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

Samizdata quote of the day

If mankind can fix paralysis, we will move into a whole new era of promise and possibility. The raising up of the lame that humanity now seems capable of – which springs from decades of research into cell growth and cell manipulation, the development of new technologies, and much experimentation – crashes violently, and gloriously, against the way man is understood and discussed today: basically as a pest, a planetary poison, not capable of much besides hatred and destructiveness.

Brendan O’Neill

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37 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Julie near Chicago

    …and love … and beauty … and wonder … and knowledge … and healing … and happy excitement … and productivity, the provision of things that makes people’s lives possible, or enjoyable, or exciting in that these things make their own productivity possible … and friendship … and the joy of sharing knowledge or theory (ideas), either as a teacher or as a member of some similarly-interested group or just in conversation with a friend … and the joys of celebrations, fun, food, and family … and the belief that this a “benevolent universe,” for those fortunate enough to think so … and no doubt much, much more.

    I don’t know whom Mr. O’Neill is quoting, but I think the person is a little over-impressed with the Dark Side.

    On the other hand, good noose is no noose, as has long been known.

    Also on the other hand, while I certainly don’t subscribe to the idea that Man is a Pest on the whole, I’ve certainly known pestilential people, and the species Man does include some very infamously toxic and evil vermin.

    Along with lots of famous people who are the exact opposite. However, they tend not to get the press, and also there’s an unfortunate subset of humans who make a career of pointing out the woeful failings, nay evildoing! of men and women who ought to be, and sometimes have been, celebrated as heroes in one way or another.

    Suggested discussion topic: Who are Samizdatistas’ five favorite human specimens, and why?

  • Ebola kills by cytokine cascade.

    Cannabis can stop or ameliorate that cascade.

    The Human Endocannabinoid System Meets the Inflammatory Cytokine Cascade

    http://www.whale.to/a/human5.html

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Julie, how about Jesus, James Watt, William Wilberforce, Thomas Edison, and Mother Teresa?

  • Dr. Raphael Mechoulam – discoverer of THC and the first to synthesize it. THC is the plant analog of the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide and 2-AG (plant analog – cannabidiol) are anti-inflammatories. Inflammation is another name for the cytokine cascade.

    The knowledge of endocannabinoids will do as much for medicine as the discovery of the germ theory of disease.

    You will note that both Jesus and Dr. Mechoulam are Jewish. The Pope – and by hierarchy Mother Teresa – are against cannabinoid medicine. They are not Jewish.

    My former Rabbi, Jeffrey Kahn, runs a cannabis clinic in Washington, DC.

  • Mr Ed

    Well, when it comes to people who have not been pests, a great many inventors, entrepreneurs and scientists could be discussed, and there is also Leonard Cheshire VC, a fearless bomber pilot in war upon the Nazi pestilence, yet who put himself at grave risk for his men, and who circled a French factory at low height before releasing his bomb markers, so as to give the staff time to flee before the bombs fell, and who for the rest of his after the war did charitable and humanitarian work.

    I would wish to ask the players of the recent England Cricket Team to give a lecture on what they could have taught Leonard Cheshire about leadership.

  • Patrick

    Neuroscience advances in recent years have been stunning. And this is also reflected in the somewhat linked area of retinal diseases. There has been astonishing progress in understanding and developing cures for various forms of blindness. I myself suffer from macular degeneration – and there are stem cell, gene therapy and biomechanical routes to making buggered retinas work again. How amazing to think we may be able to cure paralysis and blindness in our lifeties!

  • Stonyground

    I do wish that people would do some research into the odious sadistic fraud before nominating Mother Theresa as an admirable human being.

  • Runcie Balspune

    O’Neill touches on the catastrophic claims of global warming advocates, whose “scientific” predictions of doom are often based on the assumption that mankind will proceed as it does at present. History shows this is never the case, in fact it is less likely than ever in all of history that mankind will continue without innovation.

    Innovation has been our main defence against the Pest of Man, which is nothing to do with technology and all to do with ideology and culture. For example, the ultrasound scanner has probably saved many lives, but in other cultural uses it has probably been the biggest killer and the main contribution to large gender imbalances, which bring its own problems.

    To turn away from examples such as the barbaric tyranny that is currently sweeping the Middle East and claim somehow this is all the fault of technology and innovation is almost perverse thinking.

  • patriarchal landmine

    another thing that would never come into creation, if men stopped showing up for work.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    My favorite five people? Myself, my family, & my parents. Oops, that’s more than five…

  • Rosenquist

    The miraculous mending of a shattered spinal cord reveals a fact little appreciated today: that man’s command over nature, his flagrant defiance of its laws and its whims, is not a bad thing – rather, it’s the thing that makes human life and human society possible in the first place. Our ascendancy over nature, our uncovering of its secrets and exploitation of its resources, is what has allowed us to grow in vast numbers and yet to live longer, healthier lives in cities which, just 300 years ago, no human mind could have conjured up. (More than half of humanity now lives in urban rather than rural settings.)

