Posts filed under Re-barbarization

Over My Shoulder #48: from Nicholson Baker, “Human Smoke”

You know the rules. Here’s the quote. This is from Human Smoke, Nicholson Baker’s sparely-written, chapterless skein of documentary vignettes retelling the events that led up to World War II.

Cyril Joad, a philosopher who was writing a book called Journey Through the War Mind, had a talk with his pacifist friend D. Joad asked D. whether D. thought Chamberlain should have negotiated with Hitler after Hitler’s peace offer. Yes, of course, said D.: Wars should never be begun, and as soon as they were begun, they should be stopped. D. then listed off many war evils: the physical and moral mutilation, the intolerance, the public lying, the enthronement of the mob. He quoted from the text of Chamberlain’s refusal—that by discussing peace with Hitler, Britain would forfeit her honor and abandon her claim that international disputes should be settled by discussion and not by force. Our claim is, you see, D. told Joad, that international disputes are not to be settled by force, and this claim we propose to make good by settling an international dispute by force. We are fighting to show that you cannot, or at least must not, impose your will upon other people by violence. Which made no sense.

Once a war has started, D. said, the only thing to do is to get it stopped as soon as possible. Consequently I should negotiate with Hitler.

Joad said: Ah, but you couldn’t negotiate with Hitler because you couldn’t trust him—Hitler would break any agreement as soon as it benefited him to do so.

Suppose you were right, D. said—suppose that Hitler violated the peace agreement and England had to go back to war. What had they lost? If the worst comes to the worst, we can always begin the killing again. Even a day of peace was a day of peace. Joad found he had no ready answer to that.


Cyril Joad talked about the war with another acquaintance, Mrs. C., a vigorous Tory. War was natural and unavoidable, said Mrs. C. The Germans weren’t human—they were brute blond perverted morons.

Joad asked C. what she would do with Germany, and a light came into her eyes.

I would make a real Carthaginian peace, she told Joad. Raze their cities to the ground, plough up the land and sow it afterwards with salt; and I would kill off one out of every five German women, so that they stopped breeding so many little Huns.

Mrs. C.’s ideas were shared by others, Joad had noticed; he’d recently read a letter to the editor about Germany in London’s News Chronicle: Quite frankly, said the letter, I would annihilate every living thing, man, woman, and child, beast, bird and insect; in fact, I would not leave a blade of grass growing even; Germany should be laid more desolate than the Sahara desert, if I could have my way.

The longer the war lasted, Joad believed, the more this kind of viciousness would multiply: Already Joad wrote, Mr. Churchill was reviving the appellation Huns.

— Nicholson Baker (2008), Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization. ISBN 1-4165-7246-5. 154–155

In Their Own Words: Master and Commander edition

The Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors, on their understanding of Officer Safety:

This time it was a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel, essentially ruling that unless an officer is actually under physical attack, he/she cannot use a Taser to subdue a suspect. And, for good measure, these starry-eyed jurists, who probably have never been in a physical fight in their lives, opined that police officers should not fear irrational suspects defying officer commands as long as the suspect stays 15 feet from the officer.

As every street cop knows, any suspect within 15 feet who is actively resisting verbal commands is a threat to officer safety.

If a suspect complies with an officer’s commands, the use of force or a weapon is unnecessary. When a suspect fails to comply with verbal commands, it means the situation is rapidly escalating and some form of force will be required to gain compliance.

— Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors, lapd.com: The Official Blog of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (2009-12-30): The Ninth Circuit’s year-end ‘gift’ to law enforcement

(Via William N. Grigg.)

See also:

Public education

From Jesse Walker at reason online:

The speech will do little harm in itself. Schools shovel nonsense down boys’ and girls’ throats every day; today’s menu will offer just a slight change of flavor. But that’s why the protests are healthy. It’s a rare day when parents across the country explicitly tell their kids to take their lessons with a grain of salt.

Children shouldn’t be taught that the president—any president—is a beloved paternal figure with a grand plan for everyone. (From the original lesson plan: Students might think about: What specific job is he asking me to do? Is he asking anything of anyone else? Teachers? Principals? Parents? The American people?) Children should be taught the truth: that presidents are polarizing figures who are constantly dogged by controversy. That Americans don’t always agree about proper public policy, and sometimes they disagree enough to do something as drastic as keeping their kids home from school. That politics is about conflict, not listening in unison while a friendly face on a TV screen dispenses instructions.

— Jesse Walker, reason online (2009-09-08): The President Is Not a Guidance Counselor

Read the whole thing.

Contra-Sequitur Watch: Mark C. Taylor on restructuring the American University

In logic, a non sequitur is the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which simply does not follow from the given premises. The world being what it is, I noted a while back that that isn’t a strong enough criticism for some popular arguments; we need a new category, the contrarium sequitur (or contra-sequitur for short), which is the fallacy of asserting a conclusion which is exactly the opposite of the conclusion that you should draw from the given premises.

As an example, take Mark C. Taylor’s April Op-Ed from the New York Times, on restructuring the American University. Taylor argues that American Universities have become timid, rigid, insular, and sclerotic. He believes that curricula and institutions must be fundamentally restructured in order to make higher learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative. And he reckons that if you want to make an institution more agile, adaptive, and imaginative, then the best thing to do is to abolish existing organs of self-management and bring American Universities under the control of a politically-appointed regulatory bureaucracy since colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated.

Oh, yeah. Of course. Because when I think of restructuring for agility, innovation, and imagination the first thing I think of is quick! let’s get a micromanaging politically-appointed regulatory bureaucracy set up to create a one-size-fits-all solution!

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Don’t forget.

  • The world is awesome.

  • People are awesome. You don’t need plans, or politics, or power. Put them up against people, and people will win every time. People came up with that video. Also, other people came up with this.

  • Technological civilization is awesome. (In case you’re wondering, it’s awesome because it’s made of people.)

  • Books are awesome. Verlyn Klinkenborg, New York Times (2009-05-29): Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader

  • To-day is awesome. It’s an anniversary. My love and I were married three years ago today. If the normal online rounds are held up for a while, well, that’s why.

Solidarity.

  • In memory of George Tiller. feministe (2009-05-31): In honor of Dr. Tiller (if you would like to donate in memory and in honor of Dr. Tiller’s work). Among others, the National Network of Abortion Funds has established a George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund.

  • IQSN, L.A. I.M.C. (2009-05-27): Solidarity with Queer Bulgaria on 27 June 2009. A day of international actions in solidarity with the LGBTQ Pride march in Sofia, Bulgaria. Last year’s march was attacked by neo-Nazi groups who decided to Keep Our Children Safe with a campaign of roving basher gangs and by slinging molotov cocktails and small explosives at the marchers. International Queer Solidarity Network calls for a European mobilization, with support from the United States, that will stand in solidarity with Queer Bulgaria for this year’s march.

News.

Comment.

Historicize.

Communications.