Friday, July 2, 2010

Recent Quotations

At the end of the film American History X a character points out that that a good way to end a manuscript is with a quotation by someone else. During my last dozen or so (14) essays there have been some good chances for quotes, but: I always seem to find these quotes a week after posting! I offer some quotations now.

My essay Alive and Working concerned being more than a cog at work. Business guru Peter Drucker, in The New Society, wrote:

“We also know what makes for the efficiency and productivity of the human resources of production. It is not primarily skill or pay; it is, first and foremost, an attitude- the one we call the “managerial attitude.” By this we mean an attitude that makes the individual see his job, his work, and his product the way a manager sees them, that is, in relation to the group and the product as a whole.”

Also in Alive and working I related seeing two men from communist countries seeming like whipped dogs, while in Decent Democracy I said that mental health (and cog-ism) can vary between nations, and across time. Journalist David Halberstam, in The Next Century, wrote:

“When Soviet leaders talk about change in the Soviet Union, they know they are addressing something that is generational; there is, says one Russian writer, a good chance that those over twenty-five are already too far gone, too corrupted by entitlement on the one hand (a low level of entitlement to be sure, but entitlement nonetheless) and cynicism on the other. There are daily reminders of this…” (p 33 of the hardcover)

I mentioned The Next Century in my essay Poor David Halberstam, an essay with a footnote mentioning international correspondent James Fallows. Halberstam noted various dangers, including not investing in new capital and research, of a nation living beyond its means. Fallows, in Postcards From Tomorrow Square, wrote:

“…For comparison, India’s savings rate is about 25 percent, which in effect means that India’s people consume about 75 percent of what they collectively produce. For Korea and Japan the savings rate is typically from the high 20s to the mid-30s. Recently, America’s has at times been below zero, which means that it consumes, via imports, more than it makes.
China’s savings rate is a staggering 50 percent.” (p 152 of the vintage books original)

In Alive and working I said that non-democracies don’t want human growth. In all the above-mentioned essays, I said this with varying degrees of explicitness. I was the most explicit about this in my recent piece, Art and Big Brother. In Decent Democracy I wrote of Anhua (Anna) Gao and her book, To the Edge of the Sky. She wrote of the effect of art and books being suppressed:

“During my time of employment in 714 factory, my spare time was dull. There were no books, no cinema, no television, and the radio gave out nothing but political jargon. Games such as chess and cards were banned. Everything that might enrich the spirit or improve the mind was considered ‘bourgeois,' and disallowed. Sundays dragged by, and although work was a terrible place to be it was almost a relief to return there every Monday morning.

“As I ate at the factory dining room I did not have to cook, so the only thing left was to gossip with my room-mates, but we had nothing interesting to talk about and soon got fed up. Even my letters to Andong were short and uninteresting. The less I did, the less I wanted to do, and even the chore of washing myself and my clothes become too much of a burden. Like everyone around me, I sank onto a spiral of apathy brought on by mental deprivation.” (p 257 of the hardcover)

While typing the last of these quotes into my laptop at the Tim Hortons I took Anna’s book with me to line up for another coffee. Some bare legged young ladies dressed for sports asked me about the book. I sound-bited about the part where Anna’s brain goes downhill. Remembering that it’s easier for most people to talk about “people” than “ideas” I showed Anna’s picture and said how she married a British man.

Back at my table, later, I thought of how I wouldn’t expect those friendly women to ever read Anna’s sentence “While young people in other countries were given a good education to equip them for their journey through life, our young were taught to hate and fight.” I wouldn’t expect the healthy women to connect Anna’s school to the schools in the terror-exporting nations… Naturally, I won’t expect every person in a democracy, at every given moment, to be concerned with every exact same thing as I. To me democracy works fine –I don’t have to feel foolish or alienated simply because I care so much. Things are fine when there is a sufficient background radiation of people like my readers who “know stuff,” while those young ladies know sports stuff, while all of us, added together, know all the stuff our nation needs.

We will be fine, as long as, like those ladies and I, we can care and connect.

Sean Crawford
June 2010
~ I had typed this on a bright Saturday morning when summer had finally come to the prairies. Next day it occurred to me that in the terror-exporting nations young women don’t talk as an equal, with confident eye contact, to any strange male old enough to be their father, nor would a responsible older man expect the ladies to feel permission to think about things before they parroted the “religious party line.” There would be no human connection. The legally adult women wouldn’t wear shorts, or even bloomers, and they wouldn’t have any freedom to assemble with each other to chat on a big empty field, let alone freedom to assemble to play sports.

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