- Occidental Leather 5589 Electrician’s Tool Case
(* more info here)
- Occidental Leather 5035 LG H.D. 3-inch Ranger Work Belt (pick your size)
- Knipex 09 02 240 SBA 9.5-Inch Ultra-High Leverage Lineman’s Pliers
- Knipex 2612200 8-Inch Long Nose Pliers with Cutter
- Klein Tools J206-8C Wire Stripper Pliers, Spring Loaded
- (2 of these) Knipex 8702250 10-Inch Cobra Pliers
- Klein Tools 2100-7 Electrician Scissors, Nickel Plated
- Klein Tools 44200 Cable Splicer’s Knife, 6-1/2-Inch
- Klein Tools D509-8 Adjustable Wrench with Extra-Wide Jaw, 8-Inch
- Knipex 7402200 8-Inch High Leverage Diagonal Cutters
- Klein Tools 32290 Multi-Bit Screwdriver with Storage 15-Piece
- Klein Tools 603-4 Screwdriver, #2 Phillips Tip, 8-Inch
- Klein Tools 602-6, 5/16-Inch Keystone-Tip Screwdriver, 6-Inch Heavy Duty Round
- Klein Tools 605-6, 1/4-Inch Cabinet-Tip Screwdriver, Heavy Duty, 6-Inch
- Klein Tools 601-6 3/16′-inch Cabinet-Tip Screwdriver, 6-inch
- Klein Tools 32900 Impact Driver, 7-in-1 Impact Flip Socket Set with Handle
- I haven’t been happy with the Klein Tools pouch for years (since they changed the design of the third pocket). I plan to swap over to this Occidental “case” instead. If you want the “equivalent” Klein pouch they sell now, here’s the link: Klein Tools 5190 10-Pocket Tool Pouch and its belt Klein Tools 5705 PowerLine Web Work Belt.
There’s a story behind this tool box. When I spent time on my grandfather’s farm he let me run wild. This usually ended with me breaking something. He had a lot of patience; it amazes me. What I remember most was his ability to grab his go-to tool box and fix anything I broke. It was perfect…magical.
I inherited that tool box and, although it’s not quite perfect for me, it served him well and I cherish it. It inspired me to make my own “perfect” tool box. Below is the list of tools, including the box itself, that I came up with:
- Trusco T-320 Tool Box
- Knipex 8605180 7-Inch Pliers Wrench
- Knipex 8702180 7 1/4-Inch Cobra Pliers
- Knipex 0202180 7-1/4-Inch High Leverage Combination Pliers
- Channellock 8WCB WideAzz Adjustable Wrench with Code Blue Grips, 1-1/2-Inch Opening- 8-Inch Overall Length
- Milwaukee 48-22-1903 Fastback 3 Utility Knife with 4 Blade Storage, Wire Stripping Compartment, and Gut Hook
- Bondhus 20199 Balldriver L-Wrench Double Pack, 10999 (1.5-10mm) and 10937 (0.050-3/8-Inch)
- Bondhus 31834 Long Length Star-Tipped L-Wrenches, 8 Piece Set, sizes T9-T40
- TEKTON 2938 Quick-Change Power Nut Driver Bit Set with Detents, 14-Piece
- TEKTON 3/8-Inch Drive Socket Set, Inch/Metric, 5/16-Inch – 7/8-Inch, 10 mm – 19 mm, 22-Piece | 1061
- ARES 70122 | 3/8-Inch Drive 9.84-Inch Blue Aluminum Socket Organizer
- ARES 70135 | 3/8-Inch Drive 9.84-Inch Red Aluminum Socket Organizer
- Powerbuilt 940478 1/4-Inch Drive Socket and Bit Driver Mini Ratchet
- Neiko 10064A 1/4″ Hex Security Screwdriver Bit Set, 36 Piece | Includes Storage Case & Quick-Change Magnetic Bit Holder
- Klein Tools 32290 Multi-Bit Screwdriver with Storage 15-Piece
- Klein Tools 32308 Multi-bit Stubby Screwdriver, Impact Rated 8-in-1 Adjustable Magnetic Tool with Phillips, Slotted, Square and Nut Driver
- Maxcraft 60609 7-In-1 Precision Pocket Screwdriver
- (OPTIONAL ITEM) Felo 0715753711 1/4″ Ergonomic Bit Holder Screwdriver with Length 4-inch
Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-Of-Age Crisis—And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance recently came out and I just finished reading it yesterday. Because my reading list isn’t huge (50+ books a year), I try to pick good, impactful books to read. This isn’t always easy so I’m constantly looking for sources to help me populate my reading list.
That’s one reason I wanted to read this book but it unexpectedly delivered more than a source for great literature. He went into the mechanics and techniques of making great readers. Whereas I did have some moments of pause and reflection (I’ll need to read other books to weigh his points), reading this book didn’t cause me to outright disagree at any point; that’s very rare for me.
