Engineering Club Sensible

electoral-smallBy outlook, if not degree, I’m an engineer. My basic question is always, “Will it work, as designed, and can we build and run it on budget (or below)?” As far as I’m concerned, it’s what built the world we live in. It has nothing whatsoever to do with good intentions, it has much indeed to do with elegance. Maybe this is our year because it’s overwhelmingly a real world philosophy. It’s also overtly American, because America epitomizes the practical, yes, Americans are a very idealistic people, but down at bedrock, almost every American asks, “Does it work?”

Catherine Priestley wrote something about this the other day in The Spectator. Here’s some of it.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it is that the times are changing. When news of the Trump victory unfolded across the world, we watched from Sydney University’s Manning Bar. Never had it been so packed. Students piled in to watch history, all-consumed by the bright red map of America flashing on the screen.

My engineering friends bought me a beer and together we observed the room. On one side were slumped shoulders, ashen faces and tears from tragic left-wing students, whose world-view had suffered the rejection of the ballot box. The other side was a sea of red caps and raucous applause with each Trump gain; the unmistakable ecstasy of a formerly ostracised group, finally on the ascent.

The engineers are sensible people and don’t really belong to either extreme. Instead, they drink to democracy and are glad that a blow has at last been struck against political correctness. They talk excitedly of how they’d improve the data analysis of flawed polling and have a purely factual discussion about how the construction of the wall might be done. The upending of the status quo means the engineers, typically outsiders who stick to an isolated building on campus far away from frenzied student politics, are now invigorated to participate.

Leading up to Trump’s victory, one could sense change in the air. Doomsday articles threatening stock market crashes, polls that placed Trump firmly behind; all had a Brexit parallel about them. When Joe Hockey addressed the US Studies Centre the week before Trump’s election, he said that 70 per cent of Americans felt the country was heading in the wrong direction. ‘This is normally a game changer in politics,’ he remarked. […]

Although uncertainty is trending, one thing we can be sure of is that Outsiders everywhere are on the rise. In general, they are a broad alignment of people across all parties and factions who share a love of common sense and find themselves more consequential to politics now than they have been for some time. Perhaps they find themselves on the Left, but feel isolated due to the dogma of political correctness and identity politics. Or they are of the Right and have become angry with the authoritarian Insiders who appear to restrict personal freedoms. Either way, they are all members of what the late Christopher Pearson might have termed ‘Club Sensible’. While major parties appear to fragment and shrink in these changing times, Club Sensible’s membership base steadily grows.

via Engineering Club Sensible | The Spectator

I think she’s on to something here. That map at the top of the page, is about as red as I’ve ever seen, and overwhelmingly, the red parts are where people deal with the real world, you know the one where reality rules and good intentions don’t cut it.

Will Trump fix the world? No. But he may well drain at least some of the swamp, although that might anger some of the alligators that are up to our ass. We all know it out here, “No good deed goes unpunished,” we say. That’s all right, we also say, “What must be done, will be done.”

And so far, from the quality of the people he is picking, well, I’m very encouraged. It looks to me like he is picking some of the best of America, and that is the mark of the first-rate leader. That’s something that every grunt on a job site or enlisted soldier knows, but a whole lot of officers forget when they get stars in their eyes. But not all of them.

There’s a reason why 3d US Army had the fewest casualties while conquering the most ground back there in 1944. It was called “Lucky”. If I was an opponent of America’s, I would be praying very hard, because I think its new name may well be ‘Chaos’.

We’ve also been known to say with Jim Lovell, “There are people who make things happen, there are people who
watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.”

bad-decisions

Queens and Presidents, and Duty

6741670-3x2-700x467Melanie Phillips wrote in the £ Sunday Times about how the Queen Elizabeth II has to subsume the woman in the duty of the queen. It’s not a new theme for us, we spoke of her mother’s sense of duty owed to people and God in Duty Is the Rent You Pay For Life. It is something that also runs deep, in soldiers, it was Robert E. Lee who said,

Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things.

