Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The rich really are different — a non-crime post

Are rich people like this in other countries?

I edited a story at work this week about a man who turned against the crass, wasteful materialism of American holiday shopping. The revelation came to him on a hiking holiday in Nepal, where he was touched by the simple lives of the Sherpa people, untroubled by jobs with huge American corporations. Or erstwhile jobs. At age 48, the man is a former marketing executive.

Having presumably made his pile, he came back to America so he could tell others how to get rid of theirs. He founded a Web site that encourages people to make charitable donations rather than give gifts. "Your friends don't have to slog through the malls finding you stuff you don't want," he told a reporter at my newspaper. "Your friends get a tax deduction. The environment loves you for not using gas, packaging, and wrapping paper."

What do I think is especially American about this story? That the man started a Web site to link givers and charities, for one thing. Americans proverbially have an entrepreneurial bent that's lacking in other countries. They also, proverbially, worship money but feel guilty about it. So, make enough money to be a former executive while still in your forties, jet off to hike in the Himalayas, then come back and preach simplicity.

Is this man a wanker?
In England, folks wear their class more comfortably. So, when British Prime Minister David Cameron and his cabinet secretaries and London's mayor talked about cutting rioters' welfare benefits and barring them from riding public transportation free, Cameron nonetheless proved that class will tell.

"Moral decline and bad behavior is not limited to a few of the poorest parts of our society," he said. "In the highest offices, the plushest boardrooms, the most influential jobs, we need to think about the example we are setting."

Is David Cameron like that all the time? Or does he show his true colors at moments of stress, his apparent belief that the rich exist to set moral examples for the depraved poor?   I mean, the man didn't even try to hide the dripping condescension, the suggestion that poor people are like recalcitrant children whose betters must show them the right way.

Is that noblesse oblige talking, or is Cameron just a twit and a wanker?

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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126 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

Well, a website linking givers and charities isn't a bad idea.

But David Cameron does sound like a bit of a twit, at least in this comment.

August 23, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Of course when David Cameron was a member of the Bullingdon Club at Oxford they would rampage through the town, throwing bricks through windows, trashing restaurants, scaring local poeple, running from the police etc. But no one called these people "scum" or "low lives" or "vermin" no these were just young toffs letting off steam, werent they? God bless them.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/camerons-cronies-the-bullingdon-clubs-class-of-87-436192.html

August 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Cameron's comment was so bald-faced that I'm still not entirely convinced they were not a joke. I wonder if he's backtracked from it, the way an American politician would have.

The Website is not a bad idea, but there's more than a whiff of Ariana Huffington about this guy.

August 23, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I admit to being a bit cross at seeing Andrew Carnegie apparently being lumped together with privileged British politicians and self-congratulatory American businessmen. Yes, I know it’s fashionable to demonize Carnegie as one of those evil early 20th century, union-smashing robber barons, but the fact that he provided funds for the building of about 3,000 public libraries--especially at a forum for readers--ought to mitigate somewhat his reputation. Those funds originally came with no strings attached until a Carnegie representative discovered that some towns were using the $8-10,000 gifts to build playhouses, recreation rooms, even bowling alleys, with only a shelf or two devoted to books.

The Gospel of Wealth was originally entitled, simply, Wealth, (1889). The word "Gospel" was attached subsequently, perhaps as a publisher’s response to the growing influence of the Social Gospel movement, part of the broader Progressive movement, among Protestant Christians in the early 20th century.

The Gospel of Wealth is quite short and though there are passages that contemporary readers may find dripping with condescension, there are, I believe other passages that might seem surprising coming from a filthy rich robber baron. Warren Buffett made the news recently, saying the super-wealthy aren’t taxed enough. Pre-income tax Carnegie, whose Scottish family had emigrated to the United States after being driven into poverty during the Industrial Revolution, had another solution for the dispersion of the wealth of the super-rich.

August 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, as one “witness” says, "A lot of people feel it's frightfully embarrassing. But the more I look at it, the more I start to think it's charming and quaint. We look like schoolchildren. It's like a sort of page out of a high-school yearbook."

Nice how the Independent identifies the speaker the speaker only as a witness, then lets him say “We” look like schoolchildren.

August 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, mea culpa all the way. I was attracted to that especially American juxtaposition of "gospel" and "wealth," I have not read the work, and I had utterly forgotten about the many, many libraries Carnegie built. I have removed the picture.

Thanks.

August 23, 2011  
Blogger Dana King said...

I'm from Pittsburgh, where Carnegie is revered. Still, let's not forget how many people he had to ruin in order to become a philanthropist.

August 23, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Dana, I don't say "forget it," I only say weigh the negative with the positive. If you find the negative to be greater than the positive, so be it.

I remember being struck by how many of my co-MLIS graduate student colleagues snarled about the vicious business practices of Carnegie (which I don't mean to whitewash by any means) but looked forward to working in public libraries. The irony was apparently lost on them.

August 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was going to say that a wiser person than I once said that that was part of America's charm, that all these rapacious guys felt the need to atone for their deeds by bestowing great gifts on the country -- part of what makes this country what it is.

Those of us on the East Coast who love art would not get to see nearly as much as we do if not for Mellons and Wideners and Fricks.

August 23, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

And, here on the West Coast, J. Paul Getty!

...all these rapacious guys felt the need to atone for their deeds by bestowing great gifts on the country...

This is part and parcel of the Social Gospel movement, a sorely under-researched component of the Progressive movement. Its wealthiest adherents took to heart the Biblical admonition that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."

August 23, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And in Texas, not many, probably because Texas' big oil boom came after the center of the art world had already moved to America, so there was no need to prove one's cultural bona fides by bringing in the world's best art from elsewhere.

