306 – Ephemera (V)

Posted on November 22, 2014 by

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(Some reflections are not worth a full-throated blog, yet they contain small kernels for reflection – like plum kernels one rolls in one’s mouth while climbing a steep mountain on a hot day. I’ll post ephemera from time to time)

Withdrawal from Dodge City

Dodge City, in Kansas, became famous as the American West opened up. A new route, known as the Great Western Cattle or Western Trail, branched off from the Chisholm Trail to lead cattle into Dodge City. Dodge City became a boomtown, with thousands of cattle passing annually through its stockyards. Dodge City became famous: no town could match Dodge City’s reputation as a true frontier settlement of the Old West. Dodge City had more famous (and infamous) gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West, many of whom participated in the Dodge City War of 1883. It also boasted the usual array of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, including the famous Long Branch Saloon and China Doll brothel.

As it became gentile, Dodge City created a Public Library. The library must have fallen on hard times, however, for it has been withdrawing books – either to raise funds or to make room for new ones. The discards have been turned over to virtual second hand bookstores at Amazon.com.

306

I have been the beneficiary – I bought the book for a handful of dollars – or even just the shipping costs. This is not the only instance. Books from the University of Hawaii at Hilo are on my desk. Coincidentally, both deal with China history. These are not the only instances of my benefiting from spring cleaning in academia and the public sector.

Maybe, the libraries’ purchasing choice had been more hopeful than considerate, and no student or visitor pulled the book off the shelf (both items look unread). Maybe, freeing shelf-space is the right thing to do. Maybe I’m just imagining the silent sucking sound of cultural icons vanishing from the land, swallowed by the vacuum cleaner monster of profit

306b

Fascinatingly, books long out of print are now becoming available again, thanks to volunteers. The Gutenberg Project has about 50’000 books on line, many of them in Kindle format.[1] Google has published millions. There is a curious gap, however, for books still under copyright, which means that books in the 60s and 70s are unavailable. This is regrettable, for that period had a nice balance of fact and theory – an limited ideological puff.

Diplomatic Deepities

In commenting on a review of the book on Afghanistan (see my 305), Theodore L. Eliot Jr.Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, has concluded: “His lack of respect for the future of the Afghan people and for those foreigners, including from the UK and the US, who have given their blood and treasure to help Afghanistan become a stable and progressing nation is not only unwise but immoral.”[2]

What past “giving blood and treasure” has to do with the best way forward in Afghanistan is anyone’s rhetorical guess. Barbara TUCHMAN would have used such a sentience to underscore the “march of folly.” I prefer Daniel D. DENNETT’s term: Deepity[3] – which yields the nice alliteration Diplomatic Deepity or DD.

I have begun here a collection of DD, as they go about in the international relations vortex

306c

In my book, pride of places goes to:

  • Appeasement (upheld by the following avatar: Put out a bushfire before it becomes a conflagration);
  • Better dead than red;
  • There is no alternative;
  • Doing nothing is not an option;
  • What would you do instead?
  • Defer to inside knowledge;
  • Need for coherence and consistency;
  • Do not reinvent the wheel;
  • Avoid duplication;

I’m getting side-lined in procedures. The read squadron flies the flag of: Fixed and permanent universal values, and of course morality.

Morality is the last refuge of the scoundrel! when that doesn’t work fall back on the last taboo!
The Patriot –
Samuel Johnson

But I’m certainly not scratching the bottom of the barrel. Anyone is invited to supply DD.

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[1]           https://www.gutenberg.org/

[2]           http://bit.ly/1tbRc6a

[3]           Daniel C. DENNETT (2013): Intuition pumps and other tools for thinking.  Norton, New York. “Deepity is a proposition that seems both important and true – and profound – but that achieves this effect by being ambiguous. On one reading it is manifestly false, but it would be earth-shaking if it were true; on the other reading it is true, but trivial.” (pg. 56)

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