Penn State and the slow death of American self-reliance

In the wake of the horrific child abuse scandal roiling Penn State, many have been trying to understand how Sandusky’s predatory behavior could have continued unchecked for so long.  The focal point of this “how could this happen” question is the fact that Mike McQueary actually witnessed an assault.  Rather than rearranging Sandusky’s face, McQueary slipped out quietly, called his Daddy, and than made a chain-of-command report.  As far as he was concerned, he’d then done what he needed to do.  Paterno did exactly the same:  chain-of-command report.  And so on, up the ladder, with each person punting the problem higher, and each higher level official diluting the story so that it transformed from child rape into inappropriate behavior — and we all know that inappropriate behavior needs to be dealt with tactfully and in a way that doesn’t embarrass the institution.

So, again, we have to ask why?

Because — and this is not an idle boast — I have some of the smartest readers in the blogosphere, I can take a good stab at an answer.  In an open thread about Penn State, my readers chewed over the fact that in Pennsylvania, the law allows employees who witness a crime to go up the chain of command, whereas in Texas (for example) the law requires that every person has the responsibility to report to the authorities cases of suspected child abuse.  In other word, the culture is different in the two states, with one allowing people to pass the buck, and the other mandating that people take independent action.

There are already demands that Pennsylvania change its laws about reporting child abuse in order to bring them closer in line with the Texas standard.  While that wouldn’t be a bad idea, it would be a small bandage over a gaping wound in the American psyche:  the death of self-reliance.

Agrarian and frontier societies are, of necessity, self-reliant.  (Yes, even Europeans once knew how to make do.)  Right up until the 1960s, what separated America from other nations was that, until very recently in historic terms, it managed to be an amalgam of Western intellectualism and frontier self-reliance.  This meant that, even as increasing population density and industrialization made it unnecessary for an American family to be almost completely self-sustaining, our Judeo-Christian heritage was sophisticated enough that we nevertheless enshrines as a virtue that personal independence.

And, by gosh, if self-reliance is the standard, those pioneers were virtuous.  Here, from one of my favorite books, No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, you can get a good thumb-nail sketch of how a family prepared to leave East Coast civilization to head for the Wild West:

Once a conveyance was determined, the woman cut and sewed the double-cloth wagon tops and sides . . . with muslin on the inside and heavy linen on the outside for extra warmth and protection . . . and attached pockets or “pouches” so that items such as knives, firearms, cooking pots, mother’s sewing and knitting basket and essential toilet articles could be tucked away safely.  [Snip]  Each item — all the food, tools, bedding, clothing, a veritable pharmacopoeia of medicinal roots and herbs, axle grease, spare wagon parts, furniture and so forth — was sharply scrutinized to make certain that it was critical to the survival of the family, the wagon and the animals both on the trail and for the first homestead.  (p. 73.)

After the pioneers finally reached their destination (and truly, only the strong survived the journey), Dad (and sons and neighbors) began the backbreaking work of hunting and farming so as to tease food out of the land, while Mom (and daughters and neighbors) kept the home fires burning.  In No Idle Hands, one can read in their own words how the children of these pioneers remembered their mothers’ accomplishments:

“Mother bore and cared for the babies, saw that the floor was white and clean, that the beds were made and cared for, the garden tended, the turkeys dressed, the deer flesh cured and the fat prepared for candles or culinary use, that the wild fruits were garnered and preserved or dried, that the spinning and knitting was done and the clothing made.  She did her part in all these tasks, made nearly all the clothing and did the thousands things for us a mother only finds to do.”


Another mother, in addition to her regular routine of “water carrying, cooking, churning, sausage making, berry picking, vegetable drying, sugar and soap boiling, hominy hulling, medicine brewing, washing, nursing, weaving, sewing, straw plaiting, wool spinning, quilting, knitting, gardening and various other tasks,” found time to exchange work with other neighbors when they gathered together to spin and knit, skeining yarn for immediate use by simply winding it from hand to elbow and hanging it from her arm while she knit.  (p. 87-88.)

I am not advocating a return to that level of self-reliance.  My family and I would be dead within week if that were the case.  I am pointing out, however, that this was normative for large chunks of America only a century and a half ago, and that, even more importantly, this level of competence became part of America’s self-image.  We were the can-do generation.  While the Roosevelt administration, in the 1930s, jump-started the notion of a comprehensive welfare system, the generation that scrabbled through the Depression and World War II did not succumb to the cultural inertia of the socialist state.