Without knowing about the Social Gospel movement, I'd suspect that most of those guys were still pretty wealthy once they'd got done trying to enter the kingdom of God.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A nice headline on an Associated Press story:

"Jaded West Coast chuckles over East Coast quake"

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I think the lesson is obvious. If you go to Eton and Oxford, join the Bullingdon club and subsequently riot you've a good chance of becoming Mayor of London or Prime Minister. If you're from the wrong side of the tracks and you're caught rioting you'll get 4 years in prison and lose your benefits for life.

Going to Eton shouldnt disqualify you from public life but you should feel obliged to do an Orwell and live among the poor so you can at least attempt to understand the problems of the underclass. It's an absurd joke that in 2011 the UK is still governed by same clique of rich boarding school educated white males that ran the country in 1911 and 1811.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I certainly thought of some of your recent comments when I made this post. I'm no man of the working class, but Cameron's comments were just stunning. An American politician would at least have paid lip service to the idea of a common society to which everyone belongs.

I saw a comment on some British site when I was preparing this post to the effect that British class system doesn't exist anymore, "because David Cameron will wear jeans, just like me." Again, I'm no proletarian, but my God, how does the man think the non-Etonian, Harvoian, Oxonian or Cantabridgian segment of the British public will react to being talked down to like that?

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Someone should write a book called Down and Out in Eton and Oxford.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

...most of those guys were still pretty wealthy once they'd got done trying to enter the kingdom of God.

Oh, sure. Then the heirs of many of them squandered the spoils and that was the end of the cabbage in those families.

But if you read (The Gospel of) Wealth, Carnegie believed that money left at the end of one's life should be funneled into foundations and other philanthropic endeavors. His only child (born on the same day as another only child) was left quite well off but also bore the responsibility ("with great wealth comes great responsibility") of managing the foundation.

"Jaded West Coast chuckles over East Coast quake." Yes, indeed. My first thought when seeing photos of streets thronged with anxious office workers and assorted cliff dwellers was: "Sissies!" But then I felt a bit of pity when I realized that Eastern buildings probably aren't built to earthquake specifications.

And I was one of the zillions of recipients of: "a photo of a table and four plastic lawn chairs in a serene garden setting. One of the chairs flipped on its back. The mock image carried the title 'DC Earthquake Devastation.'"

gotta love my v-word in this Carnegie and cash context: underget

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

If you go to Eton and Oxford, join the Bullingdon club and subsequently riot you've a good chance of becoming Mayor of London or Prime Minister. If you're from the wrong side of the tracks and you're caught rioting you'll get 4 years in prison and lose your benefits for life.

Adrian, I think the same might be said of some privileged leftists who become their country's Prime Minister. Example, Jens Stoltenberg, PM of Norway.

"Stoltenberg's first steps into politics came when he was in his early teens and was influenced by his sister Camilla, who at the time was a member of the then Marxist-Leninist group Red Youth. Opposition to the Vietnam War was his triggering motivation...he participated in protest rallies targeting the United States Embassy in Oslo. He threw stones at the building and broke several windows. He escaped arrest by the police, though several of his friends were caught." (source: Wikipedia, footnoted).

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Elisabeth

In many ways the phony leftists are worse. I remember well those planks selling the Socialist Worker at college. They had always just come back Perpignan or Kos or somewhere. I'll bet everyone of them subsequently became a stockbroker or a barrister or simply inherited daddy's estate.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I'll just add Christopher Hitchen's recent take on the British riots to the mix. It includes a link to a debate with his brother Peter, which I have only skimmed.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I'll bet everyone of them subsequently became a stockbroker or a barrister or simply inherited daddy's estate.

Adrian, I agree, phony holier-than-thou leftists are worse than who-me-care rightists. The leftists I associated with in art history grad school mostly ended up in cushy, 4-hours-a-week-in-the-classroom art history "teaching" positions. Or now have can't-get-rid-of-'em jobs in local or state government. Yep, the "down with the Establishment" crowd now is the Establishment.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I saw and enjoyed that picture, too.

During the Reagan era, one would see scorn being heaped on the suggestion that the rich bore any social responsibility. I read speculation that the new tycoons, in computers and such, had thrown aside that idea, but then another, more cautious assessment said that it might be too early to tell, that these new moneymen simply hadn’t been around long enough yet to start giving it away. Sure enough, Bill Gates started his foundation a few years later. I don’t know if Gates grounds his philanthropy in any kind of religious obligation, so maybe what started as a Social Gospel thing turned out to be an American thing. Oh, and he, of course, Gates did not wait until the end of his life to start his foundation.

My newspaper’s editions tomorrow will include an article that says Philadelphia houses built before mid-century would have had their fronts peeled off had the quake’s epicenter been here. (Apparently the 5.8 magnitude quake had diminished to about the equivalent of magnitude 4 by the time it got to these parts.)

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, much was made some years ago when former protester Joschka Fischer became Germany’s foreign minister. He did not come from a privileged background, though. I don’t about Jens Stoltenberg’s background.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, oddly anough, the most strident leftist I knew from college -- a member of the Spartacus Youth League -- came from a working-class background. Who'd have guessed?

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Liz said...

Wikipedia notes Carnegie founded pension plans for former employees and American college professors in 1901 and lists a host of other then progressive efforts.

As to condescension, no earthquake savvy West Coaster would fail to consider depth, duration, liquefaction, tsunami risk and preparedness, and other factors beyond magnitude and building codes. Yesterday's VA quake is ranked "very dangerous" on http://earthquake-report.com, while a M6 quake in Sumatra was moderately dangerous.
And recall, the 2/2/2011 M6.3 Christchurch quake was an aftershock of 9/4/2010 M7.1 earthquake, but tragically much more destructive.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Liz, that article I mentioned above said more recent Philadelphia buildings would have been able to stand up to a local magnitude-5.8 quake, but my house was built in the 1920s.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Liz said...

Peter,

No quibble with your valid point on building codes in your earlier comment. Trust no damage to your house.

