Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
The final truth about life is always an absurdity but it cannot be an absolute absurdity. It is an absurdity inasfar as it mush transcend the “system” of meaning which the human mind always prematurely constructs with itself as the centre. But it cannot be a complete absurdity or it could not achieve any credence.
Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. 2 (1943)
From the series: Order of the Universe
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Sunday, May 09, 2010
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
May it not be that we are shouting at Mr. [Henry] Ford because he has done us the inconvenience of revealing some of the American character a little too baldly? Is our indignation like that of the man making faces at himself in a mirror?
The first fact about Mr. Ford is that he is a very rich man. Whatever he says is therefore sure of a hearing in America. We have always acted instinctively on the theory that golden thoughts flow in a continuous stream from the minds of millionaires. Their ideas about religion, education, morality, and international politics carry weight out of all proportion to their intrinsic importance; and though we have not admitted that riches make wisdom, we have always assumed that they deserve publicity.
This automatic obeisance to wealth is complicated by our notions of success. We Americans have little faith in special knowledge, and only with the greatest difficulty is the idea being forced upon us that not every man is capable of doing every job. But Mr. Ford belongs to the traditions of self-made men, to that primitive Americanism which has held the theory that a successful manufacturer could turn his hand with equal success to every other occupation. ... Mr. Ford is neither a crank nor a freak; he is merely the logical exponent of American prejudices about wealth and success.
But Mr. Ford reveals more of us than this. He reflects our touching belief that the world is like ourselves. His attitude to the “boy in the trenches” is of a piece with his attitude to the boys in the Ford plant, kindly, fatherly, and certain that Mr. Ford knows what is best. His restless energy and success appear as a jolly meddlesomeness. He gives his boys good wages and holds them to good morals. He is prepared to do like for the boys in Flanders and around Monastir. Why shouldn't success in Detroit assure success in front of Bagdad? [sic] If Mr. Ford is unable to remember all men are not made in his own image, it is not strange. Have Americans ever remembered it? Has our attitude towards the old world ever assumed that Europe was anything but a laborious effort to imitate us?
Walter Lippman, “A Little Child Shall Lead Them” (December 4, 1915)
From the series: America