photo: going to seed, shopclass and dependence, bush rejected real intelligence about iraq

going to seed photo 

Nice detail and texture. I like the way this photo rejects the usual concept of perfection.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our mode of inhabiting the world: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves installing a pre-made replacement part.

So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence, and the stance it entails toward the built, material world. Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence, most of us anyway, and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed: the hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past..

Anyone who has taken an intro to western civilization class has at least touched on the Industrial Age and with it the beginning of specialization. Crusades against the acceleration of specialization would probably be a waste of time. I fix a a simple carburetor on a 66 Mustang, but I couldn’t begin to repair some fuel injectors and I just don’t have the time to learn. On the other end of that spectrum the fuel injector expert probably has little interest in learning about maintaining ocean fisheries. Specialization frees us to do other things. Yet there is much to be said for creating something with your own hands, the article’s author on a table he made,

 I imagined the table fading into the background of a future life, the defects in its execution as well as inevitable stains and scars becoming a surface textured enough that memory and sentiment might cling to it, in unnoticed accretions. More fundamentally, the durable objects of use produced by men “give rise to the familiarity of the world, its customs and habits of intercourse between men and things as well as between men and men,” as Hannah Arendt says. “The reality and reliability of the human world rest primarily on the fact that we are surrounded by things more permanent than the activity by which they were produced, and potentially even more permanent than the lives of their authors.”

Some of us it is hoped will make some intangible contributions to the world, but ultimately as others have observed we are all very temporary. Maybe it is just ego, but I find the idea of leaving something tangible, of real value behind fulfilling. The author is disappointed that schools place so much emphasis on college prep and mind work, but real craftsmanship in the modern world costs a fortune and casual trade work is being outsourced or the parts imported at record levels. Which means that if you make your career in trades you’ll be very dependent on a future privileged class and a job market with constant pressure for the new, whatever the new might be. There might be a small glimmer of hope in modding or hacking devices where people personalize electronics, but no that really is more consumer customization then craftsmanship.

On the Brink with Tyler Drumheller 

There have been many books written on the topic of the war in Iraq but Tyler Drumeller’s On the Brink: An Insider’s Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence is definitely worth picking up. Drumheller, who recently retired from the CIA after twenty-five years with the agency, offers one of the clearest accounts available on how the Bush Administration manipulated intelligence in order to pave the way for the invasion of Iraq.

One chapter (selectively censored by the CIA) describes how, during the fall of 2002, an allied European intelligence agency offered the agency access to a senior official from Saddam Hussein’s government. The official—who is not named in the book but who has elsewhere been identified as Naji Sabr, the then Iraqi foreign minister—had told the Europeans, through an intermediary, that “Saddam’s nuclear program was going nowhere, that his biological weapons were comparable to a kid’s science set, and that his chemical stockpiles, having been scattered around the country, represented little more than a nuisance to a sophisticated invading force. In sum . . . it was a ridiculous exaggeration to suggest the Iraqi leader was preparing a mushroom cloud for the American people.”

Weekly if not daily the lies of this administration and those, like Fox News that act as an echo chamber are exposed, yet millions of American still support them. It reminds me of the starving peasants of the Middle Ages that would continue to support their kings no matter how much their kings abused them.