My dispute is w/ comments, as per AP headline, suggesting magnitude is all. Add in warnings that yesterday's may have been precursor.

More Larsson drama in Edinburgh.
http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2011/08/steig-saga-gets-pushed-another-notch.html

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Nah! Charity is big business in the U.S. Certain charities are so well organized that they twist workers' arms to make huge donations to various funds. There is a lot of duplication. And the wealthy give only to get kudos and tax deductions.
As for the British rioters (warning, not PC): rioting and looting are absolutely evil. I don't care what class the criminals belong to. And I'm all for locking them up and then making them work.
In fact, anyone who is healthy and young enough and lives on social welfare could be put to work in his community to give back a little.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, you can look at it that way but you can also look it as an acknowledgement of the corruption which just might be endemic in the upper echelons of British society, which causes 'the disenfranchised' to think that 'if you can't join them, loot them' .
Has anybody mentioned wholesale fiddling of MPs expenses, 'cash for questions', etc.

But one would need to read Cameron's quote in complete context, rather than as an unashamed pronouncement of bald-faced pomposity

In these parts whenever I hear of a libel case I generally assume that its either one of our highly paid and pensioned politicians, or a businessman who people widely believe to be a crook, and has the funds, and expensive lawyer, to prevent all but the people with deep pockets and/or a screw loose, to state so in the media

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian I remember a work colleague suggesting me in those gloomy early 80's that 'Ireland was ready for a workers revolution": I told him 'no chance'

Three short years later I heard he'd become an enthusiastic member of the now-defunct Progressive Democrats, the most right-wing party of Celtic Tiger Ireland

thats funny: the word ver. is 'retro'!

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

IJ

If rioting and looting were ABSOLUTELY evil then the people rioting against Gadaffi and looting his compound would also be evil. Perhaps you believe this to be do so. I do not.

There are very few absolutes this side of the Pearly Gates.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter, we have a collection of politicians who are products of expensive private schools, or state comprehensive schools full of the children of the liberal middle class. Neither of these groups of politicos have ever had a real job outside politics, the media, and public relations, and as a result know nothing about real people's lives.
MPs [some of them ministers] have no idea what is going on, what amount people get on the old age pension, that squatting is not a crime in the UK, that schools have a summer holiday, and a husband watching pornographic films should not be claimed as an MPs perk. That particular lady, our ex Home Secretary now has prisoners on day release decorating her house!
Neville Chamberlain knew little about Czechoslovakia, this lot know very little about Croydon, or Libya.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Celtic

I had a friend, actually the boyfriend of a girl I rather fancied, who walked around with a white rat on his shoulder, sold the Socialist Worker, told me that East Germany was a true peoples paradise (he had been) explained patiently to me that the PIRA were a liberation movement etc. etc. After graduation I asked him what he was doing next and he said that he had already been invited to join his father's chambers at the Middle Temple.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Uriah

I'll be they know a lot more about Prague then they do about Peckham these days.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian, we in the 'realist class' may be small in number, but we're not alone.
Not that we're going to be able to change anything, of course! :)

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian, speaking of Prague, the term 'the Prague office' has acquired an altogether more different type of meaning since the halcyon days of 'The Cold War' and George Smiley, ever since the late and legendary dodgy Irish politician fixer wheeler-dealer former Dublin hurling star,Liam Lawlor, boasted of his 'Prague office'

Peter, perhaps you might suggest a better and more succinct way of describing him, using that same combination of nouns and adjectives

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Liz. I’d read that Larsson article. It was not hard to predict that such disputes would happen, that as many people as possible would seize even vague chances to make money and, failing that, notoriety, off the Larsson phenomenon.

One of my newspaper's science reporters did a good job explaining (and getting experts to explain) how this earthquake was geologically different from California quakes, why a strong quake might be more easily felt here than there, and so on. I am a more savvy about earthquakes now than I was at this time yesterday.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., your comment that charity is big business in the U.S. would cast the subject of my newspaper’s article as a plucky entrepreneur, another proverbially American role.

If you suggest rioters are evil, you should agree with me that Cameron is a wanker. Evil should be treated with something other than paternalistic condescension, shouldn’t it? Had Cameron said nothing more than that police and prosecutors would pursue rioters to the full extent of the law with a view toward restitution and suitable punishment, this discussion would never have happened. I criticize him for his condescension, not for any harshness of attitude.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"The Celtic Kagemusha has left a new comment ...

Peter, you can look at it that way but you can also look it as an acknowledgement of the corruption which just might be endemic in the upper echelons of British society, which causes 'the disenfranchised' to think that 'if you can't join them, loot them' .
"

But then one could also suspect Cameron of pandering and disingenuousness (of course, that could just be me infected by the easy American cynicism about politicians). But even if Cameron’s intentions were precisely what you suggest, I’d lampoon him for precisely the same reasons. He did not say, or imply, that corrupt bankers are evil, that they erode the social fabric and loot the public purse, he said they had to set a good example. It was the paternalism that made my jaw drop.

When I hear of a British libel case, I think of how much easier it is to win a libel case there, and I reflect upon the messy freedom of personal expression that we have here in the U.S.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

OK, Peter, I'll buy that. But it's high time for the "harsh attitude."

Adrian, certain things happen during a revolution or a war that may seem justified by the events. That doesn't mean that those actions don't frequently affect the innocent. Much better to show restraint and prove to the world that yours is the better side. In Libya, who's to say that not another dictator will be spawned by these men? This is exactly how Ghadafi got to power.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had a friend, actually the boyfriend of a girl I rather fancied, who walked around with a white rat on his shoulder

Adrian, you could have stopped right there. The guy was a wanker and a parasite.