It took the 1960s and beyond to change us into a don’t-do culture.  The “why” of that change would take a whole post (no, make that a whole book), but one can target lots of wealth, lots of youth, and a media and academic establishment that relentlessly propagandized both the virtues of socialism, while simultaneously denigrating traditional American culture and playing up the dangers of America’s home grown self-reliance ethos (“So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”).

Whatever the root causes (I can speak Marxist-speak just fine, myself) the end result is that Americans are slowly put surely slipping into the type of passivity that characterizes people living in an excessively bureaucratized, government-heavy society.   Some like this.  At a recent speech to financially powerful supporters, President Obama warned that, if he’s not re-elected, Americans might have to leave the comforts of government dependence and enter a dangerous era of self-reliance:

At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.

“The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own,’” Obama told a crowd of 200 donors over lunch at the W Hotel.

“If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own. If you don’t like that some corporation is polluting your air or the air that your child breathes, then you’re on your own,” he said. “That’s not the America I believe in. It’s not the America you believe in.”

Nothing could more neatly distill Obama’s hostility to the classic American dream, one that believed it was a virtue for people to make it on their own.  That the reality didn’t always match this cultural image, since many failed to make it at all, while others made it with substantial government help, is irrelevant.  What matters is that, for ordinary people, growing up, working, raising children, personal accomplishment was the cultural paradigm.  By contrast, Obama’s American dream, the one that he desires as the overarching cultural paradigm, is one that sees people utterly dependent on the government.  It’s impressive that Obama so resolutely clings to his dream, even as the Europeans actively prove that, during the waking hours, the dream is a nightmare.

As more and more people, with media and academic help, enthusiastically turn the government into their paterfamilias, and as more and more rules and regulations mandate that people abjure individual action, we get a rash of stories, culled from headlines in both England, where the dependency rot runs deep, and America. Watching people drown is getting to be an ordinary day’s work in dependency cultures. This story comes from the San Francisco Bay Area:

The Oakland Tribune (via Mercury News) reports on a tragic story of a 57-year-old man who drowned in the bay in Alameda on Monday after wading chest-high in the water fully clothed for nearly an hour before rescuers could reach him.

Witnesses told the Tribune that police and fire crews responded quickly to the scene, but because the Alameda Fire Department is not certified in land-based water rescues, they had to wait for the United States Coast Guard to arrive.

The Coast Guard reportedly responded within 20 minutes with a rescue boat, but because the man was in fairly shallow water, they had to wait for a helicopter instead. The helicopter took 65 minutes to arrive because it had been out on another mission and needed to refuel.

In the mean time, a woman in her late 20s who’s trained as a water rescue nurse, was able to pull the man out when he was about 50 yards from shore. Unfortunately, rescuers were unable to revive him, and he was later pronounced dead at Alameda Hospital.

One can argue, as a surprising number did at the time, that the guy in Alameda wanted to commit suicide, thereby justifying the fact that rescue work suddenly became a spectator sport.  That’s not always the case, though.  In a surprisingly similar story from England, the person wasn’t committing suicide, but rescuers again stood by, watching:

More than a dozen emergency workers refused to pull a man from a waist-deep boating lake because of ‘health and safety’ fears.

For half-an-hour charity shop worker Simon Burgess, 41, was left face down in the shallow water as they waited for a specialist rescue crew.

Mr Burgess, who had gone to the lake to feed the swans, was pronounced dead at the scene but friends claim that if rescuers had waded straight into the water he could have been saved.

The crews of two fire engines, two police cars, two ambulances and an air ambulance were told not to enter the lake, which is no more than three feet (one metre) at its deepest point, in case they ‘compromised their safety’.

That’s just two stories, right?  What if I add a third, again from England?

A jobsworth ambulance boss refused to allow his staff to enter six inches of water to treat a man with a broken back – because it breached heath and safety.

Stricken Brian Bendle, 45, suffered the agonising injuries as he stood in shallow water at a leisure lake in Somerset.

He was waiting to take his £10,000 jetski out onto the water when he was hit by another rider travelling at around 50mph.

