10 Books That Screwed Up the World

So while I was in the hospital, for those five days, I killed time by reading a book. No Internet connection will do that. I walked around Barnes and Noble the day before we went in and looked for something thin, but also something challenging. Build the brain a little bit. As I'm a life nit, a hardcover for under $8 helped to.

Unfortunately, this blog post is the result of the thinking I did after reading the book. This blog will be verbose and wordy, dance around politics and big issues, and probably have nothing to do with the reason you read this blog. So feel free to skip entirely or partially, or if you feel like thinking please read and I encourage you to challenge me. These are rough thoughts, which I'm fleshing out through the blog and not ironclad concusions, so I welcome the opportunity to sharpen them or discard them. However, because of the roughness of them they may appear haphazard or scattershot, so if you do decide to read bare with me.

I found "10 Books That Screwed Up the World, And 5 Others That Didn't Help" by Benjamin Wiker, the cover reminds us he earned a PhD. That suggests he is smarter than those that don't have those three letters after their names. And from reading the book, I do attest he's brighter than most. Some of the books he covered, include, The Prince (Machiavelli), The Manifesto of the Communist Party (Marx), Mein Kampf (Hitler), and Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Kinsey). So some are obviously evil, and others not so. I recommend you read this, while the author's own bias and agenda is veiled but always there, he brings up many points that are food for thought. I'd imagine I'd disagree with the guy more than not, but his perspective is valid.

It's hard not to look at the ideas these books advocate, some of which are gaining popularity again, and applying the world climates where those ideas became actions to world and America today. I am somewhat apolitical. Mostly, because I hate our two party system and see it always being a choice between the lesser of two evils with very little separation in execution, despite the rhetoric that surrounds every four year choice. Though, I definitely agree more with one side than the other for most issues.

Will I'm no conspiracy theorist, and it's clear with each changing of the Presidential guard, there are real differences between the two parties, I'm not naive enough to think each election is "The most important election of our lifetime (or ever, or of our generation, or since World War II)"* because no matter who is in charge the bureaucracy stalls true change and stasis is far more likely that not. Case in point, despite what the pundits at Fox news would have you believe, our country is not markedly different this year than it was last year (as a result of who governs us not based on exterior forces like the economy in free fall).

I don't know how much anybody's daily life would be different with McCain at the helm rather than Obama. You can point to the degrees of spending done in the wake of the economic crisis (guess what republicans would be spending too look at Bush's eight years), and the fact the distribution of the spending bills will be earmarked going to democratic Congressional battle grounds. Although, those are largely the same battlegrounds republicans would be fighting over and they'd be sending money to the same areas to buy votes it'd just have a different "from" card on the package.

And the converse is true, despite what NBC told everybody the same was true one year into Bush's first term and one year away from Clinton (again, from the perspective of interior change not exterior factors).

This latest election despite all the claims we'd be engage in a war or suffering at the hands of terrorists within six months, we haven't. As for the war, I ask with who? Such a baseless threat until a world power can overcome our natural defences called the Atlantic and Pacific, or is dumb enough to ignore assured mutual destruction. The President's alleged apparent weakness has no bearing on fomenting attacks nor much bearing on the apparatus that is our military and our intelligence constructs that protect us from such attacks. Regardless of his middle name the people that hate us still hate us, they don't want to kill us any less or more than they did when a different guy was in charge.

You get a pacifist that starts taking apart the Marines and the CIA, or pulling us out of South Korea, Afghanistan, Germany, and other areas we have to man and have a presence in, then I'll buy those arguments. I don't see that guy getting elected, to those of you that think he's already there let's save that debate for another time. Then there are people that talk about an impending civil war. I say, show me a domestic force organized enough to pull this off, and I'll start to worry. Riots maybe, domestic terrorism yeah it's coming again, but Civil war, not in my lifetime.

So we are safe, even if the economy's bottom falls out, we'll manage. Even if climate change comes to fruition. Last I checked the Great Depression running concurrent to the dust bowl didn't turn us into Nazi Germany, and despite all the blustering by one side there are mechanisms in our government that simply won't allow that to happen. Not, that I fully trust our government.

On the one hand I say all that (I told you I as going to ramble), but here's an interesting idea. Let's say, you were a conspiracy theorist, which I've already alleged that I'm not, but hypothetically you were. And you viewed government as some of the authors who wrote the dangerous books did, as being a tool to maintain stability keeping the rich rich and maintaining status quo what would be the best system to instill this?

