“War & Peace” – Part 1

I started reading “War & Peace” by Leo Tolstoy on December 18th. It’s been on my reading list for years but I’ve been putting off because, well, it’s Tolstoy and it’s 1200 pages long! I’ve been so pleasantly surprised since I started reading it. It’s wonderful and I’ve been sucked into the story, not wanting to put it down. The thing that has really helped me most is the list of characters and their relationships at the front of the book. I keep flipping back to it to remember who is who. Keeping track of who is doing what in a book this long and with each character having several names, has been the hardest part of reading it, but the story is amazing!

I’ll be writing about the book all this month but I thought I’d start now with a couple of very interesting quotes.

Here’s the first one! It’s from Volume One, Part One, II. They are at a party.

“For Pierre, brought up abroad, this soiree of Anna Pavlovna’s was the first he had seen in Russia. He knew that all the intelligentsia of Petersburg was gathered there, and, like a child in a toy shop, he looked everywhere at once. He kept fearing to miss intelligent conversations that he might have listened to. Looking at the self-assured and elegant expressions on the faces gathered here, he kept expecting something especially intelligent. Finally, he went up to Morio. The conversation seemed interesting to him, and he stopped, waiting for a chance to voice his thoughts, as young people like to do.”

I can see my older son doing just this at a party. I only hope he gets the chance to move in circles where the topics range farther than how many times the mailboxes have been broken into and what new fast-food chain is opening in town.

Natasha is a young girl with her doll who enters the party chased by her sisters and brother into her mother’s arms. A woman speaking with her mother asked her a question about her doll.

“Natasha did not like the condescension to childish talk in which the guest addressed her. She made no reply and gave the guest a serious look.”

I’ve gotten this look from one of my nephew’s. Children don’t appreciate being talked to differently than adults. I’ve learned my lesson and never assume anything. I treat children as I would any adult that came into my presence.

“Up to now, thank God, I’ve been a friend to my children and have enjoyed their full trust,” said the countess, repeating the error of many parents who suppose that their children have no secrets from them.”

Of course, they do! No matter how close you are with someone, you always have secrets. Some things are just private. We need to respect that, even with children, and know they will have some secrets but be there when they want help with them.

I’m loving this part of the book. You could call it “Parenting With Tolstoy”!

“Well, so you see, if I were strict with her, if I forbade her…God knows what they’d do on the sly…”

and

“One is always too clever with the older children, wanting to do something extraordinary,”

And here’s one that makes me think of “A Thomas Jefferson Education”. It’s a dream I had when my boys were little that never manifested itself other than the reading aloud part.

“On entering the drawing room, where the princesses were usually to be found, he greeted the ladies, who were sitting over their embroidery and a book, which one of them was reading aloud.”

And how’s this for an attitude to have?

“I’ve got four sons in the army, and I’m not grieving. It’s all God’s will: you can die in your sleep, and God can spare you in battle,”

That’s the attitude I try to have about my sons. You have to do what you love, what fuels you. You can’t just hold them at home and keep them safe forever.

There’s so much humanity in this book that never changes. It warms my heart to read about society, politics, wars, and families from the distant past. It shows me that there is continuity. It’s not currently the end of the world.

Here’s some from Part Two.

“The halted infantry soldiers, crowding in the trampled mud by the bridge, gazed at the clean, foppish hussars going past them in order, with that special feeling of ill will, alienation, and mockery with which different branches of the military usually meet each other.”

I’ll leave you with this because it’s just so classic. It could have been written in a modern novel about politicians.

“Bilibin’s conversation was constantly sprinkled with wittily original and well-turned phrases of general interest. These phrases were manufactured in Bilibin’s inner laboratory, as if intentionally of a portable nature, so that society nonentities could readily remember them and pass them on from drawing room to drawing room.”

You know, stuff you can share on Facebook!

Election Day

What is a person to do when the majority of the citizens seem to want a master instead of a leader and want to force that master on the minority?

What is a person to do when the majority of the citizens seem to have no desire to stand on their own two feet and instead vote to have the government take care of their needs instead?

What is the difference between a porn star and a prostitute?

It sounds like the beginning of a crude joke but I’m serious. A porn star performs sex acts for money in front of a camera. A prostitute performs sex acts for money in private. One is legal and the other isn’t. One has protections by law, the other is an outlaw, meaning outside the law, unprotected. Both professions don’t necessarily require their workers to accept the money and perform. It’s up to the practitioner. You don’t expect a porn star to have to perform for you if you pay them. And you don’t expect a prostitute to either. They can say no to your offer. Well, the porn star can because they are protected by the law. If someone attempts to force them to sell their services, they have legal recourse. A prostitute doesn’t really. The only thing I can see that makes them different and one more dangerous than the other is that one is legal and one is not. Making prostitution illegal has created new dangers.

Why is prostitution illegal? I can understand why you would not want to be a prostitute, especially from my Christian point of view, but I don’t understand why the state would become involved. Unless the state believes it is something so bad that you can be trusted to make the right choice for yourself. Is the state making life safe for you by taking away a bad choice? But then being a porn star is essentially the same thing, isn’t it? The only difference is the film industry. So if the state made prostitution illegal because you need to be protected from making an unhealthy choice, why wouldn’t being a porn star be illegal too?

