Thursday, July 10, 2008

Link likes: On the Square, at First Things

The bloggers over at the On The Square blog are turning out some thoughtful and thought-provoking posts, on the whole. (They usually do, in my experience.)

For instance: The Red Planet, by Joseph Bottom, which manages to combine discussions of science fiction and biotechnology, but not in a way you'd probably assume. It comes with a good dash of philosophy, too, and some history. For those of you in the pro-life movement who are concerned about the human rights abuses of some branches of biotech, you might want to consider his statement: "We make a mistake, I think, when we call the worst claims of modern biotechnology a revivified form of the old eugenics." Follow the link if you want to know why he says that, and what he thinks we should call it instead.

For instance: Stork Economics, by James Kerian, in which zero-sum economics is likened to the idea many children have that storks bring babies. It's a cute way of taking on the idea that wealth isn't created, but can only be transferred. It has some practical applications, too, I think.

For instance: The Giving Society, by Michael Novak, in which it is argued that many of the obvious differences between the United States and Europe aren't due to Americans being "Individualists" quite as much as to the fact that Americans are far more prone to give of their time and their money to personally help others.

For instance: The Human Experience, by Amanda Shaw, which tells of a soon-to-released documentary which focuses on the strength of spirit of physically, mentally, and spiritually battered individuals. It's a heart-rending read, but inspiring, too.

For instance: Understanding the Third Reich and Other Great Evils, by Richard John Neuhaus, which happens to be the post I was going back to reread when I got sidetracked by the others linked above... He uses some books on the Holocaust as a jumping off place, and has some interesting observations. Jumping in midstream, and leaving off before the end, there's this:

During the Third Reich, ordinary Germans “had many more things on their minds.” That’s a chilling phrase. We might easily say, and many do all too easily say, that during the era of slavery or during current horrors such as the genocide in Sudan or the daily killing of thousands of unborn children in the abortuaries around the country, most ordinary Americans “had many more things on their minds.” That’s a moralistic cheap shot. The truth is that we all have many more things on our minds, and necessarily so. Such as families, jobs, dealing with sickness, and warding off despair. Not to mention, for many, the distinctly unnecessary hours every day spent surfing and chatting on the blogosphere.

The Third Reich is rightly viewed as an icon of evil. This does not mean, as Ian Kershaw reminds us, that the ordinary Germans of the time are the icon of moral indifference or complicity in great evil. Then it was the Jews, the Slavs, and the gypsies. At other times, it is another class of human beings. Given the requisite mix of circumstances, which is not beyond imagination, it is an idle conceit to think that ordinary Americans would behave more nobly than did the Germans of Hitler’s day. Among any people of any time, moral courage is the exception and not the rule. There are heroes and heroines who contend against the great evils of their time, but even they must be selective. You may be devoting your life to helping the people of Sudan, but what are you doing to help prisoners of conscience in China, or to stop international sex trafficking, or to feed the hungry of Zimbabwe, or to relieve the loneliness of old people in the nursing home within an easy drive from your home? The list goes on and on.

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