Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘George Orwell

Do you still believe “Future revolutions are for Liberty?”

Thomas Mann from “The Magical Mountain” (La Montagne magique). Photo from Littérature et Poésie‘s photo.« Je cherche à introduire un peu de logique dans notre conversation et vous me répondez par des phrases généreuses. Je ne laissais pas de savoir que la Renaissance avait mis au monde tout ce que l'on appelle libéralisme, individualisme, humanisme bourgeois. Mais tout cela me laisse froid, car la conquête, l'âge héroïque de votre idéal est depuis longtemps passé, cet idéal est mort, ou tout au moins il agonise, et ceux qui lui donneront le coup de grâce sont déjà devant la porte. Vous vous appelez, sauf erreur, un révolutionnaire. Mais si vous croyez que le résultat des révolutions futures sera la Liberté, vous vous trompez. Le principe de la Liberté s'est réalisé et s'est usé en cinq cents ans. Une pédagogie qui, aujourd'hui encore, se présente comme issue du Siècle des Lumières et qui voit ses moyens d'éducation dans la critique, dans l'affranchissement et le culte du Moi, dans la destruction de formes de vie ayant un caractère absolu, une telle pédagogie peut encore remporter des succès momentanés, mais son caractère périmé n'est pas douteux aux yeux de tous les esprits avertis. »</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Thomas Mann - La Montagne magique<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Traduction de Maurice Betz
“I’m trying to introduce a little logic in our conversation and the phrases of yours responses are generous.
You kept hammering on the idea that Renaissance has created what we call liberalism, individualism, bourgeois humanism…
All these notions leave me cold.
Because conquest, the heroic age of your ideal is long past.
This ideal is dead, or agonizing, and those giving the “coup de grace” are already in front of the door.
You call yourself a revolutionary.
If you believe that the future results of revolutions is Liberty, you are wrong.
The principle of liberty was realized and was used up in the last 500 years.
A pedagogy, even today, represented as taking roots from the Century of Lights, and which sees its educational means in the critics, in the disfranchisement and the cult of the Me, in the destruction of forms of life having an absolute character… this kind of pedagogy may win a few more momentary successes, but its archaic character is not to be doubted in the eyes of the forewarned spirits…”
George Orwell wrote:
Should there be any limits to freedom of speech?<br /> Visit http://www.AtheistRepublic.com/
Note: Translated from this French excerpt
« Je cherche à introduire un peu de logique dans notre conversation et vous me répondez par des phrases généreuses. Je ne laissais pas de savoir que la Renaissa…nce avait mis au monde tout ce que l’on appelle libéralisme, individualisme, humanisme bourgeois. Mais tout cela me laisse froid, car la conquête, l’âge héroïque de votre idéal est depuis longtemps passé, cet idéal est mort, ou tout au moins il agonise, et ceux qui lui donneront le coup de grâce sont déjà devant la porte. Vous vous appelez, sauf erreur, un révolutionnaire. Mais si vous croyez que le résultat des révolutions futures sera la Liberté, vous vous trompez. Le principe de la Liberté s’est réalisé et s’est usé en cinq cents ans. Une pédagogie qui, aujourd’hui encore, se présente comme issue du Siècle des Lumières et qui voit ses moyens d’éducation dans la critique, dans l’affranchissement et le culte du Moi, dans la destruction de formes de vie ayant un caractère absolu, une telle pédagogie peut encore remporter des succès momentanés, mais son caractère périmé n’est pas douteux aux yeux de tous les esprits avertis. »
Thomas Mann – La Montagne magique

 

Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right:

Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’?

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Charles McGrath and Siddhartha Deb debate which classic dystopian vision rings truest at the beginning of 2017: George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”

By Charles McGrath

Was Orwell right after all? Not yet. Trump would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world.

Photo

Charles McGrath Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

A month ago I would have said that not only is “Brave New World” a livelier, more entertaining book than “1984,” it’s also a more prescient one.

Orwell didn’t really have much feel for the future, which to his mind was just another version of the present. His imagined London is merely a drabber, more joyless version of the city, still recovering from the Blitz, where he was living in the mid-1940s, just before beginning the novel. The main technological advancement there is the two-way telescreen, essentially an electronic peephole.

