Ahhhhh….

August 21, 2006

The new group therapy for the American male.

Think about this: One of the principal differences between the US and other free nations is seen in what drives the morality of a nation.

The US and France are both democracies, with populations that enjoy virtually all the same freedoms. That said, those countries are very different .

Why? Because American values are predicated on values that elevate and enshrine freedom, at home and around the world. French values are based on whatever is politically expedient at the time. A look at the history of the last 100 years confirms that.

Same cuisine, very different menus.

Remember the movie ‘Arthur,’ starring Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli?

In the role of the title character, Moore plays a childish, self centered and self absorbed millionaire lush, He is quite out of touch with reality and he has no idea how to relate to anyone living in the real world. He seeks advice and comfort from his valet, Hobson, played by the brilliant Sir John Gielgud. In the course of dispensing advice, Hobson misses no opportunity to berate, insult and beat up on Arthur. A lifetime of Hobson’s tutelage should have equipped Arthur with all the skills he needed to succeed in life. Instead, Arthur rejects reality and pursues nothing more than self indulgence. He blocks out reality, so that he can live his life in irrelevance, believing that his money can buy him credibility.

Of course, Hobson is a metaphor for Arthur’s own conscience. None of the advice Hobson imparts to Arthur is particularly insightful or brilliant. Instead, Hobson verbalized what Arthur already knows- that life has no meaning unless that life makes a difference for the better. His money can only buy him attention, not relevance. We have noted that

What that means is that the individual only becomes relevant when the individual sublimates his instinctive narcissism (see Dr Sanity and Shrinkwrapped) and comes the realization that his or her worth can only be measured in relationship to others.

…When we live in a world where only our own thoughts, ideas and needs count, we live in a prison. Our greatest joys and achievements have come as the result of sharing and in the union with others. This truth applies in every human endeavor, from love to business.

In our world, environment helps to shape values. The values found in free societies are very different than the values taught in dysfunctional, oppressive and repressive regimes.

The values of free societies are passed on to free citizens. We engage in free dissent, debate, argue and we are free to challenge each other, our government and especially, ourselves. We are free to formulate our own opinions and if we wish, we are free to change those opinions.

The values of repressive and dysfuctional societies become the values of citizens living in those societies. Subjugation, repression and hate are a part of everyday life in those societies.
When we compare the values of the western free societies with the dysfunctional and oppressive values that are force fed in the Arab world, we have to ask ourselves a question.

Are those values lacking, or are they absent from the Arab societies of today? There is a big difference between lacking values and the absence of values. If the values are simply lacking, they can be replaced fairly easily. If those values are absent, well, that is a whole other thing.

For example, if you grow up a cannibal, chances are that if and when you move to a non cannibalistic environment, your taste for human flesh will not disappear. The notion that cannibalism is not a part of your new environment value system will be puzzling to you, in more ways than one. The values a of non cannibal society will be a foreign concept.

In the same way, Arabs societies are at a loss as to why we are not ‘just like them’ as they would like us to believe. They cannot understand why we reject many of their values and bigotry. They cannot understand the magnificence of a pluralistic society. They seek a class based society where Islam dominates- forcefully, if necessary- and Arab influences are at the top of the that heap. With western rejection of those values comes frustration, and with that frustration, violence often follows. They see the rejection of their values as a rejection of themselves- they do not see or understand that by rejecting the ugly values they have had forced upon them, they can only elevate themselves.

We have noted many times that ‘When nations that are that are led by or are under the influence of tyrants or dictators, attempt to justify those actions, we can rightly assume that justification is false. Tyrants and dictators do not make moral choices, because moral choices can only lead to the demise of the tyranny.

Anyone that comes to the defense of tyrannical regimes and their leaders, have themselves made a conscious choice to defend and stand by what is immoral. They themselves consciously adopt an immoral posture.’

Adopting a particular moral posture does not happen in a vacuum, without cost or influence.

The United States has 2,400 four year institutions of higher learning. There are over 1,000 community colleges, offering even more educational options.

By the year 2020, the projected Arab population will reach 400 million. Currently, there are less than 100 universities in the Arab world. Of that number, at least 10 are ‘Islamic’ universities that do not teach anything other than theology. Notwithstanding the obscene wealth generated by these oil rich nations, there is not a single Arab institution of consequence. There is no major research and no important scholarship that originates in the Arab world. In fact, the greatest scholarship concerning the Arab world and Middle East, originates outside the region, in America or Europe.