Something I found very reassuring was that I’d read so many of the books he refers to or suggests. The shear number of books he referred to impressed me so much that I collected them in a rough bibliography. Here it is:
Bibliography for The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse
- Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz (retired Yale professor)
- Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith (a Notre Dame sociologist)
- The Great Disruption by Francis Fukuyama
- The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman
- The Affluent Society by C. Wright Mills
- Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman
- The Waste Makers by Vance Packard
- Outside Lies Magic by John R. Stilgoe
- Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch
- The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (philosopher and classicist)
- Agamemnon by Aeschylus
- Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
- On Old Age by Marcus Tullius Cicero
- Shop Class for Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford
- Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- John Dewey (Sasse disagrees with atheist Dewey and mentions these books, in particular, as to why he disagrees with him):
- Democracy in Education
- Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal
- The Primary Education Fetich [sic]
- The School and Society
- My Pedagogic Creed
- The Humanist Manifesto
- Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto
- Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
- The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
- Escape from Camp Fourteen by Blaine Harden
- Children of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger
- White Collar by C. Wright Mills
- Common Sense by Thomas Paine
- Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
- Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman
- Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
- Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
- Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
- Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
- The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
- Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis
- Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
- Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
- Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (Sasse disagrees with this book but it’s a great book to read)
- Book of Genesis in The Bible
- Book of Matthew in The Bible (especially Sermon on the Mount)
- Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther
- The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
- Greek Roots
- Ethics by Aristotle (starter book)
- Crito by Plato (starter book)
- Odyssey by Homer
- History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
- Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
- Homesick Souls (or, Fundamental Anthropology)
- Confessions by Augustine
- Why God Became Man by Anselm of Canterbury
- Bondage of Will by Martin Luther
- Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
- Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
- Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Sasse has a long struggle with this book; he ultimately sees Rousseau as wrong)
- Romeo and Juliet
- King Lear
- Julius Caesar
- The American Idea
- Declaration of Independence
- U. S. Constitution
- The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
- Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an America Slave by Frederick Douglass
- Politics by Aristotle
- Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
- The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 by Charles Sellers
- Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman
- Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
- Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (laid the intellectual foundation for communism and, hence, the murder of more than 100 million people)
- Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (the best analysis of the rise of scientific racism and anti-Semitism in nineteenth-century Europe, which led directly to the Holocaust)
- The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek (explains the close relationship between fascism and communism)
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Nature of Things (or, a Humanistic Perspective on Science)
- On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
- Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
- Elements of Geometry by Euclid
- American Fiction
- Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
- O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (a Cornhusker substitute for Death Comes for the Archbishop)
- Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (about his alienation as a black and gay man growing up in Harlem with an abusive Baptist minister as his stepfather. This is a disturbing book in many aspects. It illustrates the ways in which religious life can turn hypocritical and repressive.)
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This a great list to dig through and start reading which, in itself, is an exciting prospect.
While reading—and deeply enjoying—the book Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men: An Utterly Invigorating Guide to Being Your Most Masculine Self by Stephen Mansfield, the author mentioned another book: Wild at Heart (Revised and Updated: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul) by John Eldredge. I bought Wild at Heart and, after skimming through it, began to read it as well. It’s rare for me to be reading two books I enjoy so much at the same time. They compliment each other well and have a message that I think has been missing in the Church: men are supposed to be manly. What, to me, makes the message work is that it’s in the context of scripture. This book will be one I go back to reference often. Below is a short clipping from the book:
To put it bluntly, your flesh is a weasel, a poser, and a selfish pig. And your flesh is not you. Did you know that? Your flesh is not the real you. When Paul gives us his famous passage on what it’s like to struggle with sin (Rom. 7), he tells a story we are all too familiar with:
I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. (The Message)
Okay, we’ve all been there many times. But what Paul concludes is just astounding: “I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it” (Rom. 7:20 NLT). Did you notice the distinction he makes? Paul says, “Hey, I know I struggle with sin. But I also know that my sin is not me—this is not my true heart.” You are not your sin; sin is no longer the truest thing about the man who has come into union with Jesus. Your heart is good. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you . . .” (Ezek. 36:26). The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than “a sinner saved by grace.” You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ. The New Testament calls you a saint, a holy one, a son of God. In the core of your being you are a good man. Yes, there is a war within us, but it is a civil war. The battle is not between us and God; no, there is a traitor within who wars against our true heart fighting alongside the Spirit of God in us:
A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death . . . Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells . . . if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus . . . When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. (Rom. 8:2–3, 9–11 The Message)
The real you is on the side of God against the false self. Knowing this makes all the difference in the world. The man who wants to live valiantly will lose heart quickly if he believes that his heart is nothing but sin. Why fight? The battle feels lost before it even begins. No, your flesh is your false self—the poser, manifest in cowardice and self-preservation—and the only way to deal with it is to crucify it. Now follow me very closely here: We are never, ever told to crucify our heart. We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty. We are told to shoot the traitor. How? Choose against him every time you see him raise his ugly head. Walk right into those situations you normally run from. Speak right to the issues you normally remain silent over. If you want to grow in true masculine strength, then you must stop sabotaging yours.
