Sunday, November 23, 2008

Grow Up and Learn Something

The resurgence of piracy and the seeming inability to stop it by Western navies points to a downfall of civilizational confidence.
The pirate city of Eyl is Somalia's only boomtown. In a country that has seen 14 provisional governments since 1991 — all of them corrupt — high-seas hijackings have been the best business in town, and may net upwards of $100 million this year.

The seizure of an Iranian-owned ship in the Gulf of Aden Tuesday was only the latest in a series of assaults that have accelerated drastically since the summer.

The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center said before Wednesday's hijacking that 88 attacks have been reported in the area this year, including 36 successful hijackings. About 14 vessels — and 250 crew members — are still being held hostage. Intelligence sources believe the number of vessels held presently is about 15.
Some coverage even seems sympathetic, seeing a sort of advantageous Robin Hood situation:
And in an impoverished country where every public institution has crumbled, they have become heroes in the steamy coastal dens they operate from because they are the only real business in town.

"The pirates depend on us, and we benefit from them," said Sahra Sheik Dahir, a shop owner in Haradhere, the nearest village to where a hijacked Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying $100 million in crude was anchored Wednesday.

These boomtowns are all the more shocking in light of Somalia's violence and poverty: Radical Islamists control most of the country's south, meting out lashings and stonings for accused criminals. There has been no effective central government in nearly 20 years, plunging this arid African country into chaos.

Life expectancy is just 46 years; a quarter of children die before they reach 5.

But in northern coastal towns like Haradhere, Eyl and Bossaso, the pirate economy is thriving thanks to the money pouring in from pirate ransoms that have reached $30 million this year alone.

In Haradhere, residents came out in droves to celebrate as the looming oil ship came into focus this week off the country's lawless coast. Businessmen started gathering cigarettes, food and cold glass bottles of orange soda, setting up small kiosks for the pirates who come to shore to re-supply almost daily.

Dahir said she is so confident in the pirates, she instituted a layaway plan just for them.

"They always take things without paying and we put them into the book of debts," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "Later, when they get the ransom money, they pay us a lot."

For Somalis, the simple fact that pirates offer jobs is enough to gain their esteem, even as hostages languish on ships for months. The population makes sure the pirates are well-stocked in qat, a popular narcotic leaf, and offer support from the ground even as the international community tries to quash them.

"Regardless of how the money is coming in, legally or illegally, I can say it has started a life in our town," said Shamso Moalim, a 36-year-old mother of five in Haradhere.

"Our children are not worrying about food now, and they go to Islamic schools in the morning and play soccer in the afternoon. They are happy."

Meanwhile, towns that once were eroded by years of poverty and chaos are now bustling with restaurants, Land Cruisers and Internet cafes. Residents also use their gains to buy generators -- allowing full days of electricity, once an unimaginable luxury in Somalia.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of pirates operating in Somalia, but they must number in the thousands. And though the bandits do sometimes get nabbed, piracy is generally considered a sure bet to a better life.
The attackers generally treat their hostages well in anticipation of a big payday, hiring caterers on shore to cook spaghetti, grilled fish and roasted meat that will appeal to a Western palate. They also keep a steady supply of cigarettes and drinks from the shops on shore.
So it's a "business" now.

Note too how the "innocent" townspeople support piracy, and are thus culpable.

Why is not more done?

Not long ago, pirates were clearly seen as threats to civilization, and, as unlawful combatants, were eradicated with military force, and could be summarily executed if captured.

Today however, they've acquired more "rights" than traditional soldiers, apparently, due to the suicidal interference of lawyers, left-wingers, and "human rights scolds" that wish to see this as a criminal justice problem rather than a military one:
The key problem is that America's NATO allies have effectively abandoned the historical legal rules permitting irregular fighters to be tried in special military courts (or, in the case of pirates, admiralty courts) in favor of a straightforward criminal-justice model. Although piracy is certainly a criminal offense, treating it like bank robbery or an ordinary murder case presents certain problems for Western states.

To begin with, common criminals cannot be targeted with military force. There are other issues as well. Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head- and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.
It's as if people have no concept of history, or how things ought to function.

Oh wait, that's EXACTLY the problem!