Incidentally, one of your man Arnaldur Indriðason’s novels has a subplot of thorough disillusionment with the East German people’s paradise.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian I remember a work colleague suggesting me in those gloomy early 80's that 'Ireland was ready for a workers revolution": I told him 'no chance'

Three short years later I heard he'd become an enthusiastic member of the now-defunct Progressive Democrats, the most right-wing party of Celtic Tiger Ireland

thats funny: the word ver. is 'retro'!


TCK, I suspect such cases are common, though I can only guess at the psychology involved. A predisposition toward lunacy of whatever stripe? A tendency to misplace all hope in gods who, of course, fail?

Your v-word is more circumstantial evidence for the existence of a word-verification god that takes an active role in human affairs.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter said:
"He did not say, or imply, that corrupt bankers are evil, that they erode the social fabric and loot the public purse, he said they had to set a good example. It was the paternalism that made my jaw drop."

quoted in isolation its a correct conclusion to draw, but was it in response to cries of "they (the lower classes) should be hung, drawn, and quartered" from others of his 'class', and is it not more a case of a politician who either doesn't have a clever enough speechmaker, or isn't suitably Machiavellian enough in his speeches to lambast those of his class, without making his patronising views be known.

The facts of class and race divisions in England won't be obscured by a clever, and/or devious, wordsmith.


As for libel cases: we need some happy medium, but at least we can always say among ourselves about how crooked that politician, or businessman, is and not risk being rendered penniless by an expensive libel action

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I think in that case it was political naivete of the colleague
(both before and after)

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Neither of these groups of politicos have ever had a real job outside politics, the media, and public relations, and as a result know nothing about real people's lives.

MPs [some of them ministers] have no idea what is going on, what amount people get on the old age pension ... Neville Chamberlain knew little about Czechoslovakia, this lot know very little about Croydon, or Libya.


Uriah, that’s the point at which I was grasping, and I still believe it even if, as one commenter suggests, Cameron’s intentions were more benign than the comment, pulled out of context, makes them appear.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

It's good to know your house is still safe after the quake yesterday.

It's worth remembering that the 69 million or so people who populate England are not all patronising Johnny-come-latelys. It helped a lot when I read an analysis of national characteristics that claimed that the British like to be obeyed whereas Americans like to be loved.

My English friends have none of the delusions that would allow them to speak down to others. The prize for self importance has to go to Ann Widdecombe who burned up a lot of petrol to visit a father of eleven children some years ago. She soundly reprimanded him on his lack of social solidarity by not taking a job outside the home.

His explanation that minding eleven children was a job in itself led to one of the most astonishing pieces of television I have ever seen as the impenetrable critic of his life choice could not be budged.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The facts of class and race divisions in England won't be obscured by a clever, and/or devious, wordsmith.

I suppose that the bald expression of those divisions shocked this innocent North American.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tales, my English friends don’t hold beliefs like that, either – or maybe I don’t know them well enough to be sure.

And I am happy to report that today's blogging has not been interrupted by aftershocks.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, its funny, because in Ireland The Celtic Tiger could be said to have been the result of an unholy alliance between the brash and 'thick' GAA-playing 'new money' class, and the Rugby schools 'old money' elite.

When they decided they should forget, albeit temporarily, their past differences, and create a mutually beneficial Frankenstein monster.

word ver. is 'goprotti'
(' go profits',.....'go Prot(estants)'??)
Hmmm

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or a sloppily spelled Italian political endorsement: Go, Romano Prodi!

Much recent interesting crime fiction is about such crossovers and unexpected alliances for criminal purposes, whether between Catholic and Protestant, church and money, bikers adopting business methods, and so on.

I didn't know there was a GAA-playing new money class. I watched the 2008 all-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park. I thought this made me a son of the people. Now I find out I'm just another irritating parvenu.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Well, I suppose 'dollars' are new money, compared with 'pounds'
Although, then again, we've got the euro, now!

"Much recent interesting crime fiction is about such crossovers and unexpected alliances for criminal purposes, whether between Catholic and Protestant, church and money, bikers adopting business methods, and so on."

How about new-money developers and 'rugger-bugger bankers, -or #ankers, if you prefer,...and their Jesuit-educated West Brit barristers, to protect their 'reputations'.
Any mix you want: we've got them all

To paraphrase the scene in 'The Wild One', "what kinduvan alliance do you want, Johnny"
"Uh, whadya got?"

August 24, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

One big difference btetween the US and UK when it comes to class, I think, is tha Americans have never seen class as a permanent state with anything worth passing from generation to generation.

Recently I read the text of Vice President Henry Wallace's speech, "The Century of the Common Man," that he gave in 1943. I think that was a turning point for America, the possibility that after the war America might be different than it was before.

Of course, it didn't work out that way, Wallace was replaced by Truman as running mate and there was no century of the common man or even decade of the common man.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Americans have never seen class as a permanent state with anything worth passing from generation to generation.

Except in certain parts of Massachusetts and tidewater Virginia.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, but Carnegie, Frick, Mellon et al. did believe in passing on the benefits of the wealth. Interesting.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Tidewater, VA? My hometown?

Actually, this class system business is really very different in Europe. People aren't all alike. It's how we distringuish between them that makes for differences. And, of course, there is no "common man", just men in general. Americans consider class automatically evil because it differentiates. Here everybody is thought to be the same, even when they aren't. This is true of the American education system, which assumes all children are the same, learn the same way, and can achieve the same results. The hateful state of "upper class" once associated with birth into the gentry, in this country is a matter of wealth and power. Wealth and power are admired. Birth is despised.
But if you were to ask a European how he defines class, he would probably say it's the way a man behaves.

Anyway, nice discussion. I liked the bit about the British wanting to be obeyed (truly?) and the Americans wanting to be loved. For that matter, our politicians rank a bit lower than the proverbial used car salesman.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

IJ

Interesting that you're sticking to your guns about rioting being "absolutely" evil. You surely don't mean that. Rioting against Assad in Syria is evil? Against the Mullahs in Iran? Absolutes are things best left to Bill O'Reilly and the editorial writers of the Daily Mail...for the rest of us context is everything.