Shocked onlookers immediately ran into the lake as Mr Bendle, from Bristol, lay face down in the water.

They floated the dad-of-three in the six inch ankle-deep water, where they supported him until an ambulance arrived amid fears moving him would aggravate his back injury.

But they were stunned when a paramedic arrived and refused his pleading staff to enter the water – because they weren’t trained to deal with water rescues.

They had to slide a spinal board under him themselves and carry him to ambulancemen, who were stood on the bank just 6ft away.

At least in the story above, onlookers weren’t so shocked that they became incapable of saving the man themselves.  It’s good to see that some initiative survives.

(I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t note that we here in America have a long and surprisingly honored history of an individual cavalierly walking away from a person trapped in water.)

Passively falling back on regulations when the situation demands immediate individual action isn’t just a water-related activity.  Here’s a recent story about someone who watched an atrocious act, did nothing at first, and then acted in the most passive way possible.  No doubt his superiors approved, as they engaged in behavior that was either just as passive or, worse, actively complicit:

[Mike] McQueary, according to his testimony in the grand jury report, witnessed Sandusky subjecting what McQueary estimated to be a 10-year-old boy to anal intercourse in the showers of a football building on campus in 2002. According to his grand jury testimony, McQueary, upset, went to his office and phoned his father, who advised him to go home, according to testimony. The next day, McQueary reported what he had seen to Paterno, according to the grand jury report. Paterno passed information that an incident of “a sexual nature” had occurred to athletic director Tim Curley and vice president of finance Gary Schultz. Curley and Schultz were charged with counts of perjury and failure to report.

I’d like to think that, had I been there, Sandusky would have received some immediate, albeit crude, facial reconstruction.  I’m small, but I’m game — and a child was involved.

Looking at these few examples, I can’t help but think of another culture that allowed itself to lapse into such a bureaucratic mindset that citizens either passively watched or actively engaged in the most heinous acts.  I’m thinking, of course, of the Nazis.  If one subordinates people completely to the state, can one be surprised if they lose both will power and moral strength?

As many of you know, I’m an enthusiastic amateur martial artist.  (If only my skills were equal to my enthusiasm….)  I do martial arts because I really like it — but I also do it so that I can act.  After a long hiatus to have children, and then to moan about how having children prevented me from exercising, I read a story in the papers that send me off like a rocket to the nearest dojo.  Back in 2008, a man stomped his child to death in front of myriad witnesses, none of whom intervened.  All of them fell prey to analysis paralysis, shock, denial (“this can’t be happening!”), etc.  I’m willing to bet, though, that a fair number of them were waiting for someone else to take care of the situation.  I go to martial arts so that I can be that someone else.

Fortunately, despite socialist government’s best efforts to mandate inaction (or, at least, to give people an excuse for failing to get involved), all is not lost.  There will always be decent people who do get involved.  As I pointed out above, in the case of the man hit by the jet ski, even though the bureaucratized aid workers refused to do anything, bystanders willingly rescued the injured man.

I doubt, too, that many of us have forgotten the story of the bridge crew that acted with incredible speed and ingenuity to rescue a drowning woman:

“They just harnessed me up and dipped me down in the water and I grabbed her and the crane drug her to the boat and that’s it,” Oglesbee said. “What are you going to do if she’s like that? It’s no big deal. The whole crew did it.”

So spoke Jason Oglesbee after being the last man in the chain that daringly rescued a woman who got swept into a dam. The story says so much about the ingenuity and courage that we like to see in the average American.

Recently, a motorcyclist trapped under a car was lucky enough to find himself in the presence of proactive people, unconstrained by analysis paralysis, government regulations, or career worries.  At great risk to themselves, these people acted:

Penn State is a tocsin, warning us what happens when our cultural paradigm encourages us to pass the buck.  The nation, as a whole, hasn’t yet reached the moral abyss that is the Penn State athletic department, but Barack Obama has stated clearly that his goal is to create precisely the bureaucratic, dependency culture that makes Penn State’s (and Nazi Germany) possible.  This is not to say that Barack Obama and his team have as their goal mass child rape, genocide, crime waves, etc.  It is to say, though, that once one creates a government system that turns people into mindless, amoral automatons, the possibilities are endless for mass evil, unconstrained by individual morals.

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  1. SADIE says

    “So, again, we have to ask why?”

