Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Death of Liberty After 9/11


I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

 


From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House. Copyright © 1940 W. H. Auden, renewed by The Estate of W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.

If the World Were 100 People


There would be... 

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from North and South America
8 Africans
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white

59% of the entire world's wealth would belong to only 6 people
And all 6 people would be citizens of the United States
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death
1 would be near birth
1 would have a college education
And 1 would have a computer


-- W. H. Auden, "The Ascent of F6"

Acts of injustice done
between the setting and the rising sun
In history lie like bones,
each one.

-- W. H. Auden, "The Ascent of F6"

On Economic Liberalism

My own personal research on income inequality and growth shows and inverse relationship between inequality, human capital investment, and growth, but that human capital investment, for developing , countries, leads to both lowered income inequality and higher growth. Along these lines, Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize recipient in economics, writing in Development as Freedom, notes that one of the
flaws in India’s development is a lopsided focus on free markets, and while not a proponent of Chinese-style government, he notes that China has raised the base of human ability, and he forecasts some positives from this aim. He also writes about democracy, and that there are no famines in democracies. Together, this points to the value of free markets, but in those countries where there are large investments in raising the quality and ability of human capability. This seems equally true when one considers democracy and voting.

Negative Action

I would find it hard to even justify the support of big-time sports in college, let alone paying the students competing in them.


From The Game of Life, a review encompassing top-tier public and private school’s athletics:

  • Athletes have lower SAT scores and attain lower grades, and their involvement in sport does not justify their lower performance. Students with extracurricular activities attain higher grades while spending more time on those activities.

  • Most sports teams actually lose money, and although some schools earn money, many of those only seem to do so because the colleges and universities provide direct and indirect monetary support, either as funding for support activities, or by providing services directly.

  • Athletes give very little as alumni. A review of top donors would find high academic performers, those with incomes over $150,000, and those admitted as children of alumni, as the strongest contributors.

  • Additionally, removing support for athletics would not negatively effect minority enrollment.


Personally, I feel anger when I see that my alma mater, Rutgers University, expending so much energy on football and its ilk. The school’s money would be so much more effectively spent on academic activities, and I assume Rutgers’ slide in college rankings indicates the decreasing emphasis on the intellectual life that should be its
primary focus.

NY Times Opinion by Devorah Baum: Jewishness

In response to a NY Times piece in the Opinion section We Are All Jew-ish Now , with the synopsis "Jewishness” can be the sensibility o...