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Why We Should Think for Ourselves

Why We Should Think for Ourselves.

Since the inception of this blog, I have asserted that independent thinking and action is one of the most important facets of our humanity, and one of the defining functions of personality. This is because I understand a very old (and yet very true) adage that states that “….the best ideas are common property.” Stated another way, the best principles/maxims/rules of living are understood by a great number of people, and not by a select few (those in today’s society who consider themselves the “elite,” or the so-called “intelligentsia”). Of course, in today’s America, the exact opposite is the prevailing vision, and teaching in modern schools and universities reflects this to a great extent.

It is thus refreshing to see a real-life experience–a direct antithesis to the prevailing vision–documented that proves (yet again) the truth of this ancient maxim.

The best ideas truly are common property–common property of strong-minded individuals who understand the power of independent thinking and action.

Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee: Which Are You?

This interesting anecdote should make you stop and think before you proclaim that you are a victim of your circumstances. Circumstances are things that are beyond our control, there is no doubt….but our reaction to them is firmly planted in the realm of things we can contain and control.

(NOTE: Not an original article. Copied from Huntington, Long Island, NY. Minimally edited for clarity and grammar. Enjoy!)

Words of Wisdom from Grandma
Words of Wisdom from Grandma

Grandmother: “Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee — Which Are You?”

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the third she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the girl replied.

Grandma brought the young lady closer and asked her to feel the carrots. The girl did and noted that they had become soft. Grandma then asked her granddaughter to take an egg and break it.After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, Grandma asked the girl to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor, then asked, “What’s the point,grandmother?”

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?

—AUTHOR UNKNOWN

(NOTE: This article shows how an ordinary person can use ordinary objects to impart extraordinary wisdom and common sense that will serve us well in life.

While I don’t agree with every iota of philosophy expressed in this story [think, last two paragraphs], I really like the principle the three objects’ transformations illustrate. More on my interpretation in a future post.)

Obama to the People: Get Humble…NOW!

At the National Prayer Breakfast this year, Obama called for more humility in our great democracy, stating that this is what we need to accomplish many of our goals.

“In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours,” he opined, “we will encounter every opinion. And our task as citizens—whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word—is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action.”

(Collin Garbarino posted an interesting article on this subject over at Reflection and Choice. Read the full text here.)

Really? The President insulates himself from the real world, refuses to play ball on spending cut deals with Congress, sends his children to one of the most exclusive schools in the country (one with its own security staff of 11 armed guards, no less), and then preaches to the populace that they should be more “humble” in order to further the end of democracy in America.

Really?

This is completely ridiculous, much like a parent instructing his child to “do as I say, and not as I do,” and then punishing the child for committing an indiscretion  of which the parent is also guilty. It’s akin to a father having an acces de colere because his son uses 45% of the trust fund to make a down-payment on a Ferrari, when the father is concurrently spending 90% of his income on cruises on a casino ship. It’s like a father chastising his son for being an arrogant pain in the rear, when he holds his nose so high that he needs umbrellas for his nostrils so he doesn’t drown in a rainstorm.

Honestly, it also seems rather foolish for the President to so urge the nation to be more “humble.” What is that supposed to mean? Are we supposed to cave in to your every demand, Mr. President? He sneers at us from the bully pulpit of the White House, and though his words are always couched in the language of deference to democracy, behind them is the arrogance of the elitist, the pompousness of the monarch, and the inflexible will of the despot.

"Listen here, America, ya better get humble....NOW!"
“Listen here, America, ya better get humble….NOW!”

His message is clear, “Get humble, America, and bow to my will….or I’ll make you do it.”

Well, Mr. President, I humbly suggest that you begin to lead by example. All you have to do is look at the past history of this nation to see that its greatest leaders were those who lived out their ideals for all to see. I would agree that you have done so as well, but your rhetoric is far afield of the ruts in which you’re driving. If you want people to be more “humble,” how about showing us what that means? No more hiding behind buzz words, bully pulpits, and massive bills written behind closed doors, rushed through Congress, and rammed down the nation’s throat before they’ve had a chance to read it. No more executive orders to help you perpetrate end-runs around the Constitution and the Congress, two of the most important institutions in our governmental system. No more petulant refusal (reminiscent of a two-year-old who can’t get his way) to broker deals with Congress because they won’t give you what you want.

