In the early days of TV, the stations signed off around midnight with a tribute to the military. They rotated the services. When it was the Navy’s turn, they showed the ships on the high seas and sang Eternal Father. For the Air Force they showed soaring fighters and read ‘High Flight’. I can’t remember what they did for the Army or Marines. Those were days when people were not afraid.
Rudyard Kipling in his poem The God of the Copybook Headings made much the same point as Mr Mead does in his beautifully expressed piece. We are too ready to believe that all problems are solveable easily and it takes stern experience to show this is a persistent fallacy.
THE GODS OF THE COPYBOOK HEADING
AS I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market-Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn.
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breath of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market-Place;
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch.
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings.
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Heading said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew,
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four-
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man-
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:-
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
I’m not so sure that the oil spill was so impossible for the government to plan for. According to some sources http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/tag/the-netherlands/ European countries have much better technology for cleaning up oil spills. It sounds like you just wanted to find an example with which to make your point.
I read the same article by Lawrence Solomon in Canada’s National Post today, titled “Avertible Catastrophe”.
http://www.financialpost.com/Avertible+catastrophe/3203808/story.html Earl of Sandwich is too kind. It is not that the U.S. government should have planned the way the Netherlands does, but rather, why did the U.S. government NOT JUMP at the offer of Dutch oil skimmers and sand dike building when it was offered on DAY 3, April 20?
I was not following the BP oil spill story, and even I came across this report today. If it is only half true, it is still a complete disgrace, worse than the FEMA response to Katrina.
I am so tired of these oh-so-smart people in Washington. Remember when Condoleeza Rice disengenously testified before Congress about 9/11, that ‘we could not imagine airplanes flying into buildings’? At some point after that, I decided to read all of Tom Clancy’s novels, in sequence. When I got to 1994 “Debt of Honor” and read how [quoting wiki] “an embittered Japan Air Lines pilot, avenging the deaths of his son and brother—killed during the Pacific conflict—flies his Boeing 747 directly into the U.S. Capitol building during the proceedings. Nearly the entire United States presidential line of succession is eliminated, including the President, most of Congress, nearly all of the Cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all nine Supreme Court Justices. …” I lost all faith in government. If Tom Clancy had it in a Jack Ryan novel, how could the government NOT imagine such a scenario?
Sorry, am still in a state of [insert whatever] to discover the U.S., once again, turned down helpful technology from the Netherlands. Before today, I was mildly annoyed we had not bombed Deepwater closed as the Russians have done.
One wonders why we start thinking the government LETS catastrophe happen for political reasons.
WRM, what are the topics that you can be called liberal on?
Strawman #279: “many of us start with the assumption that ‘progress’ has cured history of tragedy and tamed Mother Nature. But that is just where we are wrong: the western enlightenment did not produce a stable world order in which the forces of science and good government could protect us from every ill.” At least you include yourself in these wrong assumptions. I wonder just how many joined you and how do you know.
“we will learn from this how to manage our affairs better, how to respond to disaster more effectively, how better to regulate and weigh risks.” This seems wildly optimistic compared to the rest of the post. And how will we learn this, through faith?
An indication of how bad things really are is you sound more like a Presbyterian than a Whiskeypalian.
“But that is just where we are wrong: the western enlightenment did not produce a stable world order in which the forces of science and good government could protect us from every ill.”
I’m not sure whether to say you’re wrong about this or to say that wasn’t what the enlightenment was about. In either case the original great seal was a Phoenix not an eagle.
After the great fire in San Francisco it wasn’t the government who came to the aid of the people but citizens from all around the country. The reason of course was that we still lived in the age of the enlightenment. Part of the enlightenment, besides being the advancement of knowledge, was the understanding of, “self determinations”.
Now maybe you and a good portion of our society have lost touch with the principals of the enlightenment but I assure you that not all of us have. There are still men to be found all across this great country who have no delusions of what men and government can and cannot do. The great seal is a Phoenix and America has been burned before. When all is said and done we will be better and stronger because of it. Those with faith will rise above pettiness, idolatry and vengeance just as our society has done time and time again. As you said, the country has suffered before and we will suffer again. As long as we are honest with ourselves and do not sacrifice our values we will rise better and stronger.
Presbyterian, Whiskeypalian? You sound like the anti-Whig to me, only a little short of Thomas Carlyle in his moral universe. But that’s a place I have been for a long time, except to that that in the (possibly very) long run I also believe in and expect some kind of redemption. When one thinks about lots of water Biblically, one most readily thinks of four cases: Noah, the Red Sea, the waters of Masah and Meribah, and of course Jonah. In every case the Bible traverses the same basic emotional road: danger and strife followed by lessons not otherwise learnable, and hence a new beginning. To understand this, one needs above all to cultivate patience almost to the level of an art form, just exactly what our culture today is least good at helping us do. So, Walter, thanks for pushing back against the impetuous tide.
we are in a Chaos period, what Order King Christ brings after the dust settles should be interesting
I wonder if there isn’t something a little defeatist in your view of the role of faith here.
Thank you, Dr. Mead, for an inspirational closing for the article.
“Deepwater Horizon isn’t a good thing, but it is our teacher: we will learn from this how to manage our affairs better, how to respond to disaster more effectively, how better to regulate and weigh risks.”
Vernon Sanders Law is credited with saying “experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.” The problem is in today hyper-partisan political climate what lesson is the general population learning and what lesson is the political-corporate leadership learning.
Frankly, it’s hard to believe they are on the same page. I believe you are correct – if the polls are any indication – that the public is viewing with increasing skepticism the capacity of government-big business to “get it right.” The elite, on the other hand, are desperate to retain their privileges and are scrambling to regain their footing by pretending focus and direction.
Unfortunately, neither group has yet fully grasped that the financial/economic issues, to say nothing of oil drilling, confronting the world have not been seen since the 1930s. The U.S. public and private debt is now 3.5 times the nominal GDP, and still growing thanks to USG deficits. The highest level in history. Further, this does not include the red ink beginning to flow from the unfunded entitlement liabilities. Somehow, the powers that be have concluded that instead of taking the debt deleveraging medicine, the solution to too much debt is… more debt.
It appears that no lessons have yet been learned from the Deepwater Horizon fiasco. And, unfortunately, no lessons have been learned from the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, more pain and suffering is in our, and the world’s, future. As Vernon Sanders Law would probably say, we certainly have not learned the lessons because we haven’t even figured out what the test questions are.