This is but one example of the consequences of the cost of dysfunction and repression.

Even if things were to change overnight, the fruits would not be born for years. As Rima Khalaf noted,

Indeed, the total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun [a ninth-century Arab ruler who was a patron of cultural interaction between Arab, Persian, and Greek scholars—WPR] to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year.

Changes will not occur overnight. The damage done by decades of the Arab leaders’ abuse of their citizenry, will not simply disappear. There will be scars and the transition will not be easy.

Dr Leslie Farber notes that wanting and even ‘willing’ change isn’t the ‘miracle cure’. There are objects and their are goals. Objects are easily defined and finite. They can be ‘willed’- that is, we can choose to directly influence our reality. Goals, on the other hand, are far more ethereal because goals cannot be selected at will- they are in fact, a reward bestowed in their own time, if ever, with no particular set of parameters. We can achieve all our goals, some of our goals or none of our goals, despite all our best efforts.

For example, we can ‘will’ knowledge by a commitment to study- but we cannot ‘will’ wisdom.

We can ‘will’ pleasure, but we cannot ‘will happiness.’

We can ‘will’ going to bed, but we cannot ‘will’ falling asleep.

We can ‘will’ meekness, but we cannot ‘will’ humility.

We can ‘will’ abstention from alcohol but we cannot ‘will’ sobriety.

We can ‘will’ improving athletic prowess, but we cannot ‘will’ winning the game.

Believing that one can ‘will’ what is ‘unwillable’ is unrealistic and immature. We cannot expect that all our goals will be achieved immediately. Some goals are a lifetime in coming- and even then, there is no guarantee those goals will ever be achieved. Whether or not a goal is achieved is not relevant to the morality of the effort. There are drug researchers that will never cure any disease, yet they have contributed mightily to the efforts in improving the life of others. There are architects and engineers that dream of becoming the next I.M. Pei and designing the next architectural or engineering monument of our time, but in the end, will never do more than design houses and buildings that people live and work in, raising families and in working in a comfortable environment.

Whether or not this administration’s goals in the Middle East will bear fruit is unknown. In the way that the fruits of liberating Arabs from the repressive and dysfuntional regimes that enslave them will take decades to realize, how this administration’s policies will unfold has yet to be written.

What is clear is that the goal behind those policies are the values that all free people cherish. Those goals are clear. Whether or not this particular effort takes root is less important than the effort. Sooner or later, freedom and democracy will prevail, because that is the way of progress. Humankind moves ever forward, not backward- even in the Arab world.

At some point, in our lives, we pray, we will see and hear the ‘Eureka!’ from the scientists that will find the cure for cancer. Be assured that ‘Eureka!’ will only come about because of the researchers that failed in their own attempts at finding the cure, but instead, contributed a little bit more, each day, to that effort.

That the Arab world now resents Mr Bush and America and impedes our efforts, is irrelevant. At this time, they reflect no more than the values of those dysfunctional and oppressive regimes that have been imposed upon them. As we noted, that will change, slowly. Progress is measured in forward movement.

If we wanted oil, we would install another Arab despot. Our goals for the Arab Middle East are of far greater value than fossil fuel.

George W Bush will not be the president that will welcome the Arab world into the company of free and civilized nations. Whenever that happens- even decades from now, he will be heralded as the American president that played in integral role in the process. That cannot be taken away from him. In the same way that Ronald Reagan is celebrated in the former communist regimes of Eastern Europe (much to the dismay of the Left), Mr Bush will be held in high regard by the Arabs that will shed the shackles of their oppressors- and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. Rather than be on the right side of history, the detractors of this administration will be forgotten, barely footnotes of irrelevance.

In consciously choosing to defend and identify with tyrannical regimes and the dysfunctional values of those regimes, the left will not be able to escape the immoral posture they deliberately chose for themselves. They have become Arthurs, self centered and petulant children, caught between the moon and their egos- with no caring Hobson or conscience to rescue them.

Holy Bat Cave Collection!

August 21, 2006

This is what happens when your mother doesn’t throw out that comic book collection.

Fom the Globe and Mail:
Montreal — Tom Crippen knew he faced a daunting task after the death of his father, an inveterate pack rat who never threw anything out. It wasn’t just the stockpiles of old opera programs, paper clips, Christmas cards, baseball caps, paperbacks or souvenir coffee mugs.Mainly, it was the awesome collection of 11,000 comics that had colonized the family garage and basement.