Huxley, on the other hand, writing almost two decades earlier than Orwell (his former Eton pupil, as it happened), foresaw a world that included space travel; private helicopters; genetically engineered test tube babies; enhanced birth control; an immensely popular drug that appears to combine the best features of Valium and Ecstasy; hormone-laced chewing gum that seems to work the way Viagra does; a full sensory entertainment system that outdoes IMAX; and maybe even breast implants. (The book is a little unclear on this point, but in “Brave New World” the highest compliment you can pay a woman is to call her “pneumatic.”)

Huxley was not entirely serious about this. He began “Brave New World” as a parody of H.G. Wells, whose writing he detested, and it remained a book that means to be as playful as it is prophetic.

And yet his novel much more accurately evokes the country we live in now, especially in its depiction of a culture preoccupied with sex and mindless pop entertainment, than does Orwell’s more ominous book, which seems to be imagining someplace like North Korea.

So was Orwell right after all? Well, not yet.

For one thing, the political system of “1984” is an exaggerated version of anticapitalist, Stalin-era Communism, and Trump’s philosophy is anything but that. He would be much more comfortable in Huxley’s world, which is based on rampant consumerism and where hordes of genetically modified losers happily tend to the needs of the winners.

Huxley believed that his version of dystopia was the more plausible one.

In a 1949 letter, thanking Orwell for sending him a copy of “1984,” he wrote that he really didn’t think all that torture and jackbooting was necessary to subdue a population, and that he believed his own book offered a better solution. All you need to do, he said, is teach people to love their servitude.

The totalitarian rulers in Huxley’s book do this not by oppressing their citizens but by giving them exactly what they want, or what they think they want — which is basically sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll — and lulling them into complacency. (That’s exactly what the US has been offering its citizens in the last 50 years)

The system entails a certain Trump-like suspicion of science and dismissal of history, but that’s a price the inhabitants of Huxley’s world happily pay. They don’t mourn their lost liberty, the way Orwell’s Winston Smith does; they don’t even know it’s gone.

Charles McGrath was the editor of the Book Review from 1995 to 2004, and is now a contributing writer for The Times. Earlier he was the deputy editor and the head of the fiction department of The New Yorker. Besides The Times, he has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic and Outside. He is the editor of two golf books — “The Ultimate Golf Book” and “Golf Stories” — and is currently working on an edition of John O’Hara’s stories for the Library of America.

By Siddhartha Deb

Why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two evils choices of electoral politics?

Photo

Siddhartha Deb Credit Illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson

There exists a comfortably predictable and, to my mind, uninspired approach to the dystopic novel and its powers of prognosis, a Pavlovian response that involves reaching for a copy of George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” whenever extreme turbulence hits the West.

Together they make up a short reading list, if a rather familiar one, redolent of high school literature classes and expanding, if forced, to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We” and Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.”

That’s it, we’re done — a brief tour in four books to dystopias where the individual’s sense of freedom is always under threat from the totalitarian state.

The last few months have been hard, no doubt, the news more distressing by the hour, but there is still something perversely groupthinkish in the fact that the impulse of resistance has homed in on the same book, and that a measure of opposition to the horrors of the Trump administration is the climb of “1984” to No. 1 on Amazon.

There is much in Orwell’s novel, in fact, that translates poorly into the contemporary moment. From its texture of material deprivation, the loosely packed cigarettes and boiled cabbages recalling wartime rationing in Britain, to its portrayal of Ingsoc, Big Brother and various Ministries (Truth, Peace, Love, Plenty), all of which assume control by a heavily centralized State, it is a work very much of the ’40s as experienced by an English intellectual.

In “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” the American media critic Neil Postman in fact argued that Huxley’s novel was far more relevant than Orwell’s when it came to the United States, where the dominant mode of control over people was through entertainment, distraction, and superficial pleasure rather than through overt modes of policing and strict control over food supplies, at least when it came to managing the middle classes.

Three decades after Postman’s account, when we can add reality television, the internet and social media to the deadly amusements available, “Brave New World” can still seem strikingly relevant in its depiction of the relentless pursuit of pleasure.

From the use of soma as a kind of happiness drug to the erasure of the past not so much as a threat to government, as is the case in Orwell’s dystopia, but as simply irrelevant (“History is bunk”), Huxley marked out amusement and superficiality as the buttons that control

His relentless focus on the body, too, seems inspired, his understanding of what Michel Foucault identified as “biopolitics,” extending to the individual body as well as to entire populations and, in “Brave New World,” playing out as a eugenic system based on caste, class, race, looks and size.

