ensemble and sang in the combined choir, and that required enough work to suit even someone like myself, and that is not even including the other logistical work I managed to do in setup and take down and so on.  The music went well, which made it more enjoyable for me, and the food was good too–eating lunch first was nice and I was pretty early in line for dinner as well, with my food being served by a young lady in our congregation with whom I have a lengthy personal history.  It is little wonder that I should have to ponder so much about why it is that I was able to do so much talking but so little dancing.  Perhaps that is to be expected in a situation like my own.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/14/the-cold-never-bothered-me-anyway/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/13/thats-a-waste-of-good-chicken/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/17/i-destroy-my-enemies-by-making-them-my-friends/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/16/all-i-do-is-win/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/15/you-already-know/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/14/youre-not-going-to-let-me-wait-out-here-forever-are-you/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/02/17/blowing-in-the-wind/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/02/16/younger-now-than-we-were-then/

Posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Libro De Amo

Libro De Amo, edited by Arieh ben Guni

In reviewing this book it is necessary to discuss its genre before going into more details.  As a poet myself [1], from time to time I read books of poetry as a way of seeing the sort of verses that other people are writing that find themselves into publishing for one reason or another [2].  This particular book is a book of love poetry (its title means “Book of Love) in Esperanto.  How you feel about this book will depend in large part on how much of it you can understand, and what your feelings are about a book that manages to discuss many areas of love.  The poems included in this work run the full spectrum of love ranging from spiritual love to carnal love to melancholy reflections on past love and praise of love poets from times past.  Most of the book, perhaps predictably, focuses on physical love.  I spent enough of my time trying to figure out what words were being used and being impressed at the complicated rhyming and meter that I was probably not as shocked by the content of the book as I should have been.  I get the distinct feeling that this book, published in 1969, was written to shock the reader, but at this point the book has lost a lot of its sting in light of the cultural changes over the past few decades of increasing decadence and moral corruption.

The contents of the book amply demonstrate its broad scope of material.  The book opens with a foreword by the editor of the work, Arieh Ben Guni, about whom I know nothing at all, except that he spends a few pages summarizing the poems in a big picture view.  After this there comes a selection titled “Secret Sonnets” that include quotations about love from various writers and thinkers translated into Esperanto, more than fifty love sonnets which follow a Petrarchian approach of two quatrains and two segments in terza rima, along with a section focused on complete clarity and a short epilogue.  After this comes a short section made of two cycles of poetry related to Greek myths on Hercules and the Centaurs and Artemis and the nymphs.  After this comes a section of poetry focusing on the unmasking of one’s sensual desires and romantic longings.  Little more detail needs to be said about that, except that some of these poems are translations from others, where the original (one poem each in English, Spanish, Italian, Latin, German, and French, all of which I was able to follow in the original) was on the left page and the Esperanto translation into striking and excellent verse was on the other page.  Following this was a selection of religious poetry called “Secret Anthology” translated from Egyptian, Jewish (the Song of Solomon), Greek, Roman, French, English, Chinese, Spanish, and Japanese sources.  Why the love poetry of these traditions, much of which is fairly recognizable and well-known, had to be considered a secret is beyond me.  As a person who studied Chinese pillow books as a teenager, the erotic and romantic literature of the world is not unfamiliar to me, and certainly not unfamiliar to many readers far more experienced in la arto de amo as I am.  The book, more than 250 pages in total length, is closed by a brief section that looks at love from a didactic as well as Renaissance perspective and citations of the sources cited from, a glossary of terms, and the table of contents, which strangely in Esperanto books often comes at the end, a convention I must admit I find somewhat odd.