Buy the book. Read it. You won’t regret it.
I’m not entirely sure of the source for my compulsion to “do something productive, don’t just sit around” personality. It’s probably my father; he is always “doing something.” If I don’t have work at the office or a project at home to do over the weekend I don’t know what to do with myself. It causes me to get into a fidgety, anxious, moody state. I’m not claiming this is healthy—very likely it’s not.
I like to be with my family…working. It’s traditional. The real value of working with my family is that it allows them, and me, to learn together. In the past, as in early American History, fathers and mothers did things—worked—and the children learned skills from them.
Children are more likely to be mollycoddled than taught nowadays. Few people develop real mechanical skills and even fewer know how to design a project from concept to completion. Most people think they can contract these skills but the pool of truly qualified individuals to do that work is diminishing quickly. Besides, if we don’t have any understanding of the job being performed, how can you know it’s being done correctly or even merely adequately?
We don’t do all the work around the house but we do major projects—the real important ones—together. We’ve done quite a few projects as the kids have grown, here are a few of the more recent:
This book stays on my list of books to suggest to others. Below are some of the clippings I made while reading it. If they sound interesting, go buy the book, I think you’ll enjoy it.
The college student interviews for a job as a knowledge worker, and finds that the corporate recruiter never asks him about his grades and doesn’t care what he majored in. He senses that what is demanded of him is not knowledge but rather that he project a certain kind of personality, an affable complaisance. Is all his hard work in school somehow just for show—his ticket to a Potemkin meritocracy? There seems to be a mismatch between form and content, and a growing sense that the official story we’ve been telling ourselves about work is somehow false.
Chapter 1 – A Brief Case for the Useful Arts
The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away. His well-founded pride is far from the gratuitous “self-esteem” that educators would impart to students, as though by magic.
Today, in our schools, the manual trades are given little honor. The egalitarian worry that has always attended tracking students into “college prep” and “vocational ed” is overlaid with another: the fear that acquiring a specific skill set means that one’s life is determined. In college, by contrast, many students don’t learn anything of particular application; college is the ticket to an open future. Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement.
…most people take pride in being good at something specific, which happens through the accumulation of experience. Yet the flitting disposition is pressed upon workers from above by the current generation of management revolutionaries, for whom the ethic of craftsmanship is actually something to be rooted out from the workforce. Craftsmanship means dwelling on a task for a long time and going deeply into it, because you want to get it right. In managementspeak, this is called being “ingrown.” The preferred role model is the management consultant, who swoops in and out and whose very pride lies in his lack of particular expertise. Like the ideal consumer, the management consultant presents an image of soaring freedom, in light of which the manual trades appear cramped and paltry: the plumber with his butt crack, peering under the sink.
With such images in their heads, parents don’t want their children to become plumbers. Yet that filthy plumber under the sink might be charging somebody eighty dollars an hour. This fact ought, at least, to induce an experience of cognitive dissonance in the parent who regards his child as smart and wants him to become a knowledge worker.
The nascent two-track educational scheme mirrored the assembly line’s severing of the cognitive aspects of manual work from its physical execution. Such a partition of thinking from doing has bequeathed us the dichotomy of white collar versus blue collar, corresponding to mental versus manual.
These seem to be the categories that inform the educational landscape even now, and this entails two big errors. First, it assumes that all blue-collar work is as mindless as assembly line work, and second, that white-collar work is still recognizably mental in character. Yet there is evidence to suggest that the new frontier of capitalism lies in doing to office work what was previously done to factory work: draining it of its cognitive elements. Paradoxically, educators who would steer students toward cognitively rich work might do this best by rehabilitating the manual trades, based on a firmer grasp of what such work is really like.
Any high school principal who doesn’t claim as his goal “one hundred percent college attendance” is likely to be accused of harboring “low expectations” and run out of town by indignant parents. This indignation is hard to stand against, since it carries all the moral weight of egalitarianism. Yet it is also snobbish, since it evidently regards the trades as something “low.” The best sort of democratic education is neither snobbish nor egalitarian. Rather, it accords a place of honor in our common life to whatever is best. At this weird moment of growing passivity and dependence, let us publicly recognize a yeoman aristocracy: those who gain real knowledge of real things, the sort we all depend on every day.