Quite frankly, you'd want the masses to think they have a hand in change, they can till the soil and actively bloodlessly revolt any time governance fails them. Saves you the ruling party from getting killed in a bloody revolt. Which is handy. You stay rich and powerful and alive. Still, you'd have to give up power. Or would you? The easiest way to maintain power would be to give the masses two candidates, say, every four years. Each candidate spitting bloody murder at the other, each creates a massive division between the followers of either choice, meanwhile the truth of the matter the candidates are separated only by shades of gray. Either side is a victory for you.

It's like with small children. Don't ask them open ended questions. Give them two options either one you are happy for them to choose. Either choice you win. To (needlessly) tie this into poker, situations arrive when bet-sizing is critical. You can, with the correct bet, steer your opponent to make bad decisions. In some instances, you can force a beaten hand to shove or call by the size of your bet, making those outcomes appear to be better choices than folding but each is a decision you win from. I'm not saying this is the state of American politics or there is somebody pulling puppet strings, but I am saying that things aren't too far removed from this. As with bet-sizing, sometimes the choices you are given don't actually benefit you and represent a manipulaiton and prodding toward two bad results.

As I said, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, so I doubt this is calculated by some sort of secret cabal but rather the evolution of politics, special interest groups, and the uber-wealthy getting entrenched into our country has created this byproduct of sorts. Still, you ever question why donors contribute to both parties? No? You should.

The by-product of the powerful wanting to maintain their position is our two party system which for all the partisan bluster rarely differs in actual policy that makes a real difference to any of us. You ever notice that in any presidential race the dividing issues are of the hypothetical. Be warned voters, if elected the republicans will do this, the democrats will do that, yet when push comes to shove none of the terrible destinations ever arrives. It's all a question of degrees, some changes occur, sure, but most don't, and it's never as apocalyptic as advertised.

If this is the state of things how does that harm us? That's the thing. I'm not sure it does all that much. "We The People" still under the illusion of having power actually garner some benefits, for one, we have these illusory bloodless coups. Less of us die trying to install a new boss who turns out to be the old boss--which is often the end results of countries that have bloody coups. Or worse, the new boss is worse than the old boss. We don't have Hitlers or Lenins rise to power. No one person or one party every forgets the plot and tries to seize too much control as the system simply doesn't allow it.

So, we have domestic security and we don't have to worry about own government being too heavy handed with us. Why? Our illusion of power (as We the People) is less an illusion, but more an implied unused one, that could be used if anybody ever got out of line, but is never used because the system prevents this. So it's illusory, but if push came to shove it's not, but push will never come to shove so it's illusory. That's complicated huh?

What are the harms? Our best interests as a people are never at the forefront of our leaders minds. Even a guy who based his campaign on Hope and Change, has done little changing and mostly is still serving a plate of hope and little else (like all past presidents). Healthcare has old people foaming at the mouth worried they are going to be euthanized, when in reality there will be little difference for them as individuals. I haven't decided how I feel about Healthcare change, but I know the real issues aren't the talking points either side exaggerates (the bottoms of slippery slopes we aren't going to get to) but more subtle and actually at times more troublesome. Also, I can help but think we are rabidly debating what will likely be a couple of choices very similar to one another and not focusing on creating third, fourth or fifth options that might be better for everybody--except for the few in power. An example of bet-sizing or steering, by groups that donate generously to both sides.

Course, we the masses being stupid, can't get organized to fight over the subtleties of such a bill, so we get force fed a diet of embellishments and issues to rally behind that we can understand: like Death Panels or the vague nefarious implications of government having all of our medical record. What we miss is the rest of the stuff in those bills neither side is talking about.

Wow, this is so circuitous, let's get back to the book despite promoting it's own agenda by employing some of the tactics it attacks other authors for doing, it has opened my eyes a little bit. Well meaning intelligent people can often times be presented ideas that through catchphrases, soundbites, and superficial understanding, take a group, nation, or people on a path with a destination they'd never dream they'd get to, but it was there all along. In effect, slippery slopes can be realized. Darwin leads to eugenics. Atheist based Utilitarianism, Marxism and Communism leads to Lenin and Stalin and the butchering of millions for alleged the benefit of those same millions. I appear to be contradicting myself, well I am a little bit.

