Category Archives: culture & value

Yet another version of “child sacrifice” — China

Mish (Mike Shedlock), the best economic blogger out there, has posted a video that was too disturbing for me to finish watching. You’ll have to go to the original post to see it. But you can read the text to figure out what he shows. Here is his added conclusion:

Several people were upset at this video thinking it does not belong in an economic blog. They are mistaken.

The perpetual story regarding China is that the country will grow without end, it will overtake the US, and rule the world.

Instead I propose the China story is really about rampant credit expansion, malinvestments, unproductive assets, no free capital markets, centralized planning that people mistake for capitalism, no real legal system, no freedom of speech, and no respect for either property rights or human rights.

All the people who think China is some sort of miracle savior for the world economy are going to find out otherwise.

I thought the point was obvious, but judging from the number of emails I received, obviously it was not.

via Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis: A “Must See” Heart Wrenching Video of Moral Deterioration in China.

My impression reading Mish is that he is a secular person. So I’ll add something that seems obvious to me. If you look at the names of most of our hospitals, even today, it is obvious that medical care in the West never developed purely from free market transactions. Such a free economy provided ad great deal of prosperity, and that prosperity gave the West resources to use for the sick and orphaned.

But the care for the sick and disabled in the West was never only a “service” purchased by “customers.” It was a Christian mission (and Jewish also).

(Note, I posted this yesterday, which is why I wrote “another version” in the title of this post.)

“Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!”

But it’s easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: “Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!” But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.

via Why Do We Let Girls Dress Like That? –

An instance of government-produced Hell

My students often become curious about my personal life. The question most frequently asked is, “Do you have kids?”

“Two,” I say.

The next question is always heartbreaking.

“Do they live with you?”

Every fall, new education theories arrive, born like orchids in the hothouses of big-time university education departments. Urban teachers are always first in line for each new bloom. We’ve been retrofitted as teachers a dozen times over. This year’s innovation is the Data Wall, a strategy in which teachers must test endlessly in order to produce data about students’ progress. The Obama administration has spent lavishly to ensure that professional consultants monitor its implementation.

Every year, the national statistics summon a fresh chorus of outrage at the failure of urban public schools. Next year, I fear, will be little different.

Read the whole horrible thing: “Nobody Gets Married Any More, Mister” by Gerry Garibaldi – City Journal.

Men would routinely risk themselves

The Israeli army did extensive experiments in the 1960′s and 70′s trying to incorporate women into combat roles along side males, at a time when the survival of Israel was hanging in the balance. But the results were so disastrous, that they were soon abandoned. They found that men would routinely risk themselves and the units safety, and even abandon mission completion, whenever a female member of their combat unit was captured, or even injured. This protective role seemed to be so hardwired into these young men, that it was deemed impossible to “train out” of them. The Israelis determined that a boy would have to be trained from birth to disregard a foundational understanding (call it God given, or evolved) concerning the importance of women, as THE essential element in the continuum of human existence. To try and remove that understanding from the thought process of young men would result, I feel, in a world not worth occupying.

via Faith, physicality reasons Northrup forfeit to first female qualifier::Eastern Iowa High School Sports.

Hat tip: Tim Bayly

Class consciousness could help

Here are a few gems from John Scalzi:

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV….

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours…

Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.

Being poor is off-brand toys….

Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar…

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.

Not everything is of the same quality. You can read the whole list for yourself. The one about worrying about the price of a lotto ticket seemed the worst (i.e. I have no sympathy whatsoever). And even of the ones I quoted… why would anyone want to buy more expensive ramen? (We get it from Save-A-Lot across the street).

There are also much more serious items. Like hoping a toothache will go away. (Since I started this blog post I’ve started the practice of hoping a car noise goes away.)

But on the items above and others similar to them, I have a couple of suggestions. It seems to me the real problem is two-fold 1. being within the reach of the media and 2. having middle-class friends.

Start with marketing…

One of the most damaging marketing tools in  the United States media culture is the one that establishes “normal life.” Because there isn’t one normal life.