So, how does one view a book like this.  I am of two minds concerning the book myself.  On the negative side, this book clearly revels in carnal lust and is deliberately seeking to shock those with fairly traditional standards of moral behavior.  That said, the sort of love discussed here would not be improper between a husband and wife, and as someone with fairly strong romantic inclinations who has written on more than one occasion such longings in particularly graphic form this is definitely poetry that is not unfamiliar to my own material as a poet.  Much of how one reads this book depends on one’s perspective–to the extent one sees this as a celebration of love in the broad scope and a recognition that passionate sexual love is not in itself wrong, I would not disagree with that, although I would not argue that simply because something is felt or desired that it is legitimate, whether I am speaking for my own longings or those possessed by others.  Just because one feels attraction does not mean that one has a right to fulfill one’s longings without consequences or repercussions.  This book, likely, was written with precisely that aim.  On a different level, this book is abundant evidence of the richness and variety that can be found in Esperanto as a language to express poetry in a beautiful way, and therefore the book has considerable value as a cultural artifact, apart from concerns about its contents and the motives of its poets and compilers.  Sometimes, books are complicated.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/05/20/sonnets-of-a-wounded-soul/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/07/16/33/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/07/14/99-shades-of-gray/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/11/12/the-lonely-hour/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/01/07/leave-me-two-lights/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/04/01/broken/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/09/10/bear-the-silence/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/05/book-review-one-hundred-and-one-famous-poems/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/03/08/book-review-anglo-saxon-and-norse-poems/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/10/book-review-from-the-heart-of-a-woman-love-letters-to-my-lord/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/13/book-review-voices-in-the-night/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/11/05/book-review-discovering-his-image/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/09/04/book-review-the-journey-begins/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/16/book-review-what-am-i/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/05/24/book-review-another-world-instead/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/07/14/book-review-every-war-has-two-losers/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/07/04/book-review-crossing-unmarked-snow/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/04/17/book-review-my-heart-makes-its-home-in-a-faraway-land/

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Christianity, Love & Marriage | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Plene Idiota Vortaro

Plene Idiota Vortaro Kun Suplemento, by K. Paringhien

The odds are good that this review will contain more text in it than the book itself.  When I find particularly odd books like this one, I find it worthwhile to report on their existence as it may be something that few people are aware of.  I found this particular volume during a recent weekly Esperanto meeting sitting on the shelf, and one of my fellow Esperantists was reading the dictionary and wondering why it was called a complete idiotic dictionary.  I patiently translated some of the words in the dictionary and it quickly became evident to him what sort of dictionary this is, which made it worthwhile to review in the general context of books in and about Esperanto that are part of my beat as a book reviewer [1].  Any time someone like myself finds a book like this one, a book that has escaped the general notice of the reading public and may only be known to a few individuals, I feel it necessary to comment upon it and its reasons for being in the hope that it will get at least some of the attention that any author looks for when writing anything, even a complete idiotic dictionary as this one claims to be.

The book’s contents itself are striking and odd, and quite disturbing.  The book itself is only 9 pages, if one includes the introductory material at the beginning of the book.  Obviously, for the author to call this a full dictionary of any kind is being more than a little bit facetious.  The book is also a bilingual dictionary in Esperanto and Japanese, and not Esperanto and English as many readers would normally expect, although the subject matter is fairly familiar for those who are aware of the nature of Japanese manga and anime.  The two column text (one column in Esperanto, the other in a Japanese script of some kind, and I do not know enough Japanese to tell which one of their scripts, perhaps kanji) is arranged alphabetically in Esperanto and contains words of a generally immoral nature.  If you wanted to know the Esperanto words (and their Japanese equivalents) for such words as to abort or commit adultery, bordello, to circumcise, to deflower, erogenous, gonorrhea, hymen, impotency, impregnate, impotence, catamite (spelled with a k in Esperanto to keep the same pronunciation), lascivious, necrophiliac, pederast, sybaritic, venereal, or any other number of terms along those lines, this book might have what you are looking for.  To be sure, it contains a lot of words (some of them perhaps coined by the author himself) that one would not find in many dictionaries but that many people would likely discuss in their cruder moments.

This book in many ways is a historical artifact.  Written in the early 1970s, it is evidence within the Esperanto culture of the way that even then pornographic literature from Japanese was influencing a certain part of the world culture, and it is evidence of the uninhibited sexuality of the period before there was any fear of AIDS (which is not in this particular dictionary because it was published in 1972).  One wonders whether the person who made this simply wanted to give Esperanto the linguistic tools to deal with a discussion about sexual perversion, wanted to encourage other people to live like that, and what happened to the author or those who followed his lead.  How many copies of this curio were made, and into whose hands did they end up, aside from mine?  This is a little book, but its presence and very existence is itself evidence of the sort of cultural changes that have corrupted and debased our culture in the last few decades.  As an artifact of our cultural decadence, however quaint it may seem in our times, this book has an importance that far outweighs its modest size.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/05/book-review-teach-yourself-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/05/book-review-esperanto-dictionary/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/02/book-review-being-colloquial-in-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/02/book-review-esperanto-language-literature-and-community/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/28/book-review-step-by-step-in-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/11/book-review-esperanto-learning-and-using-the-international-language/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-a-first-reader

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-esperanto-at-a-glance

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-english-esperanto-dictionary

Posted in Book Reviews, History | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Liker Du Bøker?