    To talk of mans ascendancy over nature is to perpetuate the myth, rooted in religion, of man as somehow separate from nature. Man is not some some transcendental being but is an animal continuous with a determined material reality (nature).

    all livings things modify and exploit their environment, and yet we do not talk of a beaver constructing a dam as ‘defying nature’. In truth an ipad or a genetically modified plant are no less ‘natural’ than a termite mountain or a birds nest.

  • Tedd

    Can we take Nick’s list and replace Mother Teresa with Christopher Hitchens? (Just kidding.)

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Stony, much of the criticism of Mother Theresa is unwarranted.

    In the first instance, before the House of the Destitute Dying was constructed, there was no alternative. So much of the criticism of her work ignores the fact that while her approach may not have been perfect, it was better than the other choices available at the time.

    The most substantive criticism I’ve heard of Mother Theresa’s work was made by a MacMillan cancer nurse who criticised her refusal to issue massive doses of painkillers so that her patients would die happy, pain-free and utterly insensible as is the fashion in the Western world. Now of course, these pain killers would cost money and no-one seems to know where she was supposed to get that money from – although this isn’t the key issue. The key issue is that Mother Theresa was a Catholic who (amongst other things) was attempted to minister to (for want of a better term) dying heathens. Being a Catholic she believed that to die unshriven was to send your soul to hell. Accordingly she wanted her charges conscious and aware so they could accept last rites fully aware.

    Many people found this barbaric. Maybe it was, but what you can’t say was that she was a hypocrite. She was internally consistent with her own ethos, and if nothing else, gave people who would have died alone and in pain on the streets a slightly more comfortable place to die, and someone to hold their hand when it happened. And if she really did such a bad job, why didn’t all the dying beggars take their “custom” elsewhere?

  • To talk of mans ascendancy over nature is to perpetuate the myth, rooted in religion, of man as somehow separate from nature … all livings things modify and exploit their environment, and yet we do not talk of a beaver constructing a dam as ‘defying nature’

    For me is is rooted in observation as I find the Flying Spaghetti Monster (PBUHNA) never returns my calls when I have a question. So I am totally with O’Neill on that actually, and I will change my opinion when one day a beaver starts building dams that also provide hydroelectric power for his burrow. We are something really rather different.

  • And I agree strongly with Jaded Voluntaryist about Mother Theresa too.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    I think Christopher Hitchens had a point about Mother Theresa. Pallets and aspirin for her “patients”, but first class Swiss hospitals for her? Bad optics…

  • Mr Ed

    Mother Theresa was a religious fanatic, as are many Catholics (and was Leonard Cheshire, post WW2). Were her ‘good’ deeds inspired by goodness, fanaticism, a sense of obligation, a fear of Hell or any combination of those or other factors? How much does motive (often inscrutable) come into what is good and what is not?

  • Speaking as a godless rationalist, my view is that Mother Theresa was offering something that was better than the alternatives that were actually available. If someone wanted to do better, I do not think anyone would have stopped them heading to India to offer up some more rationally conceived and better funded competition, competing for market share amongst destitute people dying in the gutters of Calcutta. If someone was offering to send them all to a Swiss clinic on their dime, well, great!

  • AndrewZ

    Just imagine what we could achieve if we can find a fix for bureaucratic paralysis!

  • Oh HELL no, bureaucratic paralysis is the only thing saving us! To repeat an immortal quote by Will Rogers: it is a good thing we do not get all the government we pay for!

  • Julie near Chicago

    When I wrote the question, who popped into my head first were Dr. Michael DeBakey and Winston Churchill. Then my folks (especially my Mom) and my Honey. Washington. Jefferson. Maybe Grover Cleveland. But are these “heroes” within the strong meaning of the term? People who fought extreme fear and pain to do what they thought was the right thing, and with whose judgment we agree?

    Irena Sendler. Raoul Wallenberg.

    And the gentleman whose name I’ve forgotten — as well as which war it was, but probably WW II — who got all his body parts shot off, but still insisted on dragging his wounded fellows to the medics. Was patched up himself, and eventually insisted on returning to the field, where the whole scenario was repeated.

    I know all that is a bit garbled, and I know there have been other men who did the same thing, but in any case those men were truly heroes.

    And along those lines, the Russian KGB men who kept sending information to the West (Britain that is) because they hated what the Soviet regime was doing, and who knew that sooner or later they would be caught and executed, but who when offered asylum turned it down because they thought what they were doing was desperately important. There’s one gentleman in particular of whom we all know, but as usual I’ve forgotten his name. And yes, in the end he was found out and executed.

    A couple of others: John Snow, Alexander Fleming.

    St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Queen Boudicca.

  • Mr Ed

    Julie: perhaps Capt Charles Upham VC and bar, but he wasn’t shot to bits (but his foes were).

    Alexander Fleming, poor sterile technique but compensated for with great observational work and intuitive thinking.

    Oleg Gordievsky and ‘Victor Suvorov’ Soviet defectors, the man who stayed and died Oleg Penkovsky.

    My own favourite, an RAF pilot Sqn Ldr James MacLachlan DSO DFC**, killed after crashing on a night intruder mission over occupied France. Notable for having only one arm later in his career, his left shot off below the elbow by a 20mm cannon shell in a dogfight over Malta.

  • Greville Wynne (who I met several times and in whose former house I live) was always effusive in his praise of Penkovsky, calling him a true Russian patriot.

    And yeah, Charles Upham makes Rambo seem like a Pokemon character by comparison 🙂

  • Laird

    Edward Snowden.

  • NickM

    Julie,
    I think you might be thinking of Capt Noel Chavasse VC & bar.

    But I’ll raise you all Sir Nicholas Winton who organized the rescue of hundreds of Jewish kids from Prague. He is now 105 and today was honoured in Prague. The Czech airforce flew him in specially.

  • Rich Rostrom

    One correction: Oleg Penkovsky worked in the GRU (military intelligence), not the KGB. And yes, when his CIA/MI6 handlers warned him he was under suspicion and offered to get him out, he declined: “My place is at the front.”

    Oh, and if you want another hero: Rick Rescorla.

    I should add four more suggestions to make a set of five. Here goes:

    His Royal Highness James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak.

    Major General (USV) Joshua Chamberlain.

    Major Vladimir “Popski” Peniakoff

    and a really obscure one: Colonel A. A. fon Fedrikh. (Russian railroad expert. In 1893 there was a famine in eastern Russia. There was food in Ukraine, but it wasn’t moving east because the railroads were screwed up. The Tsar appointed fon Fedrikh to Do Something. In a few weeks he fixed the mess, and saved about 500,000 lives.)

  • Runcie Balspune

    Norman Borlaug, farmer of note, for showing us how to feed a growing world.
    Bill Gates, uber-nerd, for computerising the world, and later addressing the problems governments ignored.
    Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, yet another madhi, for showing how peaceful Islam can exist, sadly ignored.
    Stanislav Petrov, for loving his children too.
    Barry Marshall, for his response to “I bet you can’t drink that in one go, mate”.

    Frank Fenner, anti-smallpox hero and rabbit killer, another nutty Australian in the Marshall mould, nearly made the list but became a loony doom monger in later years.

  • Mr Ed

    I know we are rather OT, but in terms of stomach-churning courage and decency, I would put the posthumous George Cross recipient Flt Lt John Alan Quinton high on my list too. He was in a Wellington bomber on a training mission over Yorkshire in peacetime, a mid-air collision led to the aircraft disintegrating. He took the only parachute to hand and clipped it onto a young Air Cadet on the flight and told him to jump, thereby dooming himself.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Perry at 4:08, thus:

    Mother Theresa was offering something that was better than the alternatives that were actually available.

    Sigh. People keep dragging reality into the discussion. Next thing you know we’ll be having to deal with arguments from logic…. 🙂

    As far as Mother T. is concerned, I’ve also read that the anti-religionist Left has latched onto her as a weapon to use in further efforts to delegitimatize religion as such. I imagine this is true. The question is, how much of the anti-M.T. “facts” are facts? I speak as one who, until I ran across this observation, was in the anti-M.T. camp.

    Never believe anything you read, and still less of what you hear.

    However, this brings to mind the work of some of the Catholic nuns who work in Africa; particularly those who were on duty in the famous 1976 Ebola Zaire outbreak.

    Which brings me to another heroine: Dr. Stella Adadevoh of Nigeria, who treated the ill Patrick Sawyer and, per reports, caught Ebola from him.

    http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2014/oct/20/dr-stella-ameyo-adadevoh-ebola-doctor-nigeria-hero

    http://www.channel4.com/news/ebola-nigeria-world-health-organisation-patrick-sawyer

  • Laird

    Remarkable how this thread has veered so far from Perry’s original post.

  • Mr Ed

    Laird, M’ Lud.

    In respect of this aspect

    the way man is understood and discussed today: basically as a pest, a planetary poison, not capable of much besides hatred and destructiveness.

    I submit that we are ‘on post’ (OP).

  • I must agree with our resident talking horse: we are, strangely, not as far from the article as might at first be thought, because it was not really just about making the lame walk. We are in our own several ways giving hosannahs to the marvellous and terrible human race, because we, like Mr. O’Neill, on balance actually rather like our civilisation and our species, all things considered 😀

  • Laird

    OK, I’ll withdraw the comment. I guess I’m just too literal.

  • Richard Thomas

    A pest and planetary poison, moreover, that apparently must be housed, fed and otherwise encouraged to breed and expand. Somehow this cognitive dissonance is avoided but when you point it out, the solution from the left proposed is usually some kind of enforced population control. And then they liken the right to the Nazis. Makes my head spin.

  • Mr Ed

    OK, I’ll withdraw the comment. I guess I’m just too literal.

    Are you shore?

    I guess I’ve taken that litorally.

  • Dale Amon

    If you really want to add a strange but related angle to the discussion, Perry… there is of course a connection between the house you live in and some of the above discussions 😉