As for his depiction of the “savage reservation” in New Mexico, this seems to foreshadow the fetishization of the natural on the part of one of the most artifice-ridden populations in the history of the world.

A great deal funnier, subtler and darker than Orwell’s book, Huxley’s satire nevertheless has its limitations.

A World State? Games of escalator squash? In any case, why stop at one of two books, as if the literary realm must mimic the denuded, lesser-of-two-evils choices of electoral politics?

There are other powerful fictional dystopias that speak to the United States of today, including a significant portion of the oeuvre of Philip K. Dick and Octavia E. Butler.

There is J.G. Ballard’s hallucinatory Reagan-era “Hello America,” with a future United States that has many contending presidents, including President Manson, who plays nuclear roulette in Las Vegas.

Why not read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star” and Anna North’s “America Pacifica” and Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” and Claire Vaye Watkins’s “Gold Fame Citrus” and Vanessa Veselka’s “Zazen” and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife”?

If the world is going dark, we may as well read as much as possible before someone turns off the light.

The precursor of everything that a healthy and adventurous person can do in a short life: Jack London

I watched a documentary on Jack London, the precursor of what life should be for a healthy and adventurous person.

He was Not a wanted child and his mother tried to commit suicide when she was pregnant with him. He died at the age of 40 (1917) from renal failure: He was a heavy drinker (he is remembered in alcoholic anonymous session for saying “I can quit anytime I want”).  He suffered many ailments in his long sea trip in the Pacific Ocean, malaria, lack of vitamins, and the treatment on mercury products poisoned his blood. He and his second wife Charmaine had to shorten their round the world adventure and get treatment in Sidney.

During my 2 years stint in San Francisco and the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to read most of the books of the local authors: Jack London, Steinbeck, Henry Miller, Kerouac, Burroughs, Mark Twain….

Jack London wrote many novels and articles: The Apostate on the life of poor children in the beginning of the 20th century (an autobiography too), Call of the Wild, White fang, East End of London during the depression in 1903 (an excellent precursor for what George Orwell will expand on in Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm… of the life of homeless and the life of miners. And many novels on his sea voyage.

He worked since the age of 14 to supplement his family needs in various menial jobs in the industry. He was such a hard worker that the owner dismissed 2 employees who earned $40 each and paid London only $30.

At 16, he traded with illegal products after purchasing a canoe for $300 lent by his half sister. With plenty of hard cash, he got addicted to spend nights in bars. London lead the life of the homeless who travelled about the USA on foot and cargo trains and was jailed a month for homelessness.

He joined the Socialist Party and was a leading voice and wrote many articles on the situation in the USA and harangued the people everywhere he was. He sided with the Russian uprising in 1905.

At the age of 20, he joined about 1,000 adventurers during the Gold Rush in Alaska and noticed that the loners eventually died and survival is by connecting and making friends.

On his first attempt to the deep sea, his schooner leaked badly and the crew of 6 had to land in Hawaii for repair and refurbishing jobs.  Jack had to learn on board how to navigate from books he had on the boat because the designated captain turned out to be Not knowledgeable in deep sea. London took to surfing while waiting for the boat to be ready. He was welcomed by the US expatriate as a hero.

He was dispatched in 1913 to cover the revolution in Mexico and he changed side by supporting the intervention of Big Brother to institute Law and order and aided the US oil companies. He was heavily criticized for lambasting the Mexican guerrillas as assassins and war mongers. He had to resign from the Socialist Party.

He was the first ecologically minded person in running his farm (no fertilizers) and even his animals were sheltered in stone houses (Pig Castle). He was the first who began producing long movies, 7 of them, before Hollywood existed.

Jack married twice and had 2 daughters from the first marriage: His first wife divorced him after he spent an entire year covering the Russian/Japanese war in 1905. The Japanese were about to execute him when President Roosevelt warned Japan that the USA might engage in the war if London is Not released.

The second wife Charmaine joined him in all his adventure and wrote diaries of the trip around the world in sea and published them. She lost two in childbirth. The documentary didn’t tell what happened to Charmaine after Jack’s death.

London acquired a Kodak 3 and took abundant pictures everywhere he went and joined them in his books: These pictures are a history of the end of the 20th century and all these aborigine people he met in Polynesia and the islands in the Pacific Ocean.

He visited the island where Melville spent a long time (there were 12,000 people and when London landed, only a dozen lived in the village). He visited the tomb of Stevenson, another famous adventure precursor.