Mr. President, perhaps you should get humble…now!

What do you think is the significance of President Obama’s declaration? Why would he say we need to have more humility? Do you think he really is interested in promoting greater cooperation, humility and dialogue?

Something to think about…and discuss!

–David

The Southern Voice Writer

Friedman: Greed, the Free Market, and the Constitution

Having recently finished the excellent book, Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman (and at the further urging of a good friend), I was spurred by my insatiable curiosity to hunt up more of what Friedman had to say. In the course of obeying this impulsion, I found this video on YouTube of the late Dr. Milton Friedman answering the three-part question of an espousee of the progressive mindset. Very informative, and I thoroughly agree with the title: Friedman does indeed crush this man’s doubtful disputation with the facts.

Incidentally, near the end–where he speaks about using the Constitution to control the government–is particularly telling.

And this video, though brief, demonstrates Friedman’s ability to totally disarm an opponent’s entire method of attack by addressing, in a series of questions, the inconsistencies in the underlying ideology. Also notice how he turns the very same questions the host asked around and requires him to answer them (or try to do so). This is from an interview on Phil Donahue’s show, from 1979. Fascinating!

“Nothing New Under the Sun”

Many people who reference the title statement of this post may not realize that it is actually an almost-perfect quote from the Scriptures. Nearly 3,000 years old, this statement appears in the book of Ecclesiastes, and was written by King Solomon of Israel, around 977 B.C. It is taken from Ecclesiastes 1:9. The context surrounding this verse runs as follows:

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after [emphasis mine].” — Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

In our modern day, technology and a decaying education system have meshed to create a generation with no attention span, and increasingly, no memory. Even in this author’s lifetime, the attitude toward feats of memory–and what defines such feats–has changed radically. People quoting extensive passages of Shakespeare or other writers to illustrate a point was once commonplace; today, people regard someone possessed of such knowledge with something bordering on awestruck disbelief. Increasingly, too, people scoff at the idea that someone who wrote hundreds of years ago could have anything to say that is “relevant” to the world today, and the situations in which we now find ourselves.

However, this Scripture passage flies in the face of the belief that all truth is relative, and that there are no overarching–universal–truths and principles that apply to every man in every age.

Today, as I was browsing some articles relating to current events in America, I chanced upon an author’s personal website, which had a “quote for the day” displayed in a side-bar much like the one that appears to the right of this post. The quote ran as follows:

The oligarch and the tyrant both distrust the people, and thus deprive them of their arms.

–Aristotle

(Interested in seeing this page for yourself? Go here to see the quote, and let me recommend reading the articles Paul Jacob has written on this subject–after you finish reading my article.) 😉

Since I’ve now ignited your curiosity to go and see what Paul Jacob is writing about, I’ll carry on for another forty-two paragraphs.

Just kidding! I’m nearly finished.

I’ve written for weeks now about the importance of pausing to think about things we see, hear and read; now, I’d like to ask you to begin to apply those principles to the information above, as well as to the conclusions Mr. Jacob reaches in his columns listed on his website. What are some of the thoughts these things prompt in your mind? Is there any correlation between the principle in Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 and the quote from Aristotle? If so, what application might these quotes have to current events?

Here’s your chance to contribute to this blog!

An Invitation: Get the Facts, Join the Debate

Have you ever visited Townhall.com? This liberty-minded website carries articles by many well-educated and articulate authors whose views are the exact opposite of many in the mainstream media. And yes, for you conservatives who are convinced that such a person cannot exist, they do, and their numbers are surprisingly high.

If your primary source of news is the television, reading the articles on this site may be quite a shock to your system that’s been acclimatized to the bias and spin the major networks put on their stories; therefore, I recommend that you consider easing into this new routine. Read an article or two a day as a beginning. After a week or two, increase your intake to four or five. After a month, go to ten if you have time. After a couple months, consider signing up for the Townhall Daily email, which will deliver ten to fifteen columns on subjects you specify.