I find it striking, and sometimes even a little bit depressing, how much of my life has been spent in books and in book learning.  Last night and this morning, as I was readying my things to bring them with me on my annual pilgrimage to Tacoma [1], I pondered how many books I was going to be bringing with me to read.  I had the two books I had picked up last night at the library, and both of those looked particularly interesting.  I had two more books that I had purchased before a recent concert that interested me, not least because they were about plays.  I had the three books I had finished reading last night that were owed a normal review and a fourth book I had read that night that added to the list of books owed a scholarly review that would take a bit more time.  I had the audiobooks in my car, at least two of them because I knew that I would finish one of them by the time I returned home and wanted to make sure not to waste time on the road that could be spent in pleasant enjoyment of someone reading Jane Austen novels.  I had four other books to finish in my usual work bag, including a book of Sherlock Holmes stories I have not been able to finish for many weeks because of the tyranny of the urgent, including many books to review that find their way happily into my library.  And that is not even including the books that are on my computer that I have obligated myself to read and review within the next couple of months, even though I do not read as many ebooks as one would expect.

I find it striking that it is said that a substantial number of people never read another book even after finishing their studies for a bachelor’s degree.  It is hard for me to conceive of such a thing, being as prolific a reader as I am.  I do not say this to brag, or even to humblebrag, but rather as a statement of fact.  To be sure, books are bulky, and are somewhat more demanding than more passive forms of entertainment, but being someone of a rich imagination I find the effort needed to read and understand books to be greatly rewarding.  And, like anything else, once the mind has been disciplined to enjoy books, it enjoys them more and more.  Reading books well, and enjoying them, feeds on itself.  So does any other activity.  What we enjoy we want to do more of, sometimes enjoying the same sort of material out of a love of familiarity, or perhaps a slight and occasional subversion of genre conventions to keep things from getting too s tale, and sometimes what we enjoy gives us confidence to move beyond, to read more challenging books as a result of what we have mastered.

The same is true, it should be noted, with other ways of spending one’s time.  And there are always opportunity costs to be had.  Time spent reading books cannot profitably be spent watching television or movies, or playing video games, or attempting to hone one’s poor skills at flirtation or courtship.  It might be argued that there would be plenty of other ways that I could productively spend my time, ways that would be better suited to helping me better relate to those around me who might find my voracious appetite for nonfiction to be somewhat alarming or off-putting.  I don’t consider myself particularly snobby about my interests.  I do not mind other people having different interests than my own.  I happen to know some people that spend many hours looking up sermons, others watching television shows and movies, still others listening to large amounts of music.  Some people prefer that which is popular, and some deliberately seek out the obscure, and I enjoy those who share my interests as well as those who are able to provide insights on that which I neither have the time or inclination to focus on myself.

But much depends on motives.  We cannot impute someone’s motives simply by what someone likes.  A fondness for watching sitcoms, for example, does not speak ill of a person or their intellect or character.  A fondness for reading obscure nonfiction books in several languages, such as I have, is not necessarily a sign of intellectual arrogance or a desire to show off one’s erudition.  I would hope that, for all of the attention that I sometimes unwillingly receive, that whoring after attention and applause is not my motive.  Sometimes our motives are mixed or hidden to ourselves.  Some might rightly question, for example, the sort of love for fellowship that leads me to travel to a place that stresses me out year after year, perhaps hoping it will be different this time.  Perhaps that is another reason to enjoy that which stretches one’s mind, if one puts oneself in the position of having to wrestle with so many difficulties.  Sometimes one needs to move beyond the book to see how things look in life and not only on the page.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/14/the-cold-never-bothered-me-anyway/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/13/thats-a-waste-of-good-chicken/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/17/i-destroy-my-enemies-by-making-them-my-friends/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/16/all-i-do-is-win/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/15/you-already-know/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/14/youre-not-going-to-let-me-wait-out-here-forever-are-you/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/02/17/blowing-in-the-wind/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/02/16/younger-now-than-we-were-then/

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Triumph Of William McKinley

The Triumph Of William McKinley:  Why The Election of 1896 Still Matters, by Karl Rove