His publisher MacMillan refused to publish a photo of his smiling wife next to a naked aborigine and Jack wrote to him: “This is my wife, this is my photo, get on with it” And the picture was published.

 

Why domestic animals revolted against their Masters?

The elderly and most clever pig Major summoned all the animals in the farm and delivered this speech:

” I had a longer life than I expected in this farm, and I dare say that I fathomed the nature of our animal life on earth.

Our lives on this farm are miserable, harshly laborious and extremely short. We are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies in order to be forced to work to the last atom of our strength.

At term, we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty.

No animal farm in England knows the meaning of happiness or leisure after he is a year old.

Is this supposed to be the order of nature? No.

That the land cannot afford a decent life for us? No.

The soil is fertile and can feed many fold our number and we could live in far better comfort and dignity that are now beyond our imagining. Why is that?

The whole of our produce is stolen from us by human beings who consume without producing much of anything.

Mankind does not give milk, lay eggs, run fast enough to catch rabbits, not strong enough to pull the plough… Our dung fertilizes the soil, our labor tills the soil… And yet, He is the lord of all the animals.

He set the animals to work for him, gives back the bare survival rations, and the rest he keeps for himself.

How many thousands gallons of milk have you the cows given last year? How much was left for you to breed up sturdy calves?

Milk, eggs, honey…have gone to market to bring in money to Master Jones and a few of his men helpers.

Where are the foals mare Clover you bore? Each one was sold at a year old.

Our miserable lives never reached their natural span and we barely escape the knife in the end.

You young porkers will scream your lives out at the block within a year.

Even the horses will end up fodder for the fox-hounds. Old dogs will be drowned with a brick tied round their necks.

All our evils spring from the tyranny of our real arch enemy Man.

Never believe that Man and animals have any common interests.

Never fall prey to the propaganda that prosperity comes from our cooperation with Man.

Get rid of Man and live longer.

Get rid of man and enjoy the plenty of everything and lots of rest.

My message to you is: Rebellion

Fix your eyes on the rebellion. Let the future generations carry on the struggle until it is victorious.

All farm animal species are comrades and united against our common enemy Man.

Now join me in this song:

“Rings shall vanish from our noses

And the harness from our backs

Bit and spur shall rust forever

Cruel whips no more shall crack

Purer shall England waters be

Clover, wheat, oat and hay

Barley, beans and mangel-wurzels

Shall be ours upon that day

Beast of England, beast of Ireland

Beast of every land and clime

Hearken well and spread my tidings

Of the golden future time.”

 

Note: Read “Animal Farm” of George Orwell

Animal Farm? Is Mankind about ready for a couple Animal Farm stories

Have you read or recall the Animal Farm of George Orwell?

Do you recognize the pig Squealers (the propagandist), the pig Napoleons (Stalin), the Snowballs (Trotsky), the pigs in our society, the watchdogs, the donkeys (Ben), the raven (Moses), the carthorse (Boxer), the pigeons… and the capabilities, limitations and functions in our midst?

The farm animals revolted against Master Jones.

The pigs are ruling the new community because of their superior knowledge and are assuming the running of the farm according to new system of equality among all.

Squealer is taking the podium:

“Comrades. You do not imagine that we pigs are drinking the milk and eating the apple harvest in a spirit of selfishness and privileged status. Many of us don’t even like milk or apples.

But milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well being of the pig brain to keep this farm well managed for all.

If we fail in our duty, master Jones would come back. Surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones back…”

Snowball is of the opinion of sending out more pigeons to stir up rebellions among animals on the other farms

Napoleon is adamant that priority is to procure arms and get military training and  (rounding up the counter-revolutionaries)

Snowball is driven into exile. Napoleon is the new dictator.

A goose came forward and confessed to having secreted a few ears of corn from the last harvest.

A sheep confessed to have urinated in the drinking pool…

The slogan inscribed on the barn read “All animals are equal” and a new qualifier was added “But some are more equal than others

The carthorse represents the good natured common people, particularly the peasants.

The raven points to the priesthood class: They disappear in hard times and return as times are better

The donkey is the intellectual who normally rejects fuss and demonstrations, but clearly see what’s going on…

The Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet communist system crumbled, but Animal farm suits all kinds of political systems and is applicable to all of them.

Orwell was well placed to observe and analyse how the communists during the long Stalin reign functioned. He enlisted with the Republicans during the Spanish 1936 civil war and wrote Homage to Catalonia (published in 1938).

