Monday, August 17, 2020

A Tale of Tesla Untold

In the past, relationships may have been easier because children were dependent on both parents much longer, and parents could build information valuable to them and also valuable to their children. 

When you see fathers in overalls teaching their children how to handle the inside of a combustion engine car, the exchange not only provides useful information, but an opportunity to bond and to learn. One day, electric or non-gasoline cars will replace the knowledge of fathers, and we may not need to learn how to drive. As technology replaces the old ways while rendering adult knowledge less relevant, what will create similar bonding and learning opportunities intra-family?  

© Matthew Mehdi Rafat (2020) 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

In Search of a Useful Obituary for the United States of America

If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” -- Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 4, 1967)

All empires eventually overextend themselves in their efforts to prevent potential competitors and threats, and all empires overextend themselves because at some point, their military commits egregious mistakes and atrocities, which must be assuaged with propaganda to maintain forward movement. In this way, My Lai and Abu Ghraib are connected, not as distant relations, but direct descendants. 

For the United States, Vietnam was the beginning of overt moral lapses by the the Catholic-Church-backed military, and the failure to prevent Catholic political influence thereafter has led to continued moral descent, including coverups of child molestation by priests. The lesson for other countries is straightforward: if your military commits a moral mistake, you must acknowledge and resolve it as best as possible, or you will find yourself on a slippery slope towards overall decline.  

Human nature is not so complicated, and every mother knows children recognize unfairness and must be trained to accept some measure of it in order to become adults. Once adults, the question is how many degrees of unfairness must be accepted to fit into an environment where insidious elements know such degrees can increase if adjusted gradually. No matter the level at which nonconformity becomes an obligation, if an individual, entity, or government seeks to evade responsibility for the death and destruction of one's fellow human being, it is no longer a leap but a mere skip towards fudging numbers at the accountancy firm, approving mortgage loans on questionable terms, and using violence to collect debts. 

We shall be told: what can literature possibly do against the ruthless onslaught of open violence? But let us not forget that violence does not live alone and is not capable of living alone: it is necessarily interwoven with falsehood... [and] no sooner does [violence] become strong, firmly established, that it senses the rarefaction of the air around it and cannot continue to exist without descending into a fog of lies, clothing them in sweet talk. -- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (1970)

A military's initial moral lapse, if unaddressed, cracks the overall societal fabric, creating a chasm soon large enough for everyone to fall through. Before and after such an abysmal result, segregation is the preferred method to prevent the downfall of the Establishment, and it is segregation that is most visible in any declining empire--if one has time and freedom to look.

1. Klara Pƶlzl/Hitler was a devout Roman Catholic and attended church regularly with Adolf.
2. After the Roman Empire fell, the New Holy Roman Empire was established in Saxony, Germany. The region today is Germany's most anti-immigrant province, and members of AfD, Germany's far-right party, first sought election in Lower Saxony.

I refer you to the numerous Christian offshoots in my neighborhood. Within five miles, I count at least two Korean churches, one Mormon church, one Seventh Day Adventist church, one Orthodox church, one Jehovah's Witness Hall, and one denomination I do not recognize, all of which demonstrate dispersed private groups not part of the Catholic political infrastructure--and, too, the government's failure to provide sufficient common spaces where diverse groups can freely meet and interact. When such segregation becomes a natural part of the landscape, it gives the appearance of diversity and progress when reality is the opposite: fragmentation within a politically homogeneous structure means the Establishment has failed to incorporate groups in ways actively welcoming common direction. While all religious centers we cited were Christian and thus in possession of familiar commonalities, if not managed with communal care, are in danger of differences as wide as different religions, which arise from the fact that apart from tax advantages, certain conditions had to exist for them to be conceived as separate entities. 

There is a dangerous tendency to form a herd, shutting off successful development... This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era... -- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (1978)

Appearances can be deceiving, and the presence of a cross on a building does not mean its adherents believe the same things or vote the same way, just as the appearance of new cars does not represent wealth but consumer debt. When we live in a place where the things we see do not represent the things they appear to be, it can only mean a country has overextended itself or lost credibility, leaving a moral wasteland where economic transactions and marketing bind residents together, elevating the banking system and its efficacy as the vanguard of stability. 

Any professional group no sooner sees a convenient opportunity to BREAK OFF A PIECE, even if it be unearned, even if it be superfluous, than it breaks it off there and then and no matter if the whole of society comes tumbling down. -- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (1970)

On this straight-and-narrow path comes economic growth but also the dangers of inflation and unequal spending, both public and private. Over time, when economic growth slows--partly due to mismanaged economic investment--a minority is conveniently in the ghetto or segregated area to chastise and to absorb our animal passions so as to deflect attention from the majority's continued failure to right the direction of its moral compass. The writer or documentarian, if independent and curious, is the only one capable of bridging such chasms as they grow wider, but such writers can only function within open societies where others are willing to risk criticism and then do something about it together. 

When people ask, "What good is a writer?" tell them this: only the writer can defeat the invisible barriers and borders that inevitably separate residents in their hometowns from each other, regardless of distance; and only the writer can minimize the spaces between ourselves in ways showing us the next step towards a common humanity. Absent the sincere writer and the competent journalist, things fall apart, the center cannot hold, and the rough edges sharpen into knives of our own neglect. 

© Matthew Mehdi Rafat (2020)

Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder. -- Arnold J. Toynbee 

And they were mistaken, and will always be mistaken, who prophesy that art will disintegrate, that it will outlive its forms and die. It is we who shall die – art will remain. -- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (1970)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

High School Rebellion

Except for the opportunity to wrestle, I despised high school. While cleaning today, I discovered the following ode against John Dewey:
© Matthew Mehdi Rafat (2020)

Bonus: not until 40 years old did I realize American history was impossible to teach without first understanding European history, especially conflicts between German Protestants and the Catholic Church, as well as Catholic Spain against anti-Catholic France. However, at the early age of 17, I intuitively realized my high school history teacher was wasting my time and wrote him a letter.
Ironically, after four trips around the world, I now consider history one of my strongest subjects. As they say, "Man plans, the universe laughs."