Writing in Foreign Affairs, the Princeton economist Alan Blinder considers the question of job security and falling wages for U.S. workers in light of global competition:
Many people blithely assume that the critical labor-market distinction is, and will remain, between highly educated (or highly skilled) people and less-educated (or less-skilled) people—doctors versus call-center operators, for example. The supposed remedy for the rich countries, accordingly, is more education and a general “upskilling” of the work force. But this view may be mistaken. . . . The critical divide in the future may instead be between those types of work that are easily deliverable through a wire (or via wireless connections) with little or no diminution in quality and those that are not. And this unconventional divide does not correspond well to traditional distinctions between jobs that require high levels of education and jobs that do not.
Physicians who treat patients don’t need to worry that their jobs will be sent offshore, but radiologists who examine images have already seen this happen, just as accountants and computer programmers have. He goes on to point out that “you can’t hammer a nail over the Internet.”
[Alan] Blinder predicts a massive economic disruption that is only just beginning, affecting people who went to college and assumed their education prepared them for high-paying careers with lots of opportunity. Now their bosses are looking to India, or the Philippines, and finding well-qualified people who speak good English and will work for a fraction of what Americans have been earning. Architects face this threat, but builders don’t.
Chapter 2 – The Separation of Thinking from Doing
The dichotomy of mental versus manual didn’t arise spontaneously. Rather, the twentieth century saw concerted efforts to separate thinking from doing. Those efforts achieved a good deal of success in ordering our economic life, and it is this success that perhaps explains the plausibility the distinction now enjoys. Yet to call this “success” is deeply perverse, for wherever the separation of thinking from doing has been achieved, it has been responsible for the degradation of work.
In the 1950s, sociologists started pointing out a basic resemblance between Soviet and Western societies: in both there seemed to be an increasing number of jobs that were radically simplified. Both societies were industrial, and had in common a growing separation of planning from execution. This was sometimes attributed to automation, but more penetrating observers noted that it proceeded from the imperatives of rational administration—a sort of social technology, rooted in the division of labor. The “machine” in question was the social body, made up of increasingly standardized parts. In the Soviet bloc, this machine was subject to central control by the state; in the West, by corporations.
In 1974, Harry Braverman published his masterpiece of economic reflection, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. Braverman was an avowed Marxist. With the cold war now safely decided, we may consider anew, without a sense of mortal political threat, the Marxian account of alienated labor. As Braverman acknowledged, this critique applied to the Soviet Union no less than to capitalist societies. He gives a richly descriptive account of the degradation of many different kinds of work. In doing so, he offers nothing less than an explanation of why we are getting more stupid with every passing year—which is to say, the degradation of work is ultimately a cognitive matter, rooted in the separation of thinking from doing.
Scientific management introduced the use of “time and motion analysis” to describe the physiological capabilities of the human body in machine terms. As Braverman writes, “the more labor is governed by classified motions which extend across the boundaries of trades and occupations, the more it dissolves its concrete forms into the general types of work motions. This mechanical exercise of human faculties according to motion types which are studied independently of the particular kind of work being done, brings to life the Marxist conception of ‘abstract labor.’”5 The clearest example of abstract labor is thus the assembly line. The activity of self-directed labor, conducted by the worker, is dissolved or abstracted into parts and then reconstituted as a process controlled by management—a labor sausage.
In The Electronic Sweatshop: How Computers Are Transforming the Office of the Future into the Factory of the Past, Barbara Garson details how “extraordinary human ingenuity has been used to eliminate the need for human ingenuity.” She finds that, like Taylor’s rationalization of the shop floor, the intention of expert systems is “to transfer knowledge, skill, and decision making from employee to employer.” While Taylor’s time and motion studies broke every concrete work motion into minute parts,
the modern knowledge engineer performs similar detailed studies, only he anatomizes decision making rather than bricklaying. So the time-and-motion study has become a time-and-thought study. . . To build an expert system, a living expert is debriefed and then cloned by a knowledge engineer. That is to say, an expert is interviewed, typically for weeks or months. The knowledge engineer watches the expert work on sample problems and asks exactly what factors the expert considered in making his apparently intuitive decisions. Eventually hundreds or thousands of rules of thumb are fed into the computer. The result is a program that can “make decisions” or “draw conclusions” heuristically instead of merely calculating with equations. Like a real expert, a sophisticated expert system should be able to draw inferences from “iffy” or incomplete data that seems to suggest or tends to rule out. In other words it uses (or replaces) judgment.
Chapter 3 – Be the Master of One’s Own Stuff
It used to be that, in addition to a dipstick, you had also a very crude interface, simpler but no different conceptually from the sophisticated interface of the new Mercedes. It was called an “idiot light.” One can be sure that the current system is not referred to in the Mercedes owner’s manual as the “idiot system,” as the harsh judgment carried by that term no longer makes any sense to us. By some inscrutable cultural logic, idiocy gets recast as something desirable.
Chapter 4 – The Education of a Gearhead
The truth does not reveal itself to idle spectators.