In this Civic Literacy Report, a survey found an appalling lack of basic knowledge by American citizens about fundamentals of the Constitution, our institutions, and market economics:
Seventy-one percent of Americans fail the test, with an overall average score of 49%.
You can try the 33 questions yourself here.

Even more shocking, our leaders are even LESS knowledgeable than the average American!
OF THE 2,508 PEOPLE surveyed, 164 say they have held an elected government office at least once in their life. Their average score on the civic literacy test is 44%, compared to 49% for those who have not held an elected office. Officeholders are less likely than other respondents to correctly answer 29 of the 33 test questions.
No wonder things are in the sorry state they are!

But when schools are become softer, social-organizations instead of rigorous halls of learning (witness the mission-creep of having students perform community service -- why isn't that time spent on math drills or reading the classics?), that's only to be expected.

Newt Gingrich calls for an end to the extended adolescence we've created; in other words, grow up and learn something:
It's time to declare the end of adolescence. As a social institution, it's been a failure. The proof is all around us: 19% of eighth graders, 36% of tenth graders, and 47% of twelfth graders say they have used illegal drugs, according to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan. One of every four girls has a sexually transmitted disease, suggests a recent study for the Centers for Disease Control. A methamphetamine epidemic among the young is destroying lives, families, and communities. And American students are learning at a frighteningly slower rate than Chinese and Indian students.

The solution is dramatic and unavoidable: We have to end adolescence as a social experiment. We tried it. It failed. It's time to move on. Returning to an earlier, more successful model of children rapidly assuming the roles and responsibilities of adults would yield enormous benefit to society.
The costs of this social experiment have been horrendous. For the poor who most need to make money, learn seriously, and accumulate resources, adolescence has helped crush their future. By trapping poor people in bad schools, with no work opportunities and no culture of responsibility, we have left them in poverty, in gangs, in drugs, and in irresponsible sexual activity. As a result, we have ruined several generations of poor people who might have made it if we had provided a different model of being young.

And for too many middle-class and wealthier young Americans, adolescence has been an excuse to delay work, family, and achievement—and thus contribute less to their own well-being and that of their communities.

It's time to change this—to shift to serious work, learning, and responsibility at age 13 instead of age 30. In other words, replace adolescence with young adulthood. But hastening that transition requires integrating learning into life and work. Fortunately, innovations in technology and in financial incentives to learn offer hope.
Indeed, going to school should be a money-making profession if you are good at it and work hard. That would revolutionize our poorest neighborhoods and boost our competitiveness.

The fact is, most young people want to be challenged and given real responsibility. They want to be treated like young men and women, not old children. So consider this simple proposal: High school students who can graduate a year early get the 12th year's cost of schooling as an automatic scholarship to any college or technical school they want to attend.
An interesting idea.

Something perhaps is in the air; also recently Prof. Victor Davis Hanson proposed:
Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together.

Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at Melos).

After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education.
In other words, grow up and learn something!

Hanson also notes a related symptom of this clinging to childishness: a civilizational emasculation that takes us right back to not knowing how to deal with pirates any more:
Something has happened to the generic American male accent. Maybe it is urbanization; perhaps it is now an affectation to sound precise and caring with a patina of intellectual authority; perhaps it is the fashion culture of the metrosexual; maybe it is the influence of the gay community in arts and popular culture. Maybe the ubiquitous new intonation comes from the scarcity of salty old jobs in construction, farming, or fishing. But increasingly to meet a young American male about 25 is to hear a particular nasal stress, a much higher tone than one heard 40 years ago, and, to be frank, to listen to a precious voice often nearly indistinguishable from the female.

How indeed could one make Westerns these days, when there simply is not anyone left who sounds like John Wayne, Richard Boone, Robert Duvall, or Gary Cooper much less a Struther Martin, Jack Palance, L.Q. Jones, or Ben Johnson? I watched the movie Twelve O’clock High the other day, and Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger sounded liked they were from another planet. I confess over the last year, I have been interviewed a half-dozen times on the phone, and had no idea at first whether a male or female was asking the questions.

All this sounds absurd, but I think upon reflection readers my age (55) will attest they have had the same experience. In the old days, I remember only that I first heard a variant of this accent with the old Paul Lynde character actor in one of the Flubber movies; now young men sound closer to his camp than to a Jack Palance or Alan Ladd.
Another observer made the same point two years ago:
You hear this soft, inflected tone everywhere that young people below, roughly, 35 congregate. As flat as the bottles of spring water they carry and affectless as algae, it tends to always trend towards a slight rising question at the end of even simple declarative sentences. It has no timbre to it and no edge of assertion in it.