During his stay in Spain, Orwell was totally frustrated how the communists (Stalinists) turned their coats to the leftist Spanish parties and did their best to disunite the various factions and participated in the disintegration of the popular front and the victory of the fascist Franco..

Stalin had signed the partition of Poland with Hitler and in return, Franco had to take over in Spain.

So far, I read 6 of Orwell’s publications and extensively reviewed two of them: Down and out in Paris… and 1984.

A few of the publication of this awesome author:

1. Burmese Days, 1934: Orwell enlisted with the British army in Burma before the WWII

2. A Clergyman’s Daughter 1935

3. Keep the Aspidistra Flying 191936

4. Coming up for Air 1939

5. Animal farm 1945

6. The Road to Wigan Pier 1937: He witnessed very closely the life of the miners and their families in Birmingham

7. Homage to Catalonia 1938

8. Inside the Whale 1940

9. The Lion and the Unicorn 1941

10. James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution 1946

11 Critical Essays 1946

12. Shooting an Elephant 1950

13. England your England 1953

14. Down and out in Paris and London 1933

15. 1984

Note: Down and Out  https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/down-and-out-in-paris-and-london-by-george-orwell/

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators

The psychological origins of waiting (… and waiting, and waiting) to work.
Lots of people procrastinate but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard.
“Fixed mind-set,” people versus  “growth mind-set” who thrive on challenges because they would learn something they had no talent in.
A good read.
 posted this FEB 12 2014

Like most writers, I am an inveterate procrastinator.

In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read.

Wikimedia Commons

One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.

I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features.

“Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.”

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writing habit of putting off writing as long as possible.)

At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion.

Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project.

It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent.

Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are.

As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good.

Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package.

By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

The Fear of Turning In Nothing

Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible.

But I’ve watched a surprising number of young journalists wreck, or nearly wreck, their careers by simply failing to hand in articles. These are all college graduates who can write in complete sentences, so it is not that they are lazy incompetents. Rather, they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.

“Exactly!” said Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, when I floated this theory by her. One of the best-known experts in the psychology of motivation, Dweck has spent her career studying failure, and how people react to it.

As you might expect, failure isn’t all that popular an activity. And yet, as she discovered through her research, not everyone reacts to it by breaking out in hives. While many of the people she studied hated tasks that they didn’t do well, some people thrived under the challenge. They positively relished things they weren’t very good at—for precisely the reason that they should have: when they were failing, they were learning.

Dweck puzzled over what it was that made these people so different from their peers. It hit her one day as she was sitting in her office (then at Columbia), chewing over the results of the latest experiment with one of her graduate students: the people who dislike challenges think that talent is a fixed thing that you’re either born with or not. The people who relish them think that it’s something you can nourish by doing stuff you’re not good at.

There was this eureka moment,” says Dweck.

She now identifies the former group as people with a “fixed mind-set,” while the latter group has a “growth mind-set.”

Whether you are more fixed or more of a grower helps determine how you react to anything that tests your intellectual abilities.

For growth people, challenges are an opportunity to deepen their talents, but for “fixed” people, they are just a dipstick that measures how high your ability level is.

Finding out that you’re not as good as you thought is not an opportunity to improve; it’s a signal that you should maybe look into a less demanding career, like mopping floors.

This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you “really” are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment.

Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable.

If they’re forced into a challenge they don’t feel prepared for, they may even engage in what psychologists call “self-handicapping” behaviors: deliberately doing things that will hamper their performance in order to give themselves an excuse for not doing well.

Self-handicapping can be fairly spectacular: in one study, men deliberately chose performance-inhibiting drugs when facing a task they didn’t expect to do well on.

“Instead of studying,” writes the psychologist Edward Hirt, “a student goes to a movie the night before an exam. If he performs poorly, he can attribute his failure to a lack of studying rather than to a lack of ability or intelligence. On the other hand, if he does well on the exam, he may conclude that he has exceptional ability, because he was able to perform well without studying.”

Writers who don’t produce copy—or leave it so long that they couldn’t possibly produce something good—are giving themselves the perfect excuse for not succeeding.

“Work finally begins,” says Alain de Botton, “when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.” For people with an extremely fixed mind-set, that tipping point quite often never happens. They fear nothing so much as finding out that they never had what it takes.