You may have to step out of your comfort zone to begin this process of considering alternative views. Will it be easy? No, probably not. Listening to those who disagree with us on points of opinion is always hard. I’ve addressed people with whom I come in contact on this issue for nearly two years now, and I still struggle to allow someone who disagrees with me have their say in a debate. Reason tells me, however, that doing this is the only way to engage someone in a rational debate and have a chance of changing their mind.

The truth is, while some seem to think that everyone is as set in their ways and opinions as they are, many people haven’t given some of these topics a whole lot of thought. To be successful in engaging and winning over the culture, we must go out and kindly encourage people to consider both sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion.

I’d like to recommend one article as a jumping-off point. Larry Elder has written “‘Gun Culture’ — What About the ‘Fatherless Culture?’” This extremely insightful article that delves past the surface and addresses one of the major issues of American society, and is an example par excellence of the rational and thoughtful analysis behind the columns on this site.

So, my fellow Americans (undecideds, moderates, and liberals alike), let me invite you to consider another point of view: the logical view. Visit Townhall.com today, and let’s begin a journey toward rational, reasoned, logical thought and debate.

I’ve already stepped out on this path…will you join me?

Kintergarden Revisited: The ABC’s of My Political Education

Recently, Jeff Rutherford–a follower of my blog and manager of Necessary and Proper Government–asked me from whence I’d gained my political and economic knowledge. After a moment’s thought, I realized it was a question I’ve never answered. So, how did I come to the place where I am now, politically and economically?

I could say “On my own,” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate.

I was born into a conservative home; furthermore, both my parents were devout  Christians. From my earliest recollection and before, I was in church each time the doors were open. Even though TV had been around for decades by the time the early ’90s rolled around, I spent the first ten years of my life with almost no time in front of a television screen. There wasn’t one in the house, so what little exposure I had was at friends’ houses, and then it was usually a movie that my friend’s mother had cleared with my mother.

I mentioned in my post, Cliffs, Fences, and Ambulances that the poem was a great jumping-off point for this explanatory post of where I am today. If you haven’t yet, I urge you to use the above link and read the poem in its entirety. It probably won’t take you more than five minutes.

Are you back? Great! Let’s continue.

The crux of the matter in the above-referenced poem is the question of whether we should build a fence round the top of the cliff (pre-crisis intervention), or place an ambulance down below to clean up the mess (post-crisis intervention). From the moment I was born, my parents agreed to set up certain boundaries in my life that would prevent me from going in a direction that would inhibit their desire to see me grow in the knowledge of the truth. They did their best to protect me from the “one-off” mistakes; you know, the ones where you make a mistake once, and they kill you. In other areas, they allowed me to make mistakes, waited for me to pick myself up and dust myself off, and then used that real-life experience to illustrate a principle that carried over into countless other areas of life. By allowing me to suffer the consequences of small mistakes in a controlled environment, they were educating me on the principles of reaping what you sow, without allowing me to invest so much that I’d destroy myself in the downfall.

Contrary to popular philosophical and psychological counsel, my parents understood that leaving someone free to choose does not mean allowing them to have their own way from birth.

At the young age of four, in the church I had attended since birth, God used a very special Book to change my life. On a Sunday evening in October of 1993, I realized that being in church with my Christian parents wasn’t enough. I needed a personal relationship with Christ. I met Him that night, and I’ve never been the same since.

As I continued to grow and mature, my parents used their influence to guide me into the way of analyzing every philosophy against the framework of real life. Contrary to the common method of “If it sounds good, it is good,” my parents invited me to critically examine and weigh the evidence from both sides of the issue.

When I was about sixteen years old, my dad brought home another book that changed my life. Somehow, somewhere, he’d heard of the writings of one Thomas Sowell, a prominent conservative black economist. After reading a few of his columns online, my dad had purchased his book White Liberals and Black Rednecks.