You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.

And yet, that is asking an awful lot of a man, or a woman. Not many make the grade, and it strikes me that none of those that make it, rely on their own strength. Lee was a serious Episcopalian, his quotes about God are nearly as numerous and intertwined with his quotes about war and the army he loved. Elizabeth is the head of the Church of England, and as Melanie says, she has often gone against her own desires to fulfill her duty to her people, and her God, from whom her reign comes.

Yes, that is a difficult concept for Americans to grasp, she is queen by the grace of God, but her duty is twofold, to God and people, simply because she is not accountable to the people. In a very real sense, the British have to simply trust her to do the right thing, and because of her sense of duty, she nearly always has.

[Speaking of the Netflix series The Crown] It’s rather that, most unexpectedly in this age of sneering secular utilitarianism, the series pivots around the key but largely disregarded point of the monarchy: that the wearer of the crown is consecrated to God.

That’s why the monarch is crowned in an abbey and anointed rather than appointed. The coronation is a near-mystical act of transfiguration. As King George VI says in the drama to his young daughter Elizabeth: “When the holy oil touches me I am for ever changed, brought into contact with the divine.”

The paradox is that the monarch is bound by an unparalleled duty to the people precisely because the wearer of the crown does not answer to them. As Queen Mary tells the new, young Queen: “Loyalty to the ideal you have inherited is your overarching duty because it comes from God.

Monarchy is God’s sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth to give ordinary people an ideal to strive toward. You are answerable to God, not the public.”

It is this sacramental bond of duty that places the monarch on a superior plane altogether from any prime minster or president.

That mystical place beside God has been held by the Constitution and the flag for most Americans through history because that mystical place must be filled, or we are simply brutes competing by whatever means for our individual gain. That is why so many on the left accuse us of doing exactly that because they have no conception of a higher power to which duty is owed. That is what doomed the Duke of Windsor, that he put his personal benefit above his duty. It is a large part of why Hillary Clinton was defeated in the election.

The Queen is portrayed as someone who takes this absolute duty to heart, with often devastating consequences for all the flesh-and-blood people who carry this burden.

The Queen’s identity is split down the middle. There is the human Elizabeth, the wife, mother and sister; and then there is Elizabeth Regina who, when these identities come into conflict, has to override the human being involved.

That is obviously true, but it is also true of her entire generation, this is the wellspring which has made them, British, American, Canadian, and Australian (and the rest as well) our greatest generation.

via Royal sense of duty may die with the Queen | Comment | The Times & The Sunday Times Do read the whole thing™.

The Individual in the West

marcus-cicero-freedomBookworm went on the National Review cruise this year, and how I envy her! What a glorious opportunity. She’s written a series of posts about it, which you should read. In any case, she wrote a post that she called National Review cruise — let’s talk about the individual in the West. The whole post is well worth your time and is linked below, don’t miss the comments, either, but I want to focus on something she said here.

I’ve been reading Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s Jewish Literacy, a book I highly recommend, not just for those interested in learning about all things Jewish, but also for those anxious to reconnect with Old Testament knowledge and interesting corners of world history. I especially enjoyed his Biblical discussions, because it’s been some years since I sat down and read the Torah.

What’s so striking about the Torah, of course, and what I believe has kept it the most vibrant book in the Western canon, is that it’s not a book about mass movements or ideological theories. It’s a book about people. Abraham who upends his family to follow a God, Sarah who laughs at that God, Jacob who wrestled with that God, Moses who argued with that God, David who fought for that God, and all the individually-named prophets who spoke for that God. Each person we meet in the Torah is someone we can imagine walking through our own communities today.

The same is true for the New Testament. Jesus is a vividly rendered personality, but so are the others who appear with him. Through their writings, we know Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Apostles are real people grappling with the burden of a living Messiah whom they know will soon die, only to live again. And Paul — oh, my goodness! Through his letters he is one of the most vibrant people in world history.