There are kids who, if their parents are wise, need to be raised to never expect to see the inside of a McDonald’s. Never. All right, maybe if they ask for their birthday.

And if that is the case, there are many more who need to never care about a brand-name ever.

Advertising is a great thing. States that don’t allow advertising for certain products are states where those products cost more for consumers on average. You would think that the lack of advertising costs would make the products more affordable but it doesn’t work that way….

But lower prices are meaningless if you still can’t afford the item. For certain economic classes, families need to be impervious. They need to understand that those ads are for other people and other people’s children.

And that means understanding that they don’t belong to their peers if they are being raised in a middle-class environment. They are among them but they are not of them. Get used to it. Get over it. Move on.

I am pretty sure there are a lot of advantages to being in a middle class environment rather than a lower-class one… but you have to be prepared. Your head should be made of flint and your heart of stone.

Being poor (probably not Scalzi-level poor) is wanting to weep in frustration when you get the note your child brings home from class requesting $10 for her teachers birthday present. You love her teacher and the school is great but you already can’t really afford the tuition and you know groceries are already under-budgeted this month. And no one thinks twice that you wouldn’t have a couple of fivers lying around the house to dump in an envelope to send back to the school.

The constant message is you don’t belong. You are outside looking in. You are the nose pressed up against the glass of the restaurant window.

And yet you can get by. And you should be grateful to God.

And you can be.

Once you realize that He is not middle-class.

Discussing the sanctity of all labor while sipping lattes and browsing the net at Starbucks

“Wasn’t the lecture in practical theology excellent today,” said Brian.

“Honestly, I didn’t hear much,” admitted Jenny, “because a friend  sent me an email asking my advice. She’s still in college and her parents don’t want her living off campus her senior year.” She glanced at the screen of her macbook and chuckled. “Oh wow. She just tweeted that the two people she loves most are the cheapest she’s ever known. Yikes.”

“I wondered why you were so occupied with the net in class.”

“Yeah, I used to worry about what the prof would think. But they know we have lives and can’t be working all the time. Anyway, all they see is a room full of students with laptops drinking coffee. I doubt they notice who is or is not paying attention.”

“Right,” said Brian. “But today he was really good. He talked about how there is no menial work and that all labor is holy to God. I find that encouraging since I’m having to work as a bellman at the Radisson this semester?”

“Wow! How do you find time?”

Brian shrugged to indicate that he wanted to accept his suffering gladly as a Christian witness and hoped that Jenny would notice how cheerfully he faced his martyrdom. “Sometimes it is difficult to fit in those fifteen hours a week. But most nights I get off early enough to catch a few of the guys at the pub before closing. And it’s nice to have some cash from tips for beer.”

Jenny nodded. “Plus it will help you when you’re a pastor,” she said. “It is good to be able to relate to menial workers in your congregation.”

“Totally,” agreed Brian.

A waitress came by to clean the table next to theirs. But of course she was invisible.

Feb 2nd and a snow day: time for the Ground Hog’s Day post!

Last December the New York Times ran an intriguing article about a Museum of Modern Art movie series on film and faith. What attracted the Times to the series was not its pageant of grave Swedish cinema but its opening feature, the 1993 romantic comedy Groundhog Day. The curators, polling “critics in the literary, religious and film worlds,” found that the movie “came up so many times that there was actually a squabble over who would write about it in the retrospective’s catalog.”

The movie, the article went on to observe, “has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in Groundhog Day a reflection of their own spiritual messages.” A professor at NYU shows it in her classes to illustrate the doctrine of samsara (the endless cycle of rebirth Buddhists seek to escape), while a rabbi in Greenwich Village sees the film as hinging on mitvahs (good deeds). Wiccans like it because February 2nd is one of the year’s four “great sabbats,” while the Falun Dafa sect uses the movie as a lesson in spiritual advancement.

Deciphering which, if any, of these interpretations is correct is no easy task, especially since the director and co-writer of the film, Harold Ramis, has ambiguous religious beliefs (he is an agnostic raised Jewish and married to a Buddhist). The commentators also seem wedded to a single hermeneutical lens, forcing them to ignore contradictory data.