As I read the book, it struck me how much Dr. Sowell’s message backed up what my dad had told me for years. Although my understanding was imperfect at the time, and I was mainly rejoicing in the fact that someone was willing to attack the liberals so forcefully in print, I was also absorbing and storing information and principles that would stick with me for years to come.

As I grew still older and entered the workplace, I began to see the message behind the message in Dr. Sowell’s books. By this time, my dad owned three or four, and I’d purchased four or five with some of the money I was earning from my first real job. I’d also bought several books by Dr. Sowell’s contemporary, Dr. Walter Williams.

By the time I was twenty years of age, I’d spent three years in the workforce, and nearly as long digesting the books by these two preeminent economists. Though I never would have been able to phrase it so at the time, I was amazed at the difference between their words and the words of my fellow workers of African-American heritage. In the back of my mind, tension was growing. Who was right? The fellows I worked with spouted words that sounded so good…they made people feel good about themselves, they removed a lot of the responsibility for bad choices from the individual and placed it on the collective shoulders of society, etc., etc. Where had I heard this before?

The answer came to me, not in a single, blinding epiphany, but over the course of years of reading news articles and editorials, observing current events, spending hours contemplating the inconsistencies between people’s words and reality, and prayerfully searching the Scriptures.

Gradually, it began to dawn on me that the philosophy espoused by my coworkers–appeal to the emotions notwithstanding–was the faulty one that left countless nuances of reality unexplained. It’s difficult to put into words the hundreds of events and factors that came into play as I wrestled with this complicated issue.

Although I was now at the point where my parents had set me free to draw my own conclusions, I had by no means completely discounted their opinions. Other adults at church who shared my father’s views on many issues solidified the growing regard in which I held those same views. And for nearly a year, my father printed off hundreds of articles by conservatives from across the nation, brought them home, and just left them lying where I’d be sure to see them.

I mentioned earlier the fact that for ten years of my life, we had no television in the house. Thus, I was from an early age completely engaged with books. I learned to read at the age of five, and developed early a love for reading that has never departed. Nearly twenty years later, I’d still rather read a book than watch a film, and even radio is preferable to television in my eyes. Because of this love for reading, I devoured every printout my dad brought home, and the constant exposure to factual, logical analysis of the current events and policies in Washington took root in my mind.

All of these things have contributed to my current position. I stand behind statements I’ve previously made: reading is the single most important element in teaching a child to think critically, logically, and linearly. A good reader is a good thinker. Reading properly promotes memory, because it forces the reader to remember and track arguments and trains of thought across pages of printed matter, and to gather up the loose ends and tie them all together at the close. True, a well-written book or article will aid the reader in this process; but, without memory, reading is a pointless and frustrating endeavor.

So, the answer is that my knowledge of politics and economics is largely from self-education. I know more about politics now than I did three years ago, and it is my desire to continue to learn more about politics and economics for the rest of my life. Although I don’t feel led to pursue a career in either field presently, I know that everything I learn will have value in enabling me to make sense of the world at large. It will also make me a better-informed and more productive participant in the political process, which I firmly believe was what our Founding Fathers had in mind.

I realize this explanation isn’t complete, but it’s a start. As you’ve read it, I hope some of your questions have been answered. Perhaps some have not. Perhaps other inquiries have come to mind. If so, please share them with me. What else would you like to know about the way my education shaped my thinking?

Son of Hamas: A Son of Terror Renounces His Destiny

International espionage. Unspeakable treachery. Unbelievable torture. Mosab has survived them all. Aided by Ron Brackin, he is now telling the story of his years inside the leadership of the international terrorist organization known as Hamas.

Beginning in the 1950’s, Mosab recounts family history that deeply affected the direction of his father’s life, and ultimately his own. Sheikh Yousef Dawood, Mosab’s grandfather, was the imam for the village of Al-Janiya, a small, sleepy town in Samaria. A passionate man, Sheikh Dawood was very pleased when his favorite son, Hassan, began to show signs of the same passionate interest in religion at a very early age. When Hassan was twelve years old, his father sent him to Jerusalem to learn sharia (Islamic religious law).