I dont know if you've read any Harvey Pekar but I think you'd find him eye opening and, of course, enjoyable.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J.: In fact, I meant the tidewater area of Virginia, rather than the city of Tidewater, Va. That area, as much as Boston, was a seat of the closest the United States got to native aristocracy, I think.

Frederick Jackson Turner made the interesting assertion that as settlers worked their way inland from those area, they sent newer, more radical ideas back to Massachusetts and Virginia and thus created political conflict.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

When I think of asbolutes in the matter of revolution, I think of Burke, who was against seeking to upset established order -- except in Ireland.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

these groups of politicos have [n]ever had a real job outside politics, the media, and public relations, and as a result know nothing about real people's lives.

Uriah, I believe the same can be said of the current (and most of the Bush II, just to be fair) US White House administration (Obama's is swamped with East Coaster Harvard grads) and most of Congress and, here in Los Angeles, nearly everyone in the Mayor's office (incl. the Mayor) and the L.A. City Council.

This fact is part of the driving force behind today's Tea Party and a big reason why I re-registered as an Independent (but am not a Tea Partier) a few years ago (was a Democrat). Growing up, I remember my father often saying there "wasn't a nickel's worth of difference" between the two parties. Not referring to their party platforms and ideologies but to the simple fact that once they get to DC, the power and privilege tends to go to the heads of most members of both parties and that doing what's best for the nation's long-term "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" gets lost in the constant posturing, incessant campaigning (arguably one of the worst aspects of US political life), and trumping their re-election over "doing the right thing."

Absolutes are things best left to Bill O'Reilly and the editorial writers of the Daily Mail...for the rest of us context is everything.

Adrian, I'm not sure why I so often feel compelled to play the devil's advocate... But your observation is true of this country's far-left-of-center news magazine, The Nation (subscribed to by my open-minded, liberal thinking, registered-Republican father and then passed on to me).

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

speaking of Burke, Peter, who said the Welsh had to have a monopoly on windbags?

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One man's orator is another man's windbag, TCK.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, one does not often see the phrases "liberal-thinking" and "registered Republican" in the same sentence these days.

I would also guess that Bill O'Reilly and the Daily Mail are more influential than the Nation is -- which is not necessarily to argue that "liberal" orthodoxy does not prevail, of course.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"liberal-thinking" and "registered Republican"

Yep, that's my Pa. God bless 'im! He is living proof that a well- and widely-read and traveled person (at 82 he says he can't die yet, he's still got so much to read and see) can be a conservative. He does espouse classical liberal thinking rather than the now-dominant social liberalism, however.

...not necessarily to argue that "liberal" orthodoxy does not prevail...

Peter, you said very concisely what it took me long, rambling paragraphs to say. Good copy editing! Thanks!

Oh, and Jens Stoltenberg comes from a well-to-do family with a fairly long pedigree in Norwegian politics.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I, on the other hand, was surprised to learn of Joschka Fischer's background. Knowing that he was a former radical who had gone into politics, I just assumed he was of a privileged background. When I found out, according to one account, that his family had been forced out of Hungary amid anti-German persecution, that he never attended university, and that he held unskilled jobs, I realized that prejudice can work in all directions.

A lot of people sneer at privileged former radicals who enter politics as men or women of the left. What did they say to someone like Fiascher, who appeared to have impeccable working-class credentials?

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

impeccable working-class credentials?

Or Lech Wałęsa?

Include me among those who "sneer at privileged [and working class] former radicals who enter politics as men or women of the left" if what they do when the get there is: A) cave in to powerful public employee unions who provide them with campaign funds (paid for with money from salaries that are paid for by those in the private sector) in exchange for favoritism and/or B) cave in to developers, like those in L.A. who seek to overturn zoning laws, overdevelop single-family residential home areas, build football stadiums that nobody outside AEG and the City Council wants, etc. The very things that many of these former radicals railed against in their student days become business-as-usual once they enter public office.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Celtic

I'm not the biggest fan of Reflections on the Revolution in France but Burke's On Representative Government is a masterpiece and should be required reading by every member of congress, parliament etc. and by the people who elect them.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Elisabeth

I lost any interest in The Nation after they kicked out Christopher Hitchens. I'm wary of any publication that only preaches to the choir.

I suppose their readers hated to hear a dissenting voice on the Iraq war. It's a shame. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, he who argues with us does us a favour by sharpening our skills and making us think.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Elisabeth

It is interesting that you consider The Nation to be "a far left of centre" publication. In England or Canada or France The Nation would be a stodgy centre left magazine.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I'm wary of any publication that only preaches to the choir.

Ditto, Adrian. The Nation can be one of the most intolerant (yet they claim to espouse tolerance) on almost any topic.

Because I consider myself a moderate (fiscal conservative, social liberal) that may be why I find The Nation far left of center. At least as nationally-distributed, find-at-a-newstand, socialist-leaning news magazines go. Pa gets all manner of "join the Communist Party now!" mailings as a result of The Nation selling his address, no doubt, so, yes, there are other, more radical publications available. But definitely stodgy compared to some French political publications I've read.

Your mention of Canadian publications reminded me of the fictional Metro ("The Magazine for Cool Canucks") an "immensely popular journal" in Mordecai Richler's The Incomparable Atuk (Stick Your Neck Out) wherein one may read such articles as: "Why Women from Halifax to Vancouver Menstruate Monthly," "I Married an Intellectual Cockroach in Calgary," "and so forth."

...To paraphrase Edmund Burke, he who argues with us does us a favour by sharpening our skills and making us think.

Well said, and so true. I find that partisanship often makes it difficult to have these kinds of discussions (which I'd rather be having with you all around a table in some cozy, music-off, bar). As if one can't remain collegial with those who disagree with us on some (even many) points. Coming from a long line of school teachers. a few lawyers, and fewer preachers I guess it's in the blood.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

To paraphrase the scene in 'The Wild One', "what kinduvan alliance do you want, Johnny"
"Uh, whadya got?"