A more fruitful approach, I suggest, would involve following all of the clues, clues that lead not only to religion but also to the great conversation of philosophy. Once we do so, Groundhog Day may be seen for what it is: a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos.

Read the whole thing! – Touchstone Archives: Phil’s Shadow.

How to morally degrade people: a witness from Frederick Douglas

She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating me as though I were a brute.

. . . In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me.

When I went there she was a pious, warm, and tender-hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffering for which she had not a tear. . . . Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these heavenly qualities. Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamb-like disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness.

The first step in her downward course was in her ceasing to instruct me. She now commenced to practice her husband’s precepts. She finally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself. She was not satisfied with simply doing as well as he had commanded. . . .

Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a newspaper. She seemed to think that here lay the danger. I have had her rush at me with a face made all up of fury, and snatch from me the newspaper, in a manner that fully revealed her apprehension. She was an apt woman; and a little experience soon demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that education and slavery were incompatible with each other.

(Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1995, orig. 1885, p. 22).

via Slave-Holding as Character Suicide – Desiring God.

In the land of anorexic pharisees

Or consider the words of a person like MeMe Roth, the president of National Action Against Obesity, whose “qualifications” to speak on the issue consist of being tall, thin, young, and blond, as well as consumed with fear and hatred of anyone not as thin as she is. Roth has been all over the airwaves attacking Smith, claiming that what people like him are “expecting us to do is to subsidize the lifestyle choices of those who habitually eat improperly,” as she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. In an interview last year with The Guardian, Roth compared eating food to being raped, and then suggested that this form of rape “is incredibly pleasurable” for the victim. “From a food marketer’s point of view,” she says, “when your quote-unquote victim is so willing and enjoying of the process, who’s fighting back?”

The unhinged quality of such insights set off some alarm bells in The Guardian reporter, who quizzed Roth about her own dietary habits. Roth claimed that she’s “never even been on a diet,” but then revealed she doesn’t eat breakfast, isn’t too crazy about lunch, and doesn’t like to eat until she’s run at least four miles. (Indeed, the interview was taking place in the middle of the afternoon, and Roth had eaten nothing that day.)

This, of course, is classic eating-disorder behavior. A survey of Roth’s pronouncements about food, fat, exercise, and so forth reveal a lifestyle that would seem to fit the profile of someone suffering from anorexia nervosa: an overwhelming obsession with maintaining thinness, a denial of the dangers associated with her behavior, and, in the words of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a tendency to “engage in compulsive rituals, strange eating habits, and the division of food into good/safe and bad/dangerous categories.”

via Leave Fat People Alone – The Daily Beast.

Workers v. Warriors & Civilization (according to Laura Ingalls Wilder)

The canons leaped backward, the air was full of flying grass and weeds… Everybody was exclaiming about what a loud noise they had made.

“That’s the noise that made the Redcoats run!” Mr. Paddock said to Father.

“Maybe,” Father said, tugging his beard. “But it was muskets that won the Revolution. And don’t forget it was axes and plows that made this country.”…

Independence Day was over… That night when they were going to the house with milk, Almanzo asked Father:

“Father, how was it axes and plows that made this country? Didn’t we fight England for it?”

“We fought for Independence, son,” Father said. “But all the land our forefathers had was a little strip of country, here between the moutains and the ocean. All the way from here west was Indian country, and Spanish and French and English country. It was farmers that took all that country and made it America.”

“How?” Almanzo asked.

“Well, son, the Spaniards were soldiers, and high-and-mighty gentlemen that only wanted gold. And the French were fur-traders, wanting to make quick money. And England was busy fighting wars. But we were farmers, son; we wanted the land. It was farmers that went over the mountains, and cleared the land, and settled it, and farmed it, and hung on to their farms.”

From Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy, “Independence Day,” p. 179-181

(Living in Post-Civil-War America, I realize Mr. Wilder is engaging in some self-deception. But the ideals shouldn’t be lost even if their execution was far more tainted than he wants to admit.)