On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles broadcasts his radio play of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, causing anxiety in some of the audience in the United States.
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. Patriotism is the most practical of all human characteristics. But in the present decadent atmosphere patriots are often too shy to talk about it – as if it were something shameful or an irrational weakness. But patriotism is NOT sentimental nonsense. Nor is it something dreamed up by demagogues.
Patriotism is as necessary a part of man’s evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual. A man who is NOT patriotic is an evolutionary dead end. This is not sentiment but the hardest of logic.
…We are now ready to observe the hierarchy of moral behavior from its lowest level to its highest. The simplest form of moral behavior occurs when a man or other animal fights for his own survival. Do not belittle such behavior as being merely selfish. Of course it is selfish… but selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only when it conflicts with a higher moral imperative. An animal so poor in spirit that he won’t even fight on his own behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.
The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. This is the level at which six pounds of mother cat can be so fierce that she’ll drive off a police dog. It is the level at which a father takes a moonlighting job to keep his kids in college – and the level at which a mother or father dives into a flood to save a drowning child… and it is still moral behavior even when it fails.
The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for a group larger than the unit family – an extended family, a herd, a tribe – and take another look at that baboon on watch; he’s at that moral level. I don’t think baboon language is complex enough to permit them to discuss such abstract notions as ‘morality’ or ‘duty’ or ‘loyalty’ – but it is evident that baboons DO operate morally and DO exhibit the traits of duty and loyalty; we see them in action. Call it ‘instinct’ if you like – but remember that assigning a name to a phenomenon does not explain it.
But that baboon behavior can be explained in evolutionary terms. Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards. Every baboon generation has to pass this examination in moral behavior; those who bilge it don’t have progeny. Perhaps the old bull of the tribe gives lessons… but the leopard decides who graduates – and there is no appeal from his decision. We don’t have to understand the details to observe the outcome; baboons behave morally – for baboons.
The next level in moral behavior higher than that exhibited by the baboon is that in which duty and loyalty are shown toward a group of your kind too large for an individual to know all of them. We have a name for that. It is called ‘patriotism.’
— Robert Heinlein in a 1973 address to midshipmen at Annapolis
The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in,
And thought of doing something to the shore
That water never did to land before.
The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,
Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.
You could not tell, and yet it looked as if
The shore was lucky in being backed by cliff,
The cliff in being backed by continent;
It looked as if a night of dark intent
Was coming, and not only a night, an age.
Someone had better be prepared for rage.
There would be more than ocean-water broken
Before God’s last Put out the Light was spoken.
“Although the partisans who are now fighting for the mastery of the modern world wear shirts of different colors, their weapons are drawn from the same armory, their doctrines are variations of the same theme, and they go forth to battle singing the same tune with slightly different words. Their weapons are the coercive direction of the life and labor of mankind. Their doctrine is that disorder and misery can be overcome only by more and more compulsory organization. Their promise is that through the power of the state men can be made happy…
…“(They do not) remember how much of what they cherish as progressive has come by emancipation from political dominion, by the limitation of power, by the release of personal energy from authority and collective coercion. For virtually all that now passes for progressivism in the United States calls for increasing ascendancy of the state: always the cry is for more officials with more power over more and more of the activities of men.”
–Walter Lippmann, An Inquiry into the Principles of the Good Society
Common advice on how to make a strong password is misleading, according to a new study of password-guessing techniques.
“Password must include upper and lowercase letters, and at least one numeric character.” A common scold dished out by websites or software when you open an account or change a password—and one that new research suggests is misleading.
A study that tested state-of-the-art password-guessing techniques found that requiring numbers and uppercase characters in passwords doesn’t do much to make them stronger. Making a password longer or including symbols was much more effective.
I am a strong adherent to the “correcthorsebatterystaple” method.
I did think is was somewhat amusing.
“Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader–the barbarians enter Rome.”
~Robert A. Heinlein, To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)
Live at The Grand Ole Opry.
Chicken in the breadpan pickin’ out dough?
“Il trillo del diavolo” (The Devil’s Trill), played by Uto Ughi.
Not exactly “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.