“The kids who race ahead in the readers without much supervision get praised for being smart,” says Dweck. “What are they learning? They’re learning that being smart is not about overcoming tough challenges. It’s about finding work easyWhen they get to college or graduate school and it starts being hard, they don’t necessarily know how to deal with that.”

Embracing Hard Work

Our educational system is almost designed to foster a fixed mind-set. Think about how a typical English class works: You read a “great work” by a famous author, discussing what the messages are, and how the author uses language, structure, and imagery to convey them.

You memorize particularly pithy quotes to be regurgitated on the exam, and perhaps later on second dates.

Students are rarely encouraged to peek at early drafts of those works. All they see is the final product, lovingly polished by both writer and editor to a very high shine. When the teacher asks “What is the author saying here?” no one ever suggests that the answer might be “He didn’t quite know” or “That sentence was part of a key scene in an earlier draft, and he forgot to take it out in revision.”

Or consider a science survey class. It consists almost entirely of the theories that turned out to be right—not the folks who believed in the mythical “N-rays,” declared that human beings had forty-eight chromosomes, or saw imaginary canals on Mars.

When we do read about falsified scientific theories of the past—Lamarckian evolution, phrenology, reproduction by “spontaneous generation”—the people who believed in them frequently come across as ludicrous yokels, even though many of them were distinguished scientists who made real contributions to their fields.

“You never see the mistakes, or the struggle,” says Dweck. No wonder students get the idea that being a good writer is defined by not writing bad stuff.

Unfortunately, in your own work, you are confronted with every clunky paragraph, every labored metaphor and unending story that refuses to come to a point.

“The reason we struggle with “insecurity,” says Pastor Steven Furtick, “is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

About six years ago, commentators started noticing a strange pattern of behavior among the young millennial who were pouring out of college. Eventually, the writer Ron Alsop would dub them the Trophy Kids. Despite the sound of it, this has nothing to do with “trophy wives.” Rather, it has to do with the way these kids were raised.

This new generation was brought up to believe that there should be no winners and no losers, no scrubs or MVPs. Everyone, no matter how ineptly they perform, gets a trophy.

As these kids have moved into the workforce, managers complain that new graduates expect the workplace to replicate the cosy, well-structured environment of school. They demand concrete, well-described tasks and constant feedback, as if they were still trying to figure out what was going to be on the exam.

“It’s very hard to give them negative feedback without crushing their egos,” one employer told Bruce Tulgan, the author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy. “They walk in thinking they know more than they know.”

When I started asking around about this phenomenon, I was a bit skeptical. After all, us old geezers have been grousing about those young whippersnappers for centuries.

But whenever I brought the subject up, I got a torrent of complaints, including from people who  have been managing new hires for decades. They were able to compare them with previous classes, not just with some mental image of how great we all were at their age. And they insisted that something really has changed—something that’s not limited to the super-coddled children of the elite.

“I’ll hire someone who’s 27, and he’s fine,” says Todd, who manages a car rental operation in the Midwest. “But if I hire someone who’s twenty-three or twenty-four, they need everything spelled out for them, they want me to hover over their shoulder. It’s like somewhere in those three or four years, someone flipped a switch.”

They are probably harder working and more conscientious than my generation.  But many seem intensely uncomfortable with the comparatively unstructured world of work.  No wonder so many elite students go into finance and consulting—jobs that surround them with other elite grads, with well-structured reviews and advancement.

Today’s new graduates may be better credentialed than previous generations, and are often very hardworking, but only when given very explicit direction. And they seem to demand constant praise.

Is it any wonder, with so many adults hovering so closely over every aspect of their lives? Frantic parents of a certain socioeconomic level now give their kids the kind of intensive early grooming that used to be reserved for princelings or little Dalai Lamas.

All this “help” can be actively harmful. These days, I’m told, private schools in New York are (quietly, tactfully) trying to combat a minor epidemic of expensive tutors who do the kids’ work for them, something that would have been nearly unthinkable when I went through the system 20 years ago.

Our parents were in league with the teachers, not us. But these days, fewer seem willing to risk letting young Silas or Gertrude fail out of the Ivy League.

Thanks to decades of expansion, there are still enough spaces for basically every student who wants to go to college. But there’s a catch: Most of those new spaces were created at less selective schools. Two-thirds of Americans now attend a college that, for all intents and purposes, admits anyone who applies. Spots at the elite schools—the top 10 percent—have barely kept up with population growth.

Meanwhile demand for those slots has grown much faster, because as the economy has gotten more competitive, parents are looking for a guarantee that their children will be successful. A degree from an elite school is the closest thing they can think of.

