Sunday, December 20, 2015

So we're useful after all.

We're living in the technical age, so they keep telling us. Teach your children to code, to use computers. We must be the clever country, and learn all about computer applications. It goes on and on. Okay, I'm glad to have the use of computers and technology, Facebook, blog sites, web pages and all those things. But my area is arts. The two things I did best as school were English and History. The way people talk sometimes, those areas of study are a waste of space. No, we insist, those of us who prefer history and literature to maths and physics.  Literature and history deal with ideas, debates about ethics, about right or wrong. It's not only about HOW to do things. It's also about WHY do things, or even SHOULD we do them. Knowledge without conscience is a dangerous thing. Michael Crichton expounded an important idea when he wrote "Jurassic Park". One of his characters explains that knowledge too easily gained is like inherited wealth, the people who gain it do not properly respect what it took to gain it and they sometimes use it recklessly and dangerously. Since we now learn in a few hours what took people like Isaac Newton years to learn, the human race uses the power that comes with knowledge without proper respect for that knowledge. It's not so hard to understand. If you are good at painting or engraving, you can be an artist or a forger. The difference lies in your personal ethics and conscience. So we keep insisting that our areas of study have a place, but it doesn't seem that people take much notice sometimes.
Then in the newspapers I read something quite stark, which should be a bit of a warning.
A high proportion of the killers fighting for ISIS, or Daesh, have high educational qualifications - ins the sciences. They've studied and learned, they know HOW to do things, and that makes them dangerous, because they do not have a good conscience in WHAT they do with what they know.
So those of us who believe philosophy has a place, who say it's important to study history and see how the past shapes the present, and how things happen; and read the ideas of writers who aim to enlighten through their literature; we stand vindicated. Knowledge is not all it takes to make a good world. Conscience and understanding are needed too. It's now enough to know how to do things. We must also think about why we do things, or what we should do with what we know.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Breaking out.

I'll speak with proper respect for other nations and their peoples' right to choose their own leaders. So this is not an out of order comment on the U.S. and its people.  It's an observation about politics in the Western world, which some of us dare to call the 'free' world.
One of our columnists in Australia wrote recently that 'the left made Donald Trump'. Her reasoning seems quite sound to me, and what she wrote worth considering. It's a fabulous irony, spiced with poetic justice, if it's true. If anyone reads this, I'd be glad to know what you think.
The argument goes that the left movement, collectively, has set itself up as some kind of thought police, out to squash any commentary or movement they do not approve of; and in their determination NOT to be gagged, the usually silent majority go to the other extreme and support whatever the left hates most, whatever it really is trying to suppress. Donald Trump says the things a lot of people try to stop anyone saying. He proposes things that make the politically correct flinch and gasp with pretentious displays of horror. He dares. He will not be intimidated. And I am happy to say that I admire it. Someone who can't be gagged by the self appointed umpires of the debate, the wanna be mind controllers who think they can mess with other peoples' heads and tell them what to think. We had a phenomenon in Australia something like it when Pauline Hanson launched the One Nation Party. She rejected multiculturalism and all the other pet projects of the self proclaimed progressives. She gained a huge vote, more than the Greens and one other small party put together, and rattled a few cages in the process. She said what people are not supposed to, such as that too much migration might be bad for Australia, especially when it came from cultures unlike our own. Mr Trump dares speak critically about migration from non English speaking places, and as with Hanson, he provokes howls of sanctimonious condemnation from people who claim the right to tell us what we can and cannot say. Someone I know well who is living in the U.S. at the moment said that if he was voting he would vote for Trump. The first reason: no one owns him. He is self financing, so he's beholden to none and can take whatever position he chooses. Myself, I love seeing the loud mouth, self righteous left getting told, the rest of us do not have to think what you want us to. We do not have to accept your standards of political correctness. We do not have to agree with you about how a country should be governed or its people should live. We can think what we think and if you don't agree you will be reminded that freedom of belief goes for everybody, not just whoever the left approve of.

Where does the Western world go from here?  Those who called themselves free thinkers did all they could to eliminate the influence of Christianity but did not have something better to replace it with. They told us they did, and let the show down badly. Will the people of the free world return to what gave them so much good in their society? Christianity teaches respect for all, altruism and peace among people, and that is where we get individual rights from and civic sense in communities. Will we go back to it or keep following the braggarts and jackals in sheep's clothing who tell us their political ideas are better. I look at some people who think they know how we should all live and recall the teaching, "Believing themselves wise they made themselves into fools."  (Parapharasing).
God be with us. Jesus forbear with us. Perhaps the Second Coming is near. Only He knows.