I have to admit at the outset that I am pleasantly surprised by how good this book is, having never read a book from the former senior adviser to President George W Bush.  When reading a book like this [1], one has to be very aware of the purpose and agenda of the book.  No one writes books that are nearly 400 pages of core text without having a purpose, and when the book comes from someone involved in politics, the certainty of there being some kind of ulterior motive is even higher.  In this particular case, the ulterior motive is pretty clear in that Rove has some definite ideas about what sort of Republican party there should be, arguing implicitly through his historical analysis of McKinley’s rise to power that it was the inclusiveness of McKinley’s vision for the GOP and his ability to avoid treating people as permanent enemies that allowed him to build an enduring coalition that lasted for nearly four decades of Republican dominance from 1896 to 1932.  People reading this book in light of the 2016 election can come to different conclusions, like the fact that a candidate with commitment to the well-being of the commonfolk and a sense of optimism can undercut the power of political bosses through appealing directly to the grass roots of a party while building a successful coalition, even if the specific makeup of that coalition can differ.  The triumph of McKinley, like any success, can be attributed to any number of factors, and different people may draw lessons from different factors than the author does given his own perspective and rhetorical aim.

This book is a sizable work, one that begins by giving the context of McKinley’s life including his rise to power within the frequently decisive swing state of Ohio.  Of the book’s 29 chapters, roughly half of them take place before McKinley was chosen as the Republican nominee in 1896, itself a moment of drama, and about half of the chapters look at the campaign itself.  Rove is part of a group of revisionist historians who view McKinley as more than a genial nonentity but as someone whose character, ideals, and ability to notice talent and successful recruit it make him a notable if somewhat transitional character in the tail end of one generation of politics with weak presidents and the lingering influence of the Civil War on the electorate and the beginning of the age of American imperialism.  The book also spends a lot of time focusing on McKinley’s opponent, the charismatic but radical and undisciplined William Jennings Bryan, whose rise to power gives Rove the chance to make some subtle (or not-so-subtle) digs at populism and its lack of broad appeal in the American republic, something which clearly has not been the case recently.  Particularly of interest is the way that Rove demonstrates how McKinley drew correct insights about Bryan’s rise and the dangers of straddling on the important issue of sound money, which allowed McKinley to build a coalition including conservative Democrats concerned about Bryan’s radicalism.

What kind of book should one expect in reading this?  Well, the book has an excellent style and is well-researched, with extensive endnotes.  The author is genial and has a lot of positive comments to make about McKinley, and manages to keep his ulterior motives from being too offensive to the reader.  If you a taste for detailed political reportage from about a century or so ago, and really enjoy the tactics and strategies and logistics of political campaigns, this is a good book.  Despite the fact that I drew somewhat different lessons than the author did, I found this book to be a worthwhile combination of historical biography and election analysis, both of which happen to be genres of nonfiction writing I find to be enjoyable to read.  To be sure, not everyone will find McKinley to be a winning character, although his high-minded ideals about racial and religious toleration and acceptance ought to be worthy of praise, and his knowledge of his own limitations as a stump speaker and his preference for prepared speeches led him to avoid trying to engage in a negative campaign against the pugnacious Bryan, but rather to play to his own strengths.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we do best to play to our strengths while also making our opponent’s strengths into weaknesses, something this book discusses very well, giving a compelling reason why we should care about the 1896 election in the face of a divided populace and the rise of populism and the concern among common people about the difficulties of rising to the level of one’s abilities and ambitions.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/18/book-review-the-birth-of-modern-politics

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/18/book-review-centennial-crisis/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/09/14/book-review-the-impending-crisis-1848-1861/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/01/book-review-the-book-of-political-lists/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/23/book-review-the-scotch-irish-a-social-history/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/02/book-review-the-political-thought-of-abraham-lincoln/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/09/19/book-review-lincolns-political-thought/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/05/book-review-mental-floss-history-of-the-united-states/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/02/book-review-the-fall-of-the-house-of-dixie/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/04/09/book-review-a-country-of-vast-designs/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/08/book-review-the-routledge-historical-atlas-of-presidential-elections/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/11/06/book-review-the-fate-of-their-country/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/09/15/book-review-the-dred-scott-case/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/08/26/book-review-the-long-pursuit/

Posted in American History, Book Reviews, History | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Birth Of Modern Politics

The Birth Of Modern Politics:  Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828, by Lynn Hudson Parsons

In reading this book, published in 2009, I was struck by how relevant it was to the contemporary political environment.  Of course, the author wanted to mark 2008 as a decisive election, a bit prematurely, but this book is far more useful as a precursor of the 2016 election in terms of its themes and course.  The 1828 election marked the beginning of the second party system and for that reason the author makes marks it as the period where modern politics was born, and manages to make a strong case for her claim.  Of course, this book will be most enjoyable if you are fond of reading books about American political history [1].  If you are, this book offers a lot of context and quite a bit of detail of how it was that John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson turned from nationalist allies to bitter enemies who could not even stand to be around each other after the bitter election of 1828.  And as our day and age is no stranger to bitter elections, this book is important in reminding of us of what sort of stakes elections get tied up into, and what sort of myths become enshrined in historical memory as a result of their repetition, despite the fact that those who make the lies know them to be false.  This book will show that Democrats have lied about their opposition for a long, long time, as if that needed to be told.