TCK, that's an apt paraphrase. Stuart Neville has been good about criminal cooperation that crosses lines in Ireland.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I never lumped Lech Walesa in with Fischer et al. because I'd always thought of him as working guy from the start and never anything but -- a bit like Lula da Silva in Brazil, I guess.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian,
I admit that my opinion on Burke has been formed exclusively by my reading of 'Reflections on the Revolution in France', but, being the fairminded man I am, I will note your recommendation of his 'On Representative Government' which hopefully I'll get to read before our next General Election.

the upcoming Presidential Election, where seventy-something broadcaster and unelected road safety quango head, Gay Byrne, was being touted as a serious candidate, does not, of course, count

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should add that the occasional occurrence of the word quango is one of the joys of reading the Economist for we North Americans. Its absence from out lexicon leaves a sad void.

August 24, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I like your original post, and I get a kick out of knowing that he, with his friends tore up towns in their youth. But theirs was "good" destructiveness, done by wealthy and privileged youth.

It is arrogant and condescending, and reflecting his class attitudes, for him to criticize poor people and their actions, threatening public housing and transportation. What are they supposed to do then? Live on the streets? Great idea -- not!

People often express their anger, deprivation, frustration, anguish and more by group actions. Happened over here after Dr. King was killed, happened with frustration during the Vietnam war, happened during the 1930s at a time of unemployment and starvation.

The thing is how is it responded to, what is done, how is it handled: to criticized people, increase the burdens on them or try to figure out what is at the root of their grievances and do something about it.

It may happen here again if jobs aren't found in an economy with 25 million to 30 million unemployed and underemployed.

And, yes, David Cameron is a twit.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Kathy, that's another thing I can't quite understand, this desire to kick protesters off benefits, out of housing. Bring them to trial? Yes. Throw offenders in jail? Sure. That might make the streets safer and preserve the rights of peaceful citizens to security in their persons and property.

But I'm not sure how depriving someone of a free transit pass or kicking him out of his house would accomplish any social or personal good.

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I don't see why 'quango' couldn't be added to your lexicon: its not as if its addition requires an Act of Parliament, or for Obama to adopt the new catchphrase, 'yes we quango, to replace the now jaded, and hackneyed 'yes we can'

August 24, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

....or, 'it takes two to quango'

August 24, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Celtic

My mother tells me that the reason Gay wont run is because he doesn't want to reveal his tax returns. If that's the case then we can rejoice knowing that we will never have a President Bono.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall try to use quango in conversation in the next few weeks.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian
I hadn't heard that one, but anything that prevents Bono from running for public office, in Ireland, is indeed most welcome
I'm sured Edmund Burke would have approved!

Incidentally I had some dealings with a partner of Russell Murphy, back in the day
(it might have been before Hugh Leonard's infamous obituary was published in the Irish Times)

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Bono could start a quango and call it Bongo.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

...I wouldn't wish it on our French cousins, Peter
Or Netherlands Antilles, or wherever he dodges Irish taxes

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, with your newfound interest in quangos, you might be interested in this DBB sister organization, Cultural Heritage without Borders.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, this is the dawn of American Quangomania!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, Bono seems to like hanging with powerful people and writing for the New York Times more than he does doing things. Does that make him a good or a bad candidate for quangohood?

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elizabeth, I'm glad to see the good folks at Vushtrri Castle are intent on preserving the honourable tradition of rolling ones 'rs'

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In fact, local government in the Philadelphia area is so fragmented, paralyzed, ossified, and incompetent, that we have any number of organizations exercising quango-like functions: picking up trash in specified area, for instance.

We call them special-services districts or public-private partnerships, neither of which is nearly as much fun as "quango" or nearly as easy to fit in a one-column newspaper headline.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Have you ever read a myshtrri set in Vushtrri?

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Could the New York Times be said to be a 'quango', Peter?
Or is it not possible to be something that hasn't achieved formal recognition in the US
(cogito non quango?)

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

a myshtrri set in Vushtrri?
Shurely shome mishtake???

speaking of which, they're planning on changing the drrink-drriving laws here!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The New York Times maybe, but not Harvard or Yale. Those are not non-governmental.

Quango, quangas, quangat.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Great idea for a quango:
'Quango For The Preservation of Latin in Everyday Speech'

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Our motto: Quangeamus igitur!

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Too bad there wasn't a quango around to preserve the quagga before it became extinct.

...local government in the Philadelphia area is so fragmented, paralyzed, ossified, and incompetent...

They must have been getting tips from Los Angeles. SoCal, we're on the cutting edge...of incompetence!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, if the quagga is no more, we could use this animal as our mascot instead.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Was there ever a dance called 'the quango'
Y'know, in the early 60's when they seemed to have a dance craze every other week.

Of course they might have set up a quango to determine the types of dance crazes that were permitted: the rules regading variations in motion of a dancers limbs that were acceptable in order that they be adjudged to be dancing a particular dance; the order in which defined dance crazes could be permitted to become 'hip' yadda, yadda, yadda)

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Peter, that is one cute little critter! If s/he is too shy to be our mascot, maybe this little guy will step forward.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I thought that Hitchens and the Nation parted ways over their positions on Iraq. I think Hitchens is a brilliant guy who got that one totally wrong. I respect him for following his own lights, but unfortunately those lights were some kind of spooky swamp lights set up to leave travelers astray.

The Nation is only far left from the position of a perspective somewhat further right than that on the other end of the spectrum. It's not centrist, but it's hardly extreme. I like it. I'm not crazy about the Nation cruises they sponsor, which seems a bit against their message.

I think Adrian's right that it would seem a bit stodgy in England, but this isn't England.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I bet Maurice Sendak drew that thing.