“The shelves were just piled high with comics,” said Mr. Crippen, a freelance editor living in Montreal. “I knew they were worth money, but I thought, $50,000, maybe $100,000.”

Mr. Crippen was wrong. After painstakingly dusting off and cataloguing the comics — a process that took four months — he called in the experts to the family home outside New York.

And — Holy windfall, Batman! — the superheroes delivered.

The cache of vintage comics, many of them rare and in immaculate condition, were evaluated at $2.5-million (U.S.).

“When they told me, it just made my jaw drop,” Mr. Crippen said. “The comic books were literally worth more than the house itself.”

He got a glimpse of his newfound fortune last week when Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas sold off a first batch of 550 comics. By the time the final gavel fell, Mr. Crippen, his mother and brother were $717,000 richer.

The highest price went to a 1944 Suspense Comics book with a campy cover of a bound woman surrounded by hooded Nazis. Originally purchased by Davis Crippen for a dime, it sold for $47,800.

A 1940 Detective Comic, in which Batman puts in one of his earliest appearances, rang up at $17,925.

“We realized there was so much money involved,” Mr. Crippen said, “that it could change all our lives.”

His father had indeed left his family a legacy — a legacy that he had started to build when he was an eight-year-old boy in Washington. For reasons known only to himself, Davis Crippen soon decided to buy and save every comic book that came out, and he didn’t let up for 15 years.

He got his mother to continue the purchases when he headed off for graduate work at the London School of Economics, and didn’t stop himself until he was drafted into the army. By the time he was through, Mr. Crippen, who edited technical manuals for a living, had stashed away a gold mine.

“He not only kept them, he kept them in remarkably good condition,” John Petty, founding director of Heritage Auction’s comics division, said in an interview from Dallas.

“I’m afraid the well is running dry, so finding something like this is very exciting. This is the biggest find in years.”

The comics date to what aficionados call the Golden Age of comics, which lasted from the late thirties to mid-fifties and marked the birth of some of our most enduring pop heroes, from Superman and Batman to the Flash.

One person Tom Crippen confided in about his father’s collection was Marc Jetté, a friend who owns the Studio 9 comic shop in Montreal. When he raised it in 2005, Mr. Jetté instantly spotted the potential; he was so excited, he invited Mr. Crippen to address a gathering about the collection at his store.

“I said to myself, he’s sleeping on a gold mine,” he said. “This is a collection from the Golden Age and these are superheroes. They’re comics that are mythical and rare. It was a treasure trove.”

Mr. Crippen raised the issue of selling the comics with his father a few months before he died last year at age 75, but it became clear that the elder Crippen didn’t want to part with them. So Tom Crippen let it drop.

Hoarding was just something that Davis Crippen did. Cynthia Crippen said she let her late husband amass his various collections as long as they didn’t spill into common spaces.

“The comics were always there but not in my sight,” said Mrs. Crippen, who works as a book indexer. “I ignored it. People would tell me I should sell them, but I knew it was important to him. I loved him; he was a wonderful man despite his eccentricities.”

Unfortunately, this comic-book story does have a dark subplot. While he was poring over his father’s comics, Tom Crippen noticed that, in such a methodical collection, vast numbers of copies were missing. The mystery began to unfold when the experts were called in. They told Mr. Crippen that, unbeknownst to the family, large numbers of his father’s comics had been in circulation since the early nineties. Many bore distinctive marks, including a D on the front cover that earned them the name “D collection.”

No one is sure how the comics went missing. However, some of the comics were traced to a New York dealer who said he’d bought them in the early nineties from a man who’d entered his store. The Crippen family discovered that the seller’s name was that of a contractor who’d been doing extensive renovations at the Crippen home at that time.

“A lot of the jewels were ripped off,” Tom Crippen said.

It’s too late to pursue the matter criminally, and the Crippen family has decided it doesn’t want to spend its sudden windfall on lawyers’ fees to pursue a civil case.

“I’m just happy we got what we got,” said Mr. Crippen, who will be in Montreal next week clearing out his apartment near McGill University. “I’m the kind of person who worries. Now, with this windfall, I feel I don’t have to worry.

“I’m just getting a nice big nest egg.”

And for that, he can thank Batman, Superman — and his pack-rat father.

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