The Answer, At Last!

By Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia PA, USA, 11 September 2009

Having been a writer and editor all my life, I have found that I cannot read something without "correcting" any errors.  Simply noting that there was an error and reading on, won’t do.

I find that my eyes may be on another page, but the mind is still back there with the error.  It is saying, "Hey, you didn’t insert the apostrophe/ comma/hyphen/make that correction/whatever."  So, I go back, "insert" the "whatever" or make the correction and I can read on with no problem.

By Avedis Kevorkian, Philadelphia PA, USA, 11 September 2009

Having been a writer and editor all my life, I have found that I cannot read something without "correcting" any errors.  Simply noting that there was an error and reading on, won’t do.

I find that my eyes may be on another page, but the mind is still back there with the error.  It is saying, "Hey, you didn’t insert the apostrophe/ comma/hyphen/make that correction/whatever."  So, I go back, "insert" the "whatever" or make the correction and I can read on with no problem.

The same sort of thing happens when I read something exceptionally interesting or profound.  If I merely say to myself "That’s interesting" and try to read on, I find that, again, the eyes have moved on but the mind had not.  It is saying to me, "Hey, this is important/interesting/profound, come back and think about it."  So, I go back, re-read the statement, think about it, let my mind wander a bit about it; then, satisfied, I can move on.

I make this explanation of how what passes for my mind operates, because I have just had a "Eureka Moment."

I am currently reading "The History of the World" for young people (which may confirm some people’s idea of my mental level).  The author was talking about China and Confucius.  In discussing the latter’s teachings, the author said that Confucius believed, among other things, that "A prince’s first duty is to be an example to all who live in his kingdom."  As I said, I commented to myself that that was an interesting bit of philosophy, and, a page later, I realized the importance of the statement, and went back, read it again and re-read it.  My mind then played with the thought.

And, then, it hit me.

Problem solved!

Question answered!

Like Archimedes in his bath, I said to myself, "Eureka.  That explains everything."

By "everything," I mean everything that is wrong with America today.  I mean "wrong" in the sense that things ain’t not like what the "founding fathers" intended–having read about them, and having attended talks about them, recently.

Somehow, without my having been aware, most Americans had become Confucianist (is this what you are if you are a follower of Confucius?), and these people have been following the example of their recent "Princes."

For some time, I had decried the fall in integrity, in morals, in veracity, and could not understand from whence cameth all the cheaters, all the hypocrites, all the liars,  And, now, I had my answer.

Our "Princes" were setting the example which many who live in their kingdom are following.  "If lying is good enough for our president, then it’s good enough for me."  "If immorality is good enough for our president, it’s good enough for me."

Not too long ago, while talking with an old friend–likewise a bachelor–about how lucky we are not to have children, I remarked about the sad state of the country, and I asked (rhetorically), "How can parents teach good to their children, while they are surrounded by bad;  how can they teach honesty, when they are surrounded by dishonesty; how can they teach morality, when they are surrounded by immorality?"  (I think I was more eloquent, at the time.)  My friend agreed with me.  And, he added, "We are just showing our age."

Now that I have read the core of Confucius’s teachings, I now know that the problem in the country is because those at the top have shown that the old verities no longer are valid.  They have shown that the road to success is paved with a new type of paving stone.

When did the rot set in?  It may have been during my years in London, when I was not keeping too close an eye on things "back home."  It certainly didn’t exist when I was young–a couple of hundred years ago.

Of course, there is much more to the teachings of Confucius–after all, it was the entire body of his teachings that saved China from disintegrating at the time, as the people (rulers and ruled) accepted all that was good in the philosophy–but I suspect that he had something different in mind when he said the Prince should be an example for all others.  

My mother (why don’t parents stick around longer, so that we may continue to learn from them?) used to say that a fish begins to stink from its head.  I have never tested the observation, but I accepted it without qualification, because it made sense to me.  

And, that was before I ever heard of Confucius.

  1. Off

    Thank you, Avedis, as irrelevant and shallow as ever.  Thank you for the geyser like consistency.

  2. The tendency to look to the past

    The tendency to look to the past with rose-tinted glasses is "universal", timeless, and understandable. I can quote 400 B.C. Greek writers who bemoaned the behaviour of young people for not being moral and hard-working like their predecessors. These days Americans (I mean the citizens of the United States, since America means the western hemisphere) are particularly prone to nostalgia for a place and a time that did not exist or exists only in Hollywood fantasies..

    The Founding Fathers of the country, despite wall-to-wall US public and private propaganda, were far from being saints. They were slave owners, often corrupt, anti-democratic, and considered Native Americans sub-human. The "American War of Independence" was led by a plutocracy which wanted to run the colonies for its benefit, without the balancing and judicious hand of London. Knowing this, most Native Americans sided with the British during the "War of Independence". The Founding Fathers also limited voting rights to property owners. Their plan was to expand (conquer more Native American lands) without interference from Westminster..