Someone from Australia told me that all those cute Australian animals will scratch humans, piss on them, all that sort of thing. Don't be undone by a pretty face.

I'm glad you posted, because now I don't have to post a comment just so I can ask -- My favorite African country? Why, the Democratic Republic of the Quango, of course.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I remember when The New Republic sponsored cruises, I thought not just "Who would want to go on a cruise with Martin Peretz?" but "Does this really convey the gravitas I seek in my reading matter?"

August 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

It's not about gravitas, though. It's about spending your money on cruises instead of all the sad plights that the left focuses on. It's a bit hard to justify from their particular point of view.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's true. I think the cruises started before The New Republic became the conservative New Republic, but even then, it was not so far left that a cruise would cause a raised eyebrow or sharp intake of breath in socialist circles.

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

The Nation is only far left from the position of a perspective somewhat further right than that on the other end of the spectrum.

True enough, Seana. As a self-described moderate the current TOC at The Nation (which describes itself as "the flagship of the left") seems pretty leftist to me. That it seems just a bit left of center to DBB's mostly (from what I've gathered) self-described liberals is, as you say, simply from a person's perspective on the political spectrum. It's clearly partisan, and I'm fed up with partisanship on both sides of the aisle. That said, it often has interesting articles on books and films and even when I angrily disagree with their opinions I like a good mental / conversational scrap!

In defense of the mag's cruises... perhaps it's because the mag accepts no corporate adv. (or so I recall...?) and raises revenue this way. The idea of a cruise with them, Lou Dobbs, Disney, or even my 8 best friends sounds like the very last thing in the world I'd want to do with my vacation time, however.

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

TCK, someone has gotten the jump on you: It takes three to Quango: on the rule-making powers of independent administrative agencies ("Quangos")

Peter, some more potential animal mascots for quangocrats:

Sheep? Woolly quangos: an enquiry into the level of government involvement in the [Australian] wool industry

What do you reckon this critter might be? The tartan fringe:
quangos and other assorted animals in Scotland
.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I think they should probably charge a bunch of money for people to spend an equivalent amount of money sitting in one of the dreary unrenovated classrooms that so many students are expected to aspire toward the future in. Even I could market that one, to the idealistic, guiltridden left.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What do you reckon this critter might be? The tartan fringe:
quangos and other assorted animals in Scotland.


I dunno, a creature one of Allan Guthrie's characters might get caught in bed with, maybe.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Or they could offer a boat trip with the heads ofa bunch of nongovernmental organizations and call it a quango cru-- Oh, never mind/

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I'm just about tapped out on this one, so just a bit of international flavor, what with the intent of this blog and all...

Peter did you know the Dutch word for quangocratization is verzelfstandigin? Of course you did!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Naturlijk wel!

August 25, 2011  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Elizabeth
"Sheep? Woolly quangos: an enquiry into the level of government involvement in the [Australian] wool industry"

I wonder would woolly-thinking be 'de rigueur' in that particular quango, or is it the nature of the beast?

August 25, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Adrian, this is a bit far down the thread by now, but to explain: I detest violence of any kind. Politics come and go, but people remain very dead.

Peter, I live in the Tidewater area. I sort of know what you mean. Way back when I attended parties among the power brokers who'd occasionally invite my architect husband, the women (never sit with the women at those segregated parties!), they would toss around comments like, "Well, she's a Jackson, you know." or "Oh, she belongs to the DAR and her son married one of the Tazewells." I always thought those people were badly out of touch with reality. This is a very mixed population now.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think H.L. Mencken wrote that Virginia had come down a peg or two since the days when Madison and Jefferson walked the land.

August 25, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

IJ

Seemingly we have very different view points but in fact when push comes to shove I think you'd agree with me. I'm in favour of violence against the right people even if it means killing them. Pacifism is a rather silly notion. Gandhi suggested that the Jews of Europe meekly go to their deaths as a way of shaming the Nazis. Nicolson Baker suggested the same in his deeply misguided book Human Smoke. The Nazis however did not share Gandhi's concept of shame.

I think deploring all violence is a pretty naive argument and one that I dont take seriously. I'm sure that if someone invaded your home with a plan to harm your family you would violently respond if you needed to.

August 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have never been in a position where I had to choose between violence and its opposite, for which I'm thankful. I remember seeing a Quaker anti-war slogan that seemed fatuous. I wish I could remember it precisely, but it was something like "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." I'm not sure the folks in Philadelphia who professed that belief had earned the right to do so and be taken seriously.

August 26, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

I am not a pacifist exactly, but I am against offensive war, bombings, killings, etc. And, in general, I'd like conflicts to be solved peacefully.

But I agree with Adrian on the issue of self-defense (and that's what it was) by the Jewish people and others under siege by the Nazi war machine. Whatever the Jewish people had to do would have been justified as collective self-defense.

It's outrageous to hear that Gandhi said this, although I'm not surprised.

I can't stand movies about WWII, seeing the Nazis or the horrors, but what I would not mind seeing is a movie with resistance from start to finish with a ton of Nazis, especially officers, treated to "justice."

Defiance was good in that it showed a bit of this. It depicted one group of Jewish partisans in the Belarus forests, but there were others.

There were partisans in Europe, some of them Jewish. (There are some great little videos online of Jewish ex-partisans explaining what they had to do and did to survive, including eliminating informers in the nearby villages.) All understandable.

There were some uprisings in ghettos, including in Warsaw. Also in some other lesser known ghettoes.

A friend of my grandmother's wrote a book about some of these.

August 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I don't think Gandhi was the only one who made the mistake of thinking that the Nazis were reasonable men.

His own movement in his own country seems to have been a successful strategy, as was the Civil Rights movement it inspired in America.

As I understand it, nonviolent resistance is a strategy for people who have no other weapons. It's not a matter of putting your family on the line, it's a matter of putting yourself on the line. It's not cowardice, or a refusal to get involved.