The book is organized in a very nondescript way, with an editor’s note talking about various elections recognized afterward as decisive, like 1800, 1860, 1932, to which the author somewhat prematurely puts 2008 (which, in retrospect, looks more like the election of 1912 than 1932), and then six chapters and an epilogue that take up the rest of the book’s 200 pages.  This book has a long buildup, in that it spends a great deal of time talking about the political education of both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, the former a long set of duties as an undiplomatic diplomat with a passion for furthering American political interests in far off posts like St. Petersburg and Ghent (where he helped negotiate the treaty that ended the War of 1812), and the latter a somewhat corrupt land speculator and autocratic military man who rose to political power on the strength of his populist appeal and his railing against out-of-touch Eastern elites.  It is hard not to see the echoes of this particular campaign in the course of the 2016 election, in retrospect, considering that John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson had once been friends before becoming serious enemies.

This book, although it is short, manages to become relevant in the way it describes the growing importance of ambition and the decline of caucuses, where politicians had to appeal to the common person with their anti-intellectual prejudices and their tendency to see their progress thwarted by elites and those who considered themselves their betters.  In light of the contemporary political climate, this book gives an indirect but strong warning to those who seek to win high office without being able to show an ability to connect with ordinary people and their concerns, and that the image of being relatable is often more important than the reality of living the same sort of life as one’s partisans and constituents.  Thus a slaveowning autocrat was able to appeal to populist desires to throw out an elite that was threatening to dominate the American republic with its intelligencia and its snobbery and its high culture.  Whether we like it or lament it, there has long been a tendency within American politics where those who were flamboyantly intelligent had to to show the more friendly side of their personalities to counteract the perceived coldness of their approach, and that trend was decisive as early as 1828, showing just how slowly a culture changes its fundamental approaches to authority and legitimacy.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/08/01/book-review-the-book-of-political-lists/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/23/book-review-the-scotch-irish-a-social-history/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/02/book-review-the-political-thought-of-abraham-lincoln/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/09/19/book-review-lincolns-political-thought/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/05/book-review-mental-floss-history-of-the-united-states/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/02/book-review-the-fall-of-the-house-of-dixie/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/04/09/book-review-a-country-of-vast-designs/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/08/book-review-the-routledge-historical-atlas-of-presidential-elections/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/11/06/book-review-the-fate-of-their-country/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/09/15/book-review-the-dred-scott-case/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/08/26/book-review-the-long-pursuit/

Posted in American History, Book Reviews, History | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Price Of Heresy

Some years ago [1], I read a book written by a libertarian which promoted itself, falsely, as being a book about the “real” Abraham Lincoln when it was nothing of the kind.  At the time, I was content to give the book a well-earned thrashing and not consider it worth much more of my time and attention.  Indeed, the attention I had given by reading and reviewing the book had been more than the book deserved on its own nonexistent merits.  It was therefore somewhat to my surprise that I saw the author cited as a great historian in another book I recently read [2], and where the author spent a lot of time whining about how he was not accepted in a supposed ‘cult of Lincoln’ because of his supposed heresy in having written what amounted to a libelous hack job on him.  If Lincoln had been alive and we were in a nation with libel laws like the United Kingdom, it is almost certain that DiLorenzo would have been taken to the cleaners for libel, which is a great deal more serious in the here and now to any heresy to a civil religion.

Nevertheless, the thought did come to my mind as I was irritated at the writer that perhaps there were some people who did not realize the opportunity costs of rhetorical strategies.  DiLorenzo chose as his strategy an intellectual dishonest and extremely forceful condemnation of a man nearly universally thought of as a great president, if not a perfect man by any means.  He thought, perhaps correctly, that by positioning himself in opposition to Lincoln’s record as a strong nationalist that he could gain some support from fellow libertarians who dislike the way that Lincoln’s presidency made America a far stronger nation than it had been originally.  A great deal of my own dislike of the book was not so much in the author’s libertarian position itself but rather the way that he hypocritically condemned Lincoln for actions taken against civil liberties while not criticizing the Confederates for the same actions.  It was the double standard taken, not the author’s misguided perspective, that was of most offense.

