Sunday, November 22, 2009

Real knowledge and decision-making

'I am prejudiced because what I learned over years of farming — dealing with California labor, environmental, legal, and tax regulations, pruning, tractor driving, listening to my grandfather, and handling unsavory characters, understanding plant physiology and fruit-production, etc. — I think gave me a different, but in the long run as good an education as a BA/PhD in Classical languages.

I found the former harder to do than the latter, the world of the one rather brutal and existential, of the other sheltered and protected. In other words, I would trust the judgment of someone with Palin’s background on matters of Iran or Honduras or Putin far more than I would someone of Obama’s resume. I would trust my neighbor who farms 180 acres more than I would a chairman of an academic department. I know, I know, there are extreme binaries, but they are reflective of the lack of autonomy and physicality today and the undue emphasis on elite schooling as prerequisites for success. We know now that you can do nothing and still finish as the head of Harvard Law Review, or win a Nobel Prize, but if you miss an antlered moose, or run out of gas in the tundra, or fall overboard on a salmon boat, there is no Norwegian committee or Harvard Law Dean to bail you out.

Such is not an argument for anti-intellectualism or a dismissal of in-depth scholarship and research, but rather a reminder that Palin has led a full life that can be enhanced by more formal investigation. A chatty, rarefied Obama misses dearly a concrete past, where he had to succeed or fail on his own merits, in a competitive unkind environment, where the muscular world often conspires against the intellectual.

And boy, it sure shows as we are learning in just 10 months of his uninspired governance.'

I had a wonderful classical history professor called Dr. Gerberding. I will never forget the completely unfeigned respect he had for two of his students in a Roman history class we shared. Both students were way beyond 'normal' college age- one in his late fifties I would guess and the other even older. One was an engineer, and I'm pretty sure the other was a military man, although this is decades ago now. Both were what Doctor Gerberding called practical men- men who had learned through long years how difficult it is to take on the brute world and make some kind of significant, meaningful mark on it.

Even in my callow youth, I deeply respected Doctor Gerberding for his profound recognition of the value of the real-world knowledge these two men had garnered. It was particularly appropriate as we were studying Rome- a society which understood very well the value of hard-won experience, and how it cannot be mimicked. It was slightly shocking to me in my scholastic mindset to suddenly have the mundane (in my view) world of the great sweaty working America brought into our classroom. But even so I would end up getting a very real sense of what the Romans were about by comparing their fondness for practical solutions and technical excellence with the same qualities in my two classmates.

In my opinion, the incumbentocracy of the United States government is full of men and women who have never built anything, designed anything, run anything or borne the responsibility for the success or failure of something. They live in a world where actions have consequences they are uttely oblivious to and wouldn't care much if they knew. And the cumulative effect of their decision-making is taking America into a steep nose-dive.

There is still time to pull back on the stick, but not much. It will take someone with the steely resolve of Sarah Palin to do that.

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