What I'm say history is repeated with slippery slopes, that folks like me say are unrealistic destinations (like death panels and euthanizing, eugenics), but sometimes they do come. Often times, they come under the guise of being beneficial but are not in application. Powerful ideas can be subterfuges even to the people that concoct them.

Wiker comes at these books many of us have studied as undergrads from a perspective completely different than the texts were taught to us. Atheism is attacked and identified as the principal evil underlying these books that wrecked havoc on the world and are responsible for 100s of millions of people dying. He doesn't ask you to be religious (outwardly but that is an underlying theme he's pushing) but he does show you life for all when religion acts as a check and balance to meglomaniacs. Even more so, liberalism unchecked is identified as ideas that promise hope for the lower and underclass, yet when left to run rampant only harm the people it suggests it will help.

I certainly came away from reading it with altered outlook on platforms of progress, the dangerous power of rationality amok, and the ills of unfettered, unchecked movements.

Conclusion is multi-faceted: yes, I'm apolitical, feel safe and secure as an American and a world citizen, but it would be a dangerous, dangerous thing if every one were like me. And just as dangerous if either side of our two party system got too powerful. As much as I minimize the shades of gray, there is a lot that can be done by a President and the danger of an idea.

So old people foment at the mouth all you want about getting euthanized. Activists despise the other party as much as you do. Ignore the shades of gray and see black and white. That stewardship of the democratic process even in the face of an illusory Republic, gives the implied threat of the power of the people and prevents us from becoming post Bolshevik Russia or Nazi Germany. Just don't ever think you are ever going to get real, positive change from either party.

We'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming later today.

*Excuse me, I am naive enough to think that, and apologize for the pretentiousness of suggesting otherwise. I've bought into that in the past and a little bit this last go round, but again, I never see the application rival the hype, and hope to no longer buy that thought.



Reid said…
Great column, Bill. But you could've left out the brutal poker analogy. Come on, now.

As for the books that screwed up the world, are the Bible and the Koran listed? If they're not, then the author has little credibility. I don't give a shit how many highfalutin degrees he's garnered. More nefarious shit has been perpetrated on humanity in the name of religion than anything else that immediately comes to mind.

I agree with a lot of your points but there's not nearly enough space to cover them. But, one point I wanted to emphasize was related to your premise on the potential for a new American Civil War.

While Civil War in America seems like a remote, distant possibility, there are organized forces readily available to battle for power. Are you forgetting about Blackwater? I won't belabor point, but you can tie the logical conclusions to how Blackwater and its adherents (many of whom are former gov't, military and CIA officials) might one day react to a government they deemed unworthy of representing the American people. Groups of people who are ideologically-rigid, xenophobic, and fearful should never be underestimated.
C.S. said…
Thanks Reid. I almost pulled it right after I wrote it. I still probably should. The tenor really isn't what GCP is about but it's been on my mind so I'll leave it up for now. I've got so little poker to discuss.

He did mention the Bible and Koran, though it was more to defend them from the premise religion tomes causes death and destruction. He doesn't deny they do that but he suggests that in light of sheer mass murdering ie Pol Pot, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and the countless other rigid 20th century dictatorship whose ideaologies are loosely based on the texts he listed (he numbered 100s of million deaths) trump the deaths religious books have caused.

That's recent history though. I'm with you, you have to believe religion for the last few thousands of years is responsible for more deaths than the mass murderers the last couple of centuries.

As for the poker analogy, it was a late add in edit. Felt like I had to have some thread to the poker blog. My bad.
Reid said…
I wasn't trying to insult you about the poker analogy! I just felt it was akin to putting ketchup on a fine cut of filet mignon.
Poker Monkey said…
Wow boys...just when I was feeling a lot smarter than most of these bozos I interact with everytime I'm forced to leave my house, I sit back and read this blog entry by the Overly Educated Bill Phillips. Reid, I agree, the inter-twined poker reference was unnecessary and otherwise confusing! The entry itself was incredibly insightful. Bill, what the fuck? Where did you go to school, bro? You major in Political Science? That just happened, by the way to be the only class I got an A+ in while in college. Blackwater? Yeah. Pretty crazy, I spent about three hours reading about them the other night, then get into a fucking chat bar debate with some bitch on pokerstars about the exact thing. Ironic? Your points are dead on man. Very impressive. Oh...and uh...amazing, 4:06 eh? $15 bones? Sweet!

Good stuff Bill....good stuff. And yes Reid, your pretty clever too sir.


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