Quote of the Day: Education and Mystics

 

His education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than things he saw. Statistics about agricultural labourers were the substance; any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer’s boy, was the shadow. Though he had never noticed it himself, he had a great reluctance, in his work, ever to use such words as “man” or “woman,” He preferred to write about “vocational groups,” “elements,” “classes” and “populations”: for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.

This is from the Novel That Hideous Strength which I am inching my way through. A longer quotation talks about one of C.S. Lewis’s favorite themes of people pretending to hate what they actually like.

They walked about that village for two hours and saw with their own eyes all the abuses and anachronisms they came to destroy. They saw the recalcitrant and backward labourer and heard his views on the weather. They met the wastefully supported pauper in the person of an old man shuffling across the courtyard of the almshouses to fill a kettle, and the elderly rentier (to make matters worse, she had a fat old dog with her) in earnest conversation with the postman. It made Mark feel as he were on a holiday, for it was only on holidays that he had ever wandered about an English village. For that reason he felt pleasure in it. It did not quite escape him that the face of the backward labourer was rather more interesting than Cosser’s and his voice a great deal more pleasing to the ear. …  All this did not in the least influence his sociological convictions. Even if he had been free from Belbury and wholly unambitious, it could not have done so, for his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than things he saw. Statistics about agricultural labourers were the substance; any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer’s boy, was the shadow. Though he had never noticed it himself, he had a great reluctance, in his work, ever to use such words as “man” or “woman,” He preferred to write about “vocational groups,” “elements,” “classes” and “populations”: for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.

I can’t say that the dry dialogue of the book appeals to me. The character seem mostly rather wooden but some of the descriptions are great.

I’ll let the commentators add any example they want  of statistics or education overwhelming the plain experience of reality. We aren’t wanting for choice.

I suppose my choice would be the libertarian/globalist idea of humans as being interchangeable widgets. The idea that Taiwanese Chinese are the same as Somalis who are the same as Italian immigrants is laughable on it’s face but the idea is overwhelming. But to the Bryan Caplan types it’s all a problem of labor and nothing more.

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There are 8 comments.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    I highly recommend Richard Mitchell’s Less Than Words Can Say.

     

    “In Less Than Words Can Say, Mitchell wakes everybody up with the most devastating exposé to date of our rampant misuse of English. A Don Quixote–Savonarola might be more apt–of language, he wages war on its perverters, from teachers and deans to politicians and bureaucrats, whose consistently overblown prose offers us inanity in the guise of wisdom.”

    Excellent read.

     

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  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Henry Castaigne: Even if he had been free from Belbury and wholly unambitious, it could not have done so, for his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than things he saw.

    Great quotes.  Thomas Sowell also talked about the left cares only about “theoretical people” that fit their world view, and not actual people. 

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  3. Lunchbox Gerald Coolidge
    Lunchbox Gerald
    @Jose

    Real people are messy.  And often they don’t agree with you no matter how smart you are.

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  4. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    That passage is very good.  I quoted it at Chicago Boyz last year, where it inspired some discussion.

    Also, I reviewed That Hideous Strength at some length.

     

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  5. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Henry Castaigne: I suppose my choice would be the libertarian/globalist idea of humans as being interchangeable widgets.

    Hmm, that’s a different thought.  I think most criticisms of libertarians is that they are too individualistic.

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  6. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne: I suppose my choice would be the libertarian/globalist idea of humans as being interchangeable widgets.

    Hmm, that’s a different thought. I think most criticisms of libertarians is that they are too individualistic.

    They are so individualistic they don’t see that there is a thing as an American or a Canadian, or a Protestant or a Catholic or an Englishman or an Irishman. So when you don’t see those important differences everyone becomes measured as a widget in an economic machine. We are widgets in an economic machine of course but we are all alot more than that. 

    Personally, I am a fan of Dennis Pragers’s take on what we want of immigrants. I paraphrase,

    “Americans aren’t xenophobic, we are values-phobic. We are nervous that immigrants won’t share our values. As long as they share our values than they fit in and it all works bur if they don’t share our values than they undermine America’s awesome ideology. The whole race thing isn’t that important.”

    Libertarians who love open borders don’t see that. They just see that Mexicans who move to America produce more GDP than Mexicans in Mexico so the more Mexicans move to America the more GDP line goes up. 

    My concern is that illegal Mexican and mainland Chinese immigrants will undermine the values of America. Taiwanese Chinese who hate Communism and legal Mexican immigrants who hate government corruption don’t concern me a whit. 

    I’m with Prager, it is all about values.

     

     

     

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  7. Lilly B Coolidge
    Lilly B
    @LillyB

    That Hideous Strength is on my “to-read” list, and now I will check out the recommended discussion by @DavidFoster. Individual people are so much more interesting (and yes, messier) than broad categories that attempt to describe kinds of people. I have noticed recently that it has become popular to use individual people as labels for a broader category, as in “the David Frenches of the world.” I find this to be very strange, since it should be that no individual person can be truly representative of a category or type.

    *****

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  8. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    “pretending to hate what they actually like” or, by extension, “pretending to like what they actually hate.”

    That’s the liberal elite who “hate”discrimination but really despise minorities, covering up loathing with pretended concern.

    That’s why  elites pile on when it comes to Israel. They have a reservoir of pent-up hate that they can get out of their system by dumping on Israel and Jews.

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