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New Americanism

New Americanism

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Published by Hal Shurtleff

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Published by: Hal Shurtleff on Feb 19, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/20/2013

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THE
NEW
AMERICANISM
The
followingarticleisreallythetranscriptofaspeech whichyoureditorgavelastFebruaryatastudentconvoca tionofDickinsonCollege.Itispresentedhere,without appreciablechangeandwithoutapology,fortworeasons. First,themeatofthisspeechisappropriatefareforusto offerat
thi
stable.Whileitmakesasomewhatheavymeal, itisamaincoursewhichwehaveverymuchwanted,for sometime,toputbeforeourreaders.Second,weworked hardenoughandlongenough,onthepreparationofthis particularspeech,forittosaywhatwewishtosayon
thi
ssubject-withinthespaceavailable
-a
swellasweknow
how
.Beingtrueconservatives,weseelittlepo
int
inchanginganythingsolelyforthesakeofchange.
Thi
sapplieseventoaspeechofourownwithwhich,asalways,weare farfromsatisfied,andwhich'wewouldimproveifwehad theability.
Seven
hundred
yearsagoAlfonsoof Castilesaid:
"Had
Ibeenpresentatthecreation,Iwouldhavegivensomeuse fulhintsforthebetterorderingofthe universe."Alfonsowasreferringspeci ficallytotheratherabsurdPtolemaic explanationofourastronomicalsystem. Buthisintri
guing
thoughtofpersonal lytakinga
hand
inremakingtheworldhasbeenanobsessionwithmansince ourancestorsbeganestablishingsquat ter'srightstothemostattractivecaves.
And
fortyyearsago,whenIwasthe ageofyouy
oung
men,IusedtoquoteOmar:"AhLove!couldyouandIwith
Him
conspire
To
graspthissorrySchemeof
Things
entire,
Would
wenotshatterittobits-andthenRemolditnearertothe
He
art'sdesire!"
What
eachofushasin
mind
,ofcourse,in
makin
gtheworldover,is notsomecosmologicalpurposeinwhich manisonlyincidental,
but
thedreamsof
man
asthecenterofallconsidera tion.
And
neitherAlfonsonor
Om
arwasthinkingofchanging
man
tofitbetterintotheframeworkofhisexistence;
but
ofchangingthat
framework,
of"improving"theuniverse,sothatit wouldbebettersuitedto
human
beingsandtheirdesires.Solet'ssupposethis
morning
thatanall-powerfulCreatorhassaidtoyouor tome:"Allright,hereistheverywandofomnipotence,sofarasyourlittleuniverseisconcerned.Remakeittosuityourself."
Wh
atwouldwedo?Well,let'shopethatwewouldim mediatelybecomeconsciousoftheawe someandincredibleresponsibility;and thatbeforedecreeingam
orning
tobreaketernal,bright,andfairwewould remindourselvesthattherearemenwholikecoldclimatesandsomewho liketherain.Let'shopewewouldbeseizedbysuchacareforthewishesandbeliefsofothermenastoconstitutean almostinfinitesenseof
noblesseoblige.
Wewouldthensoondecidethatbefore
(1)
 