Iris Murdoch writes that to respond to the world justly, you first have to perceive it clearly, and this requires a kind of “unselfing.” “[A]nything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity and realism is to be connected with virtue.”13 “[V]irtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is.”14 This attempt is never fully successful, because we are preoccupied with our own concerns. But getting outside her own head is the task the artist sets herself, and this is the mechanic’s task, too.
If occasions for the exercise of judgment are diminished, the moral-cognitive virtue of attentiveness will atrophy.
Chapter 5 – The Further Education of a Gearhead: From Amateur to Professional
…in the spring I got a call from a former teacher, now in Washington, D.C., asking if I was interested in a job as director of a certain think tank. The salary was huge. Hell, yes, I was interested. I interviewed, and ended up getting the job. But I would quickly discover it was not to my taste. It was concerned more with the forms of inquiry than with the substance; the trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise.
…in an effort to save time in assembling and disassembling things with an inscrutable Oriental fit to them, I used to try to hypnotize myself into a Zen-like state of resignation at the outset. It doesn’t work, not for this Grasshopper. I have my own process, as they say. I call it the motherfucker process.
Chapter 6 – The Contradictions of the Cubicle
Recurring purchases, after all, may continue even when the alignment of interests between producer and consumer is only partial, or even accompanied by a felt antagonism. Frequently we come to hate things that we nonetheless continue to depend on (like Windows).
The characteristic form of address on a job site is command. In the office, Jackall writes,
managers’ acute sense of organizational contingency makes them speak gingerly to one another since the person one criticizes or argues with today could be one’s boss tomorrow. . . . Moreover, the crucial premium in the corporation on style includes an expectation of a certain finesse in handling people, a “sensitivity to others,” as it is called. As one manager says: “You can’t just push people around anymore.” Discreet suggestions, hints, and coded messages take the place of command; this, of course, places a premium on subordinates’ abilities to read their bosses’ vaguely articulated or completely unstated wishes.35
This sounds to me like being part of a clique of girls, where one can commit a serious misstep without knowing it; where one’s place in the hierarchy is made difficult to know because of the forms and manners of sisterhood. Under such proprieties, even one’s sense of being on probation may be difficult to bring to full awareness, taking instead the form of a dull and confusing anxiety.
The educational goal of self-esteem seems to habituate young people to work that lacks objective standards and revolves instead around group dynamics. When self-esteem is artificially generated, it becomes more easily manipulable, a product of social technique rather than a secure possession of one’s own based on accomplishments. Psychologists find a positive correlation between repeated praise and “shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.”36 The more children are praised, the more they have a stake in maintaining the resulting image they have of themselves; children who are praised for being smart choose the easier alternative when given a new task.37 They become risk-averse and dependent on others. The credential loving of college students is a natural response to such an education, and prepares them well for the absence of objective standards in the job markets they will enter; the validity of your self-assessment is known to you by the fact it has been dispensed by gatekeeping institutions. Prestigious fellowships, internships, and degrees become the standard of self-esteem. This is hardly an education for independence, intellectual adventurousness, or strong character.
“If you don’t vent the drain pipe like this, sewage gases will seep up through the water in the toilet, and the house will stink of shit.” In the trades, a master offers his apprentice good reasons for acting in one way rather than another, the better to realize ends the goodness of which is readily apparent. The master has no need for a psychology of persuasion that will make the apprentice compliant to whatever purposes the master might dream up; those purposes are given and determinate. He does the same work as the apprentice, only better. He is able to explain what he does to the apprentice, because there are rational principles that govern it. Or he may explain little, and the learning proceeds by example and imitation. For the apprentice there is a progressive revelation of the reasonableness of the master’s actions. He may not know why things have to be done a certain way at first, and have to take it on faith, but the rationale becomes apparent as he gains experience. Teamwork doesn’t have this progressive character. It depends on group dynamics, which are inherently unstable and subject to manipulation.
Chapter 7 – Thinking as Doing
The current educational regime is based on a certain view about what kind of knowledge is important: “knowing that,” as opposed to “knowing how.” This corresponds roughly to universal knowledge versus the kind that comes from individual experience. If you know that something is the case, then this proposition can be stated from anywhere. In fact, such knowledge aspires to a view from nowhere. That is, it aspires to a view that gets at the true nature of things because it isn’t conditioned by the circumstances of the viewer. It can be transmitted through speech or writing without loss of meaning, and expounded by a generic self that need not have any prerequisite experiences. Occupations based on universal, propositional knowledge are more prestigious, but they are also the kind that face competition from the whole world as book learning becomes more widely disseminated in the global economy. Practical know-how, on the other hand, is always tied to the experience of a particular person. It can’t be downloaded, it can only be lived.