But the West’s recognition of real people living in different times doesn’t end with the Bible. We discuss Roman history, not just in terms of battles and empire, but in terms of the personalities whose ambition, honor, greed, etc., made that history happen. When reading Christian-era Western history, names with vivid attached personalities tumble off the page: Charlemagne, William the Conquerer, Joan of Arc, Henry VIII, Cardinal Richelieu, each and every Borgia or Medici, Marie Antoinette, Lord Nelson, our Founders about whose personalities we are intensely interested, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and even Barack Obama. In all cases, we want to know who they are and what drove them to take actions that are hinge points in history.

This is a remarkably different approach to the past and the president than under statism regimes, which seek at all levels to erase the individual. And I do mean all levels. The cults of personality that totalitarian societies cultivate, as in North Korea, have nothing to do with the real person. They are slickly enameled fakes that are meant to obscure rather than reveal the individual holding such immense power.

I have a theory that this individualism is part of what propelled Trump into office (along with voters’ desperation for a candidate who, no matter how personally tawdry, didn’t have the stink of “business as usual” in Washington). Hillary, as we know, has been endlessly re-packaged and re-presented to the American people.

The reality, as Americans understand, is that with her rigid hair, botoxed face, expensive Mao suits, and prepackaged Leftist rhetoric, she’s just another statist cipher. Her years in the public eye have revealed that the personality behind the presentation is a corrupt and ugly one, but the important thing is that we’re endlessly being sold someone whose public identity is as fake, unrevealing, and poll driven as any cult leader in a totalitarian society.

And then there’s the Donald: Mercurial, defensive, grandiose, self-confident, intuitive, vulgar, quite kind (according to many who know him), unfiltered, and, above all, absolutely real. Yes, there’s definitely a “reality TV” persona, but the overlap between the public and the private Trump is apparently quite strong. With Trump, we don’t get a poll-tested, campaign-consultant-created generic politician. For better or worse, he is an individual in the historic mold.

I think, therefore, that Trump represents something unique to Western Jude-Christian culture: Starting with Abraham and going right up to Trump, individualism matters. We, The People are not movements, we’re not ciphers, we’re not symbols. We are real beings, with individual characters, and we seek that same quality in those who lead us.

via National Review cruise — let’s talk about the individual in the West

She’s on to something here, and it’s important. When the progressives were taking over the academy they ridiculed the so-called ‘Great man theory of history’ propounded by Macauley, by Bancroft, even by Mahan, preferring to denigrate the great captains of history. This suited their revisionist souls but did a disservice to their craft. Bookworm is right, we can walk with the ancients, but we are not mindless ciphers being acted on by indifferent forces. We, the people know that to lead us, we need people who can lead with vision, not simply tell us what to do. Can it be overdone? Of course, it can. We are individuals in a community, one man believing something is usually a crank, but groups of people, acting for their individual and groups benefit are what has driven history, and freedom. Where would we be without a William Marshal, an Oliver Cromwell, a George Washington, A Lord Nelson, an Abraham Lincoln, a Winston Churchill, even a George Patton, or yes, a Donald Trump?

The Year of Political Revolution |

The title comes from a talk that Nigel Farage gave at David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2016 Restoration Weekend, to me it’s appropriate. It seems to me that what we have seen this year is the incipient conservative counter-revolution taking shape, first Brexit, then Trump, tomorrow…well who knows. As I said again the other day, the Anglo-Saxons are again leading the world to freedom, and if we live up to our forebearers, we will succeed.

We see signs of this resistance all across Europe, from Spain thru Poland and the Balts, and further, we are seeing signs of a conservative restoration even in the churches. Here is Nigel’s speech. And yes, he is every bit as deplorable as any of us Americans.

via Nigel Farage on The Year of Political Revolution |

But don’t get cocky, at best we are at the point Churchill described so well.