Hassan was eager to learn more about the Qu’ran so he could be like his father. He thought that his father was simply a trusted spiritual leader; in reality, as he was about to learn, he was so much more than that. Sheikh Dawood had not sent Hassan to Jerusalem merely to study religion. In much the same way as the British (and to a lesser extent, Americans) seem to judge a man by where he went to school, Hassan’s father knew that Muslims held those men educated by the most prestigious schools in the highest regard, and thus was ensuring that he had received the education befitting a ruler. Coupled with his fervor for Islam, Hassan’s education and fundamentalist pedigree would be two things that would propel him to the very highest circles of one of the largest Muslim organizations in the world.

After completing his studies in the shadow of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Hassan took a post as the imam of the mosque in Old Town, Ramallah. Upon arriving, he found only five older men in attendance, and they admitted that the only reason they came to mosque was because they were going to die soon and wished to attain heaven. Undaunted, Hassan persevered, and in a short time, his little congregation loved him as though he were an angel. Not everyone in Ramallah was so pleased with his work, however. Most of the people in Ramallah were busy satisfying their every fleshly desire. Instead of being present faithfully in mosque, many of Ramallah’s inhabitants were busy in coffeehouses, theaters,  and houses of ill repute, drinking, gambling, and committing other reprehensible acts. Hassan’s fervent approach to his faith, therefore, only further revealed their lack of devotion to the ideals to which they paid lip service. Troubled by the lack of faith in Ramallah, Hassan shared with his father his concerns. Sheikh Dawood, overjoyed to realize that his son had even more potential than he had originally thought, sent Hassan to Jordan for advanced Islamic study. Ultimately, this transfer would influence the entire history of Hassan’s life, and the lives of his children after him. It was here that Hassan would meet the people who would urge him to do more to have an effect on the history of the Middle East. Indeed, the alliances and friendships formed during Hassan’s time in Jordan would have exactly that effect.

In 1978, Mosab Hassan Yousef was born to Sheikh Hassan Yousef  and Sabha  Abu Salem. Although his parents seemed to be moderate Muslims, Mosab would soon discover that his father was a very important man. From an early age he was aware that many people looked up to his father as a spiritual and political leader, and in 1986 it was demonstrated just how much stock people put in his opinions as he became one of the founding members of Hamas. The  international terrorist group, today famous for its ceaseless attacks on Israel, both with rockets and through the news media, was not founded as an engine of destruction, but rather a liberation organization seeking justice for those on the Palestinian side of the border. At least, such was the official story.

Combining Mosab’s insider knowledge of Hamas-related happenings, people, meetings, and plans with Brackin’s considerable writing skill, Son of Hamas reveals the truth behind the  cover stories presented by liberal medias around the world, and gives clear (and chilling) insights into the way the people caught up in this organization think, feel, and act. Mosab does not shy away from showing all the facts, but tells the story as it is, presenting them clearly so that all who read this book will know the truth.

Recounting his personal experiences, from his childhood escapades and brushes with death, to his decision to aid those who his parents had taught him were the sworn enemies of all Muslims, Mosab’s story is one that is gripping, intriguing, and inspiring. His story proves, once again, that no one is ever beyond the love of God. If you have ever wondered what actually goes on inside the PLO, Hamas, and Al-Jazeera, Son of Hamas can answer those questions. If you have ever tried to imagine what sort of pressure the children of a leader in such an organization face, Mosab’s story will reveal that to you. If you have ever doubted the validity of stories about Muslims’ cruelty to other Muslims, Mosab has first-hand experience to establish the validity of those accounts.

Son of Hamas: an engrossing book with a compelling message, and a great addition to the library of anyone seeking to learn more about the worldview and faith of the Islamic peoples. Written from the unique perspective of one raised in a home involved in the highest ranks of one of the world’s largest terrorist organizations, this book will change one’s perspective on the reasons behind the global jihad, the Palestinian refusal to recognize the Israeli state, and the tensions between them.