Chapter 8 – Work, Leisure, and Full Engagement
…consider the reality of the mortgage broker circa 2005, whose work takes on a very different character under absentee capitalism. Knowing the mortgage he secures will be sold by the originating bank (a branch of a nationwide bank) to some other entity, he needn’t concern himself with the creditworthiness of the applicant. The bank has no interest in the ongoing viability of the loan; its interest is limited to the fees it gets from originating the loan. The mortgages will be bundled on Wall Street, then these bundles will themselves be transformed through securitization into quantized particles of something more general, “housing debt,” and sold to the Chinese government and other investors. The original encounter between mortgage broker and borrower as they sit across from one another is fraught with moral content—questions of trust—and both of the original parties no doubt experience it this way, in 2005 as ever. The mortgage broker gets a feeling in his gut. But this information is discarded through a process of depersonalization. The discarding is purposeful.5 Indeed, the originating banks get frequent phone calls from Wall Street investment houses, urging them to invent new kinds of loans in which the borrower doesn’t even need to claim income or assets, much less prove their existence.6 This makes a certain kind of psychic demand on the mortgage broker who actually writes the loans: he must silence the voice of prudence, and suspend the action of his own judgment and perception.
There is a classic psychology experiment that seems to confirm Brewer’s point. Children who enjoy drawing were given marker pens and allowed to go at it. Some were rewarded for drawing (they were given a certificate with a gold seal and a ribbon, and told ahead of time about this arrangement), whereas for others the issue of rewards was never raised. Weeks later, those who had been rewarded took less interest in drawing, and their drawings were judged to be lower in quality, whereas those who had not been rewarded continued to enjoy the activity and produced higher-quality drawings. The hypothesis is that the child begins to attribute his interest, which previously needed no justification, to the external reward, and this has the effect of reducing his intrinsic interest in it.8 That is, an external reward can affect one’s interpretation of one’s own motivation, an interpretation that comes to be self-fulfilling. A similar effect may account for the familiar fact that when someone turns his hobby into a business, he often loses pleasure in it. Likewise, the intellectual who pursues an academic career gets professionalized, and this may lead him to stop thinking.
Concluding Remarks on Solidarity and Self-Reliance
The practitioner of a stochastic art, such as motorcycle repair, experiences failure on a daily basis. Just today, for example, before sitting down to write, I was faced with a mangled screw frozen in a cylinder head. I had to cut the head of the screw off with a pneumatic chisel (easy enough), center punch the remaining stud (ditto), then drill it out with a cobalt drill bit. This last step is always dicey, and in fact the drill bit broke off inside the hole I was drilling. As far as I know there is no drill bit harder than cobalt that I can use to drill out the broken-off drill bit. (Apologies to Bob Gorman, the owner of this particular cylinder head—I’ll make it right somehow.) Everything is going along swimmingly, then I find myself with no way forward. Such failures get internalized, and give rise to both pessimism and self-reproach. Not only do things tend to go to hell, but your own actions contribute inevitably to that process.
Those who belong to a certain order of society—people who make big decisions that affect all of us—don’t seem to have much sense of their own fallibility. Being unacquainted with failure, the kind that can’t be interpreted away, may have something to do with the lack of caution that business and political leaders often display in the actions they undertake on behalf of other people.
If a man would pursue Philosophy [learning], his first task is to throw away conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he has a conceit [preconception] that he already knows.
— Epictetus, Harvard Classics, Vol. 2, Part 2 – The Golden Sayings of Epictetus
In groups of people (committees) there tends to be an inclination, for the sake of consensus, to demand compromise from all the participants rather than evaluating (debating) whether certain points of view are wrong and should be changed and whether they are right and to remain unchanged. This is why Kierkegaard makes the claim “the crowd is untruth“; the introduction of a single untruth will corrupt the truth and, therefore, make the consensus untruth. Here’s Kierkegaard on the subject:
There is a view of life which holds that where the crowd is, the truth is also, that it is a need in truth itself, that it must have the crowd on its side. There is another view of life; which holds that wherever the crowd is, there is untruth, so that, for a moment to carry the matter out to its farthest conclusion, even if every individual possessed the truth in private, yet if they came together into a crowd (so that ‘the crowd’ received any decisive, voting, noisy, audible importance), untruth would at once be let in.
For ‘the crowd’ is untruth. Eternally, godly, christianly what Paul says is valid: “only one receives the prize,” [I Cor. 9:24]
— Søren Kierkegaard. The Crowd is Untruth
Here’s the whole scripture to which he referred:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
— Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV1984)
Notes from The Strenuous Life
by Theodore Roosevelt
After reading Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography, I was hungry to devour more of his writing so I picked up this book and I wasn’t displeased. As a matter of fact, now I intend to jump into The Rough Riders. I admire the type of man he was and it’s fascinating to read his documentation of manhood.
