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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Prevalence of Being Wooden-Headed

Right now, having been alerted to it by someone's comment to an article on the Internet, I'm reading Barbara W. Tuchman's 1984 book "The March of Folly."

It would be interesting to see what would happen if this book could be required reading for every Presidential aspirant.   But I already know what would happen.   Practically nothing, when it would come to whatever the eventual winner would do.   So far B. Obama's career illustrates this perfectly, especially in his foreign policy.   The names of two places, Afghanistan and the West Bank, are plenty enough all by themselves.

Tuchman's main point is that folly -- that is, pursuing policies that run exactly counter to being in the nation's or other large entities' best interests -- goes hand in hand with political control, and this causes periods of good governance to be on the infrequent side.  Instead of calling this process "being stupid," she prefers to use the more polite phrase, "being wooden-headed."  

Tuchman (pronounced "Tuckman") must have suffered from a real embarrassment of riches when she decided to write a book on that theme, and in its first chapter she as much as says so, when she gives a long recital of the numerous instances throughout history when not so much one of them but a group of rulers have acted as if their brains had been fashioned from the  cut-off butt ends of logs in a Virginia sawmill.  She settled on using her book to study just four: the irrationalities of the Trojan War, the venalities of a string of six popes during the Renaissance, the stumbles of the English that brought on the American Revolution, and the deadly foibles of the Vietnam War.

If she were still alive, imagine the field day she would have in these first years of this latest century.   But her dates were 1912-1989.

So does this mean that the odds are heavily that our leaders are more apt to follow mistaken policies than they are to do anything else?   Does this mean that listening to candidates state their intentions, and engaging in voting,and all that, involve odds that should be confined to bets on broken-down nags in horse races, and that it's all just formalities for appearance's sake, just like fancy, expensive weddings, staged as if the resulting numerous days of highly difficult navigation that lie just ahead can't possibly exist?

The answers to those questions are too painful to be easily put into words.


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