    After 9/11 we heard "Americans" beat their chests ad nauseum about their "loss of innocence". In fact, they have been "losing their innocence" on a regular basis, since the founding of the country. They "lost their innocence" during the War of 1812, when they declared their Manifest Destiny, when they declared the whole western hemisphere their area of influence and diktat, when they committed the genocide of Native Americans, during the heyday of the Robber Barons, during their invasion of the Philippine, Cuba, Mexico, etc. Since its founding, the country has been involved in more than 200 wars. And whenever it goes on the war path, it wails its "loss  of innocence" yet again. And yes, the US lost its innocence during the Viet-Nam War, at Mi Lai massacre, in the assassination of the Kennedys and that of Martin Luther King. It "lost its innocence" when the Bushes invaded Iraq, when Clinton defined "is" and during the recent Wall Street scandals. The US has lost its innocence more times than a sly prostitute. There never was Andy Hardy, Mr. Kevorkian. 

  3. Response to Tutunjian comments

    In his response to my essay, Mr. Jirair Tutunjian, with a string of “so-what” non sequiturs, makes one stand in awe of the superficiality of his thinking.

    His capsule history of the United States is so full of errors that I wonder how he felt that his recital was relevant to my views.

    To my knowledge, no one has ever accused our Founding Fathers of being “saints.”  Giants they have become, but Saints never.  Only some were slave owners, none were corrupt, all were democratic, and only some may have considered “Native Americans” sub-human (but none whose writings I have read).

    The American War of Independence was led by people who felt that they were not adequately represented in the Westminster Parliament and were offended when King George III refused the Colonists’ 1774 “Declaration of Rights and Grievances” in which the colonists asked for “the rights of Englishmen,” having shouted down the cries for “independence” from the handful of New England delegates.  Among the “grievances” was the Stamp Tax imposed to help Britain pay the costs of the “French and Indian War.”  But, let’s not go to deeply into that history.

    Since Great Britain had its eyes on the vast territories claimed by France and Spain, one has to wonder which founding father’s (alleged) plan to expand westward was thwarted by Westminster?

    Mr. Tutunjian brings in the subject of “loss of innocence” which I had not, and devotes much erroneous history to the matter.

    The War of 1812 had nothing to do with “Manifest Destiny,” a phrase not coined until 1845.  The War of 1812’s genesis was the free movement of American vessels on the high seas and the non-recognition of that right by Great Britain.  There was also a matter of free access to foreign ports blockaded by the British in the war with Napoléon.

    The “Robber Barons” had nothing to do with the treatment of the American Indians–having come onto the scene nearer the end of the nineteenth century.  And, in any case, they were too busy building the infra-structure that was to make America great, and too busy supporting the arts and culture, as well–while acquiring their wealth.  (Compare those “Robber Barons” with the greedy and selfish Wall Street multi-billionaires who almost destroyed this country without contributing anything to its welfare.)

    It would be helpful to the rest of us if Mr. Tutunjian would list the history books in which he has found the constant cries of “loss of innocence” during and after each of America’s wars.  I don’t know much about prostitution and prostitutes (especially “sly” ones), so I will defer to Mr. Tutunjian, but I would have thought that (countries and) prostitutes can lose their innocence only once.

    Mr. Tutunjian seems to have a grievance with the United States of America, and it would appear that he has decided to air them in response to my essay.  Permit me to suggest that he get his own soapbox, and not attach himself to mine.  However, if he really wants to know what is wrong with our country, and if he has a couple of days to listen, I will tell him.  

    It is obvious that Mr. Tutunjian is committing one of the major sins of our age; he is reading yesterday’s history with today’s eye-glasses, and he faults those who did not live up to what he sees as today’s standards.

    And, finally, while his “400 B.C. Greek writers” friends decried the behaviour of young people, I was talking about the entire age range in America–from its leaders, who have set the bad example, down to the youth.  However, because a grievance was true then, does not mean that I should not also have the right to decry what is happening in my lifetime. 

    You are wrong about Andy Hardy, Mr. Tutunjian.  He lived in my neighborhood, when I was growing up.




  4. It’s painful to see


    It’s painful to see how Mr. Kevorkian has absorbed the Norman Rockwell brand of the American myth. Someone should tell him it’s not 1949 and neither are we in Kansas. He, of course, must know all too well that I can’t, in this limited space, quote chapter and verse the countless books which offer an alternate but true history of the United States of Amnesia, yet he challenges me to list them. I’ll offer two names, which should lead him to others: Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal (the essays). If he is honest with himself, he would ask: "Who has been carrying the big stick in the Western Hemisphere since the early 19th century and globally since 1945?" Which country believes that it is New Jerusalem and assumes that it’s the Last Great Hope of Mankind and yet invades and destroys any country which dares oppose its imperial policies? The United States foreign policy is as obvious as Cyrano’s nose: why create an empire when you can’t make the world congenial to your interests. I get the feeling Mr. Kevorkian is one of those people who hypocritically ask themsevles: "Why do they hate us? What did we do to them?" What indeed.

    I am glad to hear that Andy Hardy lived in Mr. Kevorkian’s neighborhood. Was that Sesame Street or Disneyland?

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