That manliness is now lost or, at least, blurred so badly by bad machismo and the antics of jackasses that, unless we seek out and read the clear words of great men like Roosevelt and begin to put original meaning back in place. Strength with tenderness, protection of the weak are lost at present. I want it back so I’m learning and teaching. Here are some quotes from the book:
Work is essential whether it’s physical or mental. If, what we do is for mere enjoyment is not satisfactory.
A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth’s surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise. A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.
I don’t think this next quote would float well at many social events. One thing is sure, it would start a conversation.
When men fear work or fear righteous war, when women fear motherhood, they tremble on the brink of doom; and well it is that they should vanish from the earth, where they are fit subjects for the scorn of all men and women who are themselves strong and brave and high-minded.
After all the reading of Roosevelt’s books I’ve done lately, it’s clear to me that he is still a major influence over our foreign policy.
The guns that thundered off Manila and Santiago left us echoes of glory, but they also left us a legacy of duty. If we drove out a medieval tyranny only to make room for savage anarchy, we had better not have begun the task at all. It is worse than idle to say that we have no duty to perform, and can leave to their fates the islands we have conquered.
I see this in the two factions of Progressivism (Republicans & Democrats) these days.
In every community there are little knots of fantastic extremists who loudly proclaim that they are striving for righteousness, and who, in reality, do their feeble best for unrighteousness.
When a partisan political organization becomes merely an association for purposes of plunder and patronage, it may be a menace instead of a help to a community; and when a non-partisan political organization falls under the control of the fantastic extremists always attracted to such movements, in its turn it becomes either useless or noxious.
This quote is particularly interesting in light of the conservative, anti-higher education movement going on at present. Interestingly, the advocates for avoiding higher education are not taking their own advice concerning their own children. A particularly interesting point made by T.R. in this quote is his comment on “boys of weak fiber…may be seriously damaged” in college. Agreed, college can be indoctrination of the weak-minded if you are not prepared for it.
There are any number of men, however, priding themselves upon being “hard-headed” and “practical,” who sneer at book-learning and at every form of higher education, under the impression that the additional mental culture is at best useless, and is ordinarily harmful in practical life. Not long ago two of the wealthiest men in the United States publicly committed themselves to the proposition that to go to college was a positive disadvantage for a young man who strove for success. Now, of course, the very most successful men we have ever had, men like Lincoln, had no chance to go to college, but did have such indomitable tenacity and such keen appreciation of the value of wisdom that they set to work and learned for themselves far more than they could have been taught in any academy. On the other hand, boys of weak fiber, who go to high school or college instead of going to work after getting through the primary schools, may be seriously damaged instead of benefited. But, as a rule, if the boy has in him the right stuff, it is a great advantage to him should his circumstances be so fortunate as to enable him to get the years of additional mental training. The trouble with the two rich men whose views are above quoted was that, owing largely perhaps to their own defects in early training, they did not know what success really was. Their speeches merely betrayed their own limitations, and did not furnish any argument against education.
T.R. shows how having a good character requires one to live up to the duty to do good, not simply abstain from doing bad things.
If we say of a boy or a man, “He is of good character,” we mean that he does not do a great many things that are wrong, and we also mean that he does do a great many things which imply much effort of will and readiness to face what is disagreeable. He must not steal, he must not be intemperate, he must not be vicious in any way; he must not be mean or brutal; he must not bully the weak. In fact, he must refrain from whatever is evil. But besides refraining from evil, he must do good. He must be brave and energetic; he must be resolute and persevering. The Bible always inculcates the need of the positive no less than the negative virtues, although certain people who profess to teach Christianity are apt to dwell wholly on the negative. We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of “harmless,” it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.
Honesty is the prerequisite of any politician.
No community is healthy where it is ever necessary to distinguish one politician among his fellows because “he is honest.” Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public.
Somebody tell Rush Limbaugh!
It is a great mistake to think that the extremist is a better man than the moderate. Usually the difference is not that he is morally stronger, but that he is intellectually weaker. He is not more virtuous. He is simply more foolish. This is notably true in our American life of many of those who are most pessimistic in denouncing the condition of our politics. Certainly there is infinite room for improvement, infinite need of fearless and trenchant criticism; but the improvement can only come through intelligent and straightforward effort. It is set back by those extremists who by their action always invite reaction, and, above all, by those worst enemies of our public honesty who by their incessant attacks upon good men give the utmost possible assistance to the bad.
The necessity of a virtuous citizenry.
“Who shuns the dust and sweat of the contest, on his brow falls not the cool shade of the olive,” and “A free State exists only in the virtue of the citizen.” We all accept these statements in theory; but if we do not live up to them in practice, then there is no health in us. Take the two together always.
What’s most interesting to me in this quote is the contrast he paints with the references to the weaknesses of the Greek and the Roman forms of government. The Greeks are extreme local government and the Romans are extreme national, both failed. Maybe because of their extreme approaches.