The voice whisps across your ears as if the speaker is in a state of perpetual uncertainty with every utterance. It is as if, male or female, there is no foundation or soul within the speaker on which the voice can rest and rise. As a result, it has a misty quality to it that denies it any unique character at all. It is the Valley Girl variation of the voices that Prufrock hears:

I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.

It's parting wistful wish for you is that you "Have a good one."

Above all, it is a sexless voice. Not, I hasten to add, a "gay" voice. Not that at all. It is neither that gentle nor that musical. Nor is it that old shabby lisping stereotype best consigned to the dustbin of popular culture. No, this is a new old voice of a generation of ostensible men and women who have been educated and acculturated out of, or say rather, to the far side of any gender at all. It is, as I have indicated above, the voice of the neutered. And in this I mean that of the transitive verb: To castrate or spay. The voice and the kids that carry it is the triumphant achievement of our halls of secondary and higher education. These children did not speak this way naturally, they were taught. And like good children seeking only to please their teachers and then their employers, they learned.

This is not to say that the new American Castrati of all genders live sexless lives. On the contrary, if reports are to be credited, they seem to have a good deal of sex, most often without the burden of love or the threat of chlldren, and in this they are condemned to the sex life of children.

No, it is only to say that this new voice that we hear throughout the land from so many of the young betokens a weaker and less certain brand of citizen than we have been used to in our history. Neither male nor female, neither gay nor straight, neither.... well, not anything substantive really. A generation finely tuned to irony and nothingness and tone deaf to duty and soul.
Here there is discussion about why men are marrying later and later...if they marry at all. Partly it is another symptom of this extended retreat from adulthood and responsibility; partly it is a reaction to the anti-male tendencies in popular culture, wrought by a misguided and extreme offshoot of feminism, and ties right in with the emasculated male phenomenon:
“The dating and mating scene is in chaos,” writes Hymowitz. “SYMs [Single young males] of the postfeminist era are moving around in a Babel of miscues, cross-purposes, and half-conscious, contradictory female expectations that are alternately proudly egalitarian and coyly traditional.”
But the real question, in an age that cops to an over 50% divorce rate, isn’t “Why aren’t more men getting married under 30?” It’s Why are any?
Some of the commenters offer further insights:
The true reason is that there has been an ongoing concealed, systemic effort to stigmatize the men, starting from the age of 2, by decades-long educational, social and technological hindrance of their natural developments and ignore them for the sake of the females. The results? The men of today (age 18 to 30) are not the same kind of men from the decades before 1965. So what happened between 1965 and now? Feminists, radical sexual liberation theorists, leftist/Marxist wonks & academic scholars and powerful entities have conspired to make women more empowered and men less empowered in the years that continue to this day.
It’s ALL about unrealistic expectations and lack of adulthood on both sides.

If you’re sitting on your butt with your buddies watching CartoonNetwork, you are not an adult. If you’re hanging with your girlfriends and your most serious topic of discussion is affording new shoes, you’re not an adult. Being not an adult is not a lofty goal, nor is it an excuse. It’s just a fact.

Society is supporting a generalized overall tilt towards remaining in adolescence. Like the lifelong hunt to stay 18 is something laudable and to be glorified. From looks to behavior, the grownup is dying.

Sorry, one can talk about the woman’s movement or the men’s movement, or anyone’s movement and it only touches on a part of it. It truly is about a global avoidance of all things adult, unless there is some sort of payment for it.

It was never meant to be easy. It was never meant to be completely fulfilling or one big date. It was never meant to meet all of one’s needs, that is what a balanced life is for.

And if you spend your time blaming someone else for what you cannot do, that makes you basically lame. But it fits the basic picture. Children blame others, adults own their own lives. This attitude is gender non-specific in my eyes. I’ve met just as many adolescent females as I’ve met males.
In other words, grow up and learn something!!!

And then go and eradicate the pirates with military force and raze Eyl to the ground as an object lesson to its criminal-enabling scum of a populace, with the true self-confidence of a neo-Victorian.


Post a Comment

<< Home