    And the Clueless-in-Chief responds  …

    “We’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken it for granted — ‘Well, people would want to come here’ — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.”

  2. Caped Crusader says

    Contrast the response of the people to Hurricane Katrina versus the great flood that hit middle Tennessee, Nashville, and large parts of west Tennessee, just two or three years ago, with entire homes floating down expressways and people stranded everywhere. People got their motorboats and other rescue equipment and rescued their own neighbors, and complete strangers, without regard to their own safety, or the “proper rules and regulations”. They were not paralyzed into inaction, but acted as the folks in the “Volunteer State” have always done in times of peril. It hardly made the news over a day or two. Even though currently urbanites, even the most erudite of us is only one or two generations out of bib overalls, and for the most part are proud of our self reliant heritage. My Dad, were he living, would be 111 and was the last generation that had to live the hard scrabble life that required growing your own food, raising and slaughtering your own livestock, and hunting to survive if there was to be food on the table. Hunting and fishing are still a treasured part of our culture, and we do cling to our guns and religion more than any others in this country. We may at times be the objects of derision by today’s “sophisticated” culture, but if the worst happens, we still know how to survive. Very few in today’s more and more dependent society have retained this skill or force of will.

  3. says

     It is to say, though, that once one creates a government system that turns people into mindless, amoral automatons, the possibilities are endless for mass evil, unconstrained by individual morals.
    Think about this more for a second. Since evil knows that this is so, why isn’t evil supporting and backing movements like Obama? The answer is clear. They know and they have.

  4. 11B40 says


    More than a few times I have expressed my opinion on this blog-space about the travesty that was the suspension of the military draft back in 1973. Besides the insidious societal message that the menfolk of this country no longer have and inherent individual responsibility to defend our country against military aggression, there’s also the loss of the opportunity to live rough and do without.

    During my all-expense-paid tour of sunny Southeast Asia, I spent most of the time living in the not so great outdoors. The many joys of those jungles included heat, monsoonal rains, uphills and downs, sleeping out, eating out of cans or freeze-dried food bags, carrying all your creature comforts on your back all the day long. Even disregarding all the for whatever reason hostiles circulating about, the living conditions alone were a trial. As my favorite Platoon Sergeant taught me “critters need water, food, shelter and companionship.” Developing skills to meet those needs is a good thing for all young men.

    As I watch this current administration, I can’t help but think that emasculating this country is part of their agenda. 

  5. says

    The idea that a person can’t do ANYTHING without a specific set of rules/procedures/training seems to have become increasingly dominant. An especially ludicrous example is the demand for university officials and church officials (ie, priests) to undergo “ethics training that would prepare them to deal with conflicting allegiances and moral dilemmas involved in their work.” Link

  6. SADIE says

    You could just as well add “defeminize”to the mix.  1973 was a critical year and a major turning point. I am referring to the oil embargo, which according to my calendar marked hyper inflation. While CD’s and interest rates were in 12-15%, everything else was going through the roof, too. The one-paycheck household became obsolete. What was once a luxury, we used to call it “pin money” for the women by having a small part-time job became a necessity. I am not in anyway suggesting that markets and careers should not be open to women…but, it definitely impacted the relationship between husbands/wives men/women and their children. Obviously, not all of the women over the past and almost 40 years opted for or even had the option of career building. So, here we are down the road with slut walks, tattoos and women like nasty Nancy Pelousy. Contrary to the Social History of American Knitting, these women are camped out in the cities and some leaving their children at home, if they haven’t brought their tots to use as props.

  7. says

    Most of the Left’s March through the Institutions affected civilian, not military sectors. The military was completely cut off from the culture, because the mainstream culture itself changed. The military could have stayed the same, and it’d just end up the same way it is now. The Marines vs Pink Berkley. And the Pinkos outnumber the Marines.

  8. says

    An especially sad case of working-to-the-rulebook happened several years ago, in Britain. An elderly man in a nursing home fell, and the attendant refused to pick him up, citing the rule that he (the attendant) was not required to life anything in excess of X pounds. (The patient, IIRC, was not particularly heavy.)

    What made it particularly sad was that the patient had not only been an RAF pilot in WWII, he had been flying a Gloster Gladiator. This was an actual biplane which had no business in WWII air combat and was being used only because of desperate need.