THE
NEW
AMERICANISM
brin
gingaboutanych
ang
esin
thi
ssch
eme
ofthingswene
eded
theopinionsandadviceofalotofourfellow
hu
manbeings.
And
wewouldfinally c
om
etotheconclusionthatthetotal desiresofthe
wh
ole
hum
anracehadto beconsideredbef
ore
weshouldtryto makeever
ythi
ng
forthebestin
the
bestofallpossibleworlds.
Ou
rfirstsolicitude,
theref
ore,beforewestartedfla
shing
thelig
htnings
orrolling
the
suns,wouldhavetobeover man'ssociologicalo
rgan
izationsonthis planet.We
wou
ldneedtoarriveat,or toseeestablished,asyst
m
ofgovern mentor
governmnrs
I
hat
would
hmost
I'
sponsiv
I)
m
an'
smos:'ar·fllily anddclih'r:ll
c1
yindialdwishes:
rh:u
w
ould
.ff
,r
ah
111.11I
Ihh
.'1
oppor-tunitytoHelOUI
0
hi.
own
Iith
1110
Ipoihl
0
\\'h.
1I
hhilllsIf
11
IivcdI)
11
IIIsl\
orrhwhil;and Ihatwouldnhlthwholraof
III
n
10
d'idwisI,oratleastfairly. whathanHc.h
ould
hmadeintheir physialnvironm
nt
,
0
111'
veryfirstjob wouldh
to
detrminethe
kind,
the
quality,
andthe
qua
ntityofgovernmlitrh.ubestserves
man's
needsfor thpres
entand
aspirationsforthefu
tur
e.
This
wou
ldhavetobedone,and suchgovernmentor
govern
ments
pro
vided,beforewecould,ingoodcon science,makeasin
gle
move
with
ourw
and
t
ow
ard
sotherwisere-orderingthe
un
iversene
arer
to
man
'sdesire.So
our
supposinghasn
owbrought
usto
the
taskof
writing
orpl
anning
a
Utopi
a.Sinceitis
simpler
andsaferto deal
withone
variableatthet
ime
inany
equat
ion,this
Ut
opi
ash
ould
bepl
anned
for
our
phy
sical
un
iverse
as
it
nowis.
From
thisst
art
,ifandas
chang
esin
the
physicalsettingwereto bem
ade
later,we
could
thenconsider
the
adjustmentin
our
sociologicalpatt
ern
calledforbysuchchanges.And in
designingthe
firststageofthis
Ut
o-pia,
ther
efore,forearth
-an
dmank
ind
-as
the
ynoware,wesh
ould
certainlym
akethe
bestpossibleuseofman's pastexperience. Nowweare
qu
ite
awa
reofHegel's generalizationthatwele
arnnothing
from
hist
oryexc
ept
thatwele
arn
n
oth
ingf
rom
history.Wehaveoftenquoted S
ant
a
yan
a'sd
edu
ctionfromthatla
men
t,thatthosewhowilllearnn
othin
gfromhistoryareconde
mned
torepeatit.Butwhy?Why
mu
stwe,asarace, closeoureyes
to
allorsomucht
hat
experiencecanteachus,or
to
allthemis takesof
ih
past,andgoonmaking (hossammistakesasifourciviliza tionhad
COIll
intoexistenceonlyyes Irday?
It
seemstomethatthisisan
IIIl
Il
C"
ssaryabsur
dity;
thatthereisno biologicalcompulsionforustobeso stupid:andthattheveryfirstb
arr
ier
man
mustcross,inordertotravelto wardsaUtopia,isthis
unwill
in
gne
sstobeguidedbytheclearlessonsofhis
own
past.Toass
um
ethateithermanor hise
nviron
menthaschangedso
much
,
durin
ghisrecordedhistory,that
the
seless
ons
ofthepastnolongerapply,is notonlyunrealistic;itisachildish fantasythatgivesafairy-talequalityto ourmostlaboredthoughts.
II
ON
TH
EBASIS
ofall
kn
own
past
hu
manexperience,therefore,arethereany generalc
onclu
sionswithregardtoso cietal
organiz
ationwhichcanbepos
tul
ated
with
confidence?
It
seemstome that
there
c
ert
ainlyarc.
1.
First
,governmentisnecessary somede
gr
eeof
government
-inany civilizedsociety.Therearebelieversin
the
possibility
and
desirabilityofagov
ernmentl
cssanarchy.asapracticable f
orm
ofhumana.
0
iation.
Butthe
numb
erofthesadvoatcsiscompara tivelyverysmall,th
I'
isnoevidence wit
hin
hum
anhitorialexperienceto
(2)

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