We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Help me! Can’t – stop – quoting -

I had intended to make the following excerpt from an essay by George Reisman, Education and the Racist Road to Barbarism, a Samizdata Quote of the Day:

Today, the critics of “Eurocentrism” rightly refuse to accept any form of condemnation for their racial membership. They claim to hold that race is irrelevant to morality and that therefore people of every race are as good as people of every other race. But then they assume that if people of all races are equally good, all civilizations and cultures must be equally good. They derive civilization and culture from race, just as the European racists did. And this is why they too must be called racists. They differ from the European racists only in that while the latter started with the judgment of an inferior civilization or culture and proceeded backwards to the conclusion of an inferior race, the former begin with the judgment of an equally good race and proceed forwards to the conclusion of an equally good civilization or culture. The error of both sets of racists is the same: the belief that civilization and culture are racially determined.

However I have changed my mind. Partly this is because Adriana has got in first with a quote of the day from the estimable Terry Pratchett, but also it is because Reisman’s essay is sucking great quotes out from my typing fingers like an unstoppable brain-eating science fiction monster, with the difference that my brain seems actually enhanced by the process. A single QotD is not enough to fulfil my compulsion.

Here is another memorable passage:

For the case of a Westernized individual, I must think of myself. I am not of West European descent. All four of my grandparents came to the United States from Russia, about a century ago. Modern Western civilization did not originate in Russia and hardly touched it. The only connection my more remote ancestors had with the civilization of Greece and Rome was probably to help in looting and plundering it. Nevertheless, I am thoroughly a Westerner. I am a Westerner because of the ideas and values I hold. I have thoroughly internalized all of the leading features of Western civilization. They are now my ideas and my values. Holding these ideas and values as I do, I would be a Westerner wherever I lived and whenever I was born.

Food for thought here:

I believe that the decline in education is probably responsible for the widespread use of drugs. To live in the midst of a civilized society with a level of knowledge closer perhaps to that of primitive man than to what a civilized adult requires (which, regrettably, is the intellectual state of many of today’s students and graduates) must be a terrifying experience, urgently calling for some kind of relief, and drugs may appear to many to be the solution.

I believe that this also accounts for the relatively recent phenomenon of the public’s fear of science and technology. Science and technology are increasingly viewed in reality as they used to be humorously depicted in Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi movies, namely, as frightening “experiments” going on in Frankenstein’s castle, with large numbers of present-day American citizens casting themselves in a real-life role of terrified and angry Transylvanian peasants seeking to smash whatever emerges from such laboratories. This attitude is the result not only of lack of education in science, but more fundamentally, loss of the ability to think critically–an ability which contemporary education provides little or no basis for developing. Because of their growing lack of knowledge and ability to think, people are becoming increasingly credulous and quick to panic.

I found the essay via Abode of Amritas.

5 comments to Help me! Can’t – stop – quoting -

  • I'm suffering for my art

    To live in the midst of a civilized society with a level of knowledge closer perhaps to that of primitive man than to what a civilized adult requires (which, regrettably, is the intellectual state of many of today’s students and graduates) must be a terrifying experience, urgently calling for some kind of relief, and drugs may appear to many to be the solution.

    Unsurprisingly, considering his above hypothesis, I think he might be over-intellectualising rather a lot here. His memories of teenage years must be very dim or he had a very sheltered upbringing. Teenagers experimenting with drugs has less to do with an escape from the harsh rigour of reality, and more to do with socialising, doing things your parents tell you not to, different “fun for the moment” experiences – bugger the after effects and consequences – which admittedly can be catastrophic.

  • I think he was getting at a “root causes” reason rather than the sort of reason that is actually in a person’s mind when they make the decision.

    All the reasons you give could coexist with a sort of general feeling of inadequacy to deal with the modern world. I’d see this as referring to the long-term adult drug user rather than the teenager who experiments.

    Not that I am particularly committed to arguing Reisman’s corner on that particular issue, though I certainly did find it interesting. He gets my more immediate agreement on the paragraph just below, linking the decline in education to anti-scientific sentiment.

  • Except that, throughout college and high school, and even into law school, the smartest people were among the most vigorous experimenters with drugs.

    Not to mention the enthusiastic drinking and drugging in all cultures, ranging from the most primitive right on up. For his hypothesis to be true, there would have to be some sort of correlation between the increased complexity of society, poor education, and drug use. I don’t think any such correlation even remotely exists.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Not that I am particularly committed to arguing Reisman’s corner on that particular issue, though I certainly did find it interesting. He gets my more immediate agreement on the paragraph just below, linking the decline in education to anti-scientific sentiment.

    Fair enough, Natalie. Probably a good thing too, because in my opinion, his hypothesis is pretty flimsy.

  • veryretired

    Every once in a while it helps to run across an unapologetic defender of the West, since the assertions of those who hate it are so prevalent.

    It doesn’t bother me to detect a note of Rand’s objectivism in the analysis, but I suppose some will be put off. The issue of drugs is minimal in elation to the main point about the degredation of education.

    I think I’ll e-mail my son, who’s in school to be a teacher, and get his reaction. We haven’t had a good discussion for awhile.

    Next year, we’re enrolling our youngest in a local charter school that emphsizes a classical liberal curriculum because of our dissatisfaction with the junior high school he’s in now. My daughter already attends a very rigorous private school of her choosing, as did her two older brothers, although all three chose different schools.

    One last note—this essay reminds me of the presentation given by Crichton a little while ago. He also discussed the decline of scientific education, and the resultant gullibility for illogic on the part of public.

    I must say I find the dangers of tribalism and self-hatred to be much more threatening to our future than global waming or oil shortages, or some other science fiction scenario about meteors. But, of course, the latter are much sexier to blather about on the network news.