Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"What Is Wrong With Those People?"

I have long felt that one of the most important lessons that I learned in college involved a combination of the madness of crowds and the desire of many to find meaning from a person they feel is superior to them. As a junior at Spring Hill College, a Jesuit school in Mobile, Al., I attended a lecture put on by the school's Philosophy Club. This was right up my alley as I mostly enjoyed the philosophy requirements (2 years) and I was friends with many members of the Philosophy Club; well on this one occasion the Club had a Yale Philosophy professor speaking on a subject near and dear to his heart, "isms". That's right they had some Eli in to discuss linguistics under the banner of Philosophy. I cannot remember the name of the Yale prof but I do remember that he arrived wearing a cape, that's right a cape. Personally I believe that capes should be reserved for superheroes and Halloween but he sashayed on to campus wearing a cape.

The gist of this gentleman's lecture was that man invented particular words and added "ism" on to other words to describe experiences that were new to him and the Yale professor had one example that was just downright hysterical. He claimed that capitalism started just a few years before it was described by Karl Marx in Das Capital. As a student of Economics this was simply too much for me to listen to seriously, this poor man appeared to be deluded by the mindless and dull writings of that German nebish Karl Marx. I will state now that even as a twenty-year old I had absolutely no respect for those under the sway of Marx, be they Jesuit Priests pushing communism through some silly theory that they called "revolution theology" or the run of the mill commie drunk at the end of the bar. Ironically the pastor at Barak Obama's "church" is big on "revolution theology", something that he says that he got from the Sandanistas.

During the question/answer period I stood up and asked how this Yale professor could state that Marx was describing capitalism as something new when the type of trading that we understand as capitalism had been going on for multiple millennia. The professor's initial answer involved slavery, I interrupted him with a reminder that slavery was still part of the world when Marx was sitting in the basement of the British Museum and that in fact it was still occurring that very day. Well this line of questioning flummoxed the Eli and he went straight in to "attack the questioner" mode. Here was a Yale philosophy professor stating that he could not answer my question because I was too dumb to understand what he had said. I repeatedly told this gentleman that I understood him just fine but would he please answer my very simple question. After putting up with more abuse from this caped nut case I asked whether or not the Yale professor had the intellectual wherewithal to even answer the question. At that point the entire room went up for grabs and some of my classmates demanded that I be ejected from the hall for asking a question that went to the heart of the lecture. Sadly, many of the Spring Hill professors present were also part of the lynch mob.

My lesson was that even some people who are very good students (or very good teachers) and who are outwardly intellectual can be very ignorant when they look up to the person spewing nonsense and if the spewn nonsense fits their intellectual bias'. This was an important lesson for me as I started to trade as the the trading world is full of big mouthed charlatan bullies and figuring out the charlatans can mean the difference between driving a Porsche and taking the bus. Over the years I have repeatedly been reminded of that lecture when I see people using those tactics in the political arena, those reminders seemed nearly constant during the Clinton administration.

Flash forward many years to the late '90s, I was attending the wedding of a very dear cousin who had worked for Hilary Clinton and others in the Clinton administration. Well during dinner I sat with a group that included one of my sisters and her husband, a group of couples who had worked in the Clinton administration and a fascinating couple who had been involved in planning the protests in China's Tiananmen Square. The Chinese couple were as fascinating as their story was horrifying. They had been student organizers and they were able to escape the square when the Chinese authorities attacked the protesters in Tiananmen. Many of their cohorts were jailed and some of them were likely slain, many had family who were dragged into the claw of Chinese repression including this couple. They were lucky enough to escape to Japan where they met my cousin's future husband as he taught English. They later moved to Canada and eventually to Minneapolis where they were both medical doctors. Their story was fascinating and I pressed them for some insights that I would not have gotten while sitting thousands of miles away and watching those events unfold on CNN.

This conversation was just way too much for the liberals and Marxists at the table who objected to the couple's utterly realistic descriptions of the Chinese government. Most of the people at the table told the Chinese couple that they didn't understand China, it's people or it's government. My favorite comment came from a Dartmouth graduate who had worked in the Clinton administration who stated that a cab driver in Beijing told him that the foreign representations of the Tiananmen protests and the aftermath were all western propaganda. Well this being a wedding I was drinking beer and having a good old time giving it to my table mates for being boorish and somewhat abusive to our new Chinese friends and frankly for not being very smart.

After taking part in some dancing I returned to my table and encountered the Chinese couple who came across the table to sit next to me, at which point the woman asked me a pointed question that I should always remember, she asked "what is wrong with those people?" As I searched for an answer the woman went on to say that the people at the table were all well educated, well dressed and well spoken, so how could they be so bizarre? I told both of them that I did not have an adequate answer, that I had seen such behaviors for years but that I believed that they simply had bad educations. By bad educations I meant that they are not well rounded. This answer was inadequate to all three of us but for me the experience was just one more strange quirk that I had observed in some of my liberal friends that I did not understand.

Years later I started to read the blog of Dr. Pat Santy, of Dr. Sanity and NASA fame and evenings like my cousin's wedding started to make sense. Dr. Santy writes quite a bit on the subject of delusion and what must be mass delusion. Those people at my cousin's wedding fit the bill so perfectly that the evening finally made sense. Those liberal Democrats should probably be described as Marxists and the mere presence of those two Tiananmen Square leaders was just too much for those people to bear. They had to deny and talk over the the two who bore witness to that typical communist disgrace because to acknowledge that communists are capable of murdering innocent citizens who were peacefully marching for freedom may out those people as not being exactly as good as they believe themselves to be. The Chinese doctors probably never imagined that a free country like the United States would contain so many people who don't innately support people who agitate for democracy so the evening must have been an eye-opener for them. The two good doctors recognized the behavior as some sort of illness whereas I had long before internalized my thoughts on much of that type of behavior as being along the lines of "well, yeh, they do that."

Update: Many thanks to the wonderful Dr. Sanity for inclusion in her Carnival of Insanities again this week. Go Read Her Blog!

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Blogger Steve said...

Good post. Whaddayasay to people that assert those visions? So many have answered them with logical thought (like Dr. Sanity) that the best I can do is parody with them.

If you are truly the 'El Rider', why'd you get that outrageous parking fee?

Sports fan? Bears, Cubs or Sox, Bulls? Or are you a transplant who roots for your own home teams? I'm a Packers, Brewers, Bucks fan so the Bears and Cubs suck!

7:09 PM  

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