Under any governmental system which was known to Europe, the problem offered by the westward thrust, across a continent, of so masterful and liberty-loving a race as ours would have been insoluble. The great civilized and colonizing races of antiquity, the Greeks and the Romans, had been utterly unable to devise a scheme under which when their race spread it might be possible to preserve both national unity and local and individual freedom. When a Hellenic or Latin city sent off a colony, one of two things happened. Either the colony was kept in political subjection to the city or state of which it was an offshoot, or else it became a wholly independent and alien, and often a hostile, nation. Both systems were fraught with disaster. With the Greeks race unity was sacrificed to local independence, and as a result the Greek world became the easy prey of foreign conquerors. The Romans kept national unity, but only by means of a crushing centralized despotism.
Our form of government reflects the virtues of the citizenry.
Woe to all of us if ever as a people we grow to condone evil because it is successful. We can no more afford to lose social and civic decency and honesty than we can afford to lose the qualities of courage and strength. It is the merest truism to say that the nation rests upon the individual, upon the family—upon individual manliness and womanliness, using the words in their widest and fullest meaning.
It seems our honor has been lost in international policy. We will as readily make treaties with tyrannical dictators as we will with legitimate governments for the sake of expediency.
For the sake not only of ourselves but of our children and our children’s children we must see that this nation stands for strength and honesty both at home and abroad. In our internal policy we can not afford to rest satisfied until all that the government can do has been done to secure fair dealing and equal justice as between man and man. In the great part which hereafter, whether we will or not, we must play in the world at large, let us see to it that we neither do wrong nor shrink from doing right because the right is difficult; that on the one hand we inflict no injury, and that on the other we have a due regard for the honor and the interest of our mighty nation; and that we keep unsullied the renown of the flag which beyond all others of the present time or of the ages of the past stands for confident faith in the future welfare and greatness of mankind.
Do not envy the willfully idle.
Sometimes we hear those who do not work spoken of with envy. Surely the wilfully idle need arouse in the breast of a healthy man no emotion stronger than that of contempt—at the outside no emotion stronger than angry contempt. The feeling of envy would have in it an admission of inferiority on our part, to which the men who know not the sterner joys of life are not entitled.
It’s sad how common this is these days. People are completely, voluntarily ignorant of too many important issues. They don’t even know how their government is supposed to be structured and operate. Pitiful.
Poverty is a bitter thing; but it is not as bitter as the existence of restless vacuity and physical, moral, and intellectual flabbiness, to which those doom themselves who elect to spend all their years in that vainest of all vain pursuits—the pursuit of mere pleasure as a sufficient end in itself.
Our duty to our family (children) is to teach them to work and to live up to their own duties.
Every father and mother here, if they are wise, will bring up their children not to shirk difficulties, but to meet them and overcome them; not to strive after a life of ignoble ease, but to strive to do their duty, first to themselves and their families, and then to the whole State; and this duty must inevitably take the shape of work in some form or other.
The world is not ruled by the intelligent or the benevolent but the cunning. It is time to shackle cunning.
No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable, on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and, on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force.
Hey, Boston, you need to know this:
[T]here are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting; and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words his position becomes absolutely contemptible.
Does anyone these days think of the trade unions and get a sense of wholesomeness? Or, does it bring thoughts of corruption and brutality?
[I]f managed unwisely, the very power of such a union or organization makes it capable of doing much harm; but, on the whole, it would be hard to over-estimate the good these organizations have done in the past, and still harder to estimate the good they can do in the future if handled with resolution, forethought, honesty, and sanity.
It’s so heartwarming to see these words of encouragement concerning working and service to family and community. It’s what I believe in spite of anything taught by our society in this age.
Every good citizen, whatever his condition, owes his first service to those who are nearest to him, who are dependent upon him, to his wife, and his children; next he owes his duty to his fellow-citizens, and this duty he must perform both to his individual neighbor and to the State, which is simply a form of expression for all his neighbors combined. He must keep his self-respect and exact the respect of others. It is eminently wise and proper to strive for such leisure in our lives as will give a chance for self-improvement; but woe to the man who seeks, or trains up his children to seek, idleness instead of the chance to do good work.
The vice of envy. It seems to be the driving force in most people nowadays. Understand that envy is a “confession of inferiority.”
To break the Tenth Commandment is no more moral now than it has been for the past thirty centuries. The vice of envy is not only a dangerous but also a mean vice, for it is always a confession of inferiority.
Sigh…what else is there anymore?
Woe to us as a nation if we ever follow the lead of men who seek not to smother but to inflame the wild-beast qualities of the human heart!
I like the comment, “must be hunted out of it.” I agree.
Craft unaccompanied by conscience makes the crafty man a social wild beast who preys on the community and must be hunted out of it. Gentleness and sweetness unbacked by strength and high resolve are almost impotent for good.