    So here’s a man who flew a basically obsolescent airplane against ME-109s and such, and a rule-following attendant who can’t be bothered to pick him up off the floor. 

  9. Michael Adams says

    Book, I am not at all sure that you and yours would perish in a week.  In the first place, there is more than a year’s worth of food around you. You surely ought to set some by, and a bit of ammo.  In that year, you’d learn a great deal.  I am betting that either Martel or DQ knows how to fish, and such a communal place as Marin County ought to be amenable to slaughtering a cow or a hog and parceling out the meat. No, I do not believe you would know right away how to cure it, but carnitas are just cut up cubes of the dead pig. A place with so many engineers ought to be able to rig up some of those portable retorts for destructive distillation of wood to get methanol, as even the heathen French did in WWII. (Sorry, Danny)
    The main thing that Cubans and Jews and other refugees brought with them was the expectation of success. After that, it’s all details. (Yeah, OK, hard details, but, still details.)If you have the expectation of survival, and even of thriving, you will very likely do so. Not going crazy with preparation, but just a bit of forethought about the end of CAWKI (Civilization As We Know It) ought to stand you in good stead.  We have some stored food, and water for three weeks. I have also learned something about edible wild plants in the area. Some of them are not as tasty as Euell Gibbons might have had you believe, but they will sustain life.
    Our resourcefulness may be undeveloped, flabby, owing to our material wants being met, but we are, genetically, the same people who built the country. We could do it again, if we had to do so.

  10. Charles Martel says

    In 1869 the Territory of Wyoming gave women the vote, and when Wyoming entered the Union in 1890, it dubbed itself “The Equality State.” That was simple recognition of the toughness and courage of the women who co-conquered and co-settled a very harsh environment.
    Michael, one thing Marin County has is very fertile bottom land. My house sits on some of the richest dark soil I’ve ever seen outside of Iowa. A few seeds and some planter boxes rigged to resist raccoons, and you can be in business. As long as you don’t have a cock, you can own chickens. (Did I just make a sexist comment? Dunno.) So, yes, we could weather CAWKI fairly well—at least until the latent OWS mentality in this county manifests itself as “It’s unfair that you planned ahead. Turn over those turnips or I’ll defecate on your lawn!”

  11. Michael Adams says

    Hammer, compost it well and use it on the garden. (Proper composting of manure causes it to heat up, killing most bacteria and parasites, except, of course, the OWeS who made the deposits in the first place. (Clearly a bug, not a feature.) Also, for an extra layer of safety, use the night soil on vegetables that will be cooked, like corn.  You don’t need it for beans, since they are legumes and fix nitrogen in the soil anyway. Turnips can be eaten raw, like radishes, so no night soil for them,  nor for any of the salad greens.
    As for the chickens, I see a rent-a-cock business opportunity. He visits each run for a day, and moves on to the next one before the poultry Gestapo can get around to investigating. 
    Silliness aside, the strength is latent but alive within us, and We Shall Overcome.  Hmm, could be a song in that, eh, what?

  12. jj says

    l bear the scars of cock-attacks from my youth – when feeding the chickens and collecting eggs was my job.  It didn’t matter how you timed your entry into the chicken-coop, the damned duty-rooster would find a way to get a spur into your leg…  Cranky little bastards, when I was five I felt like I had a standing appointment to meet Godzilla every morning.

  13. Michael Adams says

    Yeah, Martel, stupid movie, but they played some really good Mozart for theme music, so I liked it, in spite of myself. Yeah, OK, I was a little envious of the Gere character, getting paid for it.  However, we were discussing chickens. The chicken product is also very good for the garden, and, after the garden is played out, you can turn the chickens into it, and they turn what’s left into more and better garden dirt. No, not as much fun as being Richard Gere, but more nourishing. (And, at my age, more likely to happen.)

  14. SADIE says

    Charles Martel – wasn’t that Burt Reynolds, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas or it could have been Anthony Weiner, I can’t seem to separate movies from politics. Oh wait…there is no separation.
    jj – be grateful they were chickens and not turkeys :)

  15. Spartacus says

    Doggone, Mrs. Bookworm.  Aside from the mild brilliance of seeing a link between what is essentially a local crime story and a long-term cultural devolution, there is this thing you have about points.  Most writers are content simply to make them.  You, however, have to go and forge a large jousting lance out of hardened steel, with a titanium tip lovingly honed to needle sharpness, and then back it up with hydraulics and rocket boosters to drive it in.  I think you enjoy this.