Personally, we’re all adults and are capable of making decisions for ourselves. We do not need the state to protect us from ourselves. If my religion and ethics do not forbid me to perform sex acts outside of marriage, who’s business is it if I choose to sell my services? What if we encouraged people to take responsibility for their own lives, make their own choices and then use the legal system to protect their right to do so. For instance, if prostitution were legal (and unregulated, dammit), if one person put out their board “Sex for Sale – $100” and “We reserve the right to refuse customers.”, then the state would be responsible for helping them defend their right to be paid for services rendered, protect them from those who would do them harm, and help them to be compensated for damages.

Wouldn’t our legal system be a lot more simple and efficient if the state just left people alone to take care of themselves and was there as a third party arbitrator?

Use of Force

If my neighbor came to my house in a truck with an easily accessible rack with a shotgun in it, a bullet proof vest on, a handgun on one hip and a club on the other, then proceeded to pound aggressively on my door to get me to come out, no one would blame me if I were scared and answered the door with an equal amount of aggression to be sure we were on the same footing when we spoke. But if that person were wearing a uniform with a badge, I’m supposed to ignore my instincts to protect myself and submit to his authority.

If a group of people gathers in front of a building or at a park dressed in protective gear and carrying guns and smoke grenades, no one would be surprised if the people within that area felt threatened (regardless of the words being spoken) and began throwing rocks and bottles to try to even out the threat, not to defend themselves after an attack but to show the aggressors that they will not be intimidated and will fight back. But if the armed and threatening people are dressed in a uniform and wearing badges of the state, then the people around them should submit to their assumed authority and essentially “roll-over” for them.

Why? Aggression is aggression regardless of what team you are on. Violence begets violence. What if we stepped down the aggression? What if we decided, as reasoning humans, that bad things do happen and evil does exist and our answer to it is not to heighten hostility but to extend trust and peace to those around us? What if we agreed that government does not have a monopoly on force and did not allow them to use it on us as much as we are not allowed to use it on others?

Notes on “The 12-Year Reich” by Grunberger

“The 12-Year Reich – A Social History of Nazi Germany 1933-1945” by Richard Grunberger (1971)

I struggled through half of this book and finally gave up, not because it wasn’t interesting but because it was depressing me too much. I like how the book is laid out so that if you are interested in education during the Third Reich, you can easily find that chapter and find all the information you’d like. I started to read from front to back with the chapter on the Weimar Republic and political scene but then narrowed it down the chapters on families, education, women, health, speech, and religion. All of it was pretty terrifying in that there is so much going on in the world today that looks very similar. I’d like to read a book about how people got through it with their sanity intact.

What to write? Again!

Here’s what I was thinking yesterday.

Public schools undermine the efforts of citizens to find a real education of their own and they are not conducive to an independent and free citizenry.

Why?

First of all, because they are compulsory. You have to go there until you are 18 years old, or at least that is what most people believe. You don’t really. There are alternatives to the public schools but because of the public schools, they are few and far between and more expensive. There are very few charitable free private schools. I mean, I could open up a free school right now. I could ask my community to come together once a month and make plans, offer their services, donate supplies, organize events for our school, etc. But why would anyone want to put that much effort into something that the public school offers for free and without any volunteers needed? I’ve been putting together a once a week class for our homeschool group and have been blessed with some awesome families to help but I can’t help but think about how we could expand it and create a real school for the whole community instead of just the few that chose to homeschool. Then I run into the answer. Why would any parent put in all the effort to create something free from state control when they can just drop their kids off at the corner school for free? And then they complain about what the school offers, the teachers, the lack of field trips, the “bullying”. But they never do anything about it.

What else makes it wrong for a free country to create compulsory schools? Taxes. These schools take quite a lot of money to run. And most of it is wasted on bureaucracy and not spent directly on education. I understand that the whole country is better off if we have a citizenry that is at least educated in the basics but is that what we’ve been getting? Or has that so-called education become worse and worse over the last hundred years? We are not getting what we paid for by a long shot. Most of these kids are faring worse than if they had just been left at home alone with a TV and internet connection.

Personally, I think that if we got rid of public education people would still try to educate their kids. I really think that most people want their kids to have an education of some kind. It’s just that the kind I want my kids to have isn’t the kind you want your kids to have and somewhere along the line we’ve decided that your way is right and everyone voted to take money from everyone (even if they don’t have kids to educate) to pay so that everyone’s kids will have your kind. That’s the bottom line with all of these tax-funded compulsory things. Everyone seems to think there is one good way to live a life and someone, somewhere knows what that is and is enforcing it on everyone else. Who is this person? What makes him so much better than me? Where did he get this blessed information about life?

That’s what is running through my head. Unedited, stream of thought stuff. I only wish I were better at presenting more thought out ideas.

Last thoughts for “Excuse Me, Professor” edited by Lawrence W. Reed

I started to continue writing out my notes this morning but realized that I’m just finished. It just goes on and on like this and it’s very good reading but I really didn’t think too deeply about it. I enjoyed reading the essay’s and it’s good to read something of a rebuttal to many common ways of thinking, most of which my intuition says is wrong. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of books taken from a series of articles and blog posts. It seems like cheating, something I could do myself. When I read a whole book I want more information. I want to read an author’s thought out and detailed analysis of a topic, not the highlights. I realize that this book was not designed for that and I bought it knowing so. I’m just done with thinking about it and would like to move on now.