So we get Whiffle Parenting: constant supervision to ensure that a kid can’t knock themselves off the ladder that is thought to lead, almost automatically, through a selective college and into the good life.

It’s an entirely rational reaction to an educational system in which the stakes are always rising, and any small misstep can knock you out of the race. But is this really good parenting?

A golden credential is no guarantee of success, and in the process of trying to secure one for their kids, parents are depriving them of what they really need: the ability to learn from their mistakes, to be knocked down and to pick themselves up—the ability, in other words, to fail gracefully.

That is probably the most important lesson our kids will learn at school, and instead many are being taught the opposite.


This post is adapted from Megan McArdle’s The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.

Who is controlling the Present? Controlled the Past? Is set to control the Future?

In 1948, author George Orwell, in an anticipatory vision, published “1984“.  Orwell wrote:

“Who controls the Present has the control of the Past; and who manages to control the Past can control the Future”

In the 10th century, western Europe civilization was far behind in civilization, culture, and knowledge compared to the Arabic, Indian, and Chinese civilizations.  Europe had the foresight of instituting this routine of keeping detailed records of all political, and economic transactions.

Officials, anywhere they were assigned, had to send detailed reports of daily transactions, behavior of the people, and communicating the existing culture of the indigenous communities.

Archives were centralized, kept secured and well maintained, and opened to the public for further investigation and analysis of trends and changes.

This habit is currently applicable:  Secret files and reports are made public after a set period for researchers to dig in and dust off the manuscripts and mine old pieces of intelligence.

Most other civilizations barely kept archives on topics related to the common people and the general interests. Their Past is almost forgotten.  What remains are altered customs and traditions…

For example, if the new Arab Empire didn’t translate Greek works, we would never had any Greek civilization to ponder upon or try valiantly referring to Greek culture as European sources for democracy, liberty, freedom of opinions, and ….

Western Europe controlled their present, and consequently, managed to control their Past by interpreting what suited their present conditions.  Currently, many ethnic minorities, even those with a written language, are being assimilated within the dominant culture.  Why?

It is expensive and not readily profitable to encourage people to write and publish in their own language: Lacking a large pool of dedicated readers to support conserving the memory of the present.

It is also a daunting task to find academics willing to learn and translate original works and manuscripts in minority languages.

To the question “Have you dreams for the future?”, asked by Hans Ulrich Obrist to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, Assange replied:

“What I am dreaming of is starting to happen. my project is that every published digitized documents, articles, intellectual work, musical works, movies, videos, pieces of intelligence in social platforms…carries a particular name, (a sort of alphanumeric code), a system of indexing, so that any editing or revision or modification in any document will necessarily receive another name and keep track of the original version…This is one of my dreams for ensuring the continuation of this Tower of Babel, of pure knowledge…”

Why Assange is having this daydream project?

For example, since the advent of digitized  technology, many documents have been tampered with, if not literally killed, destroyed, and removed from public scrutiny.  As if this piece of knowledge and intelligence has never existed.

For example, a court order or an injunction to retire an article will result in “page not found” on the internet if you search for a specific article including “banned” keywords.

In 2008, an Iraqi billionaire during Saddam Hussein regime, named Nadhim Auchi, hired the British law firm of Carter-Ruck to attack in justice dailies that published articles in 2003 related to his indictment in France to 15 months of prison term in the affair of Elf.

Why Auchi wanted these articles retired from public scrutiny?

It turned out that Auchi had contributed $3.5 million to President Obama Presidential campaign via Tony Rezko.  Rezko was indicted for corruption in 2008.  Consequently, the British court ordered the published article retired from circulation.  Eight articles were deleted, among them 3 in the The Guardian and one in The Daily Telegraph.

For example, if WikiLeaks didn’t publish the 400, 000 leaked documents, the information on the Task Force 373 with order to assassinate 2,000 individuals on a list, would have certainly be erased for ever… Examples of killing documents abound, even during ancient times.

Mind you that neuro sciences have established that the area of memory of the past is the same that is activated when you plan for any project.

No memory, no good potential for planning out the future 

Note 1: You may read on banned manuscripts https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/famous-manuscripts-banned-by-the-vatican-part-2/

Note 2:  European adventurers since the 16th centuries left a wealth of information on countries they traveled too, using any means, adding hand drawn pictures and hand drawn maps…


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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