I have noticed this particular double standard to be a common one among those taken by those in sympathy with Von Mises [3].  There is, in general, a combination of neo-Confederate perspectives of the Civil War that whitewash the South of having taken socialist positions like the income tax or draft in the Civil War, deny the cause of the Civil War was slavery, attack the Sabbath law and the biblical focus on freedom from debt and slavery.  One wonders if it was not simply that Lincoln was a strong president that crushed rebellion that offends DiLorenzo so much.  Rather, it was the fact that Lincoln served as a shepherd of a sort, seeking to use government power to deal with those who were rebellious above and tyrannical below.  One sees, in other words, in DiLorenzo’s desire for libertarianism a covert desire to oppress others and support the oppression of others without a third party interfering with it.  In that sense, liberty is not desired so much to be free of oppression, but rather to be free to oppress, and that is where contemporary libertarianism draws so much opposition from others.  It is not that people desire to be slaves but that they trust some authorities more or less than others, and do not trust their own strength to remain free without help from another place.

Yet, be that as it may, the choice made by DiLorenzo to attack Lincoln so harshly cut off other options, namely among those who respect Lincoln.  There are some whose support of Lincoln is based on their opposition to rebellion and the threat of anarchy, others whose support is based on a belief in his stand as being a principled one, and others who want to exercise the power of government themselves.  Of course, DiLorenzo does not want to hold that kind of power nor does he want anyone else to.  He simply wants to be free to do what he wants to do without interference, and such a thing is not going to be found in any country that can do something about it.  Perhaps he could find a libertarian paradise in Somalia or Sicily or some other area like that, but it is likely he would find it too violent, likely because he does not seem fond of others possessing the strength to resist, which is why he defends the slave society of the South, where a libertarian paradise was blended with a totalitarian state as far as the slaves were concerned.

What is it that makes DiLorenzo’s thoughts heretical?  Well, if there is a cult when it comes to America’s civil religion, the neo-Confederate views he holds would be those who lost a ferocious civil religion, and he would be said to be someone who would want to go back to a particular time and place where his views were considered legitimate, before those holding such views had overplayed their hand.  In many ways, the course of civic religion can be compared to ordinary religious beliefs which have quarrels over power as well as over what beliefs can be considered legitimate.  If you want to get support for being different than anyone else, you have to accept that there will be others who may consider you outside the pale.  Every attempt to mark oneself off as different from the crowd for the sake of being different means that one may step over lines and agreed upon boundaries to being considered as legitimate.  If DiLorenzo is unhappy about that fate in his own academic career, he only has himself to blame for wanting to be different and accepted by everyone else at the same time.  Sometimes we have to choose.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2010/12/12/book-review-the-real-lincoln-a-new-look-at-abraham-lincoln-his-agenda-and-an-unnecessary-war/

[2] Review forthcoming:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/04/book-review-abraham-lincoln-great-american-historians-on-our-sixteenth-president

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/12/31/missing-the-mark/

Posted in American Civil War, American History, Christianity, History, Musings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Esperanto: The World Interlanguage

Esperanto:  The World Interlanguage, compiled by George Alan Connor, Doris Tappan Connor, William Solzbacher, and Dr. J.B. Se-Tsien Kao

This book advertises itself as being six books in one, and it demonstrates something that can be seen through the general body of literature concerning the education of Esperanto [1], namely the fact that Esperanto writers do a very good job at creating material for new learners.  This is something that has to be praised.  As someone who is a student of languages in general [2], I have been consistently pleased by the ready availability and straightforwardness of material focused on teaching Esperanto.  This book is an example of that ease and also the way that Esperanto as a language is not only focused on communication but that the materials in and about Esperanto usually do the same thing as well.  Some cultures are prone to enjoy conferences and meetings and get-togethers and to focus on communication and the publishing of a lot of materials, and that is definitely something one notices in the Esperanto world as well, as my recent reading on the subject has made clear.

