Friday, July 03, 2009

Serendipitous Fourth of Julyery!


I've committed myself, for the moment, to a minimum of two blog posts per day, every weekday (I'll cut myself some slack on weekends). That commitment is already bearing fruit in terms of traffic, incoming links, etc., which was the whole point of making it. Sacrificing a goat to Glenn Reynolds wasn't enough; if I want the blog to succeed, I have to actually write regularly.

Of course, nobody said it would be easy. Some days the stuff practically writes itself, other days not so much. Some days I feel like I'm serving up prime rib; other days, the best that can be said is that it's hot and there's plenty of it.

So anyway, this morning I found myself Googling a phrase to explain the work ethic involved ("Six days shalt thou work and do all thou art able; the seventh the same, and pound on the cable") and lucked out. I knew I'd read that phrase in a Heinlein essay, and I was pretty sure I remembered which one. Not only had I remembered right, but it's available online.

That essay -- "The Pragmatics of Patriotism" -- is primo Fourth of July discussion fodder:

As one drives through the bushveldt of East Africa it is easy to spot herds of baboons grazing on the ground. But not by looking at the ground. Instead you look up and spot the lookout, an adult male posted on a limb of a tree where he has a clear view all around him -- which is why you can spot him; he has to be where he can see a leopard in time to give the alarm. On the ground a leopard can catch a baboon ... but if a baboon is warned in time to reach the trees, he can out-climb a leopard. The lookout is a young male assigned to that duty and there he will stay, until the bull of the herd sends up another male to relieve him. Keep your eye on that baboon; we'll be back to him.

Today, in the United States, it is popular among self-styled 'intellectuals' to sneer at patriotism. They seem to think that it is axiomatic that any civilized man is a pacifist, and they treat the military profession with contempt. 'Warmongers' -- 'Imperialists' -- 'Hired killers in uniform' -- you have all heard such sneers and you will hear them again. One of their favorite quotations is: 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' What they never mention is that the man who made that sneering remark was a fat, gluttonous slob who was pursued all his life by a pathological fear of death.

I propose to prove that that baboon on watch is morally superior to that fat poltroon who made that wisecrack.


Rubs a bit rough against knee-jerk hyper-individualism, doesn't it? As well it should -- it originated as a speech to the Brigade of Midshipmen at the US Naval Academy, not exactly an institution of distinction in the "be yourself, let it all hang out" catalog.

Still, I think there's a hard shining core of truth in it, especially if you can untangle that core from the nation-state references.

Well, there you have it: Heinlein quote + controversial assertion = blog post.

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