I suppose the place where nonviolent resistance really might have helped in Germany is if the German citizenry had practiced it. But largely, it didn't.

I am not actually a pacifist myself, although I do think that women may be more open to this type of resistance as a philosophy, simply because through so much of history it has been the only option, successful or not.

August 26, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, these tactics did work in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, very true, although many people were beaten and murdered and jailed.

It also worked by the women's suffrage movement during WWI in the U.S. (see movie Iron-Jawed Angels with Hilary Swank and Frances O'Conor, very good)

There were more acts of resistance by Jews and others during WWII than many people think.

Every country in Europe had a resistance movement. I read that there are 800,000 political prisoners inside German jails.

August 26, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Thanks for the Iron Jawed Angels rec, Kathy.

Thinking a bit more about this, I realize that pacificism or nonviolent resistance, which are somewhat different concepts are really decisions of personal conscience, meaning that they are really only decisions you can make for yourself. It isn't right to tell others to take a pacifist tack, you can only really lead by example.

August 26, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes! I agree 100% with that comment, Seana. One has to decide for oneself.

No one should say that the Jewish people shouldn't have fought, that they should willingly have allowed genocide. That is just terrible to say. Life is precious. If one wants to give up one's life, that is personal.

But I do not think that any Jewish person wanted to do that at all. I believe that none did.

I have to say though, being of Jewish heritage on one side of my family, and having grown up with the horrors of the Holocaust as part of that growing up, and having heard criticisms of Jewish people for allegedly just willingly acceding to genocide, that has to be corrected. It is not true.

Most could not fight back, didn't have weapons, didn't have a way to do that, didn't have the military organization to do that.

They were rounded up, sent to camps or killed outright in terrible acts of Nazi genocide.

If Jewish people had tanks, weapons, bombs, armies, some skilled military organizers, once they knew what was really happening, I am sure they would have fought back.

Some formed partisan organizations, as shown in the movie Defiance, others formed small bands of resistance members or else joined other resistance groups, where they could in various countries. (Ed Zwick made the movie Defiance because he wanted to show that there was Jewish resistance to the Nazis.)

There were uprisings in ghettos, most notably in Warsaw, which was shown in a tv movie with Hank Azaria. There were others, too.

In the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, there were debates about how to proceed, the tactics to use. Some people agreed on civil disobedience. Some did not. That is true in the South African movement against apartheid, too. But many people were tortured and killed who didn't get to make a choice; they were targeted. Stephen Biko was for civil disobedience and he was tortured and murdered.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, you're right, of course. Why should the Jews be blamed for the atrocities committed against them? I said the German citizenry stood by and let it happen, but the world stood by too.

In the Garden of Beasts, which I read recently, shows, I think, something of how it was that an American ambassadors family could live side by side by with these monsters--and I don't use the word lightly--and somehow not believe they were in the company of people who had gone beyond the pale. It doesn't excuse it, but it renders the situation as it very likely was.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I can imagine some people simple being unable to comprehend that such a thing could happen.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

I think most people would have a hard time getting their minds around the fact that what had been one fo the most cultured cities in the world had entered into such a dark and terrible descent.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, they might have been prepared for the descent from cultural refinement by World War I and its aftermath.

August 27, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Well, interesting about the Germans. There was a lot of resistance, overt and covert. The NY Times ran an article a year or so ago which discussed the level of resistance in Germany during the war.

It said there had been 800,000 political prisoners in German jails. I don't know a breakdown of who or for what reasons or who survived.

But we know about Sophie Stoll and the White Rose. But there were people who hid Jewish people.

There's also a very poignant movie called Rosenstrasse about the opposition by Christian women whose Jewish husbands were rounded up to be deported. They actually organized protests every day, and got their husbands out. (In reading about that actual occurrence, I found there were other protests, amazing considering people risked their lives and their families' lives to do so.)

And as author, Binnie Kirshenbaum, says in Hannah among the Ruins, there was a street in a major city where people who did not want to salute Hitler, could detour through instead.

She also said in that book that the first who were rounded up were political opposition inside Germany. Many were Jewish because they were activists due to discrimination they faced.

I have met Germans whose are very opposed to what their country did -- probably everyone has -- but have parents who went along and agreed, horrifyingly.

Anyway, I found a good website tonight with books about Jewish resistance in Europe during WW II. It includes a book written by a friend of my grandparents.

In the worst circumstances, there was resistance. The human spirit is amazing.

I'll add a link if anyone is interested.

And about that book, I am interested in reading about the Dobbs, but am worried I'll be too annoyed early on.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

You will be annoyed, but it is still interesting. It was interesting to me because the Dobbs were very similar in background to my mom's family and although I like to think they wouldn't have been so deceived by their circumstances, who knows? I think it boils down to a fundamental mistake at the beginnning about what Nazism really was, and then a kind of denial that people you knew could actually be so terrible.

August 27, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK and Elisabeth (and anyone else):

As one last bit of time wasting before bed, I'll remove a word from the titles of several books I've written about recently here and substitute quango:

The Maltese Quango
A Quiet Belief in Quangos
The Quango in the Suitcase
The Past is a Foreign Quango


Goodnight.

August 28, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Seana, there was anti-Semitism and xenophobia in the highest echclons of the U.S. government, including in the State Department. Dodd had terrible views on the Jews and criticized their role in Germany.

Just looking at the U.S. Holocaust Museum website, a brief blog post explains the quotas against Jewish immigration through WWII, and that even in 1944 and afterwards, that only Jews from "liberated" areas and not that those who faced deportation were allowed.

The strict quotas were kept until 1948 when most displaced Jews had found somewhere to go.

Not a great thing to know one's own government barred Jewish immigration at that time.

And at that, I guess I'll stop this post as our host wants to quango.

August 28, 2011  

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