The contents of this book are helpfully described on the cover of the book, making it clear exactly what one will be getting from this book.  In about 250 pages, the compilers of the book manage to write a defense of Esperanto and a history that demonstrates the world language problem in international institutions as well as the development of Esperanto within the world of invented languages.  After this the authors write a practical textbook for Esperanto pronunciation.  Then there follows a short Esperanto reader that includes short stories, a short dialogue showing Esperanto playwriting, as well as some poems and even an editorial and a comment on the triangle of death in Nazi Germany during World War II and a sample of Zamenhof’s praise of the United States as a land of liberty, and a sample of three kinds of letters:  a private letter, a professional letter, and a commercial letter, for those of us who are letter writers.  The fourth part of the book contains a guidebook and directory of how to use Esperanto in one’s business and social life as well as the various voluntary organizations connected with Esperanto.  The fifth and sixth parts of this book are an Esperanto-English and English-Esperanto dictionary that provide useful vocabulary for those learning the language.

If there is one thing this book demonstrates clearly, aside from the skill of Esperantists in publishing good language learning material, it is the fact that language choices are not rational.  As language is associated with power, it is striking that more people do not see the power of learning languages.  I happen to know a fairly diverse group of people, many of whom are proficient in other languages, be they Spanish or French or German or any other number of languages.  Yet institutions commonly struggle to deal with business across cultural boundaries, and many people simply do not consider it important to learn languages.  It would appear, as someone who has some deep reservations and skepticism about international governance and one world ideas, that if there is a desire for international harmony as well as a shared language that is not an imperial language of some kind (like English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Arabic, or Hindi-Urdu) that Esperanto is almost the only option available, certainly the only option that combines ease of use with the existence of a robust vocabulary and culture.  One wonders why it remains so obscure even today.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/05/book-review-teach-yourself-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/05/book-review-esperanto-dictionary/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/02/book-review-being-colloquial-in-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/02/book-review-esperanto-language-literature-and-community/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/28/book-review-step-by-step-in-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/11/book-review-esperanto-learning-and-using-the-international-language/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/08/book-review-unity-and-a-universal-language/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-a-first-reader/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-esperanto-at-a-glance/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-english-esperanto-dictionary/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/17/book-review-beginners-esperanto/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/02/book-review-an-introduction-to-ugaritic/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/01/11/book-review-complete-idiots-guide-to-learning-italian/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/01/09/book-review-the-everyhing-learning-italian-book/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/01/01/book-review-complete-idiots-guide-to-learning-french/

Posted in Book Reviews, History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Beginner’s Esperanto

Beginner’s Esperanto, by J.F. Conroy

Although it is without a doubt that I probably read too many books on the grammar and instruction of the language of Esperanto [1], it is enjoyable to see how different people conceive of the task of instructing others in Esperanto and to learn from the approach and the style of each of the authors.  This particular book has a lot to offer especially because the writer has a somewhat detached perspective himself.  He writes as someone who knows and enjoys the language and also has an appreciation for the ideals of the language, but also someone who does not feel himself to be involved with any of the larger political agendas that are present within the culture.  However, one thing this book does extremely well is to display the diversity of interests within Esperanto speakers, and the author’s high praise to those who, like the railway workers federation within Esperantujo, are ordinary people dealing with the Babel of confusing languages, is itself an admirable position that demonstrates the author to be a person of high ideals himself, whatever his reluctance about claiming a political identity within Esperantism.

The book itself is structured in a very thoughtful way.  This is, actually, the sort of book that would be perfect for a semester or quarter-length class on the language.  It has twelve sections (presumably one per lecture or one per week) and each of those sections is fairly demanding in terms of the learning of the language.  I wish I had more time to devote to the book myself, but I had to return it fairly quickly and was only able to read it through at somewhat of a fast clip, looking in particular for useful words that would make my Esperanto speaking and writing more Nathanish.  Although the chapters and lessons themselves do not really have themes, they each have a unified structure that is consistent throughout:  Each chapter begins with a dialogue (whose translation is at the end of the chapter), and then continues to give learning tips, practice questions, notes on grammar, exercises, adresses and organizations to file away, notes on the larger Esperanto culture that one can be connected to, and plenty of wordlists to help with vocabulary building.  As might be expected, the lessons grow more and more complicated as the book goes on, and the book clearly has the aim of making someone an effective stylist in the language and also able to create new words out of a flexible use of affixes and combinations of roots.

