06 March 2011

Variety as the Swamp of Life

I think we post-Cold Warriors will be remembered as living in one of the Great Ages, if not of Invention, then of love of invention. And perhaps even more strongly, of lust for inventiveness. Indeed if it were up to me to encapsulate the spirit behind our most anguished handwringing over the State and Future of American Education, I think I'd sum it up with the following slogan: Every man, woman and child a Thomas Edison! Or at least a Jack Welch. Oh, for Pete's sake, even a Warren Buffett would do.

In short, everyone very sharp, very skilled, and ultimately very inventive - to the point of one's inventions achieving radical and even painful transformation of whole societies and cultures - in the manipulation of either

1) physical forces,

2) procedures and people,

3) money.

And that means all of us. Or else get off the Ship of Life, which moves very fast, please remember, and doesn't need dead weight.

"Yes, but surely it take all kinds . . . ?" Well, contrary to time-worn opinion, it evidently takes just one kind of person to make up Today's World: eager, restless, sharp-elbowed, dynamic, hard-driving, innovative, enterprising and unstoppable. And last but not least, always in a ferocious, heritage-and-civilization-consuming hurry. Which likely does not mean, please note, one who has time to stop and load up on all the Boy Scout or 4-H virtues either. (Besides, didn't we leave all that squareness behind in the Sixties?) And as for all the other kinds, who used to make up the world -

"Excuse me, but we're building a Future here. We need everyone on the same page of the latest version, or preferably coming up with a better one. Those who can't or won't conform can go to the wall."

Yet I notice even in history - and especially the kind of history we try to ignore or "transcend" - one question can follow upon another almost as surely as day follows night. And so my next question is: Having (re-)made the world, and more or less remade everybody in it into this One Kind of Person - with everyone who can't make the grade pretty much expiring of guilt or shame - what then? I mean, it is all about the Expansion of Freedom, isn't it? So what happens when we find we can't keep running the world - or running it in a way that preserves its freedoms against the predations of the strong as well as of the weak - without all these other kinds of people?

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