The bright gleam has caught the helmets of our soldiers, and warmed and cheered all our hearts.

The late M. Venizelos observed that in all her wars England — he should have said Britain, of course — always wins one battle — the last. It would seem to have begun rather earlier this time. General Alexander, with his brilliant comrade and lieutenant, General Montgomery, has gained a glorious and decisive victory in what I think should be called the battle of Egypt. Rommel’s army has been defeated. It has been routed. It has been very largely destroyed as a fighting force.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

This was said after El Alamein, and it proved to be true. He ended that speech with a bit of Byron’s poetry, which may well also be appropriate for us.

Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
Their children’s lips shall echo them, and say —
“Here, where the sword united nations drew,
Our countrymen were warring on that day!”
And this is much, and all which will not pass away

153 Years Ago, Yesterday

gettysburg-addressA sick man stood hatless for three hours on a platform in a field, in freezing Pennsylvania, listening to the greatest orator of the age. Then he made a few remarks, that he said few would note, or long remember. Well, those remarks are the greatest speech in American history. From that day forward, they have defined America, to America, and to the world. Often, we don’t live up to them, our greatness is that we try to.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

American politics at its most uncivil

1792 John Trumbull portrait of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

1792 John Trumbull portrait of Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton

Tim Stanley wrote in The Spectator last week about American politics. Here is some of it.

To anyone complaining that American politics in 2016 is uncivil, consider this: in 1804, the vice president of the United States shot the former Secretary of the Treasury in a duel. Alexander Hamilton, the retired secretary, probably fired first and aimed into a tree, to show he meant no harm. Vice president Aaron Burr, however, shot Hamilton in the abdomen and left him to die. He went home and had breakfast with a cousin, and failed to mention how he’d spent his morning. A few weeks later, Burr was back at his job, chairing the Senate. President Jefferson, who hated Hamilton, invited him to dinner. Trump calling Clinton a crook doesn’t compare.

Ron Chernow’s magnificent biography of Hamilton is now out in paperback in the UK and has gained fame for inspiring a musical. It also has a lot to say about the early American republic. It was a revolutionary republic, a nation crafted out of ink and imagination. […]

Hamilton argued that the republic needed a sizeable government to survive. As the nation’s first Treasurer, he helped create a national bank and new taxes. He also thought it would be wise to make peace with the British. Inevitably, he was cast as an Anglophile and a monarchist, even a traitor. […]

A talent for business and writing brought him to New England and, through heroic action in the War of Independence, he worked his way onto the staff of George Washington. In other words, Hamilton far better reflected the meritocratic ideals of the American dream than his aristocratic peers ever did.

Chernow argues that Hamilton was actually trying to make the fledgling nation work. Yes, he undermined Jefferson’s ambition of creating a libertarian utopia of family farms. But how could the republic raise arms to defend its people without taxes? How could industry flourish without access to credit? How could the United States survive if it couldn’t pay its debts? Hamilton betrayed America as an ideal when he erected a monstrous new state machinery, maybe, but that machinery was still laughably small. […]

This is America. A rowdy battle of ideals in politics, but a big compromise in practical government.

via American politics at its most uncivil — in 1804

And you know, that is still true, many many of us, on both sides, have a complete set of ideals for the government. When Tim mentioned that the entire USG that Jefferson inherited was 130 people in what we call the civil service, I’ll bet I wasn’t the only one who wished it were still so. But those times were not these, and many remember that Reagan didn’t get everything he wanted either, but neither did Obama, and neither will anybody else. It’s always been a balancing act, and it’s worked pretty well, and it always probably will, as long as we manage to remain true to another of Tim’s paragraphs, I think.

Hamilton’s conservatism was fostered first by witnessing the evils of the Caribbean slave trade and later by the violence of the revolution. He wanted a republic that would balance liberty with order. The mob must never be allowed to get its way.

I think that is what we all know, deep in our bones.

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