When a writer chooses to take on the subject of introducing someone to a language, they have the choice of either showing that culture implicitly through their actions or explicitly through instruction.  As this author appears to be somewhat detached from Esperanto culture in some ways, it is striking that he works so hard to connect the reader to Esperanto culture in other ways, through explaining how he got to know the language, in showing how the various study groups within Esperantism work, and even by giving an example of how inspiring it is to see people from many nations communicate with each other through the same tongue.  The author also has an evident desire in sharing the quaint and playful sides of Esperanto culture and the way that the language has been shaped by its history like any other language culture would be, in ways that make it striking and unique.  Few introductory language texts, after all, would tell the reader how to say a term that expressed the idea of pronouncing something in a way that makes words sound dirty, or what an awkward person would be, fairly complicated concepts that are nevertheless fairly straightforward in Esperanto.  As a beginner’s guide, this book is not only worthwhile for individual learners but also makes for a fine textbook for more moral language instruction.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/05/book-review-teach-yourself-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/05/book-review-esperanto-dictionary/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/02/book-review-being-colloquial-in-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/02/book-review-esperanto-language-literature-and-community/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/28/book-review-step-by-step-in-esperanto/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/11/book-review-esperanto-learning-and-using-the-international-language/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-a-first-reader

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-esperanto-at-a-glance

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/14/book-review-english-esperanto-dictionary

Posted in Book Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Stop Making Sense

I managed to spend a significant amount of time today chatting with a coworker of mine who has been given a job assignment that interacts with my own, and that related to a former boss of ours.  I was a bit surprised, but pleased, that she had parts of the puzzle that I did not have and that I had parts of the puzzle she did not have, and that we both shared a desire to make processes work much smoother.  It did not surprise me, alas [1], that there had been a problem where nodes were not working as well, or that both my coworker and I were looking to make sense of something.  I asked her to keep me in the loop about future meetings to make sure that I was aware of what was going on in the future and how we could make things work smoother, and I feel, on the whole, a lot better about matters afterwards than I did beforehand.  I suppose this could be considered the meeting before the meeting, given the changes that can be expected and the desire to get out in front of them, to be leading them rather than dragged around by them.

A great deal of life exists in the space between planning and reacting.  As a child, I had some friendly neighbors of mine who were Spanish-speaking, and one of them was a girl about my age, who lived along with her family in poverty.  I did not think anything of it, being a poor person myself growing up, and not the sort person who found it easy to find friendly people, I did not think myself particularly well-qualified to be prejudiced against those like myself.  I did not realize that my early interest in learning languages would extend to the level it has, and that this interest would be found first in the simple and straightforward desire to communicate with those around me who simply happened to be comfortable in other languages.  I did not realize that my crossing the border from monolingual into bilingual, done at such a young age and with characteristically little drama, would make it easier for me to enjoy and appreciate a host of other languages.

When we face disagreements with people across boundaries of worldview and perspective and ideology, we often assume that others are acting according to some wicked plan, and our beliefs as to the wickedness of their strategy tend to amp up the hostility that we feel towards them.  Most of what I see in life consists of people who do not act according to any plan of their own, but rather react to what goes on around them.  I do believe there are plans, but I don’t think that people themselves are largely responsible for them.  The plans that we have go awry fairly quickly and fairly easily, and the plans by which we operate are largely unknown and obscure to ourselves.  And yet we see others as operating by plans even if we recognize ourselves to be frequently extemporaneously operating people.  The more we get to know others, the more we realize that everyone feels heavily burdened and that few people have taken the time to operate by plans or larger processes, and that others react as strongly as they do because even small frustrations and problems seem massive to people who are already operating close to the end of their tether, if not well beyond.

How do we see others for what they are?  There has been a recent brouhaha over a conservative cartoonist who compared our new Secretary of Education to civil rights leaders.  Many people have viewed this in a negative light?  But is it not brave and heroic to stand up against the forces of prejudice, and to seek ideas for education that move beyond failed paradigms as well as a corrupt education system within our country?  At least it seems brave to me–I was educated in the public school system and the experience was so traumatic that I would not want to inflict such suffering on any of my own offspring.  Why would I want to put anyone through years of bullying because they were a bit odd or quirky, because they were somewhat kind and sensitive and bookish?  Why should that be such a horrible thing?  Perhaps if it was easier for us to admit that systems were broken and likely needed to be fixed in a variety of ways, it would be easier for us to be kinder to those who were working to make necessary changes in life.  Yet when we try to make a living or draw a great deal of our legitimacy from systems it is hard for us to admit their failure, and to see the sense in what others say about what changes can be made.  That is true in many areas of our life, after all.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/10/14/into-a-void-of-silence/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/02/26/into-a-black-hole-of-silence/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/04/24/the-end-node-problem/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/09/07/my-life-as-a-node/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/07/25/dont-blame-this-sleeping-satellite/

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment