6 thoughts on “It’s the Characters You Meet”

  1. How could I not reply? For reasons that quite escape me, I am only seldom (I prefer the form “seldomly” but some American grammarians have guns…) a subject in a blog post.

    I’m Canadian. After a decade living in the US (Manhattan, then Portland Oregon, then Dallas) I’ve recently returned and am living on Vancouver Island with twin and his wife. Life is peaceful and scrumptious but I see increasing evidence that the golden years may evolve into the less celebrated bauxite years. Still, I’ve managed to rebuild a huge deck here so the manly tool-belt-guy thing which a significant subset of the other gender seems to find compelling appears intact.

    I’m liberal. I’m so liberal that communists envy me. My mother was Mennonite, so I’m a pacifist. My father was an English-Canadian union organizer, so I’m loud and a drunk. The world needs a much larger share of loud drunken pacifists, clearly. In the realm of the theistic, imagine if you will, a world where angels descending from heaven, rather than getting into the whole punitive smiting thing, just came around now and again to flirt and tell quality jokes.

    So, there you go. This is my stop here. Nice chatting.


  2. Dilemma for you. You just tweeted the claim that Obama is out to “control peoples’ lives”. As I noted, this is a commonplace claim within the modern US conservative movement which, in my view, is a clear example of what Lifton astutely labelled “thought terminating cliche”.

    Let’s take ACA which is currently posited as the exemplar of people control. As you possibly know, ACA is a much-compromised version of healthcare/insurance regimes elsewhere, eg Israel (where there is a single-payer system similar to Canada). Is Bibi then guilty of being out to control peoples’ lives or, at least, guilty of continuing a regime of people control?

    But here’s your real dilemma on healthcare.

    The U.S. is unique among industrialized Western nations (what we traditionally refer to as ‘the free world’) in the degree of its reliance on “free market” mechanisms to provide healthcare. Nations such as my own, Canada, have “socialized” systems that have been in place for a very long time.

    The consumers of these socialized services have failed — universally, so far as I know — to express buyers’ remorse at the ballot box. No party in Canada or elsewhere has moved to overturn their systems in favor of something like you have in the U.S. There is no such case.

    One presumes that if there was broad and deep citizen dissatisfaction with this style of healthcare then some party or politician in one of these free–world nations would have capitalized and zoomed into power and dismantled it. This has not happened. Can you make sense of this conundrum for me?


  3. Charles
    One of the most valuable tips I might pass on re the history of American thought on education comes from Richard Hofstadter’s book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” (you can find it cheap via Amazon and if you attend to it well, it will surely become a favored possession on your bookshelf). One of five major sections of the book deals with education. I’ll quote just a bit here (page 300)…

    “That something has always been seriously missing in our educational performance, despite the high promise of our rhetoric, has been evident to the educators who have taken our hopes most seriously. The history of our educational writing poses a formidable challenge to those modern educational critics who yield too readily to nostalgia for good old days that apparently were never too good. ?The educational writing that has been left to us by men whose names command our respect is to a remarkale degree a literature of acid criticism and bitter complaint…there is a constant undercurrent of something close to despair”

    Hofstadter then goes on to quote such literature and, outside of now obscure language use, I defy you or anyone to differentiate many criticisms from the 1800s and from the present. It’s quite staggering, really. As Hofstadter points out, this is understandable. We care about public education and have always had great hopes for it. And anyone wishing to improve a thing will be voicing complaints. And educating one child is no simply task, philosophically or in practice. A whole class of 30, yikes. An entire local, state or national system, verging on the impossible.

    And then, there is the empirical data we do have on school systems elsewhere, eg Denmark. It is enormously complex as an issue. And given that my two brothers were, before retiring, educators/administrators in the BC system, I steer away from education discussions because my life has been full to overflowing with the thing. Hell, I’d rather talk about neolithic pottery shards from Anatolia.

    The reason I responded to that tweet was to attempt some curb on the common notion, often poorly supported, that our schools are in some new with easily identified causes and equally facile solutions. You may well not be guilty of either of those two things but your tweet, by itself, might be indicted for suggesting such. You know, if I was like a shoot from hip liberal sort.


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