  16. 11B40 says

    Greetings:  especially “SADIE”

    I grew up in the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s in a working-lower middle class neighborhood and one of the incongruities that that experience has left me with has to do with female employment. My experience wasn’t one of the local womenfolk being excluded from the workforce. I would guesstimate that probably half or more of the women in the neighborhood were employed, many who had children. My own mother worked before she married my father and once she became pregnant stopped until my sister and I reached high school when she returned to work. Her sister, who lived across the street worked and my father had three sisters who never married and they all had full time employment. So, I have a good deal of cognitive dissonance about the actuality of what my feminist sisters would have me believe.

    Now it just may be that living in the soul of the metropolis provided a skewed data set and the employment experiences of women elsewhere were significantly different. In the mid-’70s, I asked my Labor Economics professor about the subject, mostly to bug the emerging feminists in the class. He fulfilled my every wish by asserting that the feminists were led by upper middle class females who felt discriminated against not because they couldn’t get jobs, but because they couldn’t get the jobs they felt they deserved, like being the head of a non-profit agency. He seemed to have had a premonition of today’s Occupy Wall Street denizens.

  17. SADIE says

    Spartacus – you inspired me to tweak a poem for Bookworm
    There once was a girl, who had a little curl
    Right in the middle of her forehead
    When she was good, she was very very good
    When she was mad, she was torrid.

  18. Spartacus says

    May I offer just one small objection?  There have been studies done on wastewater from various different cities, and the chemicals found therein.  Even given the large volume of water coursing through pipes that are large enough to walk through, there are still measurable traces of various illegal substances that people have put through their bodies, and then flushed away.  There is enough there to measure that these levels can be seen rising markedly on weekends, and are higher in some cities than in others.  And if you think it’s scary that such things can still be measured in an amazingly diluted sewer pipe, imagine the concentrations in the individuals from which they came.
    Given that, I’m not convinced that I would trust the chemical purity of a “gift” left behind by one of the OWeS.  Now, toxicologists love to point out that “the poison is in the dose,” and you’re a medical dude and I’m not, so maybe I’m getting a bit wound up over something I wouldn’t if I had a better grasp on the tolerances involved.  But it’s not simply a matter of ignorant arrogance (mostly, but not completely) when I say that I don’t mind holding my nose to put natural fertilizer on a garden, but would turn up that nose at the idea of such low-quality natural fertilizer as would come from one of the OWeS.

  19. Mosonny says

    Caped Crusader made a great point about the floods in Tennessee vs. the response of some after Katrina.  In fact, the worst of Katrina was in New Orleans, a city that had a huge percentage of its denizens on welfare, completely reliant on the govt. dole.  Caped also noted that there was very little in the media about the response in Tennessee, and that’s a horrible scar on the MSM which should have noted the positive response;  of course, the MSM is liberal and it would go against the “narrative”. 

    It’s not just Tennessee though. We had the same kind of self-reliance but also communal response, without needing government prodding, in the great floods of ’93 and ’95 here in the St. Louis area, and there were similar responses after the terrible tornadoes in Joplin, MO and Tuscaloosa, AL.  People helped each other, both locally, and in fact, people sent or wanted to send help, food, other goods, monies, to the victims.  This happens in America after EVERY disaster, and in fact, we were the most generous country after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and after the earthquake in Haiti and on and on. 

    We are an unbelievably kind and generous nation, or at least there still remain millions here who will help and try to help themselves.  I’ve traveled over a great deal of the country by car, and the majority of folks we’ve run into are still “salt of the earth” kind and decent.  We’ve had problems on the road, and people came to us to ask if they could help, from minor things to major problems. 

    But Book’s point is correct.  If we get away from self-reliance, and wait only for bureaucratic exigencies to be followed, or if we rely only on government forces, and not on ourselves or our neighbors, we’re sunk.  I just don’t think we are there, yet, and maybe, maybe, we have time to turn it around, because the majority, I believe, are not like Mike McQuery yet…at least I know a lot of folks who I do not believe would stand idly by.  Or at least I would hope they would not. 
    I do remember one scene in Jerusalem, Israel, from last year.  Jerusalem is a bit of a crazy place, everyone is in a rush, not looking out for each other and not necessarily so careful of each other.  But I saw a woman slip on the sidewalk, middle of the day, while waiting for a bus.  It was crowded there…and that crowd almost rioted trying to GET TO THIS WOMAN TO HELP HER UP AND MAKE SURE SHE WAS OK!  They were all vying to be the one to help her….but that is how it SHOULD be.  We should rush to help each other and not wait for the officials or “rules”, just go and do that which is RIGHT. 

  20. Caped Crusader says

    Mosonny, absolutely agree with your observation. We have all seen USA maps of red and blue areas for liberal and conservative voting areas, with red areas conservative and blue areas liberal; and 90% conservative in area, with dense liberal enclaves of 10% in area being blue. We are to a large extent a bi-coastal nation in thought and action.
    But notice even here how the MSM has distorted the thought process, for red has always represented radical, and blue conservative in color representation forever. No accident that it has been turned topsy-turvy. Does anyone know who first decided to turn theses colors upside down? Interesting if we could find who first did this, for you know it was a liberal.

  21. Mosonny says   

    Seems to be a good synopsis of the origin of the red/blue.  Jibed with some other articles I looked up.  Kind of interesting, and you are right, C. Crusader, it seems outwardly fishy that red is the color for the “staid” conservative Republicans and not the more “progressive” Leftist ‘red’ set! 
    But some of what I wrote about transcends politics.  I know people who vote liberal, espouse liberalism, but DO give of themselves freely, both in time and money.  They will say we need govt. for this or that, but they will augment any potential help with their own.  Of course, not every conservative is giving or kind, either. 

    I do know that overall, though, studies show that libs don’t tend to give of themselves as much as conservatives.  Many will depend on the bureaucrats of the govt. to do the ‘heavy lifting’.  Charity?  Uh…they pay taxes which goes to welfare, which they see as a big form of charity.  I do NOT know if there is a way to break the idea that we have to have such heavy govt. reliance, versus being allowed to rely on our friends and neighbors and even strangers…I remember reading about how many private folks were stymied in their desire to help after Katrina by insane bureaucratic rules and the automaton human beings CALLED bureaucrats who couldn’t bend even if it would help others…kind of like these extreme cases Book brought up about workers letting folks drown because it was beyond their bureaucratic border, instead of acting like decent human souls and doing what was RIGHT and not within the bounds of some asinine law that was immoral if followed to the letter of the Law. 

    Which leads to another topic that Book and others have covered, but I think is one of our biggest…the general overreliance on ambulance chasing attorneys to settle every problem in the universe.  Kids lose a football game, as happened recently in New Mexico, due to an errant time call by the referrees?  SUE everyone in sight!  Bad outcome?  Sue.  Took a pill for diabetes that might…might have caused a separate problem (but the fact you or your loved one were non-compliant, fat as a steer, exercised enough to walk over to get another Bud from the fridge, and smoked 3 packs per….well, it had to be the bad medicine;  Call that attorney advertising at 3 am, quick, before the statue of limitations might be reached. 

    We blame everybody for everything else.  That’s the opposite, too, of the self-reliant culture.  Hell, I blamed my parents for plenty…but one day, realized my dad was dead, my mom was older, and I WAS A GROWN UP PERSON.  Old enough to realize parents weren’t perfect, but they tried under hard circumstances…and they loved us. 

    Growing up.  Taking responsibility for my own misses and stupidities and failures…hey, and then ok to pat myself on the head for the wins, too.  And to thank mom for what she did right.  It all starts with that growing up thing, that seems to be lost in a non-self-reliant culture. 

    Anyway, it’s late, I’m meandering here….

  22. says

    Spartacus (#17):  Thank you!  That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about my writing.  I’m still blushing.

    As for the rest of you:  your comments are all right on the money.  I do love the way you guys take the ball and run with it.  As I said in the body of the post itself, I am indeed blessed with the smartest readers.

  23. suek says

    As I said – I’ve been cleaning out my email box. Found this gem from several years ago, and had to save it. Passing it along – it seems appropriate for this thread…

    This was supposed to be a real letter
    during WWI (or II) – but who knows. Chances are it
    was bogus even then! For sure not from a female!
    I don’t think even the _real_
    farm boys are this tough anymore!


    Dear Ma and Pa:

    I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and
    Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old
    man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick
    before maybe all of the places are filled.

    I was restless at first because you got to stay in
    bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to
    sleep late.

    Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is
    smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to
    slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split,
    fire to lay. Men got to shave but it is not so bad,
    there’s warm water.

    Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice,
    cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on
    chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and
    other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can
    always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee.
    Their food plus yours holds you till noon when you
    get fed again.

    It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much. We
    go on “route marches”, which the platoon sergeant
    says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so,
    it’s not my place to tell him different. A “route
    march” is about as far as to our mailbox at home.
    Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride
    back in trucks. The country is nice but awful flat.

    The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a
    lot. The Capt. is like the school board. Majors
    and colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t
    bother you none.

    This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I
    keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why.
    The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and
    don’t move, and it ain’t shooting at you like the
    Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie
    there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even
    load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

    Then we have what they call hand-to hand combat
    training. You get to wrestle with them city boys.
    I have to be real careful though, they break real
    easy. It ain’t like fighting with that ole bull at
    home. I’m about the best they got in this except
    for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I
    only beat him once. He joined up the same time as
    me, but I’m only 5’6″ and 130 pounds, and he’s 6’8″
    and weighs near 300 pounds dry.

    Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join
    before other fellers get onto this setup and come
    stampeding in.

    Your loving daughter,


  24. jj says

    Real or not, it’s precisely on point, and could well have been absolutely real, particularly for the WW-I generation.  By WW-II it would have been limited to the hardscrabble farm kids from the hollows, but there were plenty of them.  I was up pretty early myself as a kid, because feeding the damn chickens, fighting with the rooster, and collecting the eggs and feeding the horses all took place before breakfast, and all that stuff plus breakfast  took place before my brother and I walked just under half a mile to the end of the driveway to get the school bus.
    Here’s the thing: it wasn’t hard.  Or, if it was, I didn’t know it.  It was just routine – it was a farm, there was always stuff that needed to be done, and it didn’t just happen on its own, somebody had to do it.  And, in our case, my father was playing.    As I have said here before, he was a lot older, the interesting parts of his life were over before I was born, so he was recreating his own youth to an extent – but he was playing at it.  Nobody’s next meal depended on how the farm was doing.  He did, however, expect us to function, and did function himself.
    I look back and realize I had a fabulous childhood, but when I tell people about it in any detail, they look at me like I’m strange, and was an abused kid.  (Funny story.  A class-mate in shrink school was a city girl, and she got a job somewhere way upstate in New York State after graduation.  Her first autumn there, she noticed that kids were missing school, and when they did show up they were bruised, black-and-blue, occasionally limping – stuff like that.  She called me up one evening to consult, and told me she thought she’d stumbled across a nest of children-abusers.  I listened carefully, and being a heartless bastard, started to laugh.  “I suspect,” I told her, “that if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover that what you’ve stumbled across is a nest of farmers.  It’s harvest-season, those kids are missing days because all hands are turning out to do the work, and being bruised and bvlack-and-blue is such a normal part of a farm kid’s life it’s beneath notice.”  Different worlds.)
    And yes, I could put a candle out from forty feet away five of ten times with a .22 pellet rifle.  Trouble was, my father and brother could do it eight of ten times.  My mother’s two uncles, much younger than my father and both military sharp-shooters, couldn’t do it at all.  (Though Cam would often hit the candle itself.  Couldn’t nip out the flame, though.)  My brother was captain of his school’s rifle team from sophomore year, and was never beaten all four years.  Started out shooting rats in the barn when he was five.  Like “Gail” says, the targets don’t zoom around on you – the rats do.
    Very funny stuff, really.
    Oh, and if you need to rescue somebody in water, call a volunteer fire department.  We never worried about our pensions, union rules, or much of anything other than getting whoever was in, out.  Alameda needs to fire it’s worthless union ass*****, and go get some volunteers.  Everybody’ll be a lot safer.


  1. Watcher’s Council Results…

    Here are this week’s full results:Council Winners*First place with 2 2/3 votes! The Noisy Room–-Book Burning – It’s All The Rage Second place with 2 1/3 votes – Bookworm Room-Penn State and the